Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The best Christmas Day menu ever!

The dessert table--Eton mess made with chocolate meringue, raspberries and cream, and a Gateau Russe--hazelnut meringue layers sandwiched with coffee butter cream. Yum!
Pineapple-glazed ham and salads

Balinese-style whole barbecued barramundi
Bloody Mary oyster shots

Home-made Asian-style salmon gravlax with Vietnamese fried rice crackers
A gorgeous Christmas menu at my daughter Pippa and son in law Joe's place--truly beautiful food, based mainly around seafood and fish, but with the traditional ham as well! And gorgeous desserts too!
Home-made prawn sandwiches with dill mayonnaise

Monday, December 19, 2016

Fish stock like Maman used to make

Among one of the many talents of my beautiful late mother Gisele was an extraordinary gift for cooking. Born in Biarritz, France, of a Portuguese-born father and a French-born mother of Basque and Spanish origin, she had a love and understanding of fish and seafood dishes which seemed innate, not surprisingly perhaps given her background. And the backbone of a lot of those dishes was an absolutely superb fish/seafood stock which she made from the heads and tails and bones/shells of both fish and seafood, usually prawns. Deep red, aromatic and pungent, it filled the house with memories of the sea and was the base for her brilliant fish soups, stews, and paellas.

I've tried to reproduce that amazing taste, smell and colour many times but until very recently didn't quite manage it--when Maman was cooking in our childhood, she was like a whirlwind, putting in this, that and the other, experimenting and innovating as she went, not following any recipe particularly but following her nose and her instinct. It's only very recently that I've manage to capture those flavours and colours and now it seems to work every time! Mind you there is a magic ingredient, and that's a half-teaspoon of that wonderful Basque spice, piment d'Espelette (Espelette pepper), which really can't be substituted properly--you could try paprika or mild chilli powder, but it won't be the same. Real piment d'Espelette powder has a unique flavour, both warmly spicy and piquantly sweet and fruity, which is the reason why this traditional Basque spice has its own AOC(appellation d'origine controlee)in France. Its gorgeous colour also imparts that beautiful dark red to the stock. In Australia, you can buy it from good grocers and easily online at places like the Essential Ingredient. 

So here's the basic recipe(this one makes the basis for a soup or stew for 2-3 people)
Shells, heads and tails of eight uncooked(green) prawns
Head, bones and tail of a fish(in the photo above, it's rainbow trout, but can be anything you want)
Olive oil
Three cloves garlic, crushed
Chopped onion
A small splash white wine
Salt, pepper
Half teaspoon piment d'Espelette

In a pan heat some olive oil. Add the chopped onion, then prawn and fish heads/bones/shells etc. Stir vigorously. Add the crushed garlic, and salt and pepper. Stir. Add the piment d'Espelette and stir vigorously. Add a small splash of white wine, stir, let cook for a few seconds, then add water to cover the fish/seafood. Once it has come to boiling point, turn down heat and simmer for 20 minutes, then turn it off and let it sit for a few hours to develop its flavours (with heads and tails etc still in it).
Finally, strain the stock and use it for other dishes, or freeze it to use later.

I've used the stock as a base for an excellently hearty fish soup(below) which included a mix of mussels, small prawns and squid(stir-fried separately in olive oil then added to the stock once you've brought it back to heat) and poached barramundi--also added at last minute to the hot fish stock. With crusty bread on the side, it makes the absolutely perfect meal!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Deliciously unusual quick lunch

Made a quick and easy yet deliciously unusual lunch today, using green(ie uncooked) prawns, poached eggs, Indonesian instant noodles, and various herbs and spices! To prepare and cook, it takes less than 10 minutes. The great thing with using uncooked prawns too is that you can use the shells, heads, tails etc to make a fabulous fish stock which is exactly what I did! (Recipe for fish stock coming soon)

So, for 2 people you need:

8 green (uncooked) prawns of a reasonable size(I used Australian banana prawns)
Olive oil
4 eggs(small or medium) +water +vinegar to poach them
Chinese cooking wine
1 85g packet of 'mi goreng'--Indonesian instant noodles
Fresh ginger, grated
Fresh coriander, chopped
Three small cloves garlic
Small amount chopped onion
Squeeze of sweet soya sauce
Salt, pepper

Peel the prawns, reserving the shells, heads, tails etc to use for fish stock. In a pan, fry the chopped onion, add the prawns, garlic, grated ginger, half the coriander, add a little salt and pepper. Stir. Add a teaspoon Chinese cooking wine, stir. When prawns are cooked--they require only a few seconds and go red--turn off heat. Poach the eggs in boiling water to which a good dose of vinegar has been added. Cook the noodles according to instructions. Serve in bowls with the noodles at bottom, then the prawn mixture, and finally the poached eggs on top. Salt, pepper, add a squeeze of sweet soya sauce over the eggs, and the rest of the chopped coriander plus a little more grated ginger. And that's it!