Bay Of Plenty Two Ways Trevally

My problem in life is that I always like to have my cake and eat it. Whenever we eat out, I manage to narrow down what I would like to two dishes. I always then either hope or persuade my wife to order one of my choices so that I can order the other.

So, after buying up some locally caught Trevally in the Bay of Plenty region of New Zealand, I had a head and heart debate – do I steam the fish in a nice paper bag in the oven, or do I batter the stuff and fry it? As I couldn’t decide, I did both (more correctly, I started doing just the steamed and changed my mind halfway through to do both), and although a little frenetic, was surprisingly easy. I could have reduced the frenzy a little by deciding I was going to do both styles before, and also not messing up a batch of batter first – but where would the fun have been in that?

The end result was great, the crunch of the battered fish contrasted wonderfully with the slippery pak choi and the steamed fish. My wife as usual took in her stride that the meal she ended up with was not necessarily what I disappeared unto the kitchen to create.

I was happy as I had my cake and ate it…

Serves: 2

Ingredients

4 small fillets of trevally, weighing around 125g each

For the steamed trevally:

1 red onion, finely sliced
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
25g butter
1 small fennel bulb, finely sliced
Handful of fresh parsley
1 tsp dried chilli flakes

For the battered trevally

¾ cup of flour
A good few grinds of pepper
½ tsp salt
Enough cold beer to make a thickish batter (around 125ml I guess). Note: I used a Monteith’s Radler beer. Any hoppy lager style beer should do the trick, I think also a Belgian white beer would work really well too.
Rice Bran Oil for frying

To serve

1 head of Pak Choi, chopped
2 tsp Ketchup Manis (Indonesian Sweet Soy Sauce)
1 clove garlic
2 tsp sesame seeds

Method

1) Preheat oven to 160C
2) Rinse or cut any bloody bits from the trevally – they will go grey when cooked
3) Place a large piece of baking paper on a baking tray – it should be large enough so you can fold it over on itself to make a parcel.
4) Place finely chopped fennel, onions, chilli, butter and parsley on paper
5) Put two of your trevally fillets on top of the vegies and butter and add the lemon juice and zest on top. A grind of salt and pepper won’t go astray here too.
6) Fold the excess paper over on itself and make a nice little parcel. Pleat the paper where the edges meet to make as tight a seal as possible (don’t stress if it isn’t perfect).
7) Put all of the bok choi ingrediants in a foil parcel alongside the fish paper parcel
8) Whack both in the oven for 20 mins
9) Put the flour and salt and pepper in a bowl
10) Add enough beer to form a thickish batter (around the consistency of salad cream)
11) Let batter rest for 5-10 minutes
12) Heat around 1cm of oil in a heavy based frying pan.
13) Dip each trevally fillet in the batter and then slowly lower into the oil
14) Cook for around 90 seconds on each side until batter is crisp and golden
15) To assemble finished dish, place bok choi on centre of a plate, then with a fish slice, put one fillet of steamed fish (and some of the fennel and onion) on top. Finish with a battered fillet and serve with a slice of lemon and maybe a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

Tomato, Rosemary and Lentil Soup

Today was one of those (typical?) New Zealand days that begins as one season and finishes as another. We left our house in an orchard in Whangerai in the Northland region to head to Pathia in the Bay of Islands. I remarked to my wife just how warm the day was as I gazed out over the sun beating down on the avocado trees and planned on making a salad with the avocado windfalls we had gathered and some other stuff we planned to pick up from one of the numerous fruit and vegetable stalls that dot the sides of most of new Zealand’s roads. Stopping off as planned, I bought some great heirloom tomatoes, potatoes and some great looking rosemary which was a steal at 50c for a nice sized bunch. The weather was still great, I guess around 26C and not a cloud in the sky.

Cut forward an hour and we arrived at our new holiday house in Paihia. Everything was great with the place, except the weather had changed, it was now blowing a gakle, grey skies and probably nearer 10C than 15C – not really salad weather I thought as I watched my wife gamely pulleingbags from the car and chasing colouring books blown around by the strengthening wind.

It really felt like an autumn evening, similar to some northern hemisphere bonfire nights of my childhood. Nothing works better in this weather than homemade soup, especially if you have some stock you have made yourself to give a depth of flavour that canned soup can only dream of.

I used the tomatoes, rosemary and onions I had bought that morning and added some lentils found in the holiday houses store cupboard.

Served with some buttery toast, the cold was soon banished and we were ready to fight another day – summer will probably return in a few hours (and go again a few more after that…).

