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Mussels in white wine, chilli and tomatoes


Mussels, without a shadow of a doubt – are my absolute favourite seafood.
They are full of glorious, meaty flavour. I love how they sound as you swish them around in a pan, the clickity clack as the shells hit the edges.
They look wonderful too – the shells all black and shiny. And amazingly, in Australia anyway, they are super cheap!!!

However, mussels aren’t all fun and games.
The reality is, it takes a fair bit of work to prepare them, and sometimes the rules surrounding whether a mussel is safe to eat or not, can be really confusing.

But, don’t be afraid! Once you get a hang of how to prepare them, cooking is a breeze. The best news is …. Mussels are sooooo worth the effort!

So, here are a few tips to help you prepare mussels.

  • Buy them from reputable fish monger.
  • Once you get your mussels home, you really need to use them that day for the best results. This is one thing that shouldn’t be stored too long. However, if you can’t prepare them right away – pop them in the fridge. Just make sure you don’t leave them wrapped in plastic – they should be kept in a container and covered lightly with a tea towel, to let them breathe.
  • As you are going through your mussels, some of them may be slightly open. Give them a sharp tap on the side of your kitchen sink. If they close tightly, they are fine cook. However – if they don’t – you must throw them away. They are dead and no good to eat.
  • To prepare the mussels, give the shells a good scrub to remove any barnacles – I use a rough cleaning pad to do this (a fresh one out of the packet, not one I have used to scrub pots and pans … eewww!).
  • Remove the beard (that’s the fibrous thing sticking out of the mussel) – give it a good, strong pull and it should come off.

That’s just about it – now it’s time to cook them and I have a really beautiful recipe that can be used as either a starter or a main. This one is a perfect dish to make your significant other for a romantic dinner – clean the mussels, cut up all the ingredients and cook immediately before serving. You’ll impress your significant other with your cooking skills, but the dish won’t take too long to get on the table. Perfect!

Mussels in white wine, chilli and tomatoes

  • 500gm of mussels, cleaned and sorted
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 3 rashers of bacon, cut into strips
  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
  • 1 red chilli, finely sliced (or you can add more, if you like it really hot)
  • 1 cup of white wine
  • 1 400gm can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 handful of basil, roughly torn

Method

Heat the olive oil in the bottom of a large, heavy-based pan.

Cook the bacon, until it’s getting slightly crisp – then add the onion, garlic and chilli and season with salt and pepper. Cook over a medium heat until onion is soft.

Turn up the heat and add the wine, allowing it to simmer briskly for a minute or two.

Add the canned tomatoes and once they start to simmer. Add the mussels.

Cover and cook for a minute or two, or until the mussels have opened (it doesn’t take long – and this is how you tell they are ready). Add the fresh basil and serve.

Important: As you serve the dish into bowls, ensure that you discard any unopened mussels. If they are closed, then they are no good.

If you are cooking this as a main course, toss through some freshly cooked pasta at the end. If not, just serve the mussels as they are, with some fresh sourdough bread to mop up all those awesome juices.

A romantic dish deserves a matching song with it. This song is by an Australian artist called Sia and featured on the Twilight Saga Eclipse soundtrack. It’s the song playing in the background when Edward asks Bella to marry him. A little corny, I know – but a very romantic moment and a truly amazing song. Google Sia and check out the rest of her music, she has an amazing voice.

Sia – My Love

If you have any questions, please feel free to post them in the comments section below. Also, if you have any other tips for cooking mussels or seafood in general – I’d love to hear from you!

 

The Mondayitis cure: chargrilled squid salad


It’s Monday afternoon and you’ve got no idea what to cook for dinner tonight … this chargrilled squid salad is the answer.

If you don’t have the ingredients at home – then you only need to stop by two sections of the supermarket to get everything you need. You’ll be in and through the check-out in no more than 10 minutes. I think this is crucial because the supermarket pit-stop on weekdays, for me anyway, is one I dread. I just want to get home and start cooking and relaxing!

The flavours here are fresh and yummy, and the avocado really gives it a comforting creaminess – without the guilt!

CHARGRILLED SQUID SALAD

  • 300gm of squid tubes, cleaned
  • Olive oil
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • the juice of ½ a lime
  • 2 very ripe avocados
  • 1-2 fresh red chillies, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup of chopped coriander
  • ½ a red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • juice of 2 limes

Method

Squeeze the avocados out of their skins into a bowl, removing the stones. Add most of the chilli and coriander, the onion, tomato and lime juice. Mix everything up with a spoon, hacking up any bigger bits of avocado as you go. Have a taste to check the balance, and season with salt and pepper.

