It is a long weekend in Sydney. The October long weekend is when daylight savings time kicks in, and the weekend that heralds the start of summertime. A lot of Sydneysiders use the opportunity to make a pilgrimage out of the city and head up the coast. Staying at a friend’s place for the weekend, and the start of BBQ season is the inspiration for this recipe, Marinated Fish skewers with Satay Sauce.
I used Monkfish for my skewers, as recommended by my fish monger. You could use chicken, tofu or prawns instead of fish if you prefer. Kecap manis is a thick, Indonesian soy sauce, normally found in the Asian section of your supermarket. Kaffir lime leaves add a citrus tang. You can add chilli to taste to the sauce – I like things spicy so added more to make sure there was a bit of heat to the sauce. This is not an authentic Indonesian or Balinese recipe, because I have added ginger to the marinade and sauce, but I think the flavours work well together.
It was hard to get an appetising photograph of the satay sauce, but I assure you it tastes delicious and quite different to anything you buy from the supermarket out of a jar or bottle.
Serve your skewers with the satay sauce as a snack on their own, or with rice, salad or vegetables for a more substantial meal.
What I was cooking this time last year: Guacamole
Marinated Fish Skewers with Satay Sauce
- 1kg monkfish fillets
- 5 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
- 2 heaped teaspoon grated ginger
- 5 kaffir lime leaves, shredded finely
- 4 tablespoons coconut oil
- 4 tablespoons kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)
- wooden skewers
- 150g raw unsalted peanuts
- 4 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 large tomato
- 2 tablespoons kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)
- 2 red chillies, or to taste
- 4 kaffir lime leaves, finely shredded
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup warm water
- Soak the wooden skewers in water. This prevents them burning when they are being cooked.
- Add the shredded kaffir lime leaves, garlic, ginger, oil and kecap manis to a bowl.
- Chop the fish into cubes and add to the bowl.
- Toss to coat the fish in the marinade, set aside to soak up the flavours while you prepare the satay sauce.
- Heat the coconut oil in a saucepan and add the raw peanuts.
- Cook the peanuts, stirring regularly, until lightly golden brown. Set aside to cool. (The peanuts will continue to cook once they are removed from the heat so don’t allow them to get too golden brown when they are on the heat.)
- Add the garlic, ginger, chillies, tomato, kecap manis kaffir lime leaves and peanuts to a blender jug. Add 1/4 cup of warm water.
- Blend the sauce until smooth and combined. Taste, if required add more chilli or water until you are happy with the heat and thickness of the sauce.
- Transfer your satay sauce to a bowl and set aside.
- Thread the cubes of marinated fish onto the soaked skewers.
- On the BBQ or a medium-hot frying pan, cook your fish skewers for a couple of minutes on one side.
- Turn and cook for a minute or two on the other side, or until cooked through.
- Serve the cooked fish skewers alongside the satay sauce. Enjoy.
What is your favourite BBQ recipe? Has this post inspired any new ideas?
A friend is currently in the US and has raved about the New England Clam Chowder he discovered in Boston. This got me thinking about the Seafood Chowder I tried and loved when I was in San Francisco a few years ago. There are many variations on the chowder recipe, normally inspired by fresh produce available in different regions in the US, and further back in history, several parts of Europe. I decided to try to make my version of chowder now that the weather has got cooler here in Sydney.
You could use any type of seafood that inspires you and is fresh; prawns, fish, shellfish etc. I used clams, as my fish monger had fresh ones available vacuum packed in their own juice and ready to go. I left the clams in their shell, purely for aesthetic purposes. A lot of recipes use bacon, but as a pescitarian, I substituted smoked salmon to give a smokey depth of flavour. I love things spicy so I added cayenne pepper for heat and smoked paprika to pimp up the smokey stakes. If you don’t like things quite so hot, skip the cayenne and just use the smoked paprika. Some recipes use a roux (a mixture of flour and fat) to thicken the soup and leave the potatoes chunky, I skipped the flour and blended the potatoes to thicken my soup.
