Category Archives: Fish & seafood

Fruits of the sea

….shellfish are the prime cause of the decline of morals and the adaptation of an extravagant lifestyle. Indeed of the whole realm of Nature the sea is in many ways the most harmful to the stomach, with its great variety of dishes and tasty fish.
~ Pliny the Elder (A.D. 23-79)


Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.
~ Hal Borland

2010 is nearly over… and, well, to be honest, I am too tired to care :-) I am relieved and glad and happy.

My New Year’s Eve has been simple and nice so far –

a walk with Lams and minty gelato;

a day at the beach with Lams, Roman and Philip;

a long walk through the supermarket;

an evening cooking my lunch/dinner: prawns and mussels atop spaghetti (with garlic, onion, sauvignon blanc, saffron, canned tomatoes, salt, pepper, paprika, sugar, chilli, herbs).

Tonight, we’ll have drinks, maybe some dancing… tonight will not be an end, and tomorrow will not be a beginning – but midnight will be a landmark of sorts, an entertaining intermission, a beautiful footprint in the journey that is life.

2011, I look forward to meeting you.

Happy new year, everyone!

Cervejaria Luzmar, Cascais

I went travelling from 18 Nov – 18 Dec. I’m now blogging about some of the places I went to… posts are not written in chronological order.

One of the best meals we had on this trip was at Cervejaria Luzmar, situated in sunny Cascais – a short distance away from Lisboa, Portugal.

It was indeed a fantastic meal.

This place was red, neat and so inviting. It also did not have the annoying waiters standing outside shoving menus in our faces (the reason we did not step into the other restaurants nearby).

We felt welcome from the moment we stepped in. The service was flawless, delivered with smiles and finesse. The menu was extensive and delicious… it was so hard to pick what to order! In the end, we settled for one platter of grilled fish and squid and vegetables to share, and some shellfish soup.

We were served baskets of bread, cheese and olives before our meal came. (Here is where we learned the Europe Bread Lesson the hard way: if you eat the bread, you pay.)

The waiter taught us how to eat this unique cheese – slice it into wedges, spread it on bread with salt and pepper, and eat. Oh my word, I am not the type to eat blocks of cheese in one sitting – but I really couldn’t resist this. I ate my entire pudding of cheese with much delight. Tender, beautiful and nicely complemented by the salt and pepper.

They were SO generous with the bread… (ok, I am not resentful about the price of this meal, I am not!) The bread was good. We ate most of the three baskets they served us – both the fresh and toasted varieties were perfect.

While waiting for our food to arrive, I looked behind me and took in the sight of the fresh seafood with a big smile on my face. Yum!

The shellfish soup tasted of the sea, and of love. That is all I can say.

We eagerly tucked into our grilled and salted fish and squid, and softly cooked vegetables. It is impossible to describe the meal in terms of taste – it seemed to be sweet, salty, sour and bitter all at once, coating the tongue like a well-made carpet. The seafood was impeccable, mostly because it was so fresh and salted just enough to bring out its freshness. Also, I didn’t see the chefs, but I think they are happy people… such is the food that happy people produce.

In short, this meal emptied our lunch pockets and filled our hearts. We were all quite surprised when we saw the bill. 112 Euros for one main platter, one bowl of soup – and the extras we did not know we would be charged so much for.

We stumbled into the sunshine after lunch, and eventually forgot about the bill (well, until now) as we continued to discover the joys of Portugal…

Cervejaria Luzmar – Avenida Marginal, 48, Cascais 2750-427 – Phone: +351 21 484 5704

A good risotto to conclude Risotto Season

Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right.
~ Mark Twain

There’re a few dishes that are lovely to cook and to eat, but not in excess – and I am fast learning that risotto is one of them. For instance, I fashion meals with eggs all the time and never tire of them, but risotto… risotto is different. It’s beautiful, elegant and comforting, but it’s absolutely smothering if you have it too often (made the third one this month tonight – oops).

I think both Matt and I were heaving wearily with the weight of risotto after a few spoonfuls of it this evening!

The recipe came from Tessa Kiros’ “Falling Cloudberries”:
#62 Champagne Risotto – Page 297

Tessa Kiros describes it perfectly with the phrase “startling honesty”… that is exactly what it is. The champagne is invisible, seemingly lost in a galaxy of rice, butter, parmesan and shallots – but its aroma penetrates your mind and its flavour arrests your tongue the moment it enters your mouth. It’s a blade of truth, transparent and pure. I do like this dish, and think it is best served in smaller portions as a prelude to seafood or vegetables.