Serves – 4-6

Ingredients

500g of really ripe tomatoes – skin them if you like (or a can of plum tomatoes)
750ml or so good quality chicken stock (or use vegetable stock for those who prefer/insist!)
1 cup red lentils
1 large onion, finely diced
4 whole cloves garlic
30g butter
3 or 4 sprigs rosemary
2 tsp smoked paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
Dollop of soured cream to serve

Method

1) Melt butter in a large pan over a low heat and gently sweat the chopped onions and garlic cloves until the onions are soft and transparent. Keep the lid on the pan. If it looks like things are going to burn, add a half ladle full of stock and put lid back on.
2) Add cup of lentils and stir around so they get covered in the buttery onion mixture.
3) Raise the heat to medium and chuck in a ladle or two of stock. Stir around until the lentils have absorbed the liquid.
4) Add the tomatoes and stir until they have broken up and things are bubbling. If things look like they are burning, add a ladle of stock.
5) Add paprika and rosemary and stir around.
6) Add the rest of the stock and stir occasionally until pan boils.
7) turn down heat slightly and simmer with lid on for around 30 minutes until lentils are tender and consistency is that of a nice thick broth.
8) Remove sprigs of rosemary and garlic cloves from pan and taste.
9) Add salt and pepper to your preference and serve in bowls with a dollop of sour cream and buttery toast.

Lime and Pepper Crumbed Snapper

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I have known my friend Ian for getting on for thirty years now. We went to school together and stayed in contact ever since, I was best man at his wedding and I returned the ‘favour(?!)’ when I got married.

He emigrated to New Zealand around the same time that we were moving to Sydney, so over the course of the last 6 or so years and 3 children between us later, we have seen each other relatively frequently.

Ian has bought a kayak which spends most of the time in his garage or on the roof of his car (impresses the ladies apparently).

He also bought some fishing lines on the assumption that he could catch his supper whilst paddling around.

Yesterday, I received an MMS which had feet and fish in them. The excitement was palpable, after 27 outings, Ian had caught a fish (or two!) but alas, did not have a clue how to cook them.

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So being the great mate, I rushed to the supermarket and bought my own snapper so I could create a simple recipe for him to wow the family with (Ian is a better kayaker than chef, in fact is probably better at telling jokes(!) than cooking).

The finished dish is deliciously simple and the light citrus notes and the warmth of the pepper showcase beautiful fresh new Zealand snapper.

I served it with a homemade tartare sauce and a green salad. Simple and delicious.

Serves: 4 as a main and 6 as an entreé

Ingredients

Around 500-750g fresh snapper (would work with any good white fish), skinless and boneless.
Zest from 4 limes
6 slices of bread (stale is fine)
2 Tbsp black pepper
1-2 beaten eggs
100g plain flour
Rice bran oil for frying

To serve: homemade tartare sauce and fresh green salad

Method

1) Break up bread slices and place in a baking tray.
2) Put tray in a 100c oven for an hour or so until bread is dried through.
3) Put bread in a food processor and pulse until you have breadcrumbs.
4) Chuck in pepper and lime zest and blitz for 5 seconds.
5) Pour breadcrumbs back into baking tray.
6) The next stage is key to prepare well because once you start, things get messy and happen quickly! You are going to set up a production line with, from left to right – small baking tray of flour, Bowl of beaten egg, tray of breadcrumbs, large frying pan on hob, plate with kitchen paper to drain cooked fish.
7) Heat a scant 1cm depth of oil over a medium heat. It has reached temperature when a cube if bread sizzles gently in it.
8) Dip fish fillet in flour, then shake, then in egg, then roll in breadcrumbs. Shake off loose crumbs.
9) Gently place crumbed fish in hot oil and cook each side for around 2 minutes until golden.
10) Drain on kitchen paper
11) Serve with tartare sauce and green salad.

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Classic Kiwi – Blue Cod with Chardonnay Lemon Butter Sauce

We have pretty much finished touring around the South Island (Mainland?!) of New Zealand – a spectacular experience. New Zealand never fails to delight me in so much as you can drive for a couple of hours and find yourself in somewhere very different from where you just left – and you can do it repeatedly.

Whilst driving through the ‘Catlins’ the most southerly part of the South Island between Dunedin and Invercargill) it was getting near lunchtime and we happened across a fantastic café – the Niagara Falls café. Although the middle of summer, it was freezing and blowing a hoolie of a gale. The menu was brilliant, and I picked the Blue Cod for which the area of the cold southern oceans are famous for. The fish was cooked perfectly and was served quite simply so that you could taste the delicate flavours.

