fish

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Vince Garreffa tells us that you should cook every dish twice; once for yourself and then for your guests. Such careful hospitality is lost on me. I’m a ‘sharing the journey’ host.

Plan
One large salmon. Instead of merely poaching it, I’d make a court bouillon, freeze the court boullion, place the frozen boullion in a vacuum sealer bag with the whole salmon, vacuum seal the bag and then cook it sous vide. Remove gently cooked salmon from bag, remove skin and cover with cucumbers to resemble scales.

The logic was impeccable. The salmon would be gently poached in water but trapped in a sealed bag with a smaller volume of flavoursome stock. The genius part was freezing the court bouillon so it didn’t end up being sucked into the pump of the vacuum sealer. It also meant it could be done well ahead of time without the fish marinating.

salmon sealed

Reality
In retrospect, when the salmon was sealed in a bag with what looked like a pink urinal cake, it should have been a sign of trouble to come but it all came with sound reasons. The carrots, red onions and the white wine turned the court boullion into a pinkish shade. It was just unfortunate that I chose a flat bottomed pudding bowl to freeze it in.

Moving on. Three kilogram salmon are long. Long than any pot or dish you’ll own and longer than any commercially available disposable roasting tray. I used the disposable roasting tray and it looked like a tall man who’d mistakenly booked in for a night at a hobbit bed and breakfast. The weight of the salmon slowly pushed down the sides and simmering water would leak out onto the burners until they filled with water and made a sad gurgling sound.

At this point I realised I had to either change tack or accept the fact that guests would have to suffer food poisoning. It was a tough call but I eventualy wrapped the half poached salmon in foil and tried to fit it in the oven to finish it off. It fitted at an angle, once I snapped the tail off and was eventually cooked at a gentle temperature.

Redemption
The good bit was that I sliced a whole burpless cucumber on a mandoline without losing any bits of fingers. Skin taken off the salmon and the grey bits gently scraped off and the cucumber ‘scales’ added – they hid the ‘join’ on the tail.
It was also damned tasty.
poached salmon

Notes: the court bouillon I used comes from here and adjusted – half a bottle of Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, a cup of water, a handful of parsley, a twigs of thyme, half a dozen peppercorns, 2 bay leaves, a chopped red onion, one sliced carrot, one sliced stick of celery with leaves, juice of half a lemon and a tsp of salt.
Simmered for half an hour and then strained.

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unagi don


  • Unagi looks like the hiragana character for ‘U’ in Japanese, making it a handy mnemonic. There’s no equivalently useful food in English.
  • There’s a special day reserved in Japan for eating stamina-giving eel, which I referred to as ‘unagi day’ but is in fact called doyo no ushinohi. If you wanted to make a joke, you could call it doyo no ushirohi, which is eel buttocks day, which is actually pretty funny. This site not only has much more information but also has an amazing number of tiny gif characters.
  • There’s a handy hole punch like thing that you use to nail the eel’s head on a board so you can fillet it.
  • In a three stage process the eel is grilled, steamed and grilled again.
  • This removes much of the eel fat, which instead drips down onto hot charcoal and is transformed into smells. Tasty ones.
  • Above is an unagi donburi (or unagi don (or unaju-). It’s grilled eel with a sweet teriyaki style sauce on rice.
  • Japanese don’t use teriyaki to anywhere near the extent that we’ve been led to believe they do.
  • The rice has been mixed with a kind of sushi vinegar, which was sugar, rice vinegar and dashi. It’s also good plain.
  • The black things are soft konbu furikake.
  • I bought the eel ready-to-go at Seafresh in Innaloo.
  • Yes it is on the floor, but they’re nice floorboards, no?

OBSERVATION Has this blog got skinnier or have screens become wider? Because there’s like all this space on the sides.

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clear soup mackeral

My significant other-in-law Chris runs a charter fishing boat out of Darwin. He has five top fish and not only refuses to keep any fish outside of the five for himself, but refuses to give them away either. Picky to be sure, but it meant we got five bags of immaculatey packed and filleted pieces of Darwin’s finest when my sister in law came to stay.

Mackeral in a Clear Soup
Mackeral is a strong tasting fish so the idea was to place it in a milder context of the mild fishiness of dashi stock. The dashi has mirin added to it for a bit of sweetness and soy sauce to fill in the gaps with a bit of meaty saltiness. The amounts of the latter two need to be tested with tasting. Dashi has a short cooking time so there’s more variance than with a stock that has a longer cooking time and a greater margin of error.
I was also happy to find katsuoboshi in a pack of 50gm bags at the small Asian deli next to Herdies Grower’s fresh. All that seemed to exist before were two kilogram bags, which is quite an amount of of dried bonito shavings. 50gm is also exactly the right amount you need for 1.5 litres of dashi, along with a 6x4cm square of konbu. Konbu is a large sea grass that contains glutamic acid. Glutamic acid is used as a neurotransmitter but also stimulates the umami receptors of our tongue. Umami is the mysterious fifth dimension of taste, which I find personally relevent as Age of Aquarius was the number one single in the year of my birth. It’s also the source of the much maligned MSG.
Traditionally, dashi is made with the water used to rinse rice but untraditionally, I didn’t have rice so normal water had to do.