Put a griddle pan on a high heat to get nice and hot. For the squid tubes put the knife in the tube and cut through the side, open it out then lightly score every ½cm in a criss-cross fashion with a blunt knife. This means the squid will curl up and absorb extra flavour.

Season the squid with a pinch of salt and pepper and drizzle with a little olive oil then toss to coat. Add it to the hot griddle, scored-side down, for 1 to 2 minutes. Use tongs to turn the squid over once it has nice char marks. Give it a minute on the other side until it curls up then immediately transfer to a bowl. While the squid is still piping hot, add a really good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, the lime juice and another small pinch of salt and pepper.

Spoon the avocado salad onto a platter. Cut the squid into bite-sized chunks. Pile the squid over the salad and drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil. Scatter over the reserved coriander and chilli.

This dish looks so pretty. I know it’s Monday, but why not light some candles, pour some wine and sit down with you partner and pretend it’s the weekend!

Be Inspired~

Lisa

Masterclass Lesson #3: Chilli mud crab


I have wanted to try chilli mud crab ever since my dad raved about how amazing it is.

I’ve seen it cooked on TV – and apparently it’s normal and quite traditional for the sauce to consist in-part – of tomato sauce.

The recipe we learnt during the masterclass was no different – and my God it tasted incredible. I really like hot food – but not so hot that you can’t taste the flavours. The heat in this recipe is absolutely perfect. In saying that, if you aren’t a fan of a bit of heat – this isn’t one for you.

Our teacher – Executive Chef of Oakdene Vineyard Marty Chichester gave us some great tips on how to prepare the crab – like popping it in the freezer for 20 minutes to ensure it is “asleep” before removing the claws, the top part of the shell and getting rid of the very creepy-looking “dead man’s fingers”. Eewww they look yuck!! You also remove the brown meat – but like the lobster – don’t be tempted to wash it under water. It ruins the flavour. Just clean it up as best as you can, and then go ahead and cook it.

I think the most vital part of the crab is the claws – that’s where most of the yummy white flesh is. Make sure you crack the claws with the back of a heavy knife – but not so much that it cracks into little pieces. Just enough to let the flavours of the sauce in.

So, once you have made all your preparations – you’re ready to cook

Chilli Mud Crab

 

  • 2 mud crabs
  • 3 Tbs of olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 banana chillies – chopped into chunky rounds
  • 2 Tbs of ginger chopped julienne
  • 1/2 a cup of tomato sauce
  • 1/4 of a cup of sweet chilli sauce
  • 1/2 a cup of water
  • 3 tbs of hoisin sauce
  • 1/2 a cup of spring onion, sliced
  • 1/2 a cup of a mix between Vietnamese mint and coriander, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbs of coriander root, finely chopped
  • 1 tbs of fish sauce
  • 3 tsp of sugar
  • 1 tsp of sea salt
  • 30 cherry tomatoes, cut in half

Method

Heat the oil in a wok, then add the garlic, chilli, ginger and coriander root. Cook until it’s fragrant.

Add crabs and toss all together.

Add tomato sauce, chilli sauce, water, hoi sin sauce, fish sauce, sugar and salt.

Stir to combine all ingredients and bring it to the boil.

Cover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.

Add the spring onions, cherry tomatoes and herbs and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Serve immediately.

 At the masterclass we served this with jasmine rice. It was perfect because it soaked up the beautiful, tangy and spicy sauce. We also made an apple salad. It perfectly complimented the crab, and was really fresh and sweet.

See you tomorrow for the apple salad recipe!

Be Inspired~

Lisa

Masterclass lesson #2: Lobster with garlic butter


The main course we cooked at the chef masterclass with Marty Chichester meant I got to not only cook, but eat an entire lobster – all to myself!! Talk about a very special treat.

The meat was delicate and perfectly cooked (not thanks to my skills – but to very good instruction) – and the garlic butter complemented the sweetness of the flesh. We also cooked chilli mud crab (which I know is one of my dad’s favourite dishes – I’m sure he’ll be thrilled that I now know how to cook it!)

But, more about the crab tomorrow.

