Tuesday, 18 September 2012

In Small Packages

You know the saying- good things come in small packages.
It's also true to say that something which is nicely wrapped up is always appreciated- no matter how small the gift.

The same is true of food- wrapping it up (whether metaphorically speaking with beautiful presentation or actually wrapping it up, as in these recipes) makes a little go a long way and turns the ordinary into the splendid.

This week I was asked to go round and cook a birthday meal for a family member: the only brief being that it should be fresh fish for the main course.

I decided to cook salmon wrapped in pancetta- a recipe from blog follower The Doctor. (I always appreciate recipes sent in by blog followers!)

It really has to be pancetta for this recipe because this Italian bacon is cut really thinly and so it crisps up whilst the salmon steams within its little package.

Wrap the pancetta round the salmon fillets ( I removed the skin but you don't have to) and fry gently over a medium heat until the bacon is crispy all over (keep turning the fillets through 90 degrees to make this happen) and the salmon is just cooked through and opaque if you slice it carefully and peek inside.

The dinner guests sat down happily to eat- and I headed for home with  some leftover new potatoes and pancetta to use up.

I decided to make Sort of Saltimbocca. (The original dish from Italy uses veal, sage and prosciuttio- but I used turkey, sage and pancetta- close, but no cigar. Thank goodness!)

I took turkey breasts and butterflied them ( a slice down the thickest part to enable the breast to be opened out like a book), put them between 2 sheets of clingfilm and beat them flat with a rolling pin, placed 2-3  fresh sage leaves in the middle, closed them up again and wrapped them in pancetta, like I did the salmon.

When gently fried, the turkey steamed, the sage released its oil and the bacon crisped. Magic!

Once you've mastered butterflying- and there really isn't much to master if you have a sharp knife- then you can put all manner of bountiful things inside your chicken/turkey breasts: Boursin cheese for a chicken Kiev, or tapenade , or pesto. After stuffing, roll the meat in flour, beaten egg and then breadcrumbs (which of course you always keep in ready supply in the freezer if you are a true devotee of this blog!) Fry in hot oil- and enjoy!

Fish responds really well to the wrapping in bacon bit too- use a firm white fish such as cod, pollock (known as  river cobbler, colin, or lieu) hake or monk fish tail (if you're feeling rich).

Use pancetta or prosciuttio (Parma ham)

 I watched the Barefoot Contessa (Ina Garten) on the Food Channel making stuffed cabbage leaves and decided to have a go myself.
I made a batch of beefburger mix (saving some for burgers and some for stuffing cannelloni). I took the remaining 200g or so and made them into 8 sausage shapes. I then took the outer leaves from a spring cabbage (about 8-10) and blanched them in boiling water until beginning to tenderise ( a few minutes). Laying them on a flat surface, I cut out the 'rib' from the centre of the leaf (this makes them easier to roll and more digestible too.) I placed a 'sausage' in the centre of each one and rolled it up. I then laid the rolls in a gratin dish, poured on a rich tomato sauce ( chopped tomatoes, onion and a little red wine vinegar ). Keep the sauce fairly liquid so as to poach the cabbage and cook the meat within. Cover with foil and cook in a medium oven for 35 minutes. Remove the foil, sprinkle on some grated cheese and breadcrumbs and cook uncovered until the topping is crisp and golden.

This is a classic dish from Jewish cuisine. or rather my own version of a classic.

Many different cuisines have ways of wrapping things up to either make them more delicious or to make them go further.

Spring rolls or gyoza from Asia:

Tortillas from Mexico:

Galettes from Brittany:

All of these recipes can be found by using the Search box at the top of the page.

Whilst we are talking galettes, here's another picture from a creperie where we ate in the summer. I wasn't impressed with the fillings, but I was impressed with the presentation. The chef had used an offcut of pancake, moulded round a small bowl and baked for 5-10 minutes in the oven unti it crisped,  to make a bowl for the salad garnish. I thought this was cute and am going to try it myself.

Finally, if you enjoyed the blog posts I sent from France you are sure to enjoy this new blog I am reading :

It's all about Provence written from the perspective of a young English woman.

Move over Peter Mayle- there's a new kid on the block!


  1. Hi Liz,

    Thanks for the mention of my new blog!

    I have a great recipe for butterflied chicken (a modified Jamie Oliver recipe for Cypriot chicken).

    Take a handful of fresh basil leaves and a jar of sundried tomatoes, and chop them roughly with some garlic. Dice up a cheese that won't melt too much (I usually use feta) and add it to the basil mix. Stuff the butterflied chicken breasts with a large spoonful of the mixture, and place carefully into a hot frying pan.

    Scrunch up a sheet of baking paper and run it under the cold tap. Cover over the chicken breasts with the paper, and leave them to steam fry. They take about 15 mins to cook, and need to be turned carefully halfway through to stop them from burning.

    I usually serve this with a creamy veg, such a spinach with a spoonful of creme fraiche, or a cheese-free courgette gratin and a green salad.

  2. Thanks for the recipe! Also thanks for the reminder about 'steam-frying' which is a great technique for keeping chicken breasts (and fish) moist whilst frying.