A couple of weeks later when we were in Wellington, I saw Blue Cod at a market and still hankering for the flavours of the Catlins, thought I would recreate what I had been served. The recipe is really easy and even people that (say that they) don’t really like fish will eat it. If you are scared of cooking fish as some people seem to be, then give this one a go…

Serves 4

4 x 150g very fresh fillets of Blue Cod (You could use any other delicately flavoured firm white fish, just make sure it is super fresh – always talk to the person serving you the fish and be nice to them!)
50g butter for frying
Zest and juice from 1 large or 2 small lemons
1glass of unoaked Chardonnay
30 – 50g butter (I know, a second lot…)
Salt and pepper

Accompany with buttery mashed potatoes and wilted spinach

Method

In a large, heavy pan melt 50g butter on a medium heat
As butter starts to foam, add your fish fillets.
Leave to fry gently for around 2-3 minutes until flesh is going opaque on top.
Turn fillets over with a palette knife to avoid them breaking up
Fry for a further minute or two
Add lemon zest and juice to pan, then remove fish and place on top of plated spinach and mash
Add glass of wine to pan and reduce down until you have around 100-150ml of fluid.
Add butter to pan and season to taste
Pour sauce over fish and serve immediately

Tarka Dhal – so good on a cold blustery night

So, our time in France is coming to an end and my mind is drifting to the other side of the channel and what I can cook tomorrow night after a long day of travelling. I want to cook something that is tasty, healthy, quick and easy and most importantly requires little if no shopping. Finally, after eating bland meals on a ferry, I want something that has a kick and brings my palate back to life – tarka dhal is just the ticket.

I love spicy food and curry is something I crave when I am away fro uk for any length of time. I am always amazed just how good this tastes and how quick it comes together – it tastes like it has taken days to cook. My brother introduced me to this a few years ago, and I think I have improved on his version with a few touches.

This was my version put together from what I always have in my cupboards and fridge – so quick and easy to make, but good enough to get people asking for seconds and the recipe!

Serves: 4 people easily, can stretch to 6 with more water.

Ingredients

around 25 grammes butter and a little oil
1 brown onion
2 good cloves garlic
1 inch chopped fresh ginger
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
good grind of black pepper
salt to taste
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 regular size can of plum tomatoes
1 can (med size – smaller than the toms) coconut milk
up to 1 pint chicken stock
1 cup lentils
fresh coriander (cilantro to my American chums)

Method

1 Chop onions finely, crush garlic and grate ginger.
2 Melt butter in oil until just sizzling.
3 Add garlic, onion and ginger to sizzling butter and fry until transparent.
4 Add spices to onion mix and fry for less than 1 minute (if mixture begins to burn add some water to stop this.
5 Add toms, coconut milk and chicken stock to mixture and stir
6 Add lentils (be warned at this stage the whole thing looks like a hideous mess, but trust me, you won’t believe what a difference time makes!).
7 cook for around 20 mins or until lentils are tender. You will need to stir hard every now and again as this loves to try sticking to your pan.
7 Just before serving, add juice of lemon and plenty of coriander to taste
9 Taste and add some more salt or pepper if required

Magret de Canard –

I’ve been spending the past few weeks in the south-west of France between Bordeaux and Bergerac with my wife and daughter.  We are staying in a great house in the town of Duras which we got for a bargain price as we booked for a good stretch of time during the low season month of November.

I used to work for a French company and lived for a time in Paris in the early part of the Millennium.  Due to my job, I spent the best part of the past 11 years to-ing and fro-ing between Paris and wherever else I was in the world.

Despite being English by birth, I guess you could say that I have become a bit of a francophile.  Although I have had some of the most frustrating (and amusing!) experience during my many visits to France, I am constantly delighted by something new that I always seem to find in France, french people, the culture or the cuisine.

The South West of France always makes me think of delicious duck, from the salty confit legs, to the buttery fois gras to the duck fat that seems to find it’s way into everything that is cooked in the region.  In my opinion, the finest duck in the world comes from this area along with some of the best ways to cook it.

I have eaten Magret du Canard many times throughout France, but staying in this region, with a well equipped kitchen gives me the chance to try my hand at cooking it.

Duck is a very rich meat, so needs something fruity and sour to accompany it, classically this has been orange or cherries, but I like to use what is available locally and paired my version with a pear and shallot sauce which had enough of the sweet and sourness to cut through the oily, rich duck.