As we all know, lobster is really expensive – so you want to make sure you know what you’re doing. I think you’d be heartbroken if you served it, and it was rubbery and tasted like rubbish.

Marty gave us some great tips about cooking lobster:

– Put your live, uncooked lobster in the freezer for 20 minutes before you cook it. This puts the lobster to “sleep”. Apparently they kick and make a big miss if you pop them in boiling water while they’re still alive. Let’s face it – it’s cruel. Putting them in the freezer is the most humane way of cooking them.

– Cook a medium to large-sized lobster in boiling water for about 7 minutes. At the end of the 7 minutes, plunge it into a sink filled with ice water. This brings the temperature right down, stopping the cooking process. This will not cook the lobster all the way through – just enough for it to hold together when you cut it in half, lengthways. You finish the cooking after adding your flavourings, in an oven or under a griller. This ensures you don’t over cook the lobster and make it rubbery.

– After you have cut your lobster lengthways – you have to clean out the innards (or mustard, as some people call it – I’m guessing because of the colour). You can eat it – but I have no desire to. Now you really do need to get in with your hands and scoop it out – you could use a spoon, but I don’t think it would work that well. Marty said that no matter how tempted you are, don’t wash the lobster. Like with the oysters I wrote about yesterday, it washes away all the great flavours. You also need to remove the waste tract which goes through the tail. It looks much like the vein in a prawn – just bigger.

Now that the yucky stuff is done the fun stuff begins. It was great to learn all the above tips. It was all the things I was so nervous about. But, now I know I can tackle a lobster with confidence – and I’m sure the recipes will flow now. Well, I might have to save up to buy a lobster – but I think now that I have some idea of what I am doing, it’ll be a worthwhile investment.

Grilled Lobster with Garlic and Herb Butter

  • 2 whole live lobsters – about 600 to 800gm each
  • 150gm of unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 a bunch of parsley
  • 2 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1 tsp of capers, chopped
  • A squeeze of lemon juice

Method

Mix chopped ingredients into the softened butter and then put to one side.

Put the live lobsters in the freezer for 20 mins (as stated above).

Plunge the lobster into boiling water for 7 minutes. Once the time is up, place into ice water.

Once cooled, cut the lobster lengthways through the middle and then clean out the waste from the head as well as the waste tract (as stated above).

The flesh should look rare – so quite white on the outside parts near the shell, but quite translucent towards the middle. This is what you want to ensure the lobster isn’t overcooked under the grill.

Season well with salt and pepper and then smother the flesh liberally with the butter mixture. This will protect the flesh from the heat of the grill and allow the butter, garlic and herbs to seep into the flesh. This can be done in advance, with the rest of the process to be completed when ready to serve.

Place under a grill and cook until lightly browned in colour. This should take only 3 or 4 minutes. Transfer to a 180-degree oven for 4 to 5 minutes, until cooked through and tender.

Serve immediately.

I have to admit, I did eat the whole lobster – so with two lobsters for this recipe, it serves two. But for an entree serve – half per person would be plenty. Tomorrow I’ll share with you a brilliant crispy apple salad – and of course, the delicious chilli crab.

I just can’t wait to get my hands on another lobster and make this again. Soooo yum!!

If you’re feeling inspired to do a masterclass, why not check out the Oakdene Vineyard website and find out about Marty’s masterclasses. You won’t be disapointed 🙂

Be Inspired~

Lisa

Masterclass lesson #1: Decadent oysters


On Tuesday night I was treated to a cooking Master Class with one of Victoria’s best executive chefs – Marty Chichester from the Bellarine Peninsula’s Oakdene Vinyards restaurant – a multi-award winning venue that last year won the National Award for the Best Restaurant in a Winery.

I have to admit that I was so nervous going into the Masterclass. The menu included oysters, lobster, mud crab and pannacotta – all things I had little or no experience with cooking. The last time I did crab – it really wasn’t great and I wasn’t sure how to clean it. I’ve never attempted lobster before, simply because it’s just so expensive and with my inexperience – I didn’t want to risk ruining it.

As for the oysters – well I’m sad to say, I don’t really like them. I WANT to like them – but I just don’t.

However, my apparent dislike for them didn’t stop me from wanting to try serving them in different ways.

Marty gave us a demonstration of all the dishes before we went ahead – and after getting started on the pannacotta and popping it in the fridge – we started on our oysters. Marty showed us three ways to serve them – each very different.

