In October last year, I was thinking of what to contribute food-wise for my mum’s birthday party, I was arriving in Brisbane that morning, time was an issue and I was asked to ‘make a plate of something to nibble on with drinks’.

I love prawns from Queensland, they have a meatiness to their texture and a sweetness in flavour that I really enjoy and as dull as it may sound to some, I love standing over the kitchen sink, peeling each one, separating the shells from the flesh and putting the shells aside to make a quick stock. To keep it really simple I made sandwiches – yep – prawn sandwiches.

*Finely sliced pieces of fresh sourdough baguette held chopped prawn flesh that was tossed with home-made mayo, some chopped fresh parsley, two torn basil leaves (you don’t want the basil to overpower but just lift the flavours), generous squeezes of lime juice, one short, sharp squeeze of lemon juice and salt and pepper in small sandwiches that lasted two bites.

I was asked to make them again on Christmas day to have while we sipped sparkling wine and opened presents. The request surprised me.

I asked my sister who was hosting lunch, “Why do you think people enjoy these so much?”

“Look what you’re doing,” she said,”you’re taking time and peeling those creatures and doing a fiddly job for us. Who doesn’t want prawns peeled for them, it’s kind of you to do it and you make them taste good. It’s a luxury.”

What’s a luxury for some is an act of love and generosity for another and so it is that I will probably be making prawn sandwiches at family events for the foreseeable future.

Who would have thought that a prawn sandwich could represent luxury, love, giving and family.

Happy 2011.

*This paragraph is the recipe for these simple treats. Quantities obviously equate to the number of people and to your taste. I like to make my own mayo but there are some decent ones out there to buy if you’d rather not go down that track.

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My sister and I sat next to each other at a family barbecue recently in Queensland.

We get on well.

We were eating barbecued beef sirloin, charred on the outside, both medium-rare with horseradish, mustard and salads of vibrant greens; white beans with lemon and parsley, and blistered cherry tomatoes on the side.

We got talking beef and shopping for meat at the butcher shop:

Me: How’s your butcher here?

Sis: Great overall.

Me: what do you mean overall? Is he helpful when you ask questions?

Sis: Well, yes…I ask for a cut of meat and he gives it to me and has given me cooking tips.

I wasn’t sure how much to get for everyone coming tonight and he was helpful. Is that what you mean?

Me: So how about grain and grass fed, how long it’s aged, that kind of thing…I’m curious…

Sis: I never talk to him about things like that.

Me: But you buy meat from him?

Sis: yes, but he just gives me … meat

Me: So, how about if you have a dinner party. Just you and your husband, and two best mates for a special occasion – would you let him give you just what he gives you then?

Sis: Well…I don’t know…I guess so…

Me: A really simple way of looking at it is that grass fed will be more expensive and I think, great for special occasions. So, for your special dinner party ask for grass-fed beef – it’s flavour is spectacular, yep, it’ll cost more but you don’t need that much.

For a night like tonight, with about 15 of us, grain-fed is good. It’s more about texture than flavour. It certainly tastes good but with grain-fed beef you’re going to get a more tender, textural mouthfeel. Grass-fed is robust and earthy

Sis: God you talk alot but I’d never thought of it like that – thanks.

I’m posting this recipe that I spoke about on Radio Marinara on 3RRR yesterday because there have been lots of requests for it – so to save time and to be very un-bloggy – I’m putting up a recipe without pics.

I’ve made this a few times but have  never snapped it – so – use your imagination, follow the steps – it’s easy and delicious and the whole fish looks so bounteous and stunning on the plate, your sense of achievement could well be palpable.

Salt-Baked Blue-eye Trevalla

1.5 – 2kg blue eye trevalla, scaled, cleaned and gutted.

6 cups sea salt plus 1 extra cup

6 egg whites

(Hil’s tip: use the egg yolks to make a mayonnaise to accompany the fish)

1 lemon, sliced into rounds

small sprig of rosemary, just 6 strands of rosemary will do – it can overpower so easily but adds just the right depth if used sparingly

2 cloves garlic

1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped.

Heat oven to 200C

Trace a rough outline of the whole fish on a piece of parchment paper, and cut it out.

in a mixing bowl combine 6 cups of salt and the egg whites with a spoon and mix it well. The mixture should feel like wet sand in your hands; heavy and moist.

Place the parsley, rosemary, garlic and lemon in the cavity of the fish. Spread the remaining salt over the base of a baking tray and place the cut-out parchment paper on the salt, then place the fish on top.

Use your hands to cover the whole fish with the salt and egg white mixture pressing down onto the fish to pack it tightly. It’s a large fish and will need most of the mixture but it’s okay if there’s some left over. The key here is to have an even coating over the fish – I find if you work from the head of the fish down towards the tail keeping an eye on consistent thickness of the crust you’ll be fine and so will the final result.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, without turning or touching, until the salt crust is hard and golden brown.

