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Fish & Seafood Recipes

28 February 2010

Crab and barramundi-stuffed zucchini blossoms


A few weeks ago as part of my cheffing course I did two days of work experience in a local Italian restaurant famed for it’s house-made pastas and bread and simple, rustic fare.

I was pretty nervous on my first day having no real restaurant experience and conscious of the fact that the kitchen was tiny and I’d more than likely be a hindrance than help.

Despite the size of the kitchen and the erratic environment the head chef was patient, attentive and a brilliant teacher. I walked away from my brief stint excited, inspired and dying to try out some of the dishes at home.

One of my jobs over the two days was to stuff the ravioli. Sounds a little dull perhaps but I reveled in the task. The filling was a mixture of blue swimmer crab, snapper, mascarpone and chives.

The paper-thin ravioli was served simply dressed with extra virgin olive oil and garnished with peppery rocket punctuated by salty shavings of dried mullet roe. Gorgeous.

I recently re-created the dish at home sans roe. And since my pasta machine is still in storage (yes, it’s been almost a year) I cheated and used wonton wrappers. A good substitute if you’re in a rush. It was divine. I’ll be sharing the recipe in my next post.

I made a little too much filling and decided to use it to stuff zucchini blossoms. A good decision. I used barramundi as opposed to snapper as it was half the price but beautiful nonetheless. The zucchini blossoms were coated in a light batter and then fried for about two minutes. It’s a wonderful appetizer but one that needs to be eaten straight away to appreciate the delicate crunch and oozing filling.

For a refresher on how to stuff and fry zucchini blossoms, click here.

Continue reading "Crab and barramundi-stuffed zucchini blossoms" »

05 July 2009

Gordon Ramsay's Minestrone with Blue Eye Cod


On Friday I attended the 2009 Sydney Good Food & Wine Show. The main event of the day was bad boy Gordon Ramsay’s live cooking demonstration.

Ramsay bounded out on stage to greet the curious crowd with black masking tape over his mouth – was this promise not to offend after his recent comments about TV presenter Tracy Grimshaw? Or the more likely scenario -- an enforced gagging.

Whatever the case, Ramsay was funny, charming, a little crude perhaps but nonetheless, he delighted the crowd with his amusing quips and cooking tips.

I’ve only ever seen snippets of Ramsay’s infamous Hell’s Kitchen. Frankly I got anxious, and finally, bored watching him shout at and belittle quivering chefs.

After seeing him live though I can see why people are fascinated by him. He’s charismatic, he’s confident and he exuded a potent energy that spilled over into the crowd.

In the 30 minutes Ramsay was on stage he prepared three meals; a minestrone with blue eye cod, Tasmanian salmon on a bed of sautéed spinach and radishes and finally, some luscious looking poached pears served with caramelized figs.

There were no cooking measurements given. It was the case of “a touch of this and a touch of that”. So I've done my best to recreate the minestrone. It’s a delicious and nourishing dish with plump pearl barley, fresh herbs and succulent blue eye cod. Ramsay encouraged the use of celery leaves – something I do regularly in soups, salads and stir-fries. The often over-looked leaves add a fresh and subtle sweetness to whatever dish they're added to.

A note on seasoning with salt – say a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of salt – I try not to add the whole teaspoon all at once. Instead, I sprinkle ¼ of a teaspoon or so here and there throughout the cooking process. This method of staggered seasoning allows for layers of flavour to develop and gives the dish more depth.

Finally, let me introduce you to Malcolm the magpie.

Malcolm lives nearby with his posse of feathered friends and is becoming increasingly more confident and curious as the days go by. I had just ladled the minestrone into the bowls and decided that they needed some more cheese. I went inside the house to fetch it and then came around the corner to find Malcolm with his beak in the bowl! I shouted and shooed him away. He eyed me grudgingly and took several steps backward and proceeded to watch me take photos. He even made several rather lyrical comments. Compliments to the chef I hope.


Continue reading "Gordon Ramsay's Minestrone with Blue Eye Cod" »

03 June 2009

Tod Mun Pla - Thai Fish Cakes


Australians have a love affair with Thai food. Thai restaurants are everywhere and range from tiny eateries to fine-dining establishments. I even go as far as saying that some of the food rivals the offerings of Thailand’s best kitchens.

Thai food in Australia, like Indian food in England, has been unconditionally embraced. Twenty years ago, in Australia, the most common Asian appetizer would have been the spring roll. While I have no scientific data to prove it, my strong hunch is that Australians eat twice as many tod mun pla (Thai fish cakes) than spring rolls.