Dashi
- Add the konbu to 1.5 litres of water and heat over a medium heat. Just before it comes to a boil, remove the konbu from the pot.
- Bring the water to a boil. Add 50gm of katsuoboshi and just as it starts to sink, strain the stock. I’m not sure of the exact degree of sinking and whether it’s as soon a one flke heads downward. Just don’t go wandering off.

Soup
The soup is based on a bamboo and prawn clear soup recipe from Kosaki and Wagner’s The Food of Japan. Theinteresting thing in this is the prawns are dusted with cornflour and quickly cooked in boiling water and then chilled. I’ve no idea what the cornflour does, it’s usually great for coating chicken for frying though. In this case, it did wrap the fish in an interesting texture.

- Add 5 tsp each of mirin and soy sauce for every three cups of dashi.
- Cut the mackeral into manageable pieces and cook as for the prawns above (there aren’t actually any prawns or bamboo in this in case you’re confused, because I replaced it mackeral didn’t I? And try getting fresh bamboo shoots at 6pm on a Sunday night in Perth).
- Add the mackeral pieces to the soup and heat through.
- Distribute the soup and mackeral pieces to the bowls and garnish with sliced chilli, steamed asparagus, and bean shoots that you’ll have spent 15 minuted trying to tie into four neat bundles with a lightly boiled bean shoot stem.

golden snapper


Golden Snapper with Artichoke Barigoule
Yet another Michel Roux Jnr recipe, I’d explain it in detail but I really think you should just go out and buy Le Gavroche Cookbook and get the Food of Japan while you’re at it. Artichoke barigoule is actually quite an old French dish. This one is best described as a mirepoix of roughly equal amounts of fennel bulb, onion, carrot, and diced and browned parma ham cooked in olive oil with thyme and garlic with two peeled artichokes in sixths added and then simmered covered with greaseproof paper with a glass of white wine, 60ml of warm water, and the juice of half a lemon for 15 minutes. Think of it as a nascent stock.
The fish is cooked in a very hot ovenproof pan in a very hot oven with olive oil, rosemary and thyme.
Serve on mash with the barigoule, garnish with freshly shredded basil leaves, a splash of olive oil and some of the barigoule juices.

Very nice. The snapper is fantastic and the only thing that can be “done” to it is stuffing it up, but a careful eye should prevent that. I liked the barigoule too, the finely diced pieces blended together without any particular one being dominant with the citric aspects of the wine and lemon juice matching the fish.

Bonus Motor Reviews:
00 V6 Holden Commodore Executive
If you’re an executive that makes his or her own cup of coffee and brown bags their lunch then you’ll appreciate the modest touches like non-electric windows and a cassette player. The steering wheel feels surprisingly like a stress ball, handy for times of refuelling, and connects to competent enough if uncompelling handling. The treasure though, is the engine which throttles the loaf-like sedan at a rudely entertaining pace, which, when couple with underperforming tyres allows for many squeal like a pig moments.

’06 620 Ducati Monster
Traditional no fuss naked home of gentler Ducati engines makes for simple biking pleasures accompanied by a beautiful Termignoni note. Sit up and beg riding position with wide handlebars allows for confident drop in cornering. Slipper clutch avoids traditional Ducati requirement on manly bear grip but does make for uncertain starts. Lower power requires more judicious gear selection than with larger torquier twins. Apparently the front shocks can’t be adjusted , so firmer springs and a bikini screen a good accessory choice.

’06 Volvo XC90 D5
Smooth spinning and with a creamily compelling engine howl, it handles as effortlessly as it does seat five with ample luggage space. Quick, quicker with autotronic, but be soothed by Nordic utilitarian design and soft lights.

Next Week! 240 series redux

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Cajun Snapper

cajun snapper

Sorry. I’ve been neglecting my midweek easy meals. This one was cake. A pan sized snapper scaled and gutted at the fish shop. Make diagonal slashes across the fish at half inch intervals. Rub each side with at least a tablespoon of cajun spices, making sure to rub some into the slashes. Leave for an hour, place some lime slices in the cavity. Get the pan as hot as you can and cook quickly on both sides. Had with sweet potato roasted in foil with EVOO, sea salt, and tabasco.

Very enjoyable just picking at it. Make a fish stock when you’re done.

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