polenta fish n chips with tartare sauce

Being jet lagged was a classic. Waking up at 2am and sleeping from lunch time til the stars shine. It took a good week to readjust to the climate Down Under after visiting the two Holy Mosques in Saudi for my first pilgrimage ever 🙂

I had some preconceptions of what the place will be like, and how the people will behave, but despite all my mental preparation the experience was surreal and beyond expectations.

Photo's courtesy of my partner's friends :)

Photo’s courtesy of my partner’s friends 🙂

 

You’ve probably heard about “Hajj” – you know, that ritual where 2 million+ Muslims flock to the lands of Makkah in search of soul, faith, redemption. During the ritual itself, the men there dress in two white cloths symbolising two things: their burial cloths, and equality among each other… you could literally be walking next to a millionaire, orphan, or CEO and wouldn’t know it. Because the two of you have brought yourself back to the very basics of human life and the encompassing ideals of “humanity”.

Women cover as Muslim women generally do – wherever you look you cannot judge or compare as women viciously do. You build a kind of self-love because you forget what it feels like to see “the ideal [photoshopped] body image” plastered over billboards that reminds you of everything your body is not.

There, strange things happen. You meet people who don’t speak your language – yet you share lollies and smiles and maybe a goodbye hug. You hussle at the markets and you find yourself blabbering your summarised life story that you’ve craftily learnt to repeat to shop owners and other shoppers you meet.

When your soul searching journey is over and it’s time to head home, you realise how much you’ll miss the place (because bias-ly(?), your origins are from a country so similar!) Then you hit the sands of Down Under and smell the heat of a burnt through ozone layer and good ol’ humidity. Amalgamated with the smell of used canola oil and a freshly fried batch of fish’n’chips.

Polenta Fish and Chips

Only this time, it’s spruced up with a twist on the batter: polenta instead of breadcrumbs. And homemade tartare sauce.

 

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

1 cup polenta

1 egg

1 tsp garlic powder

2 tsps finely grated lemon rind

4 firm white fish fillets (about 150g each – I just used Basa)

1 tbs lemon juice

Canola or rice bran oil, to fry (or any oil you like to fry in)

Potato chips, to serve

Tartare Sauce:

1/2 cup quality whole-egg mayonnaise

1 tsp finely grated lemon rind

1 tsp finely chopped capers

2 gherkins, finely chopped

1 tsp chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves

 

Method:

First make your sauce:

Place mayonnaise, lemon rind, capers, gherkins and parsley in a small bowl. Season. Stir until well combined and refrigerate.

Tartare Sauce

Next, combine polenta, garlic powder and lemon rind in a plate; season with salt and pepper.

Whisk egg in a shallow bowl.

Dip 1 piece of fish in egg. Coat in polenta mixture. Place on a plate.

Repeat with remaining fish. I cut 3 of my fillets into cocktail sized bites for the kids.

Refrigerate fish for 10 minutes.

polenta fish (pre-cooked)

Heat oil in a deep frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook fish, in batches, for 3 to 4 minutes each side or until golden and cooked through. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel to drain.

Serve with salad, tartare sauce and chips.

Polenta Fish, Chips, Tartare Sauce

garlic prawns

food[ident]ity crisis – a celebration of pescetarism & garlic prawns

Since chatting with a class mate a couple of weeks ago about food and all the -ians that come with it, I’ve been trying to put together a post in my head, but I’m finding it incredibly difficult to get my creative juices flowing. I do sincerely hope I say everything the way I intend it to mean – but do pitch in with your thoughts, too.

 

So it all started when I accidentally shared a link to a seafood restaurant promoting a discount. Really, that accident became the pivot point at which I realised I’m having one of those identity crises where I can’t put to definition some aspects of who I am. You know what I’m talking about – everybody has those moments when they don’t know what religion they are, don’t know what their family or work role is, don’t know what xyz aspect of them is – and they suddenly feel a sense of “my entire life’s a mess”.

 

Now it wasn’t that dramatic for me, I promise, but I realised I probably seemed hypocritical when I linked them to my blog, after telling them I’m pescetarian. Like whatever that is 😉 A pescetarian is a person who only eats seafood and otherwise eats what a vegetarian would. And to about a 70% extent, I am exactly that. Note I still enjoy my eggs, milk and butter, so I’m not vegan in any way.

 

Now what ever happened to that last 30%? Well my problem extends beyond that. Because now I have multiple foodie identities…

Identity 1: Vegetarian

You see, all my doctors think I’m a vegetarian. Because it’s easier to tell them that than trying to pronounce that P word. And also because – whilst I eat seafood – I don’t do it that often. And telling them I’m vegetarian quickly helps them understand why I’ve forever been slightly iron deficient… “because you don’t drink blood, of course!” …that’s what one of them told me (yes, they’re a vegetarian).

