Neil Perry’s Prawn Scrambled Eggs

Serves: 2 as a starter

Neil Perry is famous for his Asian omelettes and my first experience was in 1997 when I graduated from school (boarding school no-less) and in a surprise, my old-man picked me up and we drove into the Sydney CBD and had lunch at the original Rockpool.

We had Neil’s famous blue swimmer crap omelette and it was just awesome.

This particular dish is simpler – incredibly simple in fact – though it is that simplicity that makes it just such a wonderful treat.

What a cracking starter by Nat for a long afternoon of Chinese grazing.

Ingredients

300gm green king prawns, peeled and deveined
2 large eggs
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 spring onion, sliced

Sauce

2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
A few drops of sesame oil

Method

  1. To make the sauce, combine the soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil with 2 tbsp water in a small pot and bring to the boil, then remove from the heat.
  2. Break the eggs into a bowl and lightly break up with a fork.
  3. Heat a wok until it is almost smoking, Add half the oil and, when hot, stir-fry the prawns in two batches until almost cooked through. Remove the prawns and wipe the wok clean.
  4. Heat the remaining oil and stir fry the eggs until just beginning to set, then add the prawns and spring onion and gently toss together. Remove from the heat, spoon onto a plate and pour the warm sauce over the eggs to serve.

Neil Perry’s Stir-Fried Blue Eye with Snake Beans

Serves: 4

Another cracking dried curry – which I love – and one from Neil Perry’s book Balance and Harmony: cooked by Nat no less as part of a long Covid lockdown lunch.

I appreciate that pastes can be painful on first inspection though take the time. This is how we make the food that we love, right?

Dried shrimp and shrimp paste are easily gettable and the rest is mainstream.

Enjoy. (I certainly did with a side-bowl of steamed white rice.)

Ingredients

300gm blue eye fillet, cut into bite sized pieces
8 snake beans, cut into 3cm pieces
100ml vegetable oil
2 tbsp grated palm sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp dried shrimp, soaked in warm water for 20 minutes

Spice Paste

1/2 tsp white peppercorns
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2 dried long red chillies, deseeded, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes and chopped
1 tsp sea salt
3 red shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp finely chopped galangal
1 lemongrass stalk, tough outer leaves removed, chopped
6 coriander roots, scraped and chopped
1 tsp Thai shrimp paste, wrapped in foil and roasted until fragrant

Method

  1. To make the spice paste, lightly roast the peppercorns, fennel and cumin seeds in a dry heavy-based pan until very fragrant and dark, then grind to a powder in a spice grinder. The pound all the past ingredients in a mortar and pestle until you have a fine paste. (Or use a blender, adding a little water if necessary.)
  2. Boil the beans until tender, then drain and refresh in iced water.
  3. Heat a wok until smoking. Add half the oil and, when hot, stir-fry the blue eye in batches until golden, then remove. Add the remaining oil to the pan and stir fry the spice paste until fragrant, then add the palm sugar, fish sauce, beans and shrimp and toss together. Return the blue eye to the wok and stir-fry for 1 minute.

Josh Niland’s John Dory Tagine

Serves: 6

Wow, this is a just a brilliant tagine.

The heat is perfect. The unusual addition of thyme and fish sauce and anchovies.

The f-you preserved lemon yoghurt.

And the pine nuts toasted with salt and then sherry vinegar.

I mean it when I say, skip now to that part of the recipe and simply do the pine nuts as a snack. They are addictive.

(If they lose their crunch, refresh them in a hot oven for a minute or two.)

This was our first Josh Niland recipe from his book Take One Fish and I really don’t know why we delayed buying his books or cooking his stuff. We have every other cookbook in the world, and there is a reason he won James Beard Book of the year.

We didn’t source John Dory darnes because we didn’t have the time to get to the markets; and also because we’re not entirely ready for whole fish-tail in our tagine. (It’s us Josh, not you.)

We cooked cubbed Snapper, though next time I’d do cubbed Dory or even Barramundi.

As Josh interestingly points out, the whole piece of John Dory tail with the bones means you get the addition of gelatine into the sauce which would just wonderfully balance it out: I guess it dependents on whether you’re a fish-tail tagine sort of person.

Either way, this tagine is absolutely on point. We just loved it.

Put the kids to bed, open a cold Chardonnay and do this next Saturday.