You can serve your chowder with water cracker biscuits (which I think are similar to the American style oyster crackers), crusty bread, croutons, or as it was done in San Francisco, in hollowed out sour-dough bread.
What I was cooking this time last year: Pasta Pronto
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 onion
- 2 sticks of celery
- 1 carrot
- 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 fresh bay leaves or 1 dried
- 100g smoked salmon
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1kg potatoes
- 1kg vacuum pack fresh clams
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 bunch parsley
- cream (optional, for serving)
- Bread or crackers, to serve
- Finely chop the onion, carrot and celery.
- Pick the thyme leaves off their stalks, and the parsley leaves off their stalks.
- Finely chop the parsley leaves and set aside.
- Finely chop the tender parsley stalks (discard any that are too thick).
- Heat the oil in a large pan.
- Add the chopped onion, carrot, celery, parsley stalks, thyme leaves, garlic cloves, bay leaves, cayenne pepper and smoked paprika.
- Cook, stirring occasionally while you roughly chop the smoked salmon.
- Add the smoked salmon to the pot and continue to cook and stir while you peel and chop the potatoes into 1cm dice.
- Strain the clam juice from the vacuum pack (you should end up with about 1 cup) and add to the pot.
- Add 2 cups of milk and 1 cup of water to the pan and cover with a lid.
- Cook until the potato is soft, stirring occasionally.
- Remove the bay leaves.
- Blend the soup until smooth.
- Add the clams to the soup pot and cook for another 5 – 10 minutes until the clams are hot.
- Your soup is ready to serve. Dish into bowls, drizzle with cream and garnish with chopped parsley. Enjoy.
What is your favourite soup? Has this post inspired any new ideas?
This is a pescetarian twist on the comforting classic carbonara classic recipe. The traditional carbonara generally consists of eggs, cheese, bacon (or similar) and black pepper. I’m not sure what it is about the creamy richness of the sauce, smokiness from the fish combined with the zesty tang from the lemon, but this is my ultimate (savoury) comfort food.
When adding the lemon juice to your cream and egg mixture, add a little juice at a time and stir as you go to combine and prevent curdling (and don’t try and add cream to lemon juice or you really will end up with a mess).
I used hot smoked trout which has a texture similar to cooked fish, but with the delicious smokey flavour. You could also use regular smoked trout or smoked salmon to similar effect. This is to substitute for the bacon flavour in the original carbonara recipe.
Regarding your herbs, feel free to experiment. I used lemon thyme and tarragon because that is what I happened to have growing and both go well with seafood. I added the spinach in a feeble attempt to inject some healthiness into the recipe.
I love the slurpiness of spaghetti, but feel free to use your favourite pasta.
What I was cooking this time last year: Thai Curried Pumpkin Soup
Creamy trout pasta
* This recipe was adapted from a Lemon Linguine recipe in “How to Eat” by Nigella Lawson. I have modified and adapted it over the years to come up with the below reincarnation.
- 2 egg yolks
- 150mls cream
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons of chopped herbs (I used lemon thyme and tarragon)
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 spring onions
- 100g hot smoked trout
- 2 large handfuls of baby spinach
- salt and plenty of black pepper
- Pasta for 2
- parmesan cheese, to serve
- Put a large saucepan of salted water on to boil to cook your pasta.
- Finely chop the spring onions and crush the garlic.
- Heat the olive oil in another saucepan over a low heat and add the garlic and chopped spring onions.
- In a measuring jug add the cream and egg yolks. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir to combine.
- Zest the lemon and add to the cream mixture.
- Juice the lemon and add a little juice at a time, stirring to combine.
- Add the cream mixture and herbs to the garlic and onions and stir to combine.
- Put your pasta on to cook in the boiling salted water.
- Flake the trout and add to the cream sauce, stir to combine.
- Add the baby spinach and stir to combine and wilt the spinach.
- Once the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the cream sauce.
- Stir to combine.
- Serve, garnished with parmesan cheese. Enjoy.
What is your favourite pasta dish? Has this post inspired any new ideas?
