Mignonette (French Shallot) Vinaigrette for Oysters

Serves: 24 oysters (at least!)

Nat and I love oysters and one of our favourite things is to hit a great steak restaurant for lunch and kick it off with a dozen oysters and a bottle of Champagne.

Yum.

Personally, I always prefer a raw oyster and it needs to be small: a Sydney Rock Oyster or something small from Batemans Bay.

(Those Bluff Oysters from NZ are my worst nightmare!)

Sauce wise, I’ve had some compelling granitas and watermelon snows, though geez, you just can’t go past this classic sauce.

Make the sauce a few hours prior to allow the flavours to infuse, and when served, you have gone toe-to-toe with the best steak restaurants out there.

Ingredients

1 large shallot, peeled and finely diced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Freshly cracked pepper
Fresh raw oysters on the half shell
Champagne

Method

  1. Combine the shallot and red wine vinegar.
  2. Open the Champagne in preparation.
  3. Lightly pepper the oysters and serve each with a good dessertspoon of the sauce.

Neil Perry’s Classic Prawn Cocktail

Serves: 4

I have plated this dish at least half a dozen times and it is always so well received.

Classic Saturday lunch sort of stuff.

Fresh prawns, iceberg and a wonderful cocktail sauce. Everything you would expect of Neil Perry in his style of cooking.

Of course, it’s nothing new and people have been doing this since the 70s. Though slightly deconstructed like this recipe is, it’s a great return of a classic dish.

Follow it up with a good steak over charcoal and oh man, that is a great Saturday indeed.

Ingredients

150gm iceberg lettuce, outer leaves and core removed, finely shredded (about 1/4 of a whole lettuce)
2 lemon wedges, plus extra to serve
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
16 large cooked king prawns, peeled, tailed instant and intestinal tracts removed

140ml thick good-quality egg mayonnaise
1 tbsp tomato sauce
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp finely grated fresh horseradish (I use horseradish cream)
Pinch cayenne pepper
Dash of Tabasco sauce

Method

  1. For sauce, combine ingredients and season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  2. Divide lettuce among 4 plates, squeeze 2 lemon wedges over and drizzle with oil. Season to taste, top with prawns and serve with cocktail sauce and lemon wedges.

Roast Ocean Trout with Chilli-Turmeric Paste

Serves: 4

This recipe is awesome.

Think a good lashing of a wonderful, oily paste on a thick piece of ocean trout (or salmon), roasted at a high temperature.

Served hot with a drizzle of coconut cream and a squeeze of lime, this is what you would call vibrant. I mean, ocean trout in any setting is the finest of the fish, though add this wonderful paste and this is just moorish.

It would be just as good with barramundi or even chicken breast.

Just make sure you have a glass of cold, crisp white ready to go!

Ingredients

4 fillets of ocean trout
Coconut cream, for drizzling
Lime wedges and steamed rice, to serve

Spice paste

4 long red chillies, seeds removed
1 lemongrass stalk, white part, finely chopped
10gm piece of turmeric, coarsely chopped
1 small golden shallot
2 tsp dry-roasted, coarsely ground coriander seeds
1/4 c olive oil

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 240C. For spice paste, using a hand-blender, blitz ingredients with a pinch of salt until smooth.
  2. Heat a small frying pan over a medium heat. Add spice paste and stir until lightly roasted (1 – 2 minutes), then set aside to cool.
  3. Spread spice paste over fish and bake until just cooked through (8 minutes for medium-rare). To finish, drizzle fish with coconut cream and squeezed lime juice. Serve with rice.

Antonio Carluccio’s Insalata all’Abruzzese (Vegetable and Tuna Salad)

Serves: 4

This salad is a triumph of flavours: the combination of cooked and raw vegetables, the tuna, the whole thing.

(Yes, it is a summer salad and we had it in the tail of winter, though the sun was out and we had some good Italian wines to try.)

With a bit of toasted bread, this is a meal on its own.

Though next time I serve this, I hope it is part of a long Italian feast welcoming our family and friends back into our home.

That’s when the really good Italian whites and reds are coming out.

Bookmark this one. It is beautiful. And lockdown will end one way or the other!