Ingredients

6 x 150gm John Dory tail shank chops or darnes (or 1kg firm white fish, cubbed)
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt flakes
1/4 c currants
1/4 c coriander leaves
1/4 c mint leaves
Couscous to serve

Tagine Paste

1/4 c chilli flakes
1/4 c ras el hanout
2 tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp ground coriander
2 tbsp ground turmeric
3 tsp sweet paprika
3 large onions, finely diced
6 large garlic cloves, finely grated
100gm peeled ginger coarsely chopped
2 long red chillies, seeds removed
12 thyme springs, leaves picked
1 bunch coriander, washed
1 bunch flat leaf (Italian) parsley, washed
12 salted anchovy fillets
1 c extra virgin olive oil

Tagine Base

100ml extra-virgin olive oil
2 x 400gm tins crushed tomatoes
1/2 star anise
500ml brown fish stock
Pinch of sea salt flakes
1 x 400gm tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 large fennel bulb, coarsely diced
Generous pinch of saffron threads, soaked in 60ml boiling water
1/4 c honey
Zest of 1 orange
Lemon juice, to taste
Fish sauce

Salt and Vinegar Pine Nuts

1/2 c pine nuts
1 tsp fine salt
3 tsp sherry vinegar

Preserved Lemon Yoghurt

90gm preserved lemon, pith removed
350gm natural yoghurt

Method

  1. To make the tagine paste, blitz all the ingredients in a blender until completely smooth.
  2. For the tagine base, warm the olive oil in a large, wide-based saucepan over a medium heat. Add the tagine paste and cook, stirring, for 10 minutes, until thoroughly cooked out and aromatic. Add the crushed tomatoes, star anise, stock and salt. Brind to a simmer and cook for 25 – 30 minutes until thick and fragrant, then add the remaining ingredients and mix well.
  3. Rub each of the John Dory shanks with a little olive oil and season lightly with salt flakes.
  4. Using a tagine pot or flameproof casserole dish with a fitted lid, pour in enough of the sauce to completely cover the base to a depth of roughly 2.5cm, then nestle the shanks/cubbed fish into the sauce. Bring to the boil over a medium-heat, then cover with the lid, reduce the heat to low and leave to simmer very gently for 6 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through. (46 – 48c if cooking the tail). Remove from the heat and leave the residual heat of the tagine to finish cooking the fish.
  5. To make the salt and vinegar pine nuts, add the pine nuts and salt to a dry frying pan and set over a high heat and toast for 3 – 4 minutes, tossing the nuts as you go, until evenly coloured all over.
  6. Add the sherry vinegar and continue to cook, tossing for 2 minutes until the nuts are thoroughly dried out. Remove from the heat.
  7. For the preserved lemon yoghurt, place the preserved lemon in a blender and blitz to a fine paste, adding a splash of warm water if necessary to deliver a simply smooth finish. Stir into the yoghurt and set aside until needed.
  8. To serve, bring the tagline to the table and serve with the pine nuts, preserved lemon yoghurt, currants, coriander, mint leaves and couscous.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s Fish Koftas in Ancho Chilli and Tomato Sauce

Serves: 4

The genius Yotam Ottolenghi’s latest book – Test Kitchen, Shelf Love – was one of my presents for Nat this Christmas just gone.

We’re spending the week post-Christmas, laying low. Waking up late, cooking or eating out, opening a Champagne each day no later than 1.

I kicked it off with this recipe last night.

It is just excellent.

With fluffy white rice and yoghurt to cool the spice kick, it is unique and particularly moorish.

The sauce can be made a day or two ahead meaning it is only a matter of frying the koftas when you need them.

Could not be easier. Could not be better for a lazy night in.

Cold beer essential.

And Merry Christmas 2021. Stay safe.

Ingredients

For the koftas

500gm firm sustainable white fish (e.g. cod, though we used barramundi)
4 spring onions, finely sliced
10gm dill plus extra to serve
1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 egg, beaten
30gm panko crumbs
3 tbsp olive oil

For the tomato sauce

1 1/2 dried ancho chillies, stems removed
2 tsp caraway seeds toasted and roughly crushed
1 tbsp cumin seeds, toasted and roughly crushed
6 garlic cloves, peeled
1 onion, roughly chopped
60ml olive oil
1 green chilli, halved lengthways
1 tbsp tomato paste
3 – 4 plum tomatoes, skinned and roughly grated
300ml chicken or vegetable stock
2 tsp caster sugar
25gm fresh coriander, roughly chopped
Salt and black pepper