Crack the salt crust w the handle of a knife and peel it away. Use a spoon to break the flesh away along the top side – it will have begun to pull away from the bone.

Serve it with a side of homemade lemon mayonnaise, silverbeet sauteed in garlic, grilled fennel and lots of boiled potato chunks.

I’ll get the pics up next time I make it.

Hilary

An article I wrote for Epicure The Age about lamb, prawns and garfish for late summer,

early autumn barbecues and grills:

http://www.theage.com.au/news/entertainment/epicure/brilliant-on-the-barbie/2010/02/01/1264875994244.html

Barramundi season has started here in Australia and that means wild barramundi which (I feel)  is incomparable to farmed barramundi in its flavour and texture. There’s a firmness to the flake (the muscles in the fish have worked hard) and a flavour that marries saltiness with sweetness and allows this fish to be enjoyed simply grilled with some lemon and butter or be sturdy enough to carry flavours like garlic, chilli, mirin, soy sauce, coriander. Enjoy Barramundi now until around October. I have put the Barramundi profile from Guide to Fish below to give you an idea of what to look for when buying this delicious fish but as Barra is coded Amber (which means don’t buy too regularly) in the Guide to Fish pace out your purchasing – perhaps just every couple of weeks – so there’s enough to go around and enough left to breed in the ocean.

Barramundi Lates calcarifer

Illustration © R. Swainston www.anima.net.au

SEASON: Barramundi is available from February to October.

FRESH FILLET: the Barramundi fillet has a slight grey tinge; he is firm to the touch with a pale pink bloodline.

TEXTURE WHEN COOKED: Barramundi flesh becomes luscious and soft with a texture similar to butter.

FLAVOUR: This popular fish has a mild salty flavour.

COOKING: Barramundi is very versatile and enjoys being panfried, roasted, steamed, barbecued and grilled.

WINE: the flesh has such a lovely sweetness that the acidic crispness of a Clare or Eden Valley Riesling would complement the luscious silky finish of a well-cooked Barra.


 

Thanks to all of you who listened to my chat with Myf Warhurst today on ABC local radio. We talked about leftovers and sustainable fish – it was alot of fun.

I’m here to write down some leftover recipes for ham and turkey, when it comes to waste,the best thing we can do is share ideas on what to do with leftovers to prevent the enormous amount of waste each year that comes along at Christmas time with the presents, the indulgence and the difficult relatives.

If you love leftovers, seek out http://foodwise.com.au, this is a wonderful idea and great cause!

Ham

 – quesadillas or flat bread filled with thinly sliced ham, jalapeno peppers and Mahon or Manchego cheese and grill or cook in a sandwich toaster.

– heat oven to 180C; dice fontina cheese and mix with diced ham, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper.  Spoon onto a square of puff pastry and fold over, brush with melted butter and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

– make a dip of cannellini beans (it’s ok to use tinned) and mixed with lemon zest, garlic, chopped basil and tarragon, salt and pepper and shredded ham. Serve as a dip with toasted pita bread or smear over good quality bread and finish with beetroot, lettuce, tomato and sprouts for a great sandwich.

– baked eggs – heat oven to 180C. Line a ramekin or another small dish with thin slices of ham. Sautee some chopped cherry tomatoes, garlic, basil and put in the ramekin. Crack an egg in and place the filled ramekin in the oven for 8 minutes, cook for longer is you like a hard yolk, just keep an eye on it so it doesn’t dry out too badly – say, no longer than 13 minutes.

Turkey

– a play on a Waldorf salad. Chop up turkey flesh and mix with finely sliced celery,some pinenuts, chopped green apple, chopped parsley and garlic chives and bind together with mayonnaise( if you can make your own its worth it and a great way of using up leftover eggs). Just before serving squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the top of the salad and give it one more stir through. A touch of salt and pepper now will do the trick for seasoning.

– a summer salad of turkey, sliced mango, coriander leaves, red onion, avocado, lime juice, chilli, ginger, sesame oil (just a small touch) and the same of soy sauce.

– a retro quiche – heat oven to 180C  line a greased cake or quiche tin with puff pastry then brush the base of the pastry with leftover cranberry sauce. Combine 6 eggs, salt, pepper, one cup of cream, half a cup of grated cheddar and half a cup of grated parmesan with chopped turkey meat, chopped coriander, basil and parsley. Pour the mixture into the pastry case and cook for 40 minutes but give it a check after 25 minutes just to make sure it’s cooking evenly and well.

Let me know if you’d like to read some more leftover recipes – I have plenty!

email me at hilary@foodwiththought.com.au

I look forward to hearing from you,

Hilary

Guide to Fish has been ranked in the top 12 books in the last 12 months by food, wine and travel website VisitVineyards.com.

Thanks to Robyn Lewis and her team at VV!

The great news is that sales of Guide to Fish are on the increase as more people are becoming aware of the impact of over-fishing and that they have the power to assist the ocean through their choices at the market counter.