Classic mediterranean flavours include oregano, lemon, garlic and olive oil. I have combined all of these flavours in Mediterranean Inspired Baby Octopus.
Octopus has gained a reputation as being tough and chewy. Octopus is best cooked very slowly for a long time or very quickly over a high heat, anything else in-between will result in a tough and chewy dish. Octopus shrinks a lot once cooked, so bulk up your quantity of raw seafood to allow for the shrinkage factor. Most octopus purchased from a shop comes cleaned and ready to go, check with your fish monger if unsure. You could chop your baby octopus into pieces before adding to the marinade or leave them whole.
A trick I learnt about a while ago is to add some bicarb soda to the marinade to help tenderise the octopus. I have also heard of kiwi fruit or pawpaw being used to tenderise, but I haven’t experimented with these options so can’t provide insights on how well they work.
I recommend using normal olive oil in this dish, this type of oil is better for cooking with. Save your good quality extra virgin olive oil for dressings, drizzling or other uses not subjected to high temperatures.
You could cook these baby octopus on a barbecue, because it has been wet and miserable in Sydney, I have cooked mine in a very hot fry pan. Because of their unusual shape, you will need to turn them multiple times so they cook through. They could be served as part of a mezze platter or with a greek salad.
Mediterranean Inspired Baby Octopus
- 1 kg baby octopus
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon rosemary
- 1 tablespoon thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
- 3 – 4 cloves of garlic
- 2 lemons
- 1 tablespoon bicarb soda
- Finely chop the garlic, rosemary and oregano, pick the thyme leaves and add to a bowl.
- Zest the lemons, add zest to the bowl with herbs.
- Add the chilli, bicarb soda and olive oil to the bowl. Stir to combine.
- Wash the baby octopus and pat try with paper towel.
- Add the baby octopus to the bowl and stir to coat in the marinade.
- Cover the bowl of octopus and put in the fridge to marinade. Leave for an hour or more, preferably overnight.
- Heat the barbecue or fry pan to a high heat.
- Cook the octopus in a single layer, in batches if required. Turn once the octopus is opaque and getting a little charred or brown.
- Transfer to a serving plate, accompany with wedges of the zested lemon. Sprinkle with salt. Your baby octopus is ready to serve. Enjoy.
What is your favourite Asian inspired recipe? Has this post inspired any new ideas?
Thai fish cakes are a popular menu item in Australia, and are often served as street food right around Thailand. I’m not sure if these fish cakes are authentically Thai, but they are definitely inspired by Asian flavours. I’ve made mini fish cakes which you could serve as an entrée, party snacks or alongside a salad as a light meal. You could also make larger fish cakes and create fish burgers.
Kaffir lime leaves provide a citrus flavour to this dish. Kaffir lime plants grow well in pots – I have one growing on my balcony, or you may be able to track down kaffir lime leaves at your green grocer. Unlike most citrus, it’s the leaves that are generally prized. Kaffir lime fruit are knobbly looking and don’t contain a lot of juice, but the zest can be used in asian dishes. When finely cutting the leaves, generally the steam is discarded. If you have purchased kaffir lime leaves, you can store any leftovers in the freezer until you are ready to use them again.
If you don’t have palm sugar you can substitute brown sugar, and if you don’t have snake beans you can substitute regular green beans. You could of course make your own curry paste, but I used a store bought Thai curry paste. I used orange roughy because that was what was fresh at my fish monger, but you could use any firm white fish you have available. Serve your fish cakes with some sweet chilli sauce, chilli sauce and / or some lime wedges.
Asian Fish Cakes
- 500g orange roughy fish filets
- 1 coriander plant from a bunch of coriander, roots, stem and leaves
- 4 spring onions
- 4 kaffir lime leaves
- 4 snake beans (or 12 regular beans)
- 3 teaspoons fish sauce
- 1 egg
- 3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
- 1 tablespoon palm sugar
- Oil, for pan frying
- Wash the coriander well to make sure any dirt is removed.