Method

  1. For the sauce, put the ancho chillies into a small bowl and cover with plenty of boiling water. Leave to soften for 20 minutes then drain, discarding the liquid. Roughly chop the chillies, then put them in a food processor alone with two-thirds of the caraway and cumin, all the garlic, the onion and 2 tbsp of oil. Blitz to a coarse paste.
  2. Heat the remaining 2 tbsp of oil in a large pan on a medium-high heat. Add the ancho paste, green chilli and tomato paste and cook for 7 minutes, stirring often, until softened and fragrant. Add the grated tomatoes, stock, 200ml of boiling water, the sugar, half the coriander, 1 1/4 tsp of salt and a good grind of pepper and bring to the boil. Lower the heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes. Keep warm on a low heat until needed.
  3. Meanwhile, make the koftas. Finely chop the fish into 1/2 – 1cm pieces. Put them into a large bowl along with the spring onions, dill, chilli, lemon zest, egg, panko, the remaining coriander, the remaining caraway and cumin, 1 tsp of salt and a good grind of black pepper and mix well to combine. Form into 12 round fish cakes.
  4. Heat 1 1/2 tbsp of oil in a large frypan on a medium-high heat. Add half the koftas and fry for 2 1/2 minutes per side, until golden. Transfer to a plate, then repeat with the remaining oil and koftas.
  5. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Add the koftas, then turn the heat down and cook for 10 minutes, to cook through. Leave to sit for about 5 minutes then top with the extra dill leaves.

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.

Charred Cabbage with Chestnuts and Prawns

Serves: 4

This recipe is in the Gourmet Traveller 2021 Annual, an always reliable and always excellent publication.

So much so, we have had whole long-weekends revolve around their annual collections of the best and most popular receipts from their magazine across the year.

This dish is seriously delicious.

It’s also simple.

And it is unquestionably 1-hat territory, if not nudging some of the 2-hat dining rooms winning their hats around simplicity and brilliant execution.

What a way to start a meal.

Ingredients

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 Savoy cabbage (600gm) cut into wedges
1 c each dry white wine and vegetable stock
80gm butter, chopped
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 banana prawns, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp caraway seeds
240gm canned chestnuts, sliced
1/2 c thickened cream, warmed
1 tbsp finely chopped chives, to serve

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 220c. Heat half the oil in a large, non-stick frying pan over high-heat. Cook cabbage cut-side down until charred, and flip and do the same with the other cut-side. Transfer to a large roasting pan.
  2. Pour wine and stock over the cabbage and dot with half the butter. Roast until tender, turning halfway: about 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a large, non-stick frying pan over a high heat. Add garlic and cook until just golden and fragrant. Add remaining butter and cook until starting to foam. Add prawn meat, caraway seeds and chestnuts, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until prawns are just cooked through. Add the cream and cook until combined.
  4. Serve cabbage wedges with prawn and chestnut mix, topped with chives.

Neil Perry’s Barbecued Coral Trout with Sauce Vierge

Serves: 4

Neil credits this recipe to Roger Vergé, one of the greatest chefs of all time; the recipe first appeared in Roger Vergé’s first cookbook, Cuisine of the Sun (1979). (This Roger Vergé recipe is one of the greatest beef recipes I have had and after you have had this dish for lunch, line this beef up for dinner.)

Paired with coral trout – my absolute favourite fish – this is a sublime dish. The texture is just wonderful.

You could be in the South of France.

Do yourself a favour and whilst the sun is still out, do this as part of a lazy lunch.

Ingredients

4 x 180gm coral trout fillets
Sea salt
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper

For the sauce vierge (makes 500ml)

3 vine-ripened tomatoes, peels, deseeded and cut into a 2cm dice.
2 garlic cloves, unpeeled and halved
2 tbsp chopped chervil
2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp chopped tarragon
8 coriander seeds, crushed
250ml extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt an freshly ground pepper

Method

  1. Mix the diced tomatoes with all the other ingredients in a bowl, then set aside for 1 – 2 hours to mature.
  2. Preheat the barbecue to hot an make sure the grill bars are clean. Liberally sprinkle the fillets with sea salt an brush with the oil. Cook on one side for 4 minutes, and then flip and cook for another 3 minutes. Rest in a warm place for 3 minutes.
  3. Plate, spooning over the sauce, twist of pepper and serve.

XOPP’s Prawn Mini Mantou, XO Mayonnaise and XO Sauce

Yields: 25

XOPP is a wonderful Sydney restaurant, a spin off of the sensational and institutional Golden Century.

The signature dish between the two restaurants is surely known by half the city: the Wok Fried Pippies with XO Sauce and Crispy Vermicelli.

We cooked this particular dish over Sydney’s last lockdown and it is just awesome. One of most identifiable dishes in Sydney.

