A couple of years ago, we spent New Years up in Newcastle, about two and a half hours north of Sydney.
We really like Newcastle. We have some very good friends there, the restaurant and bar scene gets better every year and with an AirBNB with a good enough kitchen, the show can go on.
We did a Greek/Mediterranean cook off and Nat made this wonderful salad along-side a braised octopus. Incredibly fresh, a wonderful simplicity of flavour and healthy.
Definitely a keeper for any Greek lunch, and a salad Nat has served a few times since.
2 c dried black eyed beans 1 l chicken stock 1 celery stick, finely diced 1/2 red capsicum, finely diced 1 white onion, finely diced Big handful of Italian parsley leaves, finely chopped Salt and pepper 1 tbsp red wine vinegar 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil Braised octopus optional
Soak the beans overnight.
Heat the stock to a simmer in a large saucepan, add the beans and simmer for 45 minutes or until softened. Drain and set aside to cool.
This soup originated from a woman who lived in a little village on the Nile; it is in Claudia Roden’s latest book Med and it is wonderful. The cooked down lentils bring a creaminess to the soup, the spices bring a warmth and it’s finished off with the sharp sweetness of the caramelised onions.
I thought the lentils would take ages to cook down but they don’t. It can be an easy, healthy, delicious weeknight meal.
1 large onion, finely chopped 1 carrot, finely chopped 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped 3 tbsp olive oil 1 1/2 cup of dried red lentils 2 litres vegetable stock 2 tsp ground cumin 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander Pinch of chilli Juice of 1 lemon Salt and Pepper to taste
Ingredients- caramelised onions
3 large onions, sliced Splash of balsamic vinegar 1 tbsp brown sugar
Soften the onions, carrots and garlic in olive oil in a large pan on low heat for about 10 mins.
Add the lentils and stock and bring to the boil and then simmer for 40mins, until the lentils have disintegrated. As foam appears on the top skim it off.
Meanwhile cooked the caramelised onions in a pan on low heat with a bit of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and brown sugar until dark and soft, about 30-40mins.
Stir in the cumin, coriander, chilli and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
If the soup needs thinning add a bit of water, it shouldn’t be too thick.
Ladle the soup into bowls and top with caramelised onions.
Prepare yourself for the best eggplant dish you have ever had. A big call but a worthy one.
This is from Yotam’s book “Jerusalem”; it was the Jews who are said to have introduced the humble aubergine to the Arab culture, Europeans were quite suspicious of aubergine were and reluctant to use them thinking they were “mad apples” and helped induce insanity. With that being said – this dish is insane.
Roasted aubergine with fried onion and chopped lemon
2 large aubergines, halved lengthways with the stem on 150ml olive oil 4 onions, peeled and thinly sliced 1 1/2 green chillies 1 1/2tsp ground cumin 1tsp sumac 50g feta, broken into chunks 1 lemon 1 garlic clove, crushed Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 220C. Score the cut side of the aubergines with a criss-cross pattern, brush with olive oil, salt and pepper and place on a baking tray, cut-side up and roast for 45mins, until the flesh is golden brown and completely cooked.
Add remaining oil to a heavy pan and cook the onions with 1/2tsp of salt, stirring often so that parts of the onion get really dark and crisp. About 15mins in total.
De-seed the green chillies, keeping 1/3 of them seperate. Add 2/3 of the chillies, cumin, sumac to the onions and stir for a few mins. Add the feta and cook for a few mins before removing from the heat.
Cut the flesh out of the lemon, ensuring you remove any seeds and chop the lemon flesh roughly. Add any juices, lemon flesh, the remaining green chilli and garlic to a small bowl.
Assemble the dish by transferring the roasted aubergines to a serving dish, spoon over the lemon mixture and top with the warm onion and feta mixture.
I chose barramundi rather than Murray cod, though any freshwater white fish would do.
With some steamed rice and lots of coriander, wow. Subtle, sophisticated, just wonderful weekday cooking.
600gm (4 even fillets) of Murray Cod or similar 1 tsp ground turmeric 1 tsp ground cumin 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper 1 tsp black mustard seeds, coarsely ground 2 tsp sea salt flakes 2 tsp wholegrain Dijon mustard* 2 tsp chopped ginger 2 garlic cloves 2 small green chillies, chopped 1 cup coriander leaves 1 tbsp mustard oil 100gm thick plain yoghurt
Prepare 4 sheets of foil and 4 sheets of baking paper of the same size, ensuring the sheets are big enough to wrap around the fillets. Place the ground spices, 1 tsp salt and wholegrain mustard in a bowl and mix to combine. Rub spice mixture liberally over the fish and set aside.
Place the ginger, garlic, chilli, coriander leaves, remaining 1 tsp salt and the mustard oil in a food processor and blend to make a paste. Place in a bowl with the yoghurt and stir to combine. Spread the yoghurt mixture over both sides of the mixture. **
Preheat oven to 220c. Place one sheet of baking paper on top of each sheet of foil and top with fish fillet and its yoghurt coating. Wrap the fish in the paper to secure before enclosing with the foil. Don’t wrap too tightly, the parcels can be slightly loose, just make sure they’re sealed tightly at both ends.
