Snapper in Indian “Crazy Water” Broth

This dish is based on the Italian inspired recipes by Marcella Hazan and Neil Perry for “fish in crazy water”. Having previously made and enjoyed Neil Perry’s recipe, I had found the original light broth reminiscent of the texture of the South Indian soup known as Rasam that often accompanies meals. This version is of my own creation and includes the distinct aniseed flavour of star anise and the fruity sweet-sour flavour of tamarind. You can also easily play around with the combination of herbs and spices to suit your palette. This dish is perfect to serve with blanched spinach for a light and healthy dinner.

Prep time: 15 minutes  Cooking time: 55 minutes

Ingredients:
2 large snapper fillets with skin on
3 large, very ripe tomatoes
3 cloves garlic
3 red chillies
1/2 tspn sea salt
small handful coriander leaves
small handful mint leaves
1.5 tsp tamarind concentrate or 2 tspns tamarind juice
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 star anise
60ml olive oil
900ml water

Method
Place tomatoes in bowl of boiling water, then peel off skin, remove seeds and chop

 Soaking tomatoes in hot water makes it easier to peel the skin off
Soaking tomatoes in hot water makes it easier to peel the skin off

Finely chop coriander and mint (save half for garnish)
Finely slice garlic cloves

Sliced garlic, coriander and mint for crazy water
Sliced garlic, coriander and mint for crazy water

Deseed chillies and dice finely
Put all ingredients, except the fish fillets, into large heavy based saucepan and bring to a boil.

All the ingredients except the fish go into making the crazy water
All the ingredients except the fish go into making the crazy water

Lower heat and simmer for 45 minutes with lid on
Remove lid, return mixture to a boil and reduce sauce to half again, but ensuring some of the light broth remains
Add snapper fillets skin side down for 2 minutes, simmering over medium heat
Carefully turn fillets over and cook for a further 5-8 minutes until fish is just cooked through
Serve with finely chopped and blanched spinach or bok choy

Snapper in Indian Crazy Water served with blanched spinach
Snapper in Indian Crazy Water served with blanched spinach

Spice Temple Cooking Class – Sydney Seafood School

On a cold and drizzly Monday night in Sydney I ventured down to the Sydney Fish Markets for a cooking class at their Seafood Cooking School. They offer a big variety of courses often featuring well known Chefs and I’d booked in to the class by Head Chef Andy Evans from the Neil Perry restaurant, Spice Temple. Both Andy Evans and Neil Perry have travelled extensively in regional China, and Spice Temple features their especially created recipes featuring regional Chinese cooking with a  spicy kick!

The amphitheatre at the Seafood School was full of enthusiastic foodies and the class started with Andy outlining the order of proceedings and the menu. We were each given a booklet with the 3 recipes we would be making: Tuna with Blackened Chilli Dressing, Prawn and Peanut Relish and Spanner Crab Omelette with Oyster Sauce.

The high tech set-up in the amphitheatre which has video screens displaying what is happening on the kitchen bench and stove makes it easy to watch the cooking demonstrations. It’s almost like watching a cooking show on TV live, with the knowledge in the back of your mind that it will be your turn soon.

Chef Andy Evans demonstrating recipes T Sydney Seafood School
Chef Andy Evans demonstrating recipes at Sydney Seafood School

During the demonstration, Andy gave us handy tips and hints which were helpful. For example he told us you should always use a wet knife when slicing raw fish like the tuna for the sashimi, how to properly clean coriander root and the circular motion to use when pounding the peanuts to crush them without making them too oily….

Another great technique he showed us was how to “crack” coconut cream split the oil from the “cream” and use that to fry the onion and spices for the Prawn and Peanut relish recipe.

The omelette that he made is a real show stopper and is absolutely delicious whilst being quick and easy to make. It does require frying in a large amount of hot oil and then discarding the oil before rolling the omelette and ingredients into a log shape. The resulting makes for a stunning buffet addition or shared main course dish. With only a few ingredients like egg, crabmeat, garlic chives, bean sprouts, oyster sauce and vegetable oil needed it is also relatively affordable dinner party menu item, whilst being REALLY impressive.

At the end of the demonstration Andy laid out the finished dishes for us students to file past and understand the benchmark for our attempts!