Ingredients

300gm young zucchinis (around 4 small)
200gm green beans, trimmed (about a big handful)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
200gm tomatoes (around 2 tomatoes)
1 red pepper
1 red onion
150gm good canned tuna in oil, drained
8 anchovy fillets in oil, drained
8 basil leaves, torn
1 tsp dried oregano
1 – 3 red chillies, chopped
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar

Method

  1. Quarter the zucchinis lengthways, then cut into chunks. Cook the beans until al dente, drain and cool. Repeat with the zucchinis.
  2. Cut the tomatoes into wedges and remove the seeds. Halve, core and deseed the pepper, then cut into long, thin strips. Finely slice the red onion.
  3. Put the zucchinis, beans, tomatoes, red pepper and onion into a bowl. Break the tuna into little chunks and add to the salad with the anchovies, herbs and as much fresh chilli as you can take! Toss everything together, adding the olive oil, followed by the wine vinegar. Season and serve at room temperature.

Neil Perry’s Bar Rock Cod Tagine

Serves: 6

I’m putting it out there.

This is the best tagine I have had. Nat also thinks so. Ditto her sister Court to whom we dropped a meal pack during the intersection of Sydney’s lockdown and the birth of her first child, Ella.

Ella, I am the uncle you come to first.
Not socially distanced, though I am a carer, fully vaccinated, in a park and with one other person from another household. Also, I don’t care. This is my new niece.

Hello there Ella. You’re beautiful and as lucky as your parents are.

Anyway, back to this tagine.

It starts with a classic Neil Perry Chermoula that I have used so many times for his beef tagine and chicken tagine.

What makes it just that more interesting is firstly the fish which is so much nuanced than beef: and then the wonderful baby vegetables including the kipfler potatoes which are a totally new tagine element for me.

It does colour concerningly red fairly early on thanks to the baby beetroots, though hold the course.

Served with a couscous tossed with chicken stock, currents and flaked almonds, this tagine just hits you. (Or try this amazing couscous.)

It will be the dish of your week.

Ingredients

1kg bar rock cod, skinned, pin-boned and cut into 3-4cm cubes
6 baby beetroots, trimmed
3 bulbs baby fennel, trimmed and quartered
12 baby carrots, trimmed
12 small kipfler potatoes
1 1/2 cups Chermoula*
3 tbsp honey
1 1/2 tsp salt flakes
60gm blanched almonds
80gm green olives
1 preserved lemon, rind rinsed and thinly sliced
Juice of 1 1/2 lemons, strained
Couscous to serve

Chermoula

1 red onion, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 bunch coriander, stalks and leaves, roughly chopped
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, stalks and leaves, roughly chopped
1 1/2 tsp salt flakes
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tbsp chilli powder
1 tbsp ground turmeric
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 1/2 tbsp ras el hanout
185ml extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon, strained

Method

  1. To make the Chermoula: place the onion, garlic, coriander, parsley, salt, ground cumin and coriander, chilli, turmeric, paprika and ras el hanout in a food processor and process for 1 minute. With the motor running, slowly pour in the oil to form a thick paste. Stir through the lemon juice.
  2. Combine the beetroot, fennel, carrot, potato, 1ltr of water, 1 1/2 c Chermoula, honey, salt, almonds and olives in a tagine or large saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 1 hour, covered, until the vegetables are well cooked.
  3. Stir the fish and preserved lemons through the vegetables. Simmer, uncovered, for a few minutes, until the fish is just cooked through, stirring very gently from time to time. Stir in the lemon juice and remove from the heat.
  4. Divide among bowls and serve with the couscous.

* You will have leftover Chermoula. We marinated and grilled chicken breasts with the leftover Chermoula and you should too.

Gordon Ramsay’s Pan-fried Sea Trout, Peas & Chorizo Fricassée

Serves: 2

This is simply a great, 1-hat bistro lunch.

Nat took a day of work – as we all really need to do during this endless Sydney lockdown – and presented this with a glass of Krinklewood Verdelho (if in the Hunter Valley, visit their vineyard: it is wonderful as are the wines) and as we sat in the sun, we agreed that it was moments like these that made the long weeks and routine bearable.

The fricassée gives the dish a rustic, moorish backbone – chorizo, potato, paprika and peas – and the warm caper dressing just finishes it.

We have never cooked a disappointing Gordon Ramsay recipe and this lunch just continued that tradition.

This dish would be perfect for any Saturday lunch though my pro tip: have it on Monday and beat the lockdown!

And vino of course!