Sadly, I’m still not a huge fan of oysters – but these three recipes are absolutely extraordinary nonetheless and any lover of oysters is going to want to give these ideas a go.

Firstly we had the watermelon and chilli granita. Secondly, Marty showed us how to make a Welsh Rarebit sauce, which is much like a mustardy mornay – and finally (and my favourite) marinated cucumber spaghetti with Avruga caviar. All these toppings wouldn’t only be useful for oysters. I could see the Welsh Rarebit served over prawns and the cooling, tangy cucumber spaghetti would have endless applications – as a side salad with something spicy would be perfect – or on top of a nicely fried piece of fish, like salmon or tuna.

One of the key things I learned about preparing oysters is that you should never rinse them, because it washes away all the great flavours of the sea. Marty said that if you want to get rid of some of the liquid – then just to dab them gently with some paper towel. He also said it was critical to buy them from a reputable fish monger and use them the same day you buy them. Fresh is best, of course.

Oysters with marinated cucumber spaghetti, Welsh rarebit and watermelon and chilli granita

Oysters with marinated cucumber spaghetti and Avruga caviar

  • 1 continental cucumber
  • 4 tbs of chardonnay wine vinegar
  • A pinch of salt
  • A Pinch of sugar
  • 1 tsp of fresh dill
  • Avruga caviar to serve

Method:

Peel the cucumber and cut julienne, discarding the seeds.

Mix the rest of the ingredients (except the caviar) with the cucumber in a bowl. Cover and leave in the fridge for 1 hour to marinate.

To serve, place a teaspoon of the cucumber mix on top of each oyster and top with half a teaspoon of the caviar.

As for the next filling – Marty said this would also be great on some toasted sourdough bread. Once you taste it, you’ll realise it has many applications. I personally think it would be delicious on steak 🙂

Oysters with Welsh Rarebit Sauce

  • 60gm of unsalted butter
  • 75gm of plain flour
  • 375ml of apple cider
  • 375gm of mature cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 1/2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbs of dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 egg yolks
  • Sea salt and ground white pepper to taste

Method:

Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and cook out for 1 minute.

Slowly add the cider and cook for two minutes, making a veloute (the term velouté is from the French adjectival form of velour, meaning velvety).

Remove from the heat and add the mustard, Worcestershire and egg yolks, whisking until smooth.’Add the grated cheese and whisk until smooth.

Season with salt and pepper and cool for 3 hours.

Put a teaspoon of the sauce onto each oyster – then grill under a hot grill until it is browned.

My attempt at this dish, as you can see centered in the image above, wasn’t as grilled as Marty suggests. In my defence – I was terrified of burning it and looking like a goose!

The next option is a granita. Marty said he made this because he always had lots of leftover watermelon offcuts from making another dish. Hating to throw things away, he came up with this lovely dish. I enjoyed this one the most because the granita is frozen, making the oyster beautiful and cold – as it should be.

Watermelon and Chilli Granita

  • 1 litre of watermelon flesh (no peel)
  • 1 tbs of soyabean chilli paste (available at Asian grocery stores)
  • 1 tsp of tabasco sauce

Method:

Blend all ingredients until smooth.

Taste and correct seasoning, if required. Transfer into a tray (the liquid should be no more than 1 inch deep – using a larger tray, if required) and freeze for at least four hours or overnight.

Using a fork, scrape the froze granita so it forms a light, fine ice and transfer to a container after each scraping.

Serve a teaspoon of granita on top of each oyster.

I think this dish would be amazing on a hot summers day – so cooling and refreshing – with a hit of warmth from the chilli paste and tabasco to tickle the tastebuds.

Watching chefs cook on TV is great fun for me – but this was one of the best experiences ever. If you live in the Geelong region, jump onto the Oakdene website and find out about Marty’s masterclasses. I promise that no matter your cooking ability – you will love it.

Tomorrow I’ll share with you the great tips I learnt about cooking lobster/crayfish. I couldn’t believe how easy, yet impressive it is!

Hopefully this inspires you to go and have a cooking class – or even just get into your kitchen and have a go at something new.

Be Inspired~

Lisa

Your last meal … what would your menu be?


I hope I’m never in the position where I have to choose my last meal … but I have often thought about what the menu would be like if I knew I was about to consume my last dinner on this planet.