- Finely chop the kaffir lime leaves, snake beans, spring onions and coriander.
- Add the fish, egg, fish sauce and curry paste to a food processor bowl. Process until smooth.
- Remove the fish mixture from the food processor bowl and transfer to a mixing bowl.
- Add the finely chopped kaffir lime leaves, snake beans, spring onions and coriander and mix to combine.
- Roll tablespoons of the mixture into balls and flatten slightly.
- Heat a frying pan, add a little oil and pan fry fish cakes for a couple of minutes until golden brown.
- Turn over the fish cakes and cook on the other side for a couple of minutes until golden brown. Your fish cakes are ready to serve. Enjoy.
What is your favourite Asian inspired recipe? Has this post inspired any new ideas?
Under the Christmas tree I was given some delicious new ingredients to experiment with. The ingredient I was most excited about was some beautiful saffron my mum purchased from a local farmers market produced by Capertee Valley Saffron. The producer recommended toasting the saffron in a frying pan with a sheet of baking paper in the bottom to protect the delicate saffron from direct heat, and to toast the saffron threads to release their aroma and flavour then add to warm water or stock before using in your recipe. I had to hold down my grease proof paper to help the paper and saffron strands to come into contact with the bottom of the fry pan. Ian Hemphill, of Herbie’s Spices fame, in his book ‘Spice Notes and Recipes’ provides many tips on saffron, including that oil will actually prevent saffron from releasing its colour and flavour and most of the colour and flavour will be released into your liquid within 10 minutes so there is no need for long periods of infusing.
Amoungst my herbalist’s recommendations to me last year, she suggested I increase my intake of crab and tarragon so I was trying to think of ways to experiment in the kitchen. I’ve never really cooked with crab (or eaten much of it for that matter), so was feeling a bit nervous about how to incorporate more of it into my diet. I consulted my local fish monger about the different varieties of crab they currently had in stock, and was recommended I try spanner crab (which proved to be quite reasonably priced at $14.99 per kilogram). Taking my fish monger’s advice, I purchased two cooked spanner crabs to make into a risotto. Having no idea what to do with the crab when I got home, I consulted a You Tube clip that gave me instructions on how to pick the meat out of the crab. If you have time to spare you could use the discarded crab legs and claws to enhance your stock for the risotto. If you are not feeling quite so brave to tackle a whole crab, you may be able to purchase fresh or frozen picked crab meat from your fish monger.
If you take notice of the cooking shows on TV and celebrity chefs, you may have been scared off attempting to cook risotto because it has a reputation as difficult to get right. I think risotto is a dish that is really down to personal preference, how liquidy you want the finished product, how al dente or cooked you prefer the rice. Feel free to vary the quantities of liquids to get the texture you prefer. The only advice I will offer is if you cook the rice too fast or over too high a heat, the grains won’t cook through; if you cook the rice too slowly, the rice will become too soft and gluggy. Mastering risotto will be a great thing to add to your cooking repertoire, as the variations only limited by your imagination.
I called this indulgent risotto because crab, saffron and tarragon are generally considered to be luxurious ingredients. I’ve been quite generous with the use of tarragon in this recipe, using it more like a vegetable than a flavour enhancer. If you want an extra rich risotto, you could add a little cream or butter at the end of the cooking instead of, or as well as, the white wine.
Crab, Saffron and Tarragon Risotto
- 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
- 4 spring onions
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1/2 cup of arborio rice
- pinch of saffron (about 15 threads)
- 2 cups of warm water
- 2 teaspoons vegetable stock powder (I use vegeta brand)
- 2 limes
- Meat from 2 or 3 spanner crabs
- 2 tablespoons chopped tarragon
- 50 to 100ml white wine (or to taste)
- Finely chop the spring onions, using the white part and as much of the green as you like (I generally keep chopping for another 5 to 10 cm past the white part).
- Finely chop or crush the garlic.
- Zest and juice the limes.
- Line a frying pan with grease proof paper. Add the saffron on top of the grease proof paper and toast over a medium heat until the aroma and flavour is released.
