Complex flavours guarantee culinary success

| April 24, 2021 | 0 Comments
Aromatic Coconut Cream Shrimp gets its flavour from the blending of several spices. (Photo: Margaret Dickenson)

Aromatic Coconut Cream Shrimp gets its flavour from the blending of several spices. (Photo: Margaret Dickenson)

As stay-at-home advisories continue, the focus on home dining has evolved to remarkable levels, not only through necessity, but also personal interest. At least occasionally for many, the desire to re-create menus at home that would emulate those offered when dining out has intensified.
In this issue, I present three straight-forward, but unique, recipes featuring a combination of ingredients chosen to play off one another. The resulting complexity of flavours and textures, as well as enticing visuals, ensure this menu will successfully fulfil your culinary expectations. Bon Appetit!

Aromatic Coconut Cream Shrimp
Makes 4 servings

The true aromatic flavour of this dish is defined by the harmony of several spices, along with a final addition of fresh dill weed. I tend to use crushed kaffir lime leaves to lend a touch of originality; however, one could use a combined trio of more easily available spices (see note*) instead. Garlic butter-glazed corn kernels and an arugula salad seem to work well in complementing the complex flavour of the shrimp.

1 lb (450 g) jumbo shrimp (count: 16 to 20), peeled (with tails attached) and deveined

2 tsp (10 mL) cornstarch
½ cup (125 mL) coconut milk (20 per cent fat), first addition
1½ tsp (8 mL) peeled and grated fresh gingerroot
1½ tsp (8 mL) finely chopped fresh garlic
1½ tbsp (23 mL) vegetable oil
1 tbsp (15 mL) finely chopped shallots
3/4 tsp (4 mL)** Thai red curry paste
1 ½ cups (375 ml) coconut milk (20 per cent fat), second addition
1½ to 2 tsp (8 to 10 mL) crushed*** dried kaffir lime leaves
¼ tsp (1 mL) each of onion powder and garlic powder
¼ cup (60 mL) heavy cream (35%)
1/3 tsp (2 mL) salt
¼ tsp (1 mL) granulated sugar

½ cup (125 mL) roasted cashew nuts (broken into pieces)

1. Whisk cornstarch into ½ cup (125 mL) coconut milk; set aside.
2. In a large deep skillet, stirring constantly, sauté ginger and garlic in hot oil over medium-low heat for less than a minute.
3. Add shallots; stir frequently and cook until translucent, but not brown. Add curry paste; stir constantly to combine well, cooking the mixture for two minutes.
4. Whisk cornstarch-coconut milk mixture again. Continuing to whisk constantly, add it along with the remaining 1½ cups (375 mL) of coconut milk, heavy cream, crushed dried kaffir lime leaves* as well as onion powder and garlic powder to the skillet. Bring to a boil.
5. Reduce heat to low; add salt and sugar. Allow sauce to simmer for a few minutes, stirring frequently and adjusting flavours if desired. (This makes about 1¾ cups or 430 mL of sauce.)
6. Just before serving, add shrimp to heated coconut cream sauce over medium-low heat. Turning frequently, cook shrimp for about 2 ½ minutes until they are pink and centres are barely opaque. Avoid overcooking. If sauce appears too thick, add a touch of coconut milk or heavy cream.
7.  Serve sauce-bathed shrimp over rice; garnish with roasted cashew nuts.

* Alternative to kaffir lime leaves: ½ tsp (3mL) each of ground nutmeg, crushed dried tarragon leaves and regular curry powder.
** There are several varieties of Thai red curry paste. Be aware that different brands provide different intensities of spiciness; therefore, the quantities required may be different from those suggested above. Note: The amount indicated above refers to the quantity of the Thai curry paste brand “MAESRI.”
*** Dried kaffir lime leaves are available at oriental food stores. Crush the leaves in a spice grinder before transferring them to a large sieve set over a large bowl. Rub the crushed leaves through the sieve; discard all hard ribs and bits remaining in the sieve. Use only the tender crushed leaves that pass into the bowl.

Extraordinary Beef Carpaccio with Sesame-Balsamic Syrup Drizzle is a crowd pleaser. (Photo: Margaret Dickenson)

Extraordinary Beef Carpaccio with Sesame-Balsamic Syrup Drizzle is a crowd pleaser. (Photo: Margaret Dickenson)

Extraordinary Beef Carpaccio
(with Sesame-Balsamic Syrup Drizzle)
Makes 4 servings

Experience a unique and exciting beef carpaccio recipe that will become a go-to appetizer on many a menu. The addition of blackberries and a Sesame Balsamic Syrup Drizzle creates an adventurous mingling of flavours. Note: Served with thin slices of toasted sesame bagels, this recipe remains a light lunch of choice for my daughter and me.