Place in an oven side-by-side and bake for 10 minutes or until the fish is tender and just cooked. (Test this.) Remove from oven for 5 minutes to allow the juices to settle. Unwrap the fish, discarding foil and paper. Garnish with chopped coriander and serve with steamed rice.
* I used straight Dijon. Nat feels I should have mixed in some wholegrain mustard. I disagree though will try next time and be found to be wrong.
** I didn’t blend the paste to make it a bit more rustic.
This recipe is a no-brainer. It doesn’t take long and doesn’t involve making your own fish stock but you wouldn’t even know.
It’s healthy, hearty, warm, and delicious. A provincial stable from humble beginnings; the undisputed king of fish stews just got a whole lot easier.
For the stock
6 c fish stock 1tsp aniseed 2 bay leaves 1tsp saffron threads
For the base
8 tomatoes cut into small cubes 6 cloves of garlic minced 2 onions thinly diced 2 salmon fillets (no skin) cubed 2 white fish fillets (no skin) cubed handful of raw and peeled prawns 1 large bunch parsley chopped
Add the fish stock ingredients to a pan and bring to a boil.
On medium heat, paint olive oil on the bottom of a heavy-based pot and put in tomatoes, garlic and onions.
Lay the seafood on top of the tomatoes, garlic, and onions and leave for about 3 mins (enough to heat up the pot).
Ladle the boiling fish stock into the pot and cover the seafood.
Sprinkle half the parsley on top and cover. Bring to a soft boil for about 10 mins until seafood is cooked.
Sprinkle the remaining parsley on top and serve with warm crusty bread.
This is a remarkably good dish, though it is from Josh Niland and so no suprises there.
The bisque (soup) would be the best I have had, with the addition of lemon juice at the end dialing it up a further notch. The crispy skin fish combined with the bisque is just so, so good.
Worth absolutely every bit of effort.
We ended up using flathead instead of gurnard for both the fish and the bisque and Josh is fine with this.
The most interesting part of the process of this recipe, was really exploring how to achieve an optimal crispy skin, something we have never particularly focused on.
We still have a ways to go though after a few attempts, we are close. (N.B. that in the photos on this recipe, you will note that we have scored the skin, something we have heard a few people recommend, though we’ve arrived at don’t score the skin.)
Anyway, our best results:
Heavy, cast iron skillet over a medium-high heat.
Lot’s of quality ghee, with the addition of more ghee halfway through. (Josh says to discard the first quantity of ghee though to date we have not done this.)
Utilising a fish weight. (Thanks to our mate Josh D for ours.) You could also use a small pan.
Not flipping the fish and cooking skin-side down only.
After 1 minute, moving the fish with an offset palette knife (an absolute must instrument in your kitchen).
100gm ghee 4 x 80gm boneless red gurnard fillets, skin on (substiture leatherjacket, red mullet or flathead) Sea salt flakes
4 x 300gm whole red gurnard (or substitute), gills, cuts and gall bladders removed 120gm ghee Large pinch of sea salt flakes 2 onions, finely sliced 8 garlic cloves, crushed 3 small fennel bulbs, finely sliced 2 tbsp tomato paste 3 tomatoes, coarsely chopped 1/4 bunch thyme sprigs 5 lemon thyme sprigs (optional) 2 tsp fennel seeds, lightly toasted 2 star anise Generous pinchof saffron threads 200ml white wine 1 tbsp Pernod freshly cracked black pepper Lemon juice, to taste
To make the soup base, use a sharp cleaver to chop each gurnard into approximately eight small pieces, including the liver and roe.
Heat 100gm of the ghee to a light haze in a large, wide, heavy-based saucepan over a high heat, add the chopped fish and salt flakes and cook for 10 minutes until coloured all over. Transfer to a bowl. Using a wide barbecue scraper, scrape off any caramelised fish from the base of the pan and add to the bowl.
Heat the remaining ghee in the pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 10 minutes until softened, then increase the heat to high and cook the garlic and fennel for a further 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 5 minutes, then return the cooked fish to the pan, align with all the remining ingredients except the salt, pepper and lemon juice.
Pour in enough water to cover, then put the lid on and bring to the boil. As soon as it’s boiling, remove the lid and simmer over a medium heat for 20 minutes, or until thickened slightly and the taste is well rounded. Pass the stock through a mouli (or pulse in a food processer), then strain through a fine-mesh sieve, disgarding the pulp. Return to the pan, season well with salt, pepper and lemon juice and keep warm.
To cook the gurnard fillets, heat 75gm of the ghee in a large cast-iron frying pan over a medium-high heat to a light haze. Place the fillets in the centre of the pan, skin side down and making sure they are not touching each other, and put a fish weight or small saucepan on their thickest side. Keeping the pan temperatures quite high, cook for about 1 minute, or until you start to see the colour around the edges of the fillets. Use an offset palette knife to lift the fillets, then reposition them to take on new colour. Now place the fish weights in the centre of the pan, covering the majority of the fillets. This will aid in setting the fillets gently from the rising heat. Cook for another 2 minutes and then remove the weights. Discard the ghee and replenish with 45gm more fresh ghee. (This is just to help temper the pan as at this stage it is important to keep the pan heat high but not so high that the skin burns, leaving the flesh on top raw.) If the flesh still seems cool to the touch at this point, position the weight on top for another 1 – 2 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets.