I served this accompanied with some braised red cabbage sautéed in (dairy free – sacrilege I know!) butter, pepper and balsamic vinegar and some potatoes cubed and put in the oven with a twist of salt & pepper, thyme and some of the duck fat from the breasts as they were beginning to cook (a LOT comes out!).

Serves: 2 (and a 1/2  as a hungry toddler snaffled some of this!).

Ingredients

2 x 300g duck breasts – if you can, get the ones from the fois gras ducks.

salt and pepper

1 pear, chopped into slices

1 shallot, finely diced and previously softened in 25g butter (dairy free for us, but the naughty stuff works oh so well…)

1 glass of nice red wine

a little chicken stock

To serve:

3 medium potatoes cubed into 1cm chunks

3 sprigs of thyme

salt and pepper

1/2 head small red cabbage

balsamic vinegar

30g butter (dairy free once again if you have toddlers or other difficult type allergy people!)

Method

1) First for the cabbage, shred the cabbage finely and place in some boiling, salted water for 3 minutes.

2) Drain the cabbage and run the colander under cold water to stop the cooking.

3) Preheat oven to 200c and place cubed potatoes and thyme in a baking tray.  Season with salt and pepper and have ready near hob.

4) Place a medium frying pan on hob on a medium heat.

5) Season duck breasts with salt and pepper both sides and score the skin of the duck deeply into the fat in a diamond pattern, but avoid cutting the meat.

6) Place the duck into the pan, skin side down.  It will begin to release it’s fat, as soon as there is around 5 good tablespoons full, place this into the potatoes tray and give them a good swirl around in the fat.

7) Place the tray of potatoes and duck fat in the hot oven on the top shelf.

8) Keep the duck cooking skin side down for around a further 7-8 minutes.  Check that the skin is not burning every now and then, it should be going a delicious golden as more and more fat renders from it.

9) Turn the duck breast to go meat side down in the hot fat for 1 minute.  Take the duck from the frying pan and place in  a second baking tray and  in the hot oven for 5 or6 minutes if you like nice pink duck.  Longer if you prefer it grey(!).

10) Pour off the hot duck fat into a cup (save it as it is so good to cook other stuff in) and deglaze the pan with the glass of red wine.  Scrape around to blend in any crusty bits of duck.

11) add the previously softened shallots and pears and gently bubble.  Add enough chicken stock to form a good consistency sauce

12) In a separate pan, melt butter and add balsamic vinegar.  Sautee the cabbage in this until hot and add a good shake of black pepper.

13) Take duck from oven and let rest for 5 minutes.  Take potatoes out of oven and keep warm.

14) Slice duck at a diagonal angle and place slices on warm plate with potatoes and cabbage.

15) Spoon pear sauce over duck in a nice thick line and serve immediately with a hearty Bon Apetit!

Pinenut & Wasabi Crusted Rack Of Lamb

When I was a lot younger than I am now, I used to dislike meat with bones in and particularly Lamb. I think this was partly as a result of having a vegetarian mother who was not keen of cooking meat. When she did cook meat, she liked to ensure that there was no possibility of any food poisoning from the meat. Consequently, this meant that there was absolutely no pinkness, moisture or flavor in the meat!

My tastes have changed and I remember being given pink lamb by my sister when I was in my late teens. I didn’t like the look of it but, keen to be polite tried a mouthful. I honestly expected that I would have to spit it out, but…

I loved it. Suddenly i knew what all the fuss about getting to know your butcher was about and cooking stuff just so.

Since that time I have never looked back and enjoyed meat medium rare.

This dish is really quick and easy to cook and is great served with either a green salad and jacket potato for a quick family supper, or you could do some green beans and Boulangere potatoes for a great dinner party dish.

Serves: 4

Ingredients

2 racks of lamb – these must be French trimmed.
100g butter
4 Tbsp breadcrumbs (gluten free is fine)
3-4 tsp good Wasabi
3 Tbsp fresh mint
1-2 Tbsp fresh Thyme
125g pine nuts

Method

1. Check your racks of lamb to ensure that all of the fat has been trimmed from it and the bones showing are clean. If not, get busy with a small sharp knife.
2. To make the crust, whizz together all ingredients except lamb with stick blender or in food processor. Whizz until they are combined and smooth.
3. Using your hands, pat the crust onto the top of the lamb.
4. Chill in the fridge for 40 mins or freezer for 10 mins.
5. Place racks onto a baking sheet and into a preheated oven at 200c.
6. Cook for 15-20 mins for lamb to still be pink in the middle.
7. Rest meat for 5-10 mins under foil and cut into thick slices with 1 bone per slice.

Serve and accept the accolades.