8 oz (225 g) beef tenderloin, frozen*
To taste salt and crushed black peppercorns, divided
2 tbsp (30 mL) of a mustard herb type of vinaigrette
1 cup (250 mL) fresh arugula leaves
16 whole fresh blackberries, cut in half vertically
2 oz (60 g) Parmesan cheese, slivered

Sesame Balsamic Syrup Drizzle
3 tbsp (45 mL) Balsamic Vinegar Syrup**
3 tbsp (45 mL) sesame oil

1. To make the Sesame Balsamic Syrup Drizzle, whisk together Balsamic Vinegar Syrup and sesame oil. Set aside. Note: If desired, whisk in only a touch more sesame oil to achieve a milder drizzle.
2. Several hours in advance of serving, transfer the frozen tenderloin to the refrigerator so that the beef is no longer frozen solid. Shortly before serving, with a very sharp knife, shave the tenderloin into very thin (virtually paper-thin) slices.
3. For 4 individual servings, place 2 oz (60 g) of shaved beef in a single layer on 4 separate dinner plates; season well with salt and crushed black peppercorns; then, drizzle each portion with 1½ tsp (8 mL) of vinaigrette.
4. Loosely pile a quarter of the arugula leaves (i.e., ¼ cup or 60 mL) on the central area of each portion of beef and season with salt and crushed black peppercorns. Scatter ½ oz (15 g) of Parmesan cheese over the arugula and arrange a quarter of the blackberry halves (i.e., 8) over the top of the presentation.
5. Finally, drizzle 1 tbsp (15 mL) of Sesame Balsamic Syrup Drizzle artistically over each serving of beef carpaccio and around the margins of the plate.

* To facilitate safe shaving of the frozen beef tenderloin, it is best to work with a larger piece than required.
** To make 3 tbsp (45 mL) of Balsamic Vinegar Syrup, place ¼ cup (60 mL) of balsamic vinegar and 2 tbsp (30 mL) of granulated sugar in a small non-stick skillet over medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolves and mixture boils. Reduce heat to medium-low and allow the mixture to simmer, stirring frequently, until reduced to 3 tbsp (45 mL). Remove from heat immediately and allow to cool; place in an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use.

Blueberry and Maple Cream Meringue Timbales make a “chic” yet simple dessert. (Photo: Larry Dickenson)

Blueberry and Maple Cream Meringue Timbales make a “chic” yet simple dessert. (Photo: Larry Dickenson)

Blueberry and Maple Cream Meringue Timbales
Makes 6 servings

Here is a chic and easy dessert that can be quickly folded together just before serving; however, take a few minutes to organize your ingredients in advance. No complicated ingredient list or real culinary skills are required. The sensation is like feasting on a crunchy, delectable cloud that seductively melts in your mouth within seconds. Indeed, it’s a small taste of heaven.

1½ oz (45 g) baked meringues*
1 cup (250 mL) heavy cream (35 per cent fat), chilled
2½ tbsp (38 mL) icing sugar
1 tsp (5 mL) maple extract
1½ cups (375 mL) fresh blueberries, divided
1/3 cup (80 mL) Star Anise-infused Lemon Syrup (recipe follows), divided
1/3 cup (80 mL) walnut pieces

Garnish (optional)
6 sprigs of fresh herbs
edible flowers (e.g., violas)
1. Break meringues into “fingernail-sized” pieces, set aside.
2. In a medium-sized chilled bowl, whip cream with chilled beaters until cream begins to thicken. Add icing sugar and beat until soft peaks form; then add maple extract. Continue to beat until stiff peaks form.
3. Drizzle and gently toss blueberries with only 2 tsp (10 mL) of Star Anise-infused Lemon Syrup.
4. Just before serving, gently fold meringue and walnut pieces into the maple whipped cream, then fold in 1 1/3 cup (325 mL) of blueberries.
5. For individual servings, if desired, place a cylinder (diameter: about 2½ inches or 6 cm) in the centre of a plate. Gently spoon in one sixth of the delicate berry and meringue cream. Carefully remove the cylinder.
6. Artistically drizzle each dessert and plate with about 2 tsp (10 mL) of Star Anise-infused Lemon Syrup. Garnish with a few of the remaining blueberries, a sprig of fresh herb, and/or an edible flower.
7. Serve promptly.

* Commercial meringue shells which are available in grocery stores and bakeries, may be used.

Make-Ahead tips: (1) The Star Anise-infused Lemon Syrup may be prepared up to months in advance. (2) The meringue pieces may be broken into pieces days in advance. (3) Up to a couple of hours before serving, the blueberries may be tossed with a touch of Star Anise-infused Lemon Syrup and the cream whipped (including with maple extract). Note: If necessary, just before serving, whip the cream briefly again to restore firm peaks.

Tip: Serve this dessert promptly after plating while the meringue pieces are still crisp.

Star Anise-infused Lemon Syrup
Makes 1 cup or 250 mL

1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
½ cup (125 mL) lemon juice
6 whole star anise*
3/4 tsp (4 mL) grated lemon zest

1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, stir together granulated sugar and lemon juice until sugar dissolves and syrup comes to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to the lowest setting.
2. Add 6 whole star anise, cover saucepan and allow syrup to simmer gently on very low heat for only 5 minutes.
3. Remove syrup from heat and stir in grated lemon zest. Let cool.
4. Store syrup refrigerated in a well-sealed jar until ready to use.
5. When using, stir well and discard the star anise (i.e., only use the syrup).

* Whole star anise is available at oriental food stores as well as some grocery, health food and specialty food stores.

Make-ahead tip: The syrup may be prepared in advance and stored refrigerated for up to several months. Note: If crystals form during storage, simply reheat the syrup, stirring frequently until all the crystals dissolve.

Margaret Dickenson is a cookbook
author, menu/recipe developer and a protocol, business and etiquette instructor.

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Category: Delights

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Margaret Dickenson wrote the awardwinning cookbook, Margaret’s Table — Easy Cooking & Inspiring Entertaining (

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