Ingredients

2 fillets of sea/ocean trout (or use salmon)
2 tbsp butter
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, halved

For the fricassée

100gm cured chorizo (1 small chorizo), diced
350gm waxy potatoes (we used kipflers)
Large pinch sweet smoked paprika
125ml fresh chicken stock
150gm cooked peas

For the warm caper dressing

3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp small capers, drained
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
Small bunch tarragon, chopped

Method

  1. For the dressing: Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a small saucepan. Add the capers as well as the onion and cook for 3 minutes until softened. Add red wine vinegar and cook down until evaporated. Add in the rest of the oil plus the tarragon and leave to infuse.
  2. For the fricassee: heat the oil in a saute pan, add the chorizo and fry for two minutes until crisp and the red oil has rendered out. Add the potatoes and paprika and cook for 5 minute until the chorizo is starting to get browned edges.
  3. Add the chicken stock, bring to a boil; and then simmer for 10 minutes or until the stock has evaporated and the potatoes are tender. Stir in the peas and cook for another two minutes. Set aside and keep warm.
  4. For the fish: Score the skin of the trout and season generously.
  5. Heat the butter inside a non-stick frying pan. When it begins to sizzle. cook the fish skin-side down. Gently fry for 8 minutes until the skin is crisp and golden and the fish on its way to being cooked.
  6. Turn the fish and squeeze over the juice of half a lemon, basting the fish with all the lemony pan juice for a 1 minute whilst it cooks. Set aside in the pan.
  7. To plate: Spoon a pile of the fricassee into the centre of each plate. Gentley sit the fish on-top, skin side up (if using). Spoon the caper dressing around the outside and serve.

Justin North’s Blue Eye and King Prawn Bourride

Serves: 4

I first tried Justin North’s food at Becasse, a totally insane 25-seat restaurant in the top floor of the new Westfield Sydney.

I recall the first dish I ever tried being something like a parakeet egg with volcanic ash and citric something and from there, the crazy show rolled on. A waiter tapped a triangle as the first dish was presented. (I’m not kidding or more the clearer about what it all meant.)

I only ever ate at Becasse – maybe three times – with a great client and friend Paul and it was the food and theatre plus the sheer over-the-top plating that amused and impressed us so much.

Wine plus this theatre went to much laughter.

North’s food empire – which employed 180 people at its peak – collapsed as sadly they all do, though bloody credit. This man can cook.

Think genius.

My mother shared this recipe with me and it is unquestionably 2-hat.

It is breakthrough stuff like where you’re at a running race with your kids and that freak headed for the Olympics is also in the race. Love ya son, though who the hell is that kid that just clocked in 11 seconds flat?

That’s this dish, out of the blocks – wow.

We had the bourride with a wonderful green salad and thus far in this never ending Sydney lockdown, the bourride wins gold. (And don’t think we’re not trying to give the cooking a nudge!)

Just, bloody wow.

Ingredients

Herb dressing

1/2 cup basil leaves
1/2 cup coriander leaves
1/2 cup chervil (or parsley if you absolutely must)
2 – 3 tbsp olive oil
Pinch of sea salt flakes

For the bourride

2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
2 cloves garlic sliced
1 c sliced brown onion
1/2 c sliced fennel
Pinch of sea salt flakes
Pinch of saffron threads
1 c chopped ripe juicy tomatoes
1 strip orange peel
1/2 large chilli
1 c white wine
2 c fish stock
4 x 80gm blue eye fillets (skinned, pinned etc)
12 large king prawns (heads and tails removed)

To finish

1 cup mixed baby herbs such as coriander and basil

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Heat the olive oil in a oven proof casserole dish. Add the seeds, garlic, onion, fennel, salt, saffron and cook gently over a medium heat for 8 – 10 minutes until the vegetables are soft, juicy and aromatic.
  2. Add the tomatoes, orange peel, chilli and white wine and continue to cook for a few minutes until pulpy, then add the fish stock, bring to the boil and add the fish fillets and prawns, season with a pinch of salt flakes, cover with a lid and place in the oven for 5 minutes to cook the fish and prawns.
  3. Remove from the over, take the seafood out of the pan and blitz the pulpy sauce for a few seconds to a rustic chunky saucy consistency.
  4. To finish: Spoon the bourride sauce into warm serving bowls, top with the seafood, drizzle over the herb dressing and decorate with the baby herbs and serve.

Sean Connolly’s Crab Linguini

Serves: 4

Nat and I have a great tradition on those public holidays where the gathering of family isn’t a prerequisite: Labour Day, Queens Birthday, Boxing Day etc.

We lock in a babysitter for the kids and we have lunch at The Morrison, a Sydney-city institution by Sean Connolly.

Clean, crisp seafood. Great wine list. Great buzz looking out onto the street at all the trams going backwards and forwards.

