Category Archives: Fish & seafood

A new January

We can’t control the sea but we can learn to ride the waves.
~ Said a few wise people

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Happy new year, everyone (or no one?) :-) I have no idea who still reads or subscribes to this blog, but I was told recently that treehousekitchen showed up as a hit in a Google search for Tessa Kiros’s ceviche (first page!). Somehow, that piece of news winked at me ;-) Thanks, Kath, what a fun email to receive.

I spent a bit of time clicking around on the internet yesterday. Peeking at blogs I used to enjoy reading. Some still brought a sense of delight; others were dull with marketing; many seemed to have hit Pause or Stop sometime around 2013.

The internet, along with the rest of the world, is going through such revolutionary times. I mean, life has never ever stood still, but is it just me, or is change just happening faster and faster, more and more (in real life, and 1000x more ridiculously on the internet)? Looking through some older blogs and noticing the amount of change we have been through in a short length of time – just with the average style and quality of photographs on websites over the last seven years for instance – is amazing. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when you might have been the only one in a circle of friends who kept a ‘blog’ and ‘blogged’ on Saturday nights while everyone else was out getting pizza … now heaps of people have operated some kind of blog before and have, in fact, moved on to more significant endeavours.

Sitting down intentionally now to write (or even blog) feels slow and unnecessary; like attempting to knit myself a scarf when I could just buy one from a store. Or like doing something ‘unimportant’ when I could be reading emails or 200 social media updates instead.

I keep glancing up at the time, seeing the minutes tick by as I pause between thoughts and words. I hear a whisper of panic in my heart as I wonder if I always took so long to compose posts in the past, or whether this is taking longer because I am out of practice? And as the fear grows, other questions sprout. Can I do this? Should I do this? Is it going to at least change the world or something, for it to be worthwhile?

And as I write this, I smile with the sincere silliness of these questions.

Can’t we just cook*, blog, publish just for the simple desire of doing so? I ask myself.

And I shall leave it here today.

* Or, in this case, assemble – bagel halves, a full spread of cream cheese, slices of avocado and a fine vine-ripened tomato, smoked salmon, freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt and pepper – served alongside a generous pinch of micro-greens. 

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Hemingway’s words on oysters

As I ate the oysters, with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.
~ Hemingway, as quoted in “French Women For All Seasons” by Mireille Guiliano

These are busy days, days in which minutes melt into a digital soup of Microsoft Outlook dings and social media distractions – days in which it becomes hard to recall what day it is, what happened five minutes ago, what’s happening tonight, what groceries need buying, what clothes need washing, what things need doing. And all of a sudden it is always night again, driving through roads teeming with road works and drivers with interesting behaviour, sinking gratefully into a chair at home and journaling in between dreams and real life.

At times all that is needed to bring it all into focus again, is a few good words on the magic of soul food and living; to – yes – eat, and be happy, and make plans!

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Experiment

Pan +
Butter +
Garlic – 2 cloves +
Lemon fish – 230g +
Capsicum – 1/2 +
Cannellini beans – 1/2 can +
Baby spinach – handful +
1/2 lemon – juice.

I felt like Winnie the Pooh

“Sometimes,” said Pooh, “the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”
~ A.A. Milne

Tasting this, I was Winnie the Pooh in Wonderland.

I am sure I am not the only J. Friend and Co. honey consumer who has thought about sticking a human paw into one of their jars…

Before we moved to New Zealand, I was a stranger to the wide honey world. If anyone said “honey”, I’d think of couples or of a sticky bright yellow substance glooping down Pooh Bear’s rotund tummy. Over the last few years, I have really loved getting acquainted with the beautiful honey made right here in this country – especially the unique manuka honey which NZ is so rightfully well known for.

While I like honey, though, I have seldom enjoyed it neat. I can be persuaded to try raw cookie dough, or lick my butter knife after using it to spread PB on toast, and once or twice I have even been seen to lick a plate (ungraceful, I know)… but I am mostly NOT a honey-spoon-licker. I’ll drizzle honey on my crumpets or stir honey into warm water, then toss the honey-coated spoon straight into the sink.

So yesterday, while trying to choose a honey (of my three jars*, of which I had only tried one) for R’s salmon, I took a TINY sample of each one… before Winnie the Pooh unexpectedly whooshed into my brain. He nearly took over. Instead, I took out teaspoons and insisted that everyone try some honey. I think I may have looked frighteningly excited, because they all looked a little shocked and just obeyed silently.

;-)

I am happy to say that after everyone had a taste of some honey, no one questioned my sanity. It spoke for itself…

We used a few spoonfuls of the Beechwood Honeydew honey to make a honey-balsamic glaze which greatly enhanced our main course of seared salmon fillet; baby spinach and blanched asparagus tossed with lemon zest; portobello mushrooms baked with halloumi; and couscous with parsley.

This honey tasted of forests and fairies… it was a total surprise, and it was wonderful to place a full teaspoon of this into my mouth and shut my eyes for a minute… I thought of Enid Blyton’s “The Wishing Chair” (still so fun to think about, years later). What can I say? If you were to use a liquid to describe imagination and abundance, this honey would come pretty close.