I recently read an article in the UK’s Guardian newspaper, where they asked celebrity cook/chef Nigella Lawson, Gordon Ramsay and Heston Blumenthal what their menu would be for their last supper, who would cook it and who they would share it with.

This is what these chefs – who I’m sure have tasted more food than any of us Average Joes could ever dream of – selected for their departing menu. Now I must disclose that this article was written in 2007 – so their tastes may have changed, but I still think it was very interesting. 

 Gordon Ramsay 
 

photo sourced from http://www.insidesocal.com

 

Ramsay told the Guardian:

I would start with golden caviar from the albino sturgeon served with an ice-cold bowl of tomato consomm. I cant think of a more exquisite way to start a meal. To follow, a wonderful fillet of Aberdeen Angus beef, studded with black Perigord truffles and perfectly roasted, served with the ultimate indulgence pomme pure de Joel Robuchon, with grated white Alba truffle. Dessert would be a chocolate fondant with white milk ice cream. He said the starter would be cooked by Alain Ducasse, main course by Joel Robuchon and dessert by his wife, Tana Ramsay – so they can eat it together. Awww, how sweet!

Somehow this menu wreaks with arrogance … I wonder why that is? LOL I was touched by the fact he said he would share it with his wife and kids – but after recent scandals in the marital department, who knows if he was being truthful. 

An interesting menu, none the less.

Now, onto the chef/science extraordinaire …  

 

Heston Blumenthal

Photo sourced from The Telegraph.co.uk

Blumenthal told the Guardian:

Originally I thought of a huge banquet so it would last a very long time. You know, Charles II once had a banquet for five people, which consisted of 173 courses. One course comprised 15 desserts and another seven puffins, or something like that. It would probably take a lifetime to finish so realistically, if it was my last ever supper, it would probably be Sunday lunch with roast potatoes.

 What a surprising choice for a chef that is all about bringing science and preciseness into the kitchen! He also said he would cook it himself, with his family, so they could all spend time together. Sounds perfect!

Nigella Lawson

Photo sourced from watoday.com.au

She told the Guardian:

Linguine alle vongole, made al bianco, thats to say, no tomatoes, just pasta, oil, a little chilli, garlic, clams, white wine and parsley. Followed by lemony roast chicken, creamed spinach, petits pois la franaise and a fennel salad, with chips, roast potatoes and mash (last meal – why worry about the carbs?) then a wodge of gorgonzola so ripe its about to walk. And the worlds best toffees, Salvators from Fouquet, Paris (Rue Francoise 1er). 

While I can just see Nigella bundled up in bed, in one of her silky dressing gowns, eating the pasta out of the frying pan she cooked it in and munching on a chicken drumstick as she unwarps one of those yummy toffees (God that woman can eat! Love that!) – she generously said she would not only cook it herself, with her children there to lend a hand, but that she’d share it with them too 🙂

So now you know what these ultimate foodies would eat for their last meal – what would you have for yours? Who would cook it and who would you want to share it with?

As for my last meal – and this might sound like weird combinations – but hey, I want to get in all the things I love!

Starter: Seafood soup with white wine, tomatoes, olive oil and basil – By Neil Perry

Main: Hot chicken curry, with yogurt raita – the recipe is by no other than  Jamie Oliver (it’s a very early one from his Naked Chef books)

Desert: Now you aren’t allowed to laugh – but I’d have chocolate mousse – made by restaurant Mexican Graffiti in Geelong, Australia. Who would have thought you could get such amazing mousse from a Mexican restauant!! My brother got me onto this and trust me on this, once you have tasted it, you’ll be left wanting more!

As for who I would share it with – well, that’s easy! Matt, and everyone else that I love. My family, Matt’s family – and all my wonderful, caring friends. While the food would be amazing – the company would be even better!

Share your dream last supper in the comments section below. Can’t wait to read what mouth-watering delights you come up with!

Be Inspired~

Lisa~

 

  

Day 29 – Garlic and chilli prawns


My family have always been a great lover of garlic prawns – my mum always used to cook them in a garlicy, buttery cream sauce.

I have made them this way for years and I still love them like this to this day.