The oysters are a must. The prawn cocktail is a must.

Though the biggest must is the Crab Linguini.

We order it every time and I know of at least one other mate that does the same.

And here is the receipe.

Simple as one would expect from a chef that heros simplicity.

To really go the extra mile, Nat made fresh linguini and my word, what an awesome dinner we had:

If you really want to bowl your guests over, this is how you do it!

Paired with Rodney Dunn’s Leaf Salad with an Anchovy Cream and a great bottle of Chardonnay, nobody ate better in our part of that night.

(And when this Sydney lockdown ends, book a table at the Morrison. It really is a fun afternoon.)

Ingredients

500gm thickened cream
300gm fresh crab meat
50gm unsalted butter
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp canola oil
1 red chilli, finely chopped
Handful mint leaves, torn
Handful of Italian parsley leaves, chopped

Method

  1. Heat the cream in a large pan, bring to a simmer and reduced until thickened.
  2. Remove from the head, add the butter and a pinmch of salt, combining vigorously.
  3. Once combined, return to the heat and add the lemon juice. Bring to a gentle simmer and reduce for a further 2 minutes.
  4. Cook the linguini al dente and set aside.
  5. In a heavy saucepan, heat the oil and once hot, warm through the crab, chilli, and parsley. Add the parsley and then the cream sauce. Season, stir through the parsley and serve.

Prawn & Cannellini Bean Salad

Serves: 4

This is just a great salad.

Like surprisingly great.

Saturday lunch is served!

Ingredients

500gm green prawns peeled
400gm canned cannellini beans, rinsed and drained well
2 inner celery stalks, sliced, leaves torn
20 pitted Ligurian olives
8 basil leaves, torn
Crusty bread, to serve

Red Wine Dressing

100ml extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp oregano leaves, roughly chopped
Salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Ingredients

  1. Make Red Wine Dressing: combine oil, vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper in a screw top jar and shake well to emulsify. Pout into a bowl.
  2. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil with 2 tbsp of salt per litre of water.
  3. Add the prawns to the boiling water and cook for a minute or two. Allow to cool somewhat and then cut into chunks and add to the Red Wine Dressing.
  4. Add beans, celery, celery leaves, olives and basil and toss until well combined.
  5. Serve at room temperature with crusty bread.

Crab and Preserved Lemon Risotto

Serves: 6 as an entree

Just before Sydney’s lockdown, Nat and I did one of the Sydney Seafood School classes: a well received Mother’s Day present.

At their best, these classes are a lot of fun. An hour in the auditorium watching the chef cook and then two hours cooking at a workstation with another couple, knocking over the various dishes.

Then it’s lunch with a glass of wine. (You can even order an additional bottle of wine which of course, I commend firmly.)

The Italian Seafood class we attended did not push us particularly in terms of technique or complexity, though Nat cooked one of her first risottos (I am the resident risotto cooker) and I cleaned a squid for only the second time. And hey, we had fun!

And of course, I only type up recipes that are great and genuinely, this risotto is great.

I overheard someone saying that the preserved lemon was a little overpowering and lemon zest would be better.

Wrong.

It works and if you love crab and/or preserved lemon, this risotto is definitely for you.

Ingredients

300gm raw crabmeat*
1.25 litres quality chicken stock
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
1 small brown onion, chopped
Salt flakes and freshly ground white pepper
250gm risotto (do not rinse)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 preserved lemon, rinsed and dried, skin only finely diced
50gm salted butter
3 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
2 tbsp snipped chives

Method

  1. Heat stock in a saucepan until simmering, then maintain at that temperature.
  2. Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat, add onion and a good pinch of salt and fry until soft but not coloured.
  3. Add the rice and stir over a high heat until grains are well coated in oil and warmed through.
  4. Add white wine and stir until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium, add stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next.
  6. Continue until rice is tender, with a slight bite, and has a creamy consistency (about 18 minutes): you may not need all of the stock.
  7. Add a final ladle or 2 of stock, preserved lemon, crabmeat, butter, Parmesan, salt and pepper and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until all the butter is incorporated and the grab has broken into thin wisps. The finished risotto should be quite soupy. (The Italians call it all’onde which translates to wave-like.)
  8. Taste, season, stir through chives and serve immediately on a flat plate, tapping the bottom of the plate to spread the risotto out.

* Look, maybe it needs to be said, maybe not. We need to be buying only local, sustainable seafood. Australian for me. The time is up on imported seafood, please.