The lie in it

Now I’m a “vegetarian” largely because I don’t like the texture of red meat – most of which was lamb during my childhood. So it’s rare that I ever am in the mood to eat red meat, or crave it. It wasn’t until very, very recently that I learnt the “b” word in meats, and all the different steaks, stews and barbecues that you could make with it. And being outright honest, yeah, beef tastes a lot better than lamb. But I still only consume red meats when they’re put on my plate, or when I’m somehow in the mood for them. Which again isn’t often.

Whilst texture and taste is my biggest reason for not enjoying meat – the other would be preparation. I mean right from birth to supermarket. After watching a documentary, Food Inc., I was quite shocked to learn the manner which animals are treated. My uncle worked at abattoirs here in Australia, too, and I learned of the process that involved electric shocks and other unmentionable things. So all of this makes me feel quite uncomfortable – but I don’t actively fight against it, or persue the matter much – just give me my freerange chicken meat and I’ll be a happy supporter that way. Perhaps this is just laziness on my part.

The verdict

All in all, I suppose I’m a true vegetarian about 6% of the time. And whilst I don’t eat meat much, I still prepare and cook it for others.

 

Identity 2: “Omnivorian”  (I’ll coin the word to keep the -ian trend going)

My immediate friends and family know me as an omnivorian (i.e. an omnivore). Because I’m an all-eater. Who loves chicken pad thai, mince meat pies, pan-fried salmon, all-veggie fattoush, cookies, cream, toast and crumbs. This is largely due to my cultural upbringing where “whatever mum serves, you eat” regardless of whether you enjoy it or not. It wasn’t until recent times that I started cooking when I started to enjoy meats more – as I’d flavour them to my own liking and cook them my own way.

The truth in it

I guess being an omnivorian is closest to the truth as possible, it’s just that I don’t eat certain foods as much as I do of others. I don’t like to promote myself as an omnivore but I don’t like stating I’m a vegetarian either because of all the baggage attached to being one.

The verdict

I’m probably an omnivore 22% of the time, yet one that flicks aside the meat when no one’s looking if I’m really not enjoying it.

 

Identity 3: “Carnivorian” (see bracketed heading above)

No one’s ever known me to be a carnivore unless when very specific meals are dished up. I become a meat loving muncher when sfeeha  (the proper ones), mince meat pies (the proper ones), stew/soups  (the proper ones) are dished up. Did I mention they all have to be proper? Meaning taste nice. Meaning of the type that fati loves eating…?

The deceit in it

My behaviour change is often only witnessed during colder months when comfort food is a necessity.

The verdict

I probably display my carnivorian characteristics about 2% of the time – they’re a fad that come and go quickly.

 

Identity 4: Pescetarian

“Everyone else” knows me as a pescetarian. I love seafood and all the different things you can make with it! After all, that picture of the lobster from the restaurant that I shared with my class mate is what started all this! I enjoy the array of flavours, textures and cooking methods associated with seafood and I consider it a cuisine of it’s own. It really needs careful preparation and lots of respect to get the most out of it, though. I enjoy making garlic prawns, chermoula prawns, pan-fried salmon, baked basa, grilled (or battered/fried) fish, seafood salad, and so much more.

The catch in it

Really, I’m a happy muncher of seafood and will forever be – I think! It’s one of those things I worry I’ll one day eat a dish of that will turn me off seafood for a long time.

The verdict

Put me in an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet and I’ll eat a plate and say no more, thank you. Because – yes – I’m probably 70% pescetarian, but I don’t overkill… if you know what I mean.

 

I think that wraps up who I am food-wise. So a bit of everything, really, which an “omnivore” would easily cover – but I can’t bring myself to label myself like that… So if you want to give it a name for me, do let me know, or perhaps I should print business cards which explain my eating habits to give to those who bring it up 😛

 

But in celebration of 70% me… in celebration of a little seafood… I’ll end today’s post with a recipe I enjoy making because it’s quick, delicious, & easy to whip up for a weekday dinner. 🙂

 

garlic prawns

 

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

1kg uncooked green prawns, tails intact and deveined (no less than 35 prawns)

1 small-medium brown onion, finely sliced

1/2 medium-large green capsicum, finely sliced (try red capsicum for a tangy alternative)

2-3 large garlic cloves, crushed

1 teaspoon sweet chilli sauce (optional)

pinch of white pepper, cyenne pepper, dried dill, lemon pepper seasoning

squeeze of lemon, drizzle of oil

 

Method:

If prawns are frozen, thaw and drain. Set aside.