As the risotto bubbled to cooked perfection, I stirred in a whisked egg yolk as suggested in the notes; I think I liked this and will do it again in other risotto dishes in the future.

You’re looking for photographic evidence now, I know. Well, I am sorry I am unable to post any of the pictures I took. I ran them past three people just to be sure I was not the only one who thought them distasteful, and all of them think you will be better off not seeing them… :-/

Tonight, we also had:

Matt’s Juice (version #50-something-at-least? of juices like this)… tonight’s version included baby carrots and beetroot leaves. :-/ Pretty potent.

Monkfish baked with lemon zest and juice, garlic, olive oil, rosemary, salt, pepper… (wrap the fish up in foil parcels and bake at 180°C for around 20 minutes. Simple).

And now we are drinking stovetop hot chocolate… always a welcome finish to the evening!


PS. Cute is this post on The God of Cake.

The wonderful world of rain

Short post tonight, since it’s really way way past my bedtime.

1. Thunderstorms, rain and wacky hail are so fantastic (when you are watching them crash and pour from within a warm room)… I LOVED watching it this evening and was much excited about it… poor Jono had to sit through my excitement :-)

2. Caramelised leek rings, fried flour-dipped monkfish, grainy bread, salt, pepper, lemon zest and juice make for a pretty good 4pm lunch.


Baked market fish with lemon, salt & dill

I don’t like gourmet cooking or ‘this’ cooking or ‘that’ cooking. I like good cooking.
~ James Beard

I went to City Market with Luke on Sunday and we came home victorious with: fresh fish from Rachel at Yellow Brick Road, delicious cranberry & pistachio chocolate from Annette at Esque Chocolate, and a heady bulb of fennel from a bustling vege stall. What a treat on a greeeey Sunday morning!

    Baked market fish with lemon, salt & dill
    For the fish:
    2 snapper fish
    2 lemons
    olive oil
    Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
    Line a baking tray with foil, and grease it lightly.
    Zest 1 lemon, and cut both lemons into quarters. Put 4 lemon quarters aside. Wash the fish, and make 2-3 shallow, diagonal cuts on both sides of them. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil and lemon juice over the fish, sprinkle on salt, dill and lemon zest, and rub them in gently. Repeat above steps on the other side of the fish.
    Bake the fish for 23 minutes, or until they are cooked. They should be a little milky and the aroma that hits you in the face upon the oven door opening should cause smiling dizziness.
    Serve with remaining lemon wedges (for the fish), braised fennel, and a glass of ice-cold wine. Don’t forget to eat the fish cheeks too…
    Conclude with strong black coffee and a bit of dark chocolate.

The fish was so fresh, it would honestly have tasted wonderful even on its own. Lightly scented with lemon, salt and dill though, it was perfect. It was also really great to just eat a whole fish again! Fennel is still pretty new territory for me, but I like it more each time I eat it – the aniseed flavour of it tiptoes around my senses in a very pleasing way.

Recipe for fish inspired by Rachel :-) – fennel recipe borrowed from Orangette (except I didn’t read it properly, and missed the browning step!)

Celebration tuatua

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
~ T. S. Eliot

40 minutes after I stepped out of my flat, my head was light with the smell of clean rain, feet and jeans wet with the same. It was a wet walk down to town, and I couldn’t help smiling as the pearly rays of rain fell on my umbrella. Everything was painted grey. Everything glistened.

Inside my mind, though, I saw anything but grey. I was trying to imagine what tiger prawns with orange and chocolate sauce would taste like. More importantly, I was eager to see what fresh produce I could find at the market.

I stepped in to City Market, smiling, and made a beeline for Yellow Brick Road… As I found out, you can’t really buy fresh prawns in New Zealand. I am sure I must have found this out at some point over my 7 years of residence in NZ, but I was still surprised. I was graciously given a piece of tuatua to sample, and the friendly Rachel took the time to chat with me and find out what I was looking for. “Perhaps you can try cooking a dish with tuatua?” Perhaps I could, indeed. “Come back next week and let me know how it went!” I thanked her and left with my box of 24 tuatua.

Next stop: 24 Carrot Dream Produce. A rich spread indeed, and the kind of produce you’d want to line the paths of all your foodie dreams. Vegetables in neat piles, unpackaged, free and happy-looking. It was so lovely to chat with the lady here too, who was very helpful and pointed me in the right direction (of baby veg). So I got an assortment of baby carrots, baby turnips, baby beetroots, lemons, chillies. Mmmm.

