Saturday, May 12, 2007

Fish and chips: Vaguely Mediterranean

The nights are finally beginning to get that familiar chill, the kind that makes you want to curl up on the couch, bowl in hand, and eat deeply warming food.

But we’re not quite there yet. The leaves on the maples out the front are only just now turning a shade more seasonally appropriate. Officially winter may be snapping at our heels; the reality is however very different.

Yesterday, Friday, was stunning. Autumn at her best. Sun streamed in through the windows urging me out on to the office balcony to finish the week's work.

I wanted to make Susan’s incredible Andean potato soup. I really did. The annatto seeds, an exotic and totally unfamiliar spice, arrived a couple of weeks ago. I was eager for the cold nights to settle into a pattern. Then that sunshine broke through - a reminder that it’s not quite deepest, darkest winter yet.

Instead, a slow-cooked Mediterranean potato dish called. Well, sort of Mediterranean. Some of the spicing (saffron and garlic) is from that region. The addition of a tablespoon raisins imitates the sweet/sour flavours of Sicilian food. Quite proudly I can say that this dish is pretty much my own with only a bit of technique nicked from Nadine Abensur.

The chips: This will serve four people, though I heartily recommend that even if you are only two that you make the full amount – you won’t regret it.

Braised, sort-of Mediterranean potatoes – for 2-4

300g of shallots (eshallots), small ones if possible
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
500g of kipfler potatoes (or waxy salad potatoes), sliced into even chunks of about 3cm
2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
2 cloves
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
1 tablespoon of raisins, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes and drained
Pinch of saffron
350ml of vegetable stock (cube is fine)
½ cup white wine
1 lemon
A handful of coriander leaves

First, peel your shallots. This is frankly annoying and difficult. So, here is the easy way. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, chuck in the shallots and leave to blanch for 1 minute. Drain and cool a little before easily peeling away the skins. Much easier. Much less swearing.

Warm the oil in a large, lidded frying pan over a low-medium heat. Add the shallots, whole, and fry, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Try not to let them burn too much, though there will inevitably be some that catch on the bottom of the pan. Add the potatoes and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, cloves, orange zest, raisins and saffron.

Tip in about 100mls of the stock. Fry for another 15 minutes, shaking the pan from time to time rather than stirring to concentrate the flavours on the bottom of the pan. Pour in the remaining stock, cover with a lid (a sheet of baking paper pressed right on top of the potatoes and liquid will do the same thing) and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer, gently stirring occasionally for 30 minutes.

Lift off the lid, add the wine and cook until only a small amount of sauce remains in the pan (about 5-10 minutes).

Before serving, squeeze in some lemon juice to taste and stir through the fresh coriander. A green salad would complement these ‘taters nicely.

The fish: Firstly, I need to learn to cook fish more adventurously (suggestions are not only welcome, but encouraged!). That said, this is a favourite way with thin fillets of white fish – though next week I’m going to try the method kitchen hand described.

Take one or two fillets of King George Whiting per person. Dip into rice flour, pressing to coat well. Heat a large knob of butter in a frying pan over a medium-high flame and when it foams add your fish fillets, skin-side down. Fry for 2 minutes, flip and fry for another 1-2 minutes. Remove to the plates, add the juice of one orange to the pan and bubble for a second or two. Pour over fish.


Susan said...

I think you will enjoy the annatto. It is very subtle, tastes like you'd expect something burnished rather than blazing to taste. It has a tendency to stain, though without turmeric's reputation.

I tend to flour (or crumb) and fry my fish, too. Sometimes I'll bake it flat or roll it around a shellfish stuffing, but I am most guilty of a good fish fry.

Lucy said...

Susan, am looking forward to the flavour of the annatto - and then finding as many uses for it as possible.

Fish rolled around a shellfish stuffing sounds amazing. What kind of shellfish would you reccomend?

Susan said...

The delicate shellfish like crab or shrimp, Lucy, rather than bi-valves. You can also top the rolls with a cream, cheese or veggie sauce.

Lucy said...


Johanna said...

I love the sound of the potatoes - orange and cloves with potato sounds very comforting - it is going on my list of things to cook

Lucy said...

Johanna, they were meltingly tender, and those whole shallots? They surprised me with their sweetness.