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.

Chicken, Tarragon and Ricotta Slice with Dunedin Salsa

Beginning our three month tour of New Zealand, the first place we landed was Dunedin, in the south of the South Island. The place is a bit of a foodie mecca and my wife was gracious enough to buy me an evening cooking course with one of Dunedin’s best chefs Judith Cullen.

Talking with Judith, she told me all about a great Farmer’s market held down by the (disused) railway station every Saturday morning. I of course went and was amazed by the great selection of fresh produce available. We visited in mid February (late summer) and there was an impressive selection of local vegetables. The stars emongst these organic gems seemed to be the avocadoes, corn cobs and fantastic tomatoes. They were all abundant and at great prices.

As often happens, I buy what is in season, good and cheap. Much to my wifes frustration, I rarely shop with a meal in mind, or if I do, I will end up changing it halfway through my shop. I create meals from what is available (sometimes I have great diasters, sometimes amazing successes).

Having returned to our holiday rental in Dunedin’s Mornington suburb pleased with my haul of vegetables and some great fresh herbs, my wife reminds me that we need something to go with all the veg – your daughter needs protein! (I had intended to get some great New Zealand lamb, but got carried away with the green stuff).

Quick as a flash I had a brainwave “I thought we would use up the rest of the roast chicken in the fridge”. I had got away with it.

Picking the meat off the carcass of last night’s chicken is a particular pleasure, finding all the delicious juicy bits that seem to have grown overnight.

So here is my recipe for a delicious summer meal that can be cooked quick as a flash…

Serves: 4

Ingrediants

Around 2 cups of cooked chicken
Small bunch of taragon
Salt & Pepper
Around 200g ricotta cheese
A little chicken stock or water (30-60ml)
2 sheets puff pastry (make your own if you have a spare 9 hours or so, otherwise use ready made)
Optional – a handful of chopped mushrooms

For the Dunedin Salsa

About 15-20 dried cherry tomatoes (very easy to make your self or use sun dried tomatoes)
2 ripe avocadoes
Small bunch coriander
2-3 Tbsp Caramelised balsamic vinegar
3-5 Tbsp good extra virgin olive oil
4 or 5 pickled ‘pepperdew’ peppers
1 tsp smoked paprika
Corn from 2-3 cooked cobs of corn (or one large can)
Salt & pepper
Method

Set oven to 185c
Combine cooked chicken, tarragon, ricotta (and mushrooms if using).
Add sufficient stock/water to loosen up the mixture a little without making it too runny. Exact quantity depends on how runny your ricotta is, how dry your chicken is, which way the wind is blowing etc, etc.
Taste mixture and season to your preference.
Divide ready made pastry sheets into two equal sized rectangles.
Add a good dollop of your filling into the lower half of each rectangle.
Wet the edge of the pastry all around and fold over the rest of the rectangle to make a square with the filling in the middle of it.
Press the moistened edges of the pastry together firmly with your fingers tips. Once pressed all round, fold over 5mm or so of the pastry on the 3 press together sides to make a neat edge.
Brush the filled pastry square with water all over and make a couple of holes or slits in the top.
Transfer your pastry slices onto a baking paper lined tray and place in oven for around 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Whilst cooking, prepare the salsa

Chop avocado.pepperdew peppers and cherry tomatoes into smallish pieces.
Chop coriander roughly
Combine the rest of the ingridents together in a large bowl and then add the stuff you chopped up.
Taste and season

Serve the slices warm with a good portion of the salsa – have salsa spare as everyone always seems to want seconds…

Ginger, Soy & Sesame Tuna Salad – A light lunch on a cold day…

Even though ummer is a long way off in the northern hemisphere, I am beginning to miss the flavours of warmer times.  I miss the frssh flavours and raw foods that form the majoirity of my meals in summertime – still, not long until I head for the southern hemisphere to feel the kiss of the sun once more.

I am currently in a wet and wild northern Brittany and have got a nice Breton Beef stew slow cooking for dinner tonight – my logic is it will be operfext after an afternoon braving the elements.  Before this though, we need lunch and I want something light that gives us not feeling too full and bloated and stops us leaving the house.  A fresh tuna salad seems just the ticket.  A second motive is to leave some room to pick up somr nice Breton crepes as a mid afternoon snack.