In spite of my strong Thai heritage I had never, until recently, attempted to make this popular entrée (appetizers in North America). It seemed like a hassle. I didn’t own a food processor and I didn’t feel like making fish paste with my tiny mortar and pestle. I recently bought a food processor and my excuse vanished. And I’m very glad it did.

You can use pretty much any fish. I used basa, a fresh water fish with firm, white flesh. The fish is first blended into a sticky paste with an egg, to bind the mixture, red curry paste, cornstarch or tapioca flour and fish sauce. The paste is then mixed with fragrant kaffir lime leaves and sweet snake beans. It's best to dampen your hands with a little water before rolling the fish cake balls as the mixture is really sticky.

A tip on the kaffir leaves -- I usually buy them with a specific recipe in mind and I only use several at a time. To keep them fresh, simply place them in a small ziplock plastic bag and keep them in the freezer until you need to use them. They don't need to be defrosted either. Just pop them straight into whatever dish you're cooking.

Continue reading "Tod Mun Pla - Thai Fish Cakes" »

04 May 2009

Smoked Trout Rissoni


Today I'm celebrating 'almost a month of being back in Australia Day'.

I've stocked our temporary mini-kitchen with the basics although I am finding it tough to cook like I used to. I'm feeling rather lost without my pots and pans and my exhaustive selection of herbs and spices.

All these items, minus the herbs and spices due to Australia's stringent customs laws, are neatly packed away in boxes sailing across the Pacific Ocean. They're due to arrive in another two weeks providing they haven't been lost, fallen overboard or mistakenly shipped to Patagonia. Apparently these things happen.

In the meantime, I'm surviving very well on simple meals. I'm living next door to a constant source of inspiration, who recently served me a mouthwatering meal of grilled salmon and spinach rissoni with Greek feta melted through it. Gorgeous.

I made the dish today, this time substituting salmon with smoked trout. I also added some fresh basil, dill and lemon juice. To better achieve the desired effect of warm, stringy, melted cheese, I use cow's milk feta for its extra creamy consistency.

In comparison to Canadian smoked fish, Australian smoking methods seem to produce a milder and more subtle effect.

The simple combination of feta, spinach and smoked trout was so complementary that threw them into my scrambled eggs the next morning. It was one of the best breakfasts I've had in ages.

Continue reading "Smoked Trout Rissoni" »

13 January 2009

Thai Fried Rice with Crab - Kao Pat Boo


I'm quite late in starting this year with this being my first post for 2009. A belated Happy New Year everyone!

Living in Vancouver I am treated to an abundance of fresh seafood and I am spoiled for choice. The cold, pristine waters of the West Coast offer up unmatched seafood and that says a lot coming from Australia, which some would argue has the best seafood in the world. While Australian seafood is fantastic, seafood on the West Coast is also fantastic but much less expensive.

The jewel in the West Coast seafood crown is crab -- in this case Dungeness Crab.

The sweet, succulent crab is the perfect addition to Thai fried rice. I have to admit I'm a bit of a fried rice snob. It's usually Thai-style or nothing. While the dish is very easy to make, Thais just seem to have a knack for frying the rice perfectly. The trick is to use cold, day-old steamed Jasmine rice. This helps the grains keep their shape while absorbing the flavours.

Thai fried rice has a delicious yet subtle burnt flavour. This is from the hot wok that it's fried in. And that's the other trick, to get the best results, you need to fry the rice in a wok, over a gas flame and quickly.

Continue reading "Thai Fried Rice with Crab - Kao Pat Boo" »

21 October 2008

A Day in the Life of a Caterer


Catering: it's an important business and one that sometimes, I think, is taken for granted. The success of events, large or small, is often dependent on the food.

Last week I had the rather stressful job of catering a 'party' at the request of my partner Nic. When he first asked me I wasn't so keen on the idea. His idea of catering was "let's just cook up a big pot of curry and then heat it up in the microwave at the venue", to which I gave my standard response to all of his bad ideas: "that's a great idea, but...no".

It had to be something easy to eat. Finger food, food that would taste great hold or cold.

Now, about the party. I was given some rather cryptic details. It was a Thanksgiving snack for people volunteering on a political campaign. "Ahhh!" I thought: "A political party". They were giving up their holiday time to make calls and canvas the streets. How many of them were there? "Not sure, about fifteen", he replied. There were in fact about 20. Will other people be bringing any food? "Oh yes, it's like a pot luck". Only one other person brought food.


So armed with these details, I came up with a menu. My previous trepidation about catering had vanished because I thought what the hell, it's good experience, other people are bringing food and I'll use the recipes on my websites.