If you find the fillets exceed your pan size, either use two frying pans or cook them in batches, and double the quantity of ghee.
Once the fish is 75 per cent on the way set, the top of each fillet is warm and the skin is crisp from edge to edge, transfer them directly into warm soup bowls, skin side up and season the skin with salt flakes. Pour a generous amount of soup around the gurnard until the sides of the fish are completely submerged though the skin remains dry (and therefore crisp). Serve immediately.
We both agreed that this meal reminded us of a meal at the original Kitchen by Mike, a wonderful and innovative Sydney institution that served sustainable, wholesome lunches:
This recipe is so clean and honest, with the simple salad dressed with only olive oil and lemon juice, cutting against the sweetness of the ocean trout rub.
It’s as sophisticated as it is simple and Nat just loved it.
I appreciate that a simple Saturday BBQ can be just what is needed, though with just a bit more effort, you’ll have a brilliant lunch in the sun.
Obviously, white wine is a must.
Another Gourmet Traveller recipe win from their 2021 Annual.
800gm piece of ocean trout, skin on, pin-boned 2 garlic cloves, crushed 2 tbsp each sumac and brown sugar 1 tsp smoked paprika 1 tbsp ground cumin 1/3 c extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve 1 celery heart, finely chopped, leaves reserved 400gm can butter beans, drained and rinsed 1 c loosely packed watercress sprigs 2 tbsp lemon juice 1 c sheep’s milk yoghurt
Preheat the oven to 200c. Place ocean trout, skin-side down on an oven tray lined with baking paper. Combine garlic, sumac, sugar, spices and 2 tbsp oil in a bowl and season. Rub mixture over trout and roast until medium and crust is golden, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine celery, celery leaves, butter beans, watercress, lemon juice and remaining oil in a bowl. Season to taste.
Our favourite mid-week dinner is something simple, something fish.
Tuna features regularly.
Sometimes we do a roughly chopped salsa with tomato, red onion, olives, garlic, capers and basil with splashes of balsamic and olive oil.
Nat often does a Naum Jim and we stir fry some Asian greens on the side.
One of my new favourites is this super simple marinade by Leslie Pendleton.
Super simple being the operative term.
And yet the flavours totally infuse in a way that so many marinades do not.
Have some tuna in the freezer, take it out mid-afternoon and here is your special week-night dinner.
You should also have a white wine. It is mid-week after all.
3 tbsp light soy sauce 2 tbsp lemon juice 2 tbsp vegetable plus more for brushing the pan 1 garlic clove, minced 1/2 tsp sugar 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper 1/2 tsp salt 1 tuna steaks
In a large plastic bag, combine soy, lemon juice, vegetable oil, garlic, sugar, pepper and salt. Add the tuna steaks, coating with the marinade. Seal and refrigerate for 30 mins to 2 hours.
Place a ridged grill pan over a medium heat, brush with oil and heat. Remove the fish from the marinade discarding the liquid and add to the pan. Cook too taste (3 minutes on each side for medium-rare.) Serve immediately.
Sophie Wright was a star on the British food scene about 10 years ago with two highly regarded cookbooks launched within a few years of each other.
This is one of the recipes from her second book.
Nat served this for lunch and wow did the conversation pivot to why we were not steaming enough Asian fish in our lives.
This is a classic recipe. The ginger, the chilli, the spring onions, the soy and sesame oil… classic.
The only change I would make would be to use a thicker fish such as barramundi, though the subtlety of the sea bream is definitely a thing, especially if serving as part of a banquet.
Monday night, Sunday-lunch banquet, either way… serve this with some rice, lemon wedges and Chinese greens and you will win the night… or the lunch.
2 sea bream fillets, pin-boned 3cm piece of ginger sliced into very thin strips 1 large green chilli, seeds removed sliced at an angle 6 spring onions, trimmed and shredded 2 tbsp light soy sauce 1 tsp toasted sesame oil 1/2 tsp caster sugar 1 tbsp rice vinegar Handful of coriander leaves 1 lime, cut into wedges Steamed rice and green vegetables to serve
Place a wok or saucepan with a steamer on the stove and half fill the wok with boiling water. Cover with a lid.
Lay the fish fillets, skin-side down on a plate that fits in the steamer. Sprinkle the ginger chilli and half the spring onion over the fish. Combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar and vinegar in a bowl and pour over the fish.
Place the plate in the steamer and cover with a lid. Leave to steam over a medium heat for about 6 minutes or until the fish is cooked through.
Serve the fish with all the ginger chilli and spring onion on top and sprinkle with coriander leaves and remaining spring onion. Pour any juices that are on the plate over the fish and serve with a wedge of lime, steamed rice and green vegetables.