Tuna Sashimi with blackened chilli dressing
Tuna Sashimi with blackened chilli dressing
Prawn and peanut relish seved with cos lettuce "cups"
Prawn and peanut relish seved with cos lettuce “cups”
Stunning spanner crab omelette with oyster sauce
Stunning spanner crab omelette with oyster sauce

We split up into groups of five or six and moved into the cooking school’s first class kitchen set up. Each group had our own kitchen bench, gas stove, fridge fully stocked with all the ingredients we needed. My group was exemplary at team work and we quickly split up the responsibilities amongst us, helping each other as needed to keep a cracking pace as we went. You can actually reserve a bench you have a group of five or six when you book in to the class if you are going with a bunch of friends.

I was allocated the omelette to make and I can tell you I was nervous about what the outcome of the omelette rolling would be! Would mine end up as a mess of broken egg and crab instead of the beautiful log created by Andy. But with some the help of some timely tips while I was making the recipe from Cooking School assistant chefs I managed to turn out a result that was pretty damn close to the original! As you can see below, I do need to brush up on my oyster sauce pouring technique though – not quite as symmetrical as Andy’s!  (I have made the omelette one already at home but didn’t have oyster sauce so replaced it with kecap manis which was just as delicious)

My attempt at the Spanner crab omelette.
My attempt at the Spanner crab omelette.

After our cooking antics, we all moved to the dining area where we got to enjoy the results of our efforts and swop foodie stories with a bottle of complimentary wine.

The entire experience was fun and educational. The course was very professionally run and Andy Evans was an excellent instructor. He also stayed throughout the class visiting each bench in the kitchen and giving more hands on tips and assistance. I was given the course as a birthday present and would highly recommend it as a great gift for your foodie friends and an excellent way to learn about Australian seafood cooking in the great atmosphere of the Sydney Fish Markets if you are visiting Sydney.

Cooking fun at Sydney Seafood School
Cooking fun at Sydney Seafood School

Lamb and spinach curry with lime

This is my version of lamb and spinach curry which is fresh and zesty through the addition of mint, coriander and lime to the traditional lamb and spinach combination. It goes really well served with rice or naan/flatbreads, and a side salad of tomato and cucumber.

Prep time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 50 minutes
Ingredients:

750g diced lamb
1 bunch fresh English spinach, cleaned, washed and chopped finely
250g packet of frozen spinach defrosted
1/2 bunch mint – leaves only
1/2 bunch coriander – chopped
2 tablespoons ginger and garlic crushed paste
1/2 lime cut into thirds, other half reserved
2-3 red chillies, left whole
1 onion finely diced
1.5 tomato chopped
1 tspn salt
1 tspn cummin powder
1/2 tspn chilli powder
1/2 tspn turmeric
2 pieces cinnamon
4 cardamom pods
1 tspn cummin seeds
Handful curry leaves
3 tbspns vegetable oil

Fresh spinach adds extra texture to the silkiness of the frozen spinach.
Fresh spinach adds extra texture to the silkiness of the frozen spinach.

Method
Heat oil in large heavy based casserole pot
Add cinnamon, cummin seeds, curry leaves and cardamom pods and cook until fragrant, taking care not to burn the spices
Add onions and cook on medium heat until translucent
Add ginger and garlic paste and heat through
Add tomato, red chillies, then salt and ground spices – cummin, chilli and turmeric powders
Let the mixture heat through, then add diced lamb and stir-fry until meat is coated in onion spice mixture and sealed.

Add spinach, mint, coriander and lime to lamb mixture
Add spinach, mint, coriander and lime to lamb mixture

Add fresh and frozen spinach, mint and coriander, 1/2 a lime cut into thirds and a cup of water
Bring to a simmer and cook on medium heat with lid on for 40-50 minutes until lamb is tender, stir from time to time to ensure it’s not sticking, add more water if needed. Taste to check if lamb is tender and add more salt if required
Remove lime pieces, garnish with extra coriander and serve with quarters of fresh lime to squeeze over.

Simmer lamb and spinach mixture over medium heat until lamb is tender
Simmer lamb and spinach mixture over medium heat until lamb is tender

Thai flavoured chicken and vegetable noodle soup

I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather with the flu and the only thing I felt like eating was a light but flavoursome chicken soup. This version of chicken soup combines Thai flavours like galangal and lemongrass with fresh green vegetables and poached chicken and is full of goodness but omits the traditional coconut milk which often features in Thai chicken soups like Tom Ka Ghai.