- Add the toasted saffron to the warm water, add the lime juice and the vegetable stock powder. Stir to combine.
- Discard the grease proof paper you used to toast the saffron from the frying pan.
- Heat the pan over a medium high heat and add the coconut oil the chopped spring onions, garlic and rice. Cook until the rice is coated in oil and the onions are slightly softened.
- Add a little stock (approximately 100mls at a time) to the fry pan and stir until the liquid is absorbed. Repeat until all of the stock has been absorbed. Taste to test the rice, it should be slightly too firm but almost ready.
- Add the white wine to the fry pan, continue cooking until the wine bubbles then turn off the heat.
- Add the crab meat, the lime zest and chopped tarragon.
- Stir to combine and let the residual heat warm the crab and wilt the tarragon. Your risotto is ready to serve. Enjoy.
What is your favourite risotto recipe? Has this post inspired any new ideas?
Australians love a barbie, and barbecues seem to have evolved a lot over the years. My first memory of a barbecue is one made of bricks by my dad in the backyard with a hot plate suspended above the wood-fueled coals. In the 80s, our family progressed to the Webber kettle, fueled by heat beads. Nowadays, most people have gas barbecues, but there are still some devotees that think flames or coals are best for an authentic smokey flavour.
There is something communal about catching a whiff of the smells of other people’s dinner cooking away outdoors. I lived in London for a several years, and the Brits are jealous of the Australian good weather and outdoor lifestyle, so any glimpse of a sunny day in would trigger off a barbecue breeding season. Barbecues multiplied at an amazing rate in the unit complex I lived in. The discarded barbecues were then stored in an area of the car park, which during the winter months resembled a barbecue graveyard.
If you are looking for something a bit different to cook on the barbecue from your standard sausages and steaks, you could give these sumac spiced prawns a try. Sumac is a middle eastern spice that comes from the berries of the Rhus tree. I tracked down my latest batch of sumac at the David Jones food hall, only to discover later that my local green grocer also stocks it. Sumac gives a citrus or sour flavour to dishes, and its pretty reddish purple colour adds extra visual appeal.
The prawns are delicious served with some tzatziki dip or my Watercress and Pomegranate Tabouli from an earlier post to continue with the middle eastern inspired theme.
I used rice bran oil in this recipe, which is perfect for barbecuing because of its ability to withstand high temperatures and its neutral taste.
If you don’t like the taste of coriander, don’t be put off by the use of ground coriander seeds. Herbie’s spices describes ground coriander as an amalgamating spice, meaning it helps tie all the other flavours together, and it does have a different taste to fresh coriander.
A tip with chillies is that they freeze well. If you have bought a pack from your green grocer or grow your own, it helps prolong the life of the chillies.
Sumac Spiced Prawns
* This recipe was inspired by one that appeared in the November 2003 edition of Australian Gourmet Traveller. I have modified and adapted it over the years to come up with the below reincarnation.
- 1 tablespoon sumac
- 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 or 2 birds eye chillies finely chopped, depending how hot you like things
- 2 tablespoons of lemon thyme or thyme leaves
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds, ground
- 500g of raw peeled prawns
- 2 tablespoons of oil (I used rice bran oil)
- Salt & lemon wedges to serve
- Add sumac, garlic, chilli, paprika, lemon zest, thyme, cinnamon and coriander seeds to a bowl. Stir to combine.
- Add your prawns and stir to coat the prawns in the spice mixture.
- Add the oil and stir again to coat the prawns.
- Soak your wooden skewers in water to prevent them burning while cooking.
- Leave to marinate (overnight is great, if you don’t have the time, a half an hour or more is great).
- Heat your barbecue or hot plate.
- Thread the prawns onto the soaked wooden skewers.
- Cook your prawns on the barbecue or hot plate, turning when the prawns start to appear opaque and slightly charred.
- Serve your cooked prawns with a scattering of salt and lemon wedges. Enjoy.
What is your favourite barbecue recipe? Has this post inspired any new ideas?