Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Fish and Chips

Sat 24 Feb 2007

A bit of a back track in time ... and a slight lie about the menu ... for it wasn't fish and chips but rather fish and potato salad! And most importantly, it was going to be served with the bottle of Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc.

Recipe inspiration came from the January 2007 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller. The pretty colours of the fish dish in Fare Exchange won me over. The original dish came from Centennial Vineyards in Bowral, New South Wales, and featured barramundi. Amazingly, one of the fish mongers in the market did have barra, but it was frozen and we were on the hunt for fresh fish. I'd left my list of 'ethical fish' behind, so all we could do was avoid those we knew to be bad. This led us to opt for dorade. Dorade is also known as black bream, porgy or sea bream, and fortunately comes in at a 2, so I was able to eat my dinner with a clear conscience!

The fish was to be simply pan fried, so back in the kitchen, the thing to do was to set to making the salsa. For the two of us, I peeled and coarsely chopped two tomatoes. To peel a tomato, make a nick in the top, pour over boiling water and leave it for a while. The skin should come off without too much hassle. Half a sweet potato was peeled, cubed and boiled and added. Four tiger prawns were boiled until they just turned pink, then shelled, coarsely chopped and allowed to cool. Half a courgette was very finely cubed and added to the mix. This was finished off with a very generous handful of chopped dill. The original recipe called for baby spinach, but we couldn't find any and so, went without.

This salsa was to be dressed with vanilla olive oil. This sounds a bit ... different ... but it's very simple to make and tastes delicious. The vanilla in particular goes very well with the prawns. Pour some good oil into a saucepan, add part of a vanilla bean and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and allow to cool. I only added the vanilla oil to the salsa when I was ready to serve.

The potato salad was equally a dish to be prepared ahead. I quartered my potatoes and cooked them until just tender, then set them aside. While the potatoes were cooking, I heated some oil in a pan and cooked a very finely sliced leek until soft, before adding a tablespoon of brown mustard seeds. When the mustard begins to smell, remove the pan from the heat and add in a splash of vinegar and some lemon juice. When ready to serve, mix the leeks with the potatoes and finish with mint and chives.

With the majority of the meal ready in advance, when hungry the only thing left to do is cook the fish. Since the fish monger had filleted the fish, all I had to do was heat some oil in a pan and throw the fish in, skin side down first. I was very careful not to over cook, and when the fish was cooked, I squeezed some lemon juice into the pan to deglaze it and served fish and juices on top of the salsa ... potato salad on the side and Cloudy Bay in glass.

The wine had a very delicate nose with hints of cut grass and gooseberries but had a very complex and long palate. The wine started off smooth, creamy and almost buttery, but there was loads of citrus which kicked in and meant the wine had great length. I would have been quite happy to sit and just drink (sorry, share) the whole bottle, but since I had some food to eat with it I have to say that it went very well indeed. Because the food was not highly spiced it didn't swamp the wine, and the good, citrus-y length of the wine cut through the oil in the salsa.

All in all, the meal was a hit. It would be great for a dinner party because there is so much that can be done in advance, and the food all looks very colourful on the plate. And as for the vanilla olive oil ... well, I might be making use of that in future.

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