Prep time: 5 minutes  Cooking time: 1 hour
Ingredients

Poached chicken and stock
4 thigh chicken fillets on the bone, skin and fat removed
1 carrot peeled and chopped in large pieces
4 celery stalks chopped in large pieces
Large knob of fresh galangal peeled and chopped
Large knob of fresh ginger peeled and chopped
1 stalk lemongrass bruised then chopped roughly
4 cloves garlic
4 stalks spring onions chopped roughly
1 red chilli chopped
2.5-3 litres water

Soup
1/2 brown onion sliced finely
2 handfuls of honeysnap peas
5 button mushrooms sliced thickly
1 stalk bok choy finely chopped
4 cloves of boiled garlic retained from the stock and crushed into a paste
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Shredded chicken
Handful coriander chopped
1 lime
125g vermicelli rice noodles
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 1 tspn sesame oil

Method
Place chicken and stock ingredients in large stock pot and bring to a boil
Lower heat and simmer for 40-50 minutes, skimming surface to remove any “scum” that appears
Remove chicken pieces from stock and set aside to cool
Strain remaining stock to remove vegetables, reserving the loves of garlic for the soup
Shred the chicken and discard the bones
Heat vegetable and sesame oil in seperate saucepan
Add onion and cook gently until transparent
Add paste of crushed garlic cloves and mix through onions
Add honeysnap peas, fish sauce, pepper and stir fry for 2 minutes
Add bok Choy and mushrooms and stir fry for 1 minute
In the meantime bring stock back to a rolling boil, add vermicelli noodles and shredded chicken and cook for 1 minute, add vegetable mixture and cook for another minute or so.
Garnish with coriander and fresh chilli.
Squeeze over lime juice and add extra fish sauce to taste.

Serves 3-4

Roasted eggplant with cummin and yoghurt

This is a delicious accompaniment served with Indian curries but just as good with roast meats like the Pulled pork or served as a dip.

Roasting the eggplant first gives it a lovely texture and a smoky flavour and the cummin and mustard seeds add spice and crunch.

Prep time: 5 minutes Cooking time:60 minutes
Ingredients
1 large eggplant
1/2 brown onion thinly sliced
1 clove garlic minced
1/2 teaspoon cummin powder
1 teaspoon cummin seeds
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/2 cup plain yoghurt
Handful curry leaves(optional)
1.5 tablespoons olive oil
Salt to taste

Method
Heat oven to 180 degrees celcius
Prick eggplant deeply in a few spots on each side with a fork or small knife to allow steam to escape. (This is important to avoid eggplant explosion in oven!)
Roast eggplant for 45-50 minutes, rotating 3 or 4 times to allow for even cooking. Don’t worry if skin blackens or burns.
Remove eggplant from oven and place immediately in a plastic bag and tie/seal. Leave for 5-10 minutes. The steam created will loosen the skin as eggplant cools.

Roasted eggplant cooling in plastic bag
Roasted eggplant cooling in plastic bag

Remove eggplant from bag, cut off ends, then “peel” the skin off.

Peel skin off the roasted eggplant
Peel skin off the roasted eggplant

Chop/dice eggplant finely on large chopping board to save as much of the juices

Roasted eggplant, peeled and diced
Roasted eggplant, peeled and diced

Heat oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat.
Add cummin seeds, mustard seeds and curry leaves and fry until fragrant but take care not to burn
Add onions and garlic, cook for 5 minutes or so until transparent and slightly caramelised
Add diced eggplant and juices, cummin powder and cook for 5 minutes, stirring from time to time
When eggplant and onion mixture is thoroughly “melded” and heated through, take off heat and add the yoghurt
Mix through while off the heat which stops yoghurt curdling, then return to medium heat and allow to reheat. (About 3 minutes)
Serves 4-6 as a side or dip

Spicy shredded chicken salad

This is a light, healthy salad that is spiced up with some fresh chillies and chilli oil. Use the leftover herbs and vegetables in your fridge for the poaching to add flavour to the chicken. The leftover Singapore style poached chicken is perfect to use for this salad.

Prep time: 5 minutes  Cooking time: 20 minutes
Ingredients

2 chicken thigh fillets, fat removed
1/2 brown onion
1/2 carrot
leftover aromatics e.g fennel pieces, celery, coriander stalks and/or ginger
4-5 cups water
3 tablespoons Mint leaves and coriander chopped
2 green chillies finely chopped
2 cups watercress leaves
salt and pepper
2-3 teaspoons Asian Chilli oil
1/2 a fresh lime

Method
Bring water to boil with aromatics
Add chicken and reduce heat to medium to allow chicken to poach for 20 minutes
Meanwhile chop mint leaves, coriander and chillies
Shred chicken with 2 forks
Add still warm chicken to watercress, mint, coriander and chilli.
Add 2 tablespoons of poaching liquid and mix through
Season well with pepper and salt to taste
Drizzle with chilli oil and a squeeze of lime