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Make light of sides for festive mains

Ray McVinnie gives us some different side dishes to try with festive main courses

by Ray McVinnie | Cuisine issue #143 | Saturday, 10 December, 2011
Apple, cucumber & green bean salad
Place chopped apples, diced cucumber, blanched green beans and a couple of finely sliced spring onions in a salad bowl. Dress with cider vinegar and plain unsweetened yoghurt, toss briefly and serve. Goes well with pork and ham.

Red cabbage & beetroot salad
Thinly slice red cabbage and grate raw peeled beetroot. Place in a large salad bowl and add finely chopped red onion, dried cranberries, toasted walnuts and croûtons made from sourdough bread that has been brushed with olive oil and baked until crisp in a hot oven. Dress with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil and season well. Good with beef, lamb, ham, turkey and pork.

Mushroom & herb salad
Thinly slice lots of button mushrooms and place in a salad bowl with the zest of a lemon, chopped chervil, tarragon, parsley and rocket leaves. Dress with lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Adding fried bacon is optional. Good with turkey, chicken or fish.

Tomato salad
Has anyone ever turned their nose up at perfectly ripe tomatoes that have been well seasoned, sliced and placed on a platter then drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, the best balsamic vinegar you can lay your hands on and with lots of basil leaves scattered on top? Good with everything.

Granada salad
This is a salad I once ate in Granada in Spain. On a large white platter arrange separate piles of thickly sliced iceberg lettuce, tomato wedges, drained canned artichoke hearts, radicchio, sliced avocado, cucumber chunks, radishes, oranges and blanched asparagus. Serve with extra virgin olive oil and sherry vinegar, and salt and a pepper mill on the side. Everyone helps themselves and dresses their own salad. Goes with everything, but after the main as a separate course.

Asparagus & rémoulade
Steam lots of asparagus and place on a large platter. Make a rémoulade sauce by mixing some bought mayonnaise with chopped anchovies, capers, gherkins, parsley and a spoonful of Dijon mustard. Serve the asparagus with a bowl of the sauce on the side. Everyone serves themselves and puts a dollop of rémoulade on top. Good with chicken.

Roasted tomatoes with anchovies, olives & pangrattato
Place lots of cored ripe tomatoes side by side in a roasting pan. Sprinkle with Kalamata olives, chopped anchovies, dried oregano, chopped garlic, and salt and pepper. Roast in a hot oven for about 10 minutes until browned and hot but not collapsing. Serve sprinkled with crisp fried breadcrumbs and chopped parsley. Good with beef, lamb and chicken.

Baby leeks with walnuts, anchovies & roasted capsicums
Brush blanched baby leeks (or green beans) with olive oil and grill or barbecue until cooked but still crisp. Place on a large platter and serve sprinkled with a mixture of chopped toasted walnuts, a little garlic, thinly sliced roasted red capsicums, chopped anchovies, basil leaves and a sprinkling of balsamic vinegar.

Cos lettuce & pickled vegetable salad
Slice carrots, fennel, cucumber and radishes into paper-thin slices and toss with a tablespoon of fine salt. Reserve for 30 minutes then rinse well and squeeze dry. Place in a large bowl with white wine vinegar or Moscatel vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Add some capers and some chopped gherkin, parsley and lots of baby cos leaves.

Braised potatoes & carrots with crème fraîche & prosciutto
Serves 6

900g Agria or other floury potatoes, peeled and cut into 4cm chunks
3 carrots, peeled, halved and sliced lengthwise
500ml vegetable stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper
100ml crème fraîche
3 slices prosciutto, cut into 2cm pieces
zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons chopped chives

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Put the potatoes and carrots in a shallow roasting pan and add the stock. Season and mix well.

Place in the oven for 40-50 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the stock is almost all absorbed.

Remove from the oven. Drizzle the crème fraîche on top then sprinkle the prosciutto, zest and chives over and serve.

A great accompaniment with lamb, beef, chicken and turkey.

Sweetcorn & Roasted Capsicum Salad
Slice the kernels off sweetcorn cobs and blanch in boiling water. Add sliced roasted red capsicum, toasted cumin seeds, chopped avocados and baby cos leaves, and dress with avocado oil and lime juice. Good with chicken, turkey and pork.



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