Tag Archives: auckland fish market

Dinner for seven

Precisely the least, the softest, lightest, a lizard’s rustling, a breath, a flash, a moment – a little makes the way of the best happiness.
~ Frederich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra

In pursuit of succulent prawns for our dinner party, Kath and I visited Auckland Fish Market on Saturday morning. Mmmmm seafood… there was a generous selection. Big and little fish. Spiky kina. Creepy lobsters, looking quite far removed from the beautiful, creamy white flesh encased in orange shells that I much prefer ;-) Looking at the lobsters, I thought of Julia Child clutching them and dropping them into scalding water… and my body itched with discomfort. :-o

We didn’t buy prawns here in the end, because the prices were a little higher than we wanted to pay – but we had a good time wandering around the shops in any case. The kind man at the smoked food section gave us samples of orange roughy roe… the wedge I put in my mouth morphed into a rich bittersweet bouquet, lots of depth, wonderful! (Though I am not sure Kath enjoyed it as much as I did). I also picked up some smoked broadbill steak which looked too enticing in its golden/orange glory to pass up.

Second stop: Sabato. When you first walk in, it doesn’t appear to be a dangerous place. Don’t be fooled – only ignorance and a very blocked nose could save you. This place forces you to smile, grin even. For the first few seconds as your eyes scan its interior, the words ‘gourmet’, ‘ridiculous’ and ‘food for rich people’ may float into your head and do a little dance. You’ll think you’re safe. But then you venture to one of their taste stations, carelessly take a bite – and suddenly the mist clears, and you realise you won’t be escaping for a while!

It’s not just ‘cos their offering sounds fancy (though incidentally, they do the fancy thing well. Truffle oil, aged balsamic, porcini crema, anchovies, orange blossom water – you name it!)… It’s the fact that (based on what I tried in their store) whatever they possess in ‘gourmet-ness’, they actually match in deliciousness too.

And if that ain’t convincing enough, they also have drool-inducing recipe cards scattered in various nooks and crannies, friendly staff who offer you a complimentary coffee while you browse, oh… and might I just casually mention that they have a tall shelf stocked with Valrhona (only the best chocolate ever?!) goodness! Eventually, I exercised some restraint and walked out with just a bottle of orange blossom water and a jar of sweet, sexy anchovies (the latter were at one of those tasting stations). Kath got a bottle of rose water.

We then stopped at a friendly vege shop which had very attractive-looking produce – see golden tamarillos above! Picked up fruit, herbs, miso paste.

Finally, we went to the supermarket to pick up everything else that we needed.

Back at Kath’s apartment, we put away the food that needed refrigeration before sitting down for a quick lunch: impromptu platters of smoked broadbill salmon from the Fish Market, avocado, tomato, black pepper and bread.

At some point, we rose from the dining table and got to work. I dawdled for ages, wanting to take photos of everything and talk and all; luckily, Kath is WAY more organised than I am and so our guests got to eat dinner before 8pm ;-)

Everything really smelled so good as we pounded, blended, fried – my nose was pretty happy while we cooked. Sizzling garlic. Sweet gingersnaps. Toasted seeds and spices. Chilli and chocolate. Ginger and miso. Etc.

Here is our mole in its infant state – containing onion, garlic, toasted seeds, cumin, fennel and more… believe you me, it was potent!

This is Kath, blissfully unaware of me snapping a photo of her whipping up a storm!

This is Kath again, aware that she wasn’t going to escape my camera and making the wise decision to smile.

Mmmm… it was all going along nicely and I was still thinking “yay we have plenty of time”, when all of a sudden I realised we did not afterall have much time left! Somewhere in the middle of the time speeeeeeeeding by and the stove on full throttle I stopped taking pictures of the food.

Sure, we had a few mini disasters along the way… this cracked egg being the least of those mistakes…

AND, at dessert time, we had a case of “our tart runneth over” (aka liquid mascarpone) and Ben was assigned the guest duty of being Tart-cutter:

But we managed to serve dinner, and eat with a bunch of fantastic people (including the very cool Kimberley, whose presence is every bit as delightful, interesting and thoughtful as her writing). It was great! And everyone was still smiling and talking at the end, so I think we can call everything an overall success! Our menu was as follows:

    Prawns with lemon, chilli and feta – served with crusty baguette
    Baked baby carrots with orange, ginger, miso and tamari – recipe here
    Chicken mole (our sauce comprised garlic, seeds, spices, tomato, chilli and chocolate)
    Wild rice with sliced almonds and raisins
    Berry and mascarpone tart

Thank you Kath, Ben, Komal, Quinn, Kimberley and Kirsty for a very full and fun Saturday evening (we missed the few people who couldn’t come along this time, and look forward to having you come next time)!

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. :-)