This was something quick and easy I knocked up earlier to share and turned out combining  crisp leaves, creamy avocado and tomato with flash cooked medium rare tuna, bacon lardons and some alltogether more Asian influences…

Serves: 3-4

Ingredients

1 or 2 small fresh tuna steaks
100g bacon lardons or chopped smoked streaky bacon
3 spring onions
1 head of romaine lettuce
Handful of good watercress
Bunch of cherry tomatoes halved
1 avocado chopped roughly
Teaspoon of honey
3 teaspoons of soy sauce
Some pickled ginger chopped finely
Shake or two of Tabasco sauce
Juice from 1 lime
Glug of walnut oil and few teaspoons of sesame oil
Toasted sesame seeds

Method

1. Chop tomatoes and avocado and set aside. Place Salad leaves in a bowl.
2. Chop spring onions finely.
3. Fry lardons in a dry pan over a medium heat until browned then add spring onions and stir fry for a minute.
4. Set bacon and onion mixture aside and flash fry tuna in the oil left in the pan for a minute each side. If you don’t like rare tuna (you are probably mad, but there you go!) then cook for longer.
5. Remove tuna from pan and cut into nice long slices.
6. To make the dressing, put pan back on heat and chuck in soy sauce, lime juice, honey, pickled ginger, walnut & sesame oil and muddle the whole lot around in the pan for 30 seconds then take off the heat.
7. Throw the tuna, tomatoes, avocado and bacon/onion together with the salad leaves and toss around in the salad bowl.
8. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and sprinkle with sesame seeds

Homemade Dairy Free Chicken Pate

How do you get a child to up her iron intake?  You can try talking the benefits of eating red meat and green leafy vegetables to a 2 year old, but playing with Peppa Pig and hide and seek can prove a distraction to my lecture.

Having taken my daughter to see her paediatrician recently, I was posed the challenge to get her to eat more iron rich food.  All the common sources were either not on her list of favourite foods or her allergies meant the food was off limits.  Eventually, we got to pate, but the doctor quickly remembered that it contained dairy when bought from the supermarket.

I had made some pate before and remembered the vast quantities of butter that were key to getting the flavour and texture right, but thought that I would try and re-create without the evil butter.

I took inspiration from stories told to me by my grandmother of having to cook during the war when all her usual ingredients were either unavailable or in short supply.  Tales of ‘apricot’ jam made with carrots and almond flavour came to mind and hard, cheap margarine instead of butter.

I struggled to find hard margarine in the supermarket, it was right in the bottom of the cold section looking slightly embarrassed next to healthy, low fat spreads and dairy, spreadable soft butter-like things.  It was surprisingly cheap and behaved for all intents and pruposes exactly like butter in this recipe – I’d use it again!

The finished pate was gorgeously smooth, deliciously savoury and went well with oatcakes or gluten free toast.  Make sure you have extra available as everybody always seems to want a little more to spread…

Serves: makes a small loaf tin half full

Ingredients

250g of duck or chicken livers (frozen are fine)

250g block of hard margarine (don’t even bother if it is soft, spreadable in a plastic tub)

2 shallots, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic (lazy garlic pickled in vinegar works very well)

A few fresh herbs (bay leaves, thyme or sage)

Salt and pepper

Method

1)Drain livers in a sieve above a bowl for 5 minutes to remove excess blood.  Pat livers dry and remove any ‘nasty’ bits with a small sharp knife.

2)Melt around 30g of margarine in a pan on a medium to low heat and soften the shallots in this for around 7 or 8 minutes. Do not let the shallots brown.

3)Add the garlic and cook for a further 3 or 4 minutes.

4) In a small frying pan, add 30g of margarine and get really hot.

5)Add the livers to the pan and fry for around 1 minute each side – the livers should still be just pink in the middle.

6)Melt the remaining margarine in a seperate pan (yes, I know you need 3 pans here…).

7)Add the shallot/garlic/margarine mixture and the livers to a food processor and blitz the mixture fast until it is a puree.

8)With the processor running on a slow to medium speed add the melted margarine in a steady trickle so that it combines with the liver/shallot puree.

9)When the puree looks glossy, stop adding and taste.  Add salt and pepper to get the flavour right.  there should be some melted margarine left – you will need it to add at the end.

10)Line a small loaf tin with cling-film and pour in the pate mixture.  Make sure the mixture is level in the tin.

11)Place your fresh herbs over the top of the pate and pour on a layer of melted margarine over the pate and herbs.

12)Put in the fridge for at least 8 hours.

13) Turn out pate onto a plate, remove film and slice the pate. Serve with warm toast, brioche or crackers and some fresh tomatoes and cucimber for a light lunch or starter.

***quick note – thanks to #3chooks for the feedback, I listened!