However, I have also tried lots of others too – and due to my love for chilli – this version is one of my favourites:

Garlic and chilli prawns 

 

  • 1 1/2 tbs olive oil
  • 4 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 red chillis, de-seeded and finely chopped
  • 3 medium tomatoes, de-seeded and finely chopped
  • 24 individual raw/green prawns (use the largest variety you can find) – remove shells
  • 100ml of chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • 6 tbs of ricotta cheese

Method

Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok over medium-high heat. Add garlic and chillies and a pinch or two of salt and cook, stirring for 1 minute, but don’t let the garlic burn.

Add the prawns and cook for 1 minute each side, or until golden. Remove garlic, chilli and prawns from pan and set aside.

Place pan back over medium-high heat and add tomatoes, stock and herbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring for 5 minutes or until sauce has reduced. Add prawns back to pan and toss well to coat.

To serve, spinkle with the ricotta cheese.

You can serve this alone, for a starter, or make it more substancial by adding your favourite pasta in at the end.

Stay tuned for the final recipe in The Inspiration Challenge – Tagine Chicken!

Be Inspired~

Lisa

Day 24: Put some mussel into it!


As we approach the final leg of The Inspiration Challenge – I realised that I haven’t provided a recipe for my all-time favourite seafood – mussels!

I have discussed them on the blog before – and the steps you need to take to prepare them. But, it never hurts to go over it again.

These little morsels of meaty goodness do take a bit of work before cooking, and sometimes the rules surrounding whether a mussel is safe to eat or not, can be really confusing. But, don’t be afraid! Once you get a hang of how to prepare them, cooking is a breeze.

So, here are a few tips to dealing with mussels.

  • Buy them from reputable fish monger, or even better, straight off the trawler!
  • Once you get your mussels home, you really need to use them that day for the best results. This is one thing that shouldn’t be stored too long. However, if you can’t prepare them right away – pop them in the fridge. Just make sure you don’t leave them wrapped in plastic – they should be kept in a container and covered lightly with a tea towel, to let them breathe.
  • Now for the most important part. As you are going through your mussels, some of them may be slightly open. Give them a sharp tap on the side of your kitchen sink. If they close tightly, they are fine cook. However – if they don’t – you must throw them away. They are dead and no good to eat.
  • To prepare the mussels, give the shells a good scrub to remove any barnacles – I use a rough cleaning pad to do this (a fresh one out of the packet, not one I have used to scrub pots and pans … eewww!). – Remove the beard (that’s the fibrous thing sticking out of the mussel) – give it a good, strong pull and it should come off.

That’s just about it – now it’s time to cook them!

Mussels in a white wine, bacon and garlic sauce with tomato

  • 250gm of spaghetti
  • 500gm of mussels
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 5 rashers of bacon, cut into strips
  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
  • 2 red chilli, finely sliced (or you can add more, if you like it really hot)
  • 1 cup of white wine
  • 2 400gm can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 handful of basil, roughly torn
  • The juice of half a lemon

Method

Bring to the boil a large saucepan of salted water – use this to cook the pasta according to packet directions. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in the bottom of a large, heavy-based pan. Cook the bacon, until it’s getting slightly crisp – then add the onion, garlic and chilli and season with salt and pepper. Cook over a medium heat until onion is soft.

Turn up the heat and add the wine, allowing it to simmer briskly for a minute or two. Add the canned tomatoes and once they start to simmer, add the mussels.

Cover and cook until the mussels have opened (it doesn’t take long – and this is how you tell they are ready). Add the cooked pasta,  fresh basil and lemon juice and stir gently to combine.

Important: As you serve the dish into bowls, ensure that you discard any unopened mussels. If they are closed, then they are no good.

Serve with some nice crusty bread.

This is a nuts and bolts recipe – but I have been known to add prawns, calamari and also some cherry tomatoes. Get creative and mix it up. I promise your guests will be impressed with this sumptuous dish!

Be Inspired~

Lisa

Day 16 – Steamed baby snapper with Asian flavours


I love cooking snapper whole – there’s something about putting a whole fish in the middle of the table that makes you feel like you are about to embark on a feast.

I use baby snapper because I love the pink skin and its size means it’s not too hard to fit it in the steamer. It cooks quickly and the flesh tastes sweet and is really good at taking on other flavours.

This recipe is from Aussie chef Neil Perry. I have eaten at his restaurant, Rockpool Bar and Grill twice now – and we’re about to go back a third time in December for mine and Matt’s anniversary. We made the booking about two months ago and both cannot wait!! At Rockpool the menu is all about the best beef you’ll ever eat. However, I have watched many of Neil’s shows and he certainly has a way with fish and seafood.