Last stop: New World, to pick up everything else I couldn’t get at the market (wine, butter, etc).

I made my way home optimistic, basing my imagination of what the dish would taste like from the seafood I’ve eaten in Asian and Italian dishes, the celebration prawns I made from Tessa Kiros’ cookbook (the recipe of which I wanted to incorporate in part to my dish today), and the sweet, innocent taste I know fresh vegetables to possess.

Just as I stepped into my house, I realised I’d forgotten to get some crusty bread… dang! It was at this point that I really let go of my original tiger prawn dish (complete with heavenly sauce, crusty bread) dream. I would experiment with tuatua and baby vegetables instead and have fun along the way. I put the tuatua into a bowl of salty water to rinse, washed the vegetables, rinsed a cupful of basmine rice and set the rice to cook in a saucepan. I chopped the shallots, minced the garlic, felt the sticky juices wrap around my fingers.

The aroma of shallots frying – the smell of my childhood, when Grandma would make jarfuls of these so we could sprinkle them on our food. How I love that food, family, history and life are so interwined. The shallots sizzled, released a powerful smell and turned a bright lovely colour. At this point, I rescued them and set them aside.

Next – cooking the tuatua. This technique I borrowed from Tessa Kiros’ “Falling Cloudberries”. I cut squares of butter, dotted them on the base of a saucepan, lay down a carpet of tuatua and sprinkled on Italian flat leaf parsley, allspice and chilli powder. Added another layer of the same, making two layers of tuatua in the saucepan. Last step, wine. I’d bought one of those convenient tiny 187ml bottles of Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. I dribbled it around the pan, covered the pan and set it to go on medium-high heat.

It didn’t take long for the kitchen to start smelling amazing.

Meanwhile, I set the vegetables to steam in my makeshift ‘steamer’ (a bowl suspended over a saucepan of simmering water) and put two plates in the oven to warm them up.

Before the tuatua was completely cooked, I lifted the lid, crumbled in some feta, squeezed two fresh juicy lemons over the lot, inhaled deeply and tasted. Hmmm, something missing? A tablespoon of caster sugar perhaps. I stirred that in while wine-flavoured steam wafted over my face. Crazy how much difference a small amount of sugar and salt can make in food. Crazy, in fact, is the entire world of food/cooking… the way textures, temperatures, liquids, nature, machines and all interact to make different things we eat, talk about, live on?

Done! I didn’t want the food to get cold while I tried taking photos with what I know is a ridiculously old camera anyway, so I took a few quick shots and here is my food in unglamorous (but very edible) glory! Celebration tuatua – with lemon, chilli, allspice, wine and feta. Steamed baby vegetables tossed with olive oil, lemon zest and sauteed shallots. Basmine rice – cooked to fluffy perfection. The gravy from the tuatua was then splashed over everything (after I took most of the photos, heheh!)

It turned out that my guest for lunch today was Dan, my flatmate John’s friend (I suppose we can be friends now too) who visited and stayed over the weekend while John, ironically, flew down to Christchurch.

I guess this is the way of New Zealand, the casualness, friendly hospitality, easy-going-ness. The way you always inevitably end up discovering you and the stranger before you, in fact, share about 20 mutual friends. The way I’ve had friends of friends stay over, who have then become friends. The way I’ve stayed at friends’ places and become friends with their flatmates. And, after growing up in Asia, it’s refreshing not to live with people who would raise their eyebrows at you cooking lunch for someone you hardly know, or at you having people you don’t really know stay overnight at your house.

I chatted with Dan over lunch, and we ate with our fingers, fork, knife, spoon – a roll of paper towels standing between us – it was all gloriously messy, really.

Between Dan and myself, we polished off the tuatua, vegetables and rice. (And how much I have now fallen in love with baby turnips!) Soft, gentle tuatua with fragrant juices. Crunchy carrots. Sweet beetroot. Colours. Flavours. Smells. Licking juices off our spoons and fingers, it all made for a pleasant lunch… informal, filled with conversation and friendship, the way it should always be, the way I have learned to eat in New Zealand (not that I eat with my fingers in public unless the dish and occasion call for it of course!). Dan paid me the highest compliments on the food – and as if that didn’t already make me smile, he also washed the dishes, and asked me for the recipe!

PS. If you are in Auckland/Wellington, please don’t miss out on…