Continue reading "A Day in the Life of a Caterer" »

06 August 2008

Smoked Salmon Pizza with Caramelized Onions


There some people who have serious aversions to things that I love such as coriander and onions. These are two ingredients that I can't live without and that feature prominently in my day-to-day meals.

These 'people' to whom I refer to is actually a girlfriend of mine who also happens to be a vegetarian or more a pescatarian. She hates onions. especially when they are raw. She will go to great lengths to pick out the offending vegetable from her food and always avoids anything on the menu that may contain them.

For her birthday I treated her to a summer seafood cooking class. We went together and were eagerly anticipating the night's seafood bounty. You can imagine both of our silent horror when several of the recipes prominently featured ONIONS. I cast a sideways glance at her and she at me. We giggled and then both settled into a heavy silence. I said "um, maybe you can push them to the side" to which she replied sweetly, "oh yes, it'll be fine...I'm sure it'll all be delicious."

We watched nervously as the chef prepared the first dish, a smoked salmon pizza with caramelized onions. He dexterously peeled and sliced 15 large brown onions all the while chatting about the process of caramelizing the ominous mountain of onions. She gulped.

Continue reading "Smoked Salmon Pizza with Caramelized Onions" »

27 May 2008

Wild Salmon & Kaffir Cakes with Ponzu Sauce


I did a seafood & citrus cooking class last week at the Cookshop in Vancouver and these salmon cakes were one of the items on the menu.

We used wild Pacific Salmon which is oilier than the sockeye I'd normally use and much more 'forgiving' as the chef kept saying. What he meant was that Sockeye being a drier fish is much easier to ruin when frying in recipes such as this one.

The salmon cakes were simple to prepare and delicious. They were peppered with kaffir leaves which added a citrusy bite to the natural sweetness of the salmon. The little cakes were coated with Panko crumbs and then gently pan-fried about a minute or so on each side.

We made a Ponzo dipping sauce using soy sauce, brown sugar, green onions, ginger and lime juice.

The chef used an ice-cream scoop to make the salmon cake rounds which worked brilliantly and kept each cake the same size. I promptly raced out and bought one!

I'm submitting this post to Weekend Herb Blogging being hosted this week by Wandering Chopsticks.


Continue reading "Wild Salmon & Kaffir Cakes with Ponzu Sauce" »

09 March 2008

Wild Salmon Kedgeree


There is something very special about Canadian Wild Sockeye Salmon and I try to use it as much as I can. It also goes particularly well in Kedgeree.

Kedgeree is a rice-based dish that consists of curry power, flaked fish (traditionally smoked Haddock)and boiled eggs. It has its roots in a traditional Indian dish called Khichdi. The dish varies from region to region but is usually made up of rice, lentils and topped with fried onions.

Khichidi was adapted and made popular as a breakfast dish amongst British Colonialist in India, who later brought it back to the British Isles. Kedgeree has since remained a comfort food favourite, although perhaps not for breakfast.

Wild Salmon Kedgeree is certainly one of my favourite dishes as it is simple to make, healthy and delicious. I add coriander and parsley to my recipe and a Thai twist with some Nam Pla Prik (fish sauce with chili). I also serve a side of natural yoghurt mixed with a little grated garlic, parsley and lemon juice.

A tip for the rice: it is best to cook it the day before and refrigerate it so it's cold and hard when you fry it. If the rice is too fresh, it will get soggy and break easily. It is also a good idea to cook the Kedgeree over a flame in a wok. This just speeds up the cooking and, like most fried rice dishes, their success depends on quick cooking.   

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05 November 2007

Breakfast for one: Eggs (salmon) benedict


Syrie had to go out early this morning. So I woke up today alone and with the kitchen to myself. I love cooking breakfast for myself. Syrie prefers the simplicity of a dippy egg or the wholesomeness of bircher. This morning, though, I cooked myself my favourite breakfast: Salmon Benny!

After almost three years of living in Vancouver, I have yet to find a place whose Benny I love. In Sydney, I loved Le Petit Crème's on Darlinghurst Rd (although it was so rich, you often developed slight feelings of regret for the following half hour). Most of the Benny's I've sampled recently, however, have no tang. They taste like a cheesy butter sauce. I think the difference is that I learnt to make Hollandaise with lemon juice and vinegar. I'm not sure vinegar is widely used to make Hollandaise around here.

There are lots of variations on Eggs Benedict. My favourite replaces the ham or bacon with smoked salmon.

Continue reading "Breakfast for one: Eggs (salmon) benedict" »

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