We ate very well last night. R and K thoroughly spoiled us with this dinner, and their company! (Thank you R and K!)

In addition to that crazily delicious salmon dish above (which the photo does not do justice to), we also had prosciutto draped over cantaloupe… a combination I have often heard great things about but never ventured to try. I was certainly not disappointed!

For dessert, I just assembled two platters:

Havarti with grapes and crackers, and fresh strawberries with crème fraîche and brown sugar. Not that we really fit much dessert in after the preceding courses!

* Thank you so much, kind Sharyn, for sending me two jars of your precious honey to try! I can’t wait to try the Viper’s Bugloss honey in a dish. :-)

Fish

Let your hook always be cast; in the stream where you least expect it, there will be a fish.
~ Ovid

So I sat tonight in a room pregnant with good smells and hungry people, watching this man whip up Mediterranean seafood dishes… but my mind was far away. It was an unsettling and seemingly slow day at work today, and by 3.30pm when we were seated in a meeting room on a conference call – I was less taken by the call than I was by the view outside the window… the sky was startling. Half the sky was illuminated, blinding; while the other half sat shrouded in angry cobalt and grey. Then we learned about this afternoon’s tornado… not a good thing at all. Things are a little crazy around the world and I think this is a time to live courageously and reach out more! At least, I’m trying to do so…

Anyway, class tonight: the main thing I learned from Marco was a wonderful method of chopping basil finely without bruising it. Usually, I tear the leaves with my fingers – but tonight I learned that to chop them finely without bruising them, you stack them like pancakes, roll the stack into a little cigarette and chop finely. Great method which Marco says he adapted from Gordon Ramsay.

After watching Marco and his assistant demonstrate cooking the dishes, we were divided into groups of four to cook our dinner. Things went reasonably smoothly all things considered and I soon fell into a different world where everything else that was going on around me seemed at once immediate and distant; all I knew was the smell, look and feel of what I was touching – de-boning oily salmon and smashing/peeling/chopping garlic and drizzling garlic oil on baguette slices… beautiful is food! I hardly noticed what everyone else in my group was doing, but they did really well and dinner came together so nicely.

(Kath did most of the plating – not so well captured in the photographs in this post – our plates looked very pretty on the table!)

Finally, everything was ready and we sat down to enjoy a glass of chilled white wine; saffron scented fish soup and garlic crostini; poached seafood roulade, spinach and sauce vierge; and lemon sorbet (the latter was provided by the kind folks at Auckland Fish Market).

Overall verdict? The whole meal was wonderfully light and easy to eat, yet satisfying; flavours melded together well and the fish was perfect. Preparation wasn’t too difficult and I suspect that with some practice, this routine will be a very easy and good one to use for dinner gatherings. Marco gave a great demonstration and was unbelievably patient while we were fumbling in the kitchen and constantly all asking for help at the same time!

I’m not sure I really tasted the saffron or the fish stock in the soup tonight, but what I do think are great are the simple additions of basic ingredients like fresh herbs, celery, fennel, leeks, potatoes, salt, pepper, lemon, sugar – I suspect carrots would be great too and that ingredients can easily be swapped based on what is in the cupboard or in season at the time.

Also great – the use of two kinds of fish (salmon and a white fish) in the roulade and in the soup, and varying the textures (cubed, minced), and, oh, I cannot not mention the vierge sauce. My goodness! The vierge sauce was so delicious – and so simple. Olive oil, tomatoes, lemon, basil, chervil, garlic, coriander, salt and pepper – mixed and gently warmed – and that was it. I do think this sauce would effectively work its magic on many other dishes.

So thank you Kath, for coming to class with me, Marco, and Auckland Fish Market for tonight. :-)

Fish

Finally, a chance to use the Moroccan spices I bought in Morocco in December… a dash of olive oil, garlic, spices, lemon zest and lemon juice on some fresh tarakihi – yum!

Dinner with Mandy, Paul and Ben

Reality is an acquired taste.
~ Robert Fritz

On the menu last night: champagne risotto, pan fried baha with lemon and herbs, and vegetables.

Mandy made a mini hill of sliced capsicum and mushrooms, and we cooked these with garlic, onions and olive oil. I loved how bright and happy the vegetables looked on the chopping board!

Tessa Kiros’s champagne risotto sadly fell under the category of ‘acquired taste’ for Mandy, Ben and Paul – oops! – personally though, I still see potential in the pure, arresting taste of champagne-treated arborio rice mingled with the comforting qualities of shallots, parmesan and butter – and think a small serving of this works well as a prelude to seafood :-)

We used baha fish last night – first time I’ve come across this white fish. It was fresh and light in flavour and cheap at the supermarket – a nice bonus! I just heated a knob of butter in the pan and pan fried the fillets with dried tarragon, thyme, salt and pepper… finishing them with a squeeze of lemon at the end. Simple.