Josh Niland’s Gurnard Soup

Serves: 4 – 6

This is a remarkably good dish, though it is from Josh Niland and so no suprises there.

Check out that skin!
Beyond elegant. Clearly restaurant.

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.

Big grins.

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).

Ingredients

100gm ghee
4 x 80gm boneless red gurnard fillets, skin on (substiture leatherjacket, red mullet or flathead)
Sea salt flakes

Soup base

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

Method

  1. To make the soup base, use a sharp cleaver to chop each gurnard into approximately eight small pieces, including the liver and roe.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Coco’s Green Smoothie

Serves: 2

My sister in law Court (Coco) shared this awesome breakfast smoothie with us.

Perfect for our new year’s resolution!

Highly commend and can be made the night before ready to be blitzed with ice in the morning.

Ingredients

1 cucumber
1 stick celery
1 banana
Kale (or baby spinach)
Dollop of Greek yoghurt
Minced ginger*
Splash of cold water or almond milk

Method

  1. Blitz together all the ingredients in a blender and serve with ice.

* Pro tip. Cut up your ginger, peel and put in a ziplock bag in the freezer ready for this smoothie, or any meal. Ready to grate when you need it!

Blackened Sumac Ocean Trout with Butter Bean and Celery Salad

Serves: 4

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:

The original Kitchen by Mike: nothing beat a lunch there with a cold glass of vino and an espresso to mop it up.

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.

Ingredients

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

Method

  1. 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.
  2. Meanwhile, combine celery, celery leaves, butter beans, watercress, lemon juice and remaining oil in a bowl. Season to taste.
  3. Serve the trout with salad yoghurt at the side.

Leslie Pendleton’s Grilled Tuna in Flank Steak Marinade

Serves: 4

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.

Ingredients

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

Method

  1. 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.
  2. 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’s Steamed Sea Bream with Ginger, Chilli and Spring Onion

Serves: 2

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.

Ingredients

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

Method

  1. Place a wok or saucepan with a steamer on the stove and half fill the wok with boiling water. Cover with a lid.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Neil Perry’s Vietnamese Chicken and Prawn Coleslaw

Serves: 4

This is such a classic Vietnamese dish.

Pops of flavour, could be had as a main or a side.

Very hard to get it wrong. Very hard to complain.

Ingredients

1 small roasted or barbecued chicken
6 cooked large prawns, peeled and deveined
1 carrot, julienned
200gm shredded cabbage
1 small red onion, cut into thin rings
40g mint and coriander
1 1/2 tbsp crispy fried shallots, plus 2 tsp to serve
1 1/2 tbsp crushed roasted peanuts, plus 2 tsp to serve

Nuoc Cham Dressing

2 long fresh red chillies, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tbsp caster sugar
60ml fish sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp lime juice

Method

  1. To make the dressing, pound the chillies, garlic and sugar in a mortar and pestle. Add the fish sauce, rice vinegar and 60ml water and stir to dissolve the sugar. Set aside for 15 minutes for the flavours to infuse. Stir in the lime juice, taste and adjust as necessary.
  2. Pull the chicken meat off the bones, tear into bite-sized pieces and add it to a large bowl. Cut the prawns in half lengthways and add them to the bowl.
  3. Add the carrot, cabbage, onion, herbs, fried shallots and peanuts to the bowl. Pour over the dressing, mix well and transfer to a salad bowl. Serve immediately with the extra fried shallots and peanuts.

Rockpool’s Salad with Palm Sugar Vinaigrette

Serves: 4

Nat and I have both come to understand the importance of a green salad to accompany so many of the mains we plate.

Because a brilliant green salad, clarifies; it mops up and gives you time to talk about the main; it refreshes and brings the end to the savoury part of the meal.‘

It’s the time where the big wines are poured.

This green salad by Neil Perry is probably the best I have had. I genuinely struggle to think of how it could be improved. Sure, Rodney Dunn’s Leaf Salad with Anchovy Cream is absolutely knockout.

And the addition of caramelised pancetta and fennel in this Giant De Laurentiis salad is genius.

Though if its green leaves you need. And the wonderful freshness of herbs. And a vinaigrette.

I commend to you the best.