So I really hope you give this recipe a go. It’s been a while since I last made it, but as summer draws nearer – this will certainly be on my menu more regularly.

Whole baby snapper with Asian flavours

  • 1 kg snapper scaled and cleaned (your fish monger should be able to do this, and they are already to go in the deli cabinet at the supermarket)
  • 1 Chinese cabbage leaf
  • 3 shallots left whole
  • ½ tsp of sea salt  
  • 2 tbs of light soy sauce
  • 1 tbs sesame oil
  • 2 tbs shao xing cooking wine
  • 1 tbs caster sugar
  • 1 large knob of Ginger finely julienned
  • 4 shallots finely chopped
  • 3 tbs of peanut oil
  • 1/4 cup of chopped, fresh coriander

Method

With the whole fish on your chopping board, take a sharp knife and make three diagonal slits into the meatiest part of the fish. Repeat this in the opposite direction to create a diamond pattern. Turn the fish and repeat the process on the other side.

Put the cabbage leaf and whole shallots on the bottom of a heatproof bowl that will fit into the steamer and take the fish comfortably. Rub the fish with salt and put it into the bowl on top of the shallots.

Mix the soy, sesame oil, shao xing wine and castor sugar and pour over the fish, then top with the ginger.

Put the bowl in the steamer (I use a bamboo steamer, which you can buy really cheaply at an Asian grocer) over rapidly boiling water and steam for 10-15 minutes. Keep an eye on it though, to ensure it doesn’t over cook.

Remove the bowl from the steamer and scatter the shredded shallots over the fish.

Now for the fun, but dangerous part!! Heat the peanut oil in a small pan until it is smoking, then douse the fish with the oil – be careful, it will spit! (The fish can be served straight from the steamer bowl but if you wish to transfer it to a platter, you should do so before you pour it over the hot oil.)

Top with the fresh coriander and serve straight away.

This dish is full of amazing flavours. I hope you give it a go.

Be Inspired~

Lisa

Day 3 – Baked barramundi with tomato and lemon


Being from Darwin, barramundi is the fish I grew up with and I just love its fleshy texture and great flavour.

I don’t think this is the sort of fish you should add too many flavours to – but this recipe really enhances the fish, without overpowering it at all.

I was shown this recipe by a guy who used to work for my mum up in Darwin. It turned out that he was a chef in a previous life and when I found this out at the age of 13 or 14, I begged him to let me watch him cook.

I have been making this ever since, although it’s really sad that it’s so hard to get anything other than farmed or imported barramundi where I live now, in Victoria. If you can’t get Australian, wild barramundi, this principle will work well with other fleshy fish too. I usually serve it with a greek salad just using some rocket, fetta cheese, kalamata olives tomatoes, olive oil and lemon juice.

Baked barramundi with tomato and lemon

  • 4 barramundi fillets (get a size to suit your serving portion, or get a large one and cut it yourself)
  • 2 lemons, sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Method:

Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees (celsius)

Cut four pieces of aluminium foil and drizzle olive oil lightly over each (you could also use olive oil spray to do this, if you have it).

Place one fillet on each piece of foil, making sure there is enough foil to seal the parcels later.

Season the fish with salt and pepper and lay the slices of tomato over each fillet, so they overlap slightly. I like to lightly season the tomato slices with salt and pepper again. Layer the lemon in the same way, on top of the tomato.

Drizzle each with a little olive oil and then bring the sides of the foil up and seal it into a little package. This will allow the fish to both bake and steam.

Bake for about 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets. Check after 12 minutes, using a knife to look inside. If they aren’t cooked through, reseal and cook for a little longer. Do keep in mind that fish continues to cook once you have removed it from the oven – so be careful not to over do it.

I sometimes serve this fish in their little pouches, or transfer them onto a plate. However, this process is always challenging when it comes to fish, because it tends to break on the way from the foil to the plate. So, I reckon save yourself the stress and leave it in the foil – it’s more rustic anyway.

I have also done this one on the barbecue, which makes it great if you are camping. Just chuck the parcel on the hot plate, just make sure it’s on low and you keep a close eye on them. They tend to cook quicker this way.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post – it’ll be a sauce you’ll use time and time again.

Be Inspired~

Lisa

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