Anyway, when we ate at XOPP, we kicked it off with their Prawn Mini Mantou with XO Mayonnaise and XO Sauce.

A predictably decadent plate of the most wonderful bites: a warm, soft bun with a golden, deep-fried, crispy outside, filled with chopped prawns mixed with a kewpie mayonnaise, chopped chives and XO sauce.

They haven’t published the recipe, though Nat and I figured it wasn’t that complicated and walked it back. And it is simple.

For a family gathering where entry required a plate, we did these buns and they were spot on. Absolutely spot on. They disappeared in under a minute.

Mantou buns are in the frozen section of any Asian grocer; ditto XO sauce, though always get the best you can find.

No doubt in the next little while we will do a contemporary Chinese banquet and these will absolutely get a run.

Ingredients:

25 Mantou buns
800gm large, cooked prawns
6 tbsp kewpie mayonnaise (or to taste)
1 heaped tsp XO Sauce, plus extra to serve
Half a bunch of chives, cut into 2mm pieces
Vegetable oil to deep fry

Method

  1. Heat enough vegetable oil to fill a reasonable pot to 170c. Test the heat by lowering the handle of a wooden spoon into the oil. If it immediately bubbles, you’re there and reduce the heat slightly.
  2. Pick and clean the prawns. Pulse in a food process until you have 5mm and 1cm piece of prawn. Stir through the mayonnaise, tasting as you go. Stir through the XO sauce, adding more if needed.
  3. Deep fry the buns, a few at a time, ensuring all sides are golden. Drain and set aside on paper towels.
  4. Whilst still warm, slice an incision in the top of the bun. Place a small amount of the prawn mixture into the incision and then a pea-sized amount of XO sauce on top.
  5. Serve immediately.

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.

Adam Liaw’s Barramundi Curry with Tomato Coconut

Serves: 4

I’ve previously written about what a big fan I am of Adam Liaw.

Brilliant cook. Funniest Twitter account. Genuinely lovely guy.

And so there I am during Sydney’s Covid lockdown; in-line in a Chinese grocer and who walks up behind me, but Adam Liaw.

So I introduce myself and tell him what a fan I am of his; that I have purchased several of his latest book for friends.

He politely thanks me.

Clutching snake beans, I explain that I accidentally purchased garlic chives the day before and ho ho ho, what an easy mistake that is right?

And he gives me that look: no it isn’t moron. Only you could make that mistake.

Anyway, still a fan and yes, it was a moron mistake.

In keeping with all of Adam Liaw’s recipes, this one is a keeper. A total keeper.

A wonderful coming together of Malaysian and Indian flavours as he puts it.

We had this mid-week as a date night and didn’t we have a great evening! This dish and a bottle of cold white were big contributors.

Ingredients

1/4 c vegetable oil
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns, crushed
4 cardamom pods, bruised
1 cinnamon quill
10 curry leaves
1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2cm ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 large green chillies, sliced
2 coriander plants, leaves picked, stalks and roots roughly chopped
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chilli powder
3 tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 tbsp tamarind puree
400ml coconut milk
1 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
10 okra, trimmed (optional and omitted)
750gm skinless barramundi fillets

Method

  1. Heat a large frypan or saucepan over a medium heat and add the oil. Add the fennel seeds, peppercorns, cardamom and cinnamon and stir for about 30 seconds. Add the curry leaves, and stir for 10 seconds. Add the onion, garlic, chillies, plus the coriander stalks and roots and stir well.
  2. Cook for about 4 minutes until the mix is fragrant but the onion is not yet coloured, then add the ground coriander, turmeric and chilli powder. Stir well, then add the tomatoes, tamarind, coconut milk, fish sauce and sugar plus a splash of water* and simmer for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the okra (if using) and simmer for another 10 minutes, then add the barramundi and simmer until cooked through: about 6 minutes. Taste, adjust seasoning if necessary, then scatter with the coriander leaves and serve.

*Nat and I did a virtual cooking class with Neil Perry during Sydney’s lockdown and the most prominent comment from the 750 or so Instagram participants was “slow down”. And it wasn’t that we did not have the ingredients ready.

The issue was cooking time.

Neil’s induction was putting our gas hobs to shame.

And it is why I assume so many chefs ask for a cup of water to be added to a dish and then reduced in 10 minutes. Because they can… and we can’t.

I’m subscribed to the view that you add water as you go rather than reducing large quantities of it. Because it always takes multiples of what you are told it should take time wise. And with respect to Adam, adding a cup of water at this stage meant another 15 minutes frantically trying to bring this back over a very high heat.