Ingredients

1 heads of radicchio, leaves separated, washed and dried
2 heads of baby cos lettuce, leaves separated, washed and dried
2 heads of witlof, leaves separated, washed and dried
8 sprigs of watercress, tough stalks removed
6 chives, cut into 2.5cm lengths
Large handful of coriander leaves
Handful of dill fronds
Handful of tarragon leaves
Handful of chervil leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

For the Palm Sugar Vinaigrette

3 tbsp grated palm sugar
2 tsp sherry vinegar
2 coriander roots
1 garlic clove, peeled
5 tsp red wine vinegar
1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves

Method

  1. To make the palm sugar vinaigrette, put the palm sugar into a small pan and heat until melted and caramelised. Add the sherry vinegar and let it cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool.
  2. Using a mortar and pestle, crush the coriander roots and garlic with 1 tsp of salt until you have a fine paste, then add the cooked sugar mixture. Whisk in the olive oil and coriander.
  3. To serve, put all the leaves and herbs into a large bowl. Pour over the dressing band toss very gently. Season, arrange on four plates and serve immediately.

White Chicken Chilli

Serves: 8

Some of my most enthusiastic type-ups are chillies.

Because chillies are just so good on so many levels:

  • Even the healthiest taste amazing.
  • They’re set and forgets cooking wise.
  • You’re happy to end them night-after-night.
  • They go so well on toast.
  • They freeze.

This white chicken chilli checks all of these boxes and then some. It is just so satisfying.

If you’re an elite athlete, add avocado, tortilla chips and shredded cheese. If you’re me, add lots of coriander.

Either way.

Make Monday night a good one, open a cold beer and enjoy with Squid Games or Ted Lasoo or whatever you’re streaming!

Ingredients

1 small yellow onion, diced
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 c chicken stock
3 long green chillies, finely diced
1 12 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
250gm light cream cheese
1 1/4 c frozen or fresh corn
400gm can cannellini beans
2 1/2 cups shredded, poached chicken breast (or BBQ chicken)
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tbsp chopped coriander plus more for serving
Tortilla chips, shredded tasty cheese, avocado for serving

Method

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over a medium heat. Add the onion and sautéed until coloured. Add garlic and sauté 30 seconds longer.
  2. Add the chicken stock, green chillies, cumin, paprika, oregano, coriander, cayenne and season to taste. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Drain and rinse the cannellini beans and measure 1 cup, setting the balance aside. Transfer the 1 cup of beans to a food processor along with 1/4 cup of the stock from the soup and purée until nearly smooth.
  4. Add the cream cheese, corn, whole beans and puréed beans to the soup, stir and simmer for another 10 minutes, ensuring the cream cheese dissolves.
  5. Stir in the chicken, fresh lime juice and coriander. Warm through and serve with the accompaniments.

Thomas John’s Snapper with Saffron Broth

Serves: 4

This is such a delicate, Spanish, summer-lunch: a recipe my mother shared with me.

Seafood, saffron, fish stock and petite vegetables. How could you go wrong?

Open a white wine. Pour the wine. Tear some crusty bread.

Time is on your side.

Enjoy.

(And pour more wine! It’s summer!)

Ingredients

100ml olive oil
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
1 small leek (white only), thinly sliced
2 shallots, thinly sliced
12 black mussels, cleaned
2 1/2 tbsp white wine
2 cup fish stock
1 tsp saffron threads
4 snapper fillets, skin scored
1 large tomato, peeled, seeded and diced
1 potato, peeled, cubed and cooked
20 asparagus spears, blanched
1 bunch English spinach, stalks trimmed
Sea salt and pepper
Parsley sprigs

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 160c.
  2. Cook the celery, leek and shallots in half the olive oil for 1 minute, increase the heat to high, add the mussels and wine and cover for 3 minutes or until the mussels open.
  3. Strain the mixture and return the liquid to the pan and reduce by 1/3.
  4. Add the stock and saffron and simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Sauté the fish skin side down in the remaining oil for 2 minutes, turn over and cook for 1 minute and then place in the oven for 2 minutes.
  6. Add the potato and tomato to the broth and heat through and season.
  7. Add the asparagus, spinach and mussels and simmer until the spinach is just wilted.
  8. Divide the spinach and asparagus among bowls and pour over the broth.
  9. Scatter the mussels, tomato and potato around and then top with the fish and garnish with parsley.

Karen Martini’s Cabbage Salad

Serves: 8

You really can’t go wrong with anything Karen Martini.

This salad is no exception.

We served it along-side some wicked BBQ chicken and lordy, this was a good combination.

And healthy too.

Enjoy.

Ingredients

1/2 cabbage, very finely shredded
6 mint sprigs, leaves picked and torn
6 red radishes, very finely sliced
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp ground caraway seeds!
1/2 lemon juiced
100 mls olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

  1. Whisk together the caraway, lemon juice, olive and salt and pepper.
  2. Toss the dressing with the cabbage, mint, radish and onion, and stand for 5 minutes before serving.