Mum's the word

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 May, 2006, 12:00am

Today is Mother's Day (unless you're British, in which case you should have celebrated in March). If you somehow missed all the advertisements and have neglected to book dinner at a pleasant restaurant, you can still show your mum your appreciation by cooking her a special meal. Nothing in this dinner is difficult but you should cook it in reverse: dessert first, because the cake needs time to bake and cool. Then make the mashed potato (while the potatoes are cooking, saute some string beans or other vegetables with a little oil, chopped fresh garlic and salt and pepper); then cook the salmon at the last minute. And while you're out shopping for the ingredients for this meal, don't forget to buy your mother some fresh flowers - or a live plant, if she's superstitious.

Pan-fried salmon fillets with balsamic-maple glaze (pictured)

When cooking the salmon, use a heavy skillet with a tight-fitting lid, which prevents heat and moisture escaping.

The balsamic vinegars on supermarket shelves range from watery, mass-produced types, which usually taste sharp and acidic, to expensive, aged vinegars that are as thick as syrup. For this glaze, use inexpensive balsamic. Be sure to buy pure maple syrup, not the fake, 'maple-flavoured' type.

4 skin-on salmon fillets, about 200 grams each About 20ml cooking oil

Plain flour, for dredging

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the balsamic-maple glaze:

120ml balsamic vinegar

About 30ml maple syrup

20 grams cold unsalted butter

Heat a large, heavy, lightly oiled skillet over a medium-high flame. Season the flesh of the salmon with salt and pepper. Dredge the skin of the fillets in flour and shake off the excess. Place the salmon, skin-side down, in the hot skillet and sear for about one minute. Lower the flame, cover the pan with a lid and cook for about seven minutes (depending on thickness) for rare fish, or continue to cook until done to your liking.

While the fish is cooking, make the sauce. Pour the balsamic vinegar and maple syrup into a pan and place over a medium heat. Bring to the boil then lower heat and simmer until the liquid is reduced to a glaze-like consistency. The flavour should be sweet-tart; if necessary, add more syrup. Whisk the cold butter into the hot glaze.

Remove the lid from the fish, turn the flame to medium-high and cook for another 30 seconds to crisp the skin. Lift the fish out of the pan and drizzle the sauce lightly (you won't need all of it) over. Serves four.

Garlic mashed potato

600 grams potato (use the russet or local varieties)

4-6 large garlic cloves, unpeeled

About 100 grams double cream

About 80 grams unsalted butter, cut into chunks

Salt and pepper to taste

Scrub the potatoes and cut them, unpeeled, into large, even chunks. Put the potato and garlic into a pan, cover with cold water and add about two teaspoons of salt.

Bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer until the potato chunks are just tender. Do not overcook. Drain thoroughly and peel the potato pieces while hot. Squeeze the garlic flesh from the skins. Put the potato and garlic back into the pan and heat over a low flame to dry off excess moisture. Mash the potato and garlic, or use a potato ricer for a smoother consistency. Heat the double cream until simmering. Use a wooden spoon to mix the chunks of butter and the hot cream into the mashed potato/garlic. If you like, add more cream and/or butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Chocolate souffle cake

This cake will rise in the oven and fall as it cools (like a souffle). Don't refrigerate it or its ethereal texture will be lost.

120 grams unsalted butter

240 grams good-quality bittersweet chocolate (use a brand with between 60 and 75 per cent cocoa solids)

4 large eggs, separated

A pinch of salt

100 grams granulated sugar, divided

For the garnish:

Icing sugar

Double cream, chilled

Fresh raspberries

Preheat your oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Use pan coating to spray a 23cm spring-form pan (a pan with removable bottom). Chop the chocolate.

Put the butter in a skillet (or in the microwave) and heat until melted and hot. Pour over the chopped chocolate and stir until melted. Set aside to cool slightly.

Separate the eggs, putting the yolks and whites into two clean, dry bowls. Use an electric mixer on medium speed to whip the yolks. While the mixer is running, whisk in 50 grams of sugar. Increase the mixer speed to high and beat until the yolks are thick and pale yellow. Pour the chocolate/butter into the yolks and use a rubber spatula to fold the ingredients together.

Wash the beaters in hot, soapy water - even a small amount of grease will prevent the whites from rising - then dry them. On a medium-low speed, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until frothy. Increase mixer speed to medium and add in the remaining sugar in a slow, steady stream. Turn mixer to high and beat until the whites form soft peaks. Add one third of the egg whites into the chocolate/yolks and mix quickly to lighten the mixture. Gently fold in the remaining whites in two additions, trying to maintain as much volume as possible. Scrape the mixture into the pan and bake at 160 degrees for 15 minutes. Lower the heat to 140 degrees and continue to bake for another 15 minutes. Check to see if it's done: the cake will have an appetising aroma, it will have risen in the pan and its surface will be matte, not shiny. If it's not ready, bake for another five to 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool at room temperature for at least 30 minutes; as it cools it will fall and crack slightly around the edges. Loosen the sides of the pan but leave the cake on its base. Dust with icing sugar then slice the cake and top each portion with a spoonful of double cream and some fresh raspberries.

styling Rachael Macchiesi