Drizzle oil into a large non-stick pan on medium-high heat.

Once heated through, add onions into pan and sauté for one minute, until beginning to soften.

Add in the capsicum and sauté with the onion on medium heat until capsicum begins to soften.

Add in the prawns and sweet chilli sauce and cook, stirring often, until prawns begin to turn pink at the tail.

Add in the remaining spices and cook for another minute, or until prawns have cooked through (be careful not to overcook the prawns as they will harden. If this happens reduce the heat to low and cook covered for another 10-15 minutes or until prawns soften again).

Serve with crusty bread and lemon wedges.

 

karen’s smoked salmon pizza

So I’ve never actually seen Karen’s salmon pizza. Tasted it. Or smelt its aromas. But I’ve certainly been told about it 🙂 And boy it sounded like something I’d devour any day! So why do I confess this? Because my version might not exactly look like hers, or taste 100% like hers, but perhaps it’s close enough to give it a shot and share it with everyone here 🙂

I also confess I’ve added a few things that weren’t in the original recipe – but that’s a personal taste thing, this pizza is very easy to make, and quite an enjoyable one to dine on. 🙂 I’m imagining you could do these canape style, with small rounds of dough, 1 piece of salmon, and a dollop of cheese and tomato on top… How delicate! 🙂

smoked salmon pizza

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

1 x average pizza base (I make my own, recipe coming soon here)

20-30 grams smoked salmon (basically a few slices), torn into pieces

2 tbs each tomato sauce, barbecue sauce

4 cherry tomatoes, quartered

1/3 cup grated mozarella cheese

1/4 cup cream cheese

juice of half a lemon

paprika, white pepper, and/or lemon pepper to season

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to 210 degrees celsius (this should be altered if you are using a pre-packaged pizza base, or your own recipe. Heat the oven to what you would normally when baking a pizza).

Toss smoked salmon pieces in lemon juice and set aside for a few minutes.

Roll out your dough on a floured surface, transfer to a lightly greased baking tray and spread sauces.

Sprinkle over mozarella cheese and then the salmon, making sure to drip off excess lemon juice.

Top with quartered cherry tomatoes, and dollop cream cheese.

Season to taste and bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown.

Serve hot from the oven and enjoy!

Reheat by placing the pizza on the lowest shelf of the oven, under a broiler or for a couple of minutes in a non-stick tefal pan on medium heat.

pan fried salmon steaks

With uni back in full swing, there’s been little time to cook – so I’ll be sharing a few recipes I managed to cook up during the summer 🙂 I love salmon – it’s one of my go-to choices when nothing on a menu tickles my fancy, or when I feel the need for something a little gourmet but easy to make.

I fry my salmon steaks on a flat-based, non-stick tefal pan, it cooks like a bbq plate, just without all the cleaning before and after. Feel free to use what you have handy, and to cook the salmon to your preferred level of doneness. I garnished my salmon with coriander, chilli and pan-fried zucchini. I had cored zucchini and fried the cores in the same pan as the salmon, the flavours infused into the zucchini beautifully. If you don’t plan to garnish with kecap manis, add a tablespoon or two into the marinade. And leave the garlic on the steaks while frying for the extra flavour.

pan-fried salmon steaks

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

4 salmon steaks (between 650-850 grams in total)

2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

juice of half a lemon

a dash of olive oil, extra for frying

to taste: salt, ground white pepper, paprika, ground tumeric, dried dill

kecap manis (or similar), to serve

 

Method:

Marinate the salmon steaks with the garlic, lemon juice and olive oil for 30 minutes minimum (up to three hours maximum).

Add the spices prior to frying, and mix well.

Heat olive oil in a flat-based pan on medium-high heat.

Add salmon steaks, skin side down, and reduce the heat to medium.

Cook steaks, turning every few minutes until pink in colour, flaky and firm when pressed with the back of a fork.

Serve with an extra sprinkle of dill and tumeric, and kecap manis.

Devour!

smoked salmon scrambled eggs

smoked salmon scrambled eggs

Today I thought I’ll do a continuation from the previous recipe… I want to share with you a quick and healthy breakfast (or brunch) I recently decided to try after discovering something similar to it. I’m a lover of smoked salmon (took me a while), and like the occasional scrambled egg.. so I found this recipe to be a winner for me, especially when I’m in a hurry and looking for something nutritious and filling – something packed with protein.

Serves: 1

Ingredients:

2-3 eggs (your serving preference)

3 tbs smoked salmon slices, chopped

1 La Vache qui rit portion, or 1 tbs of your favourite cream cheese

a dash of salt, pepper and oregano

 

Method:

Whisk the eggs and add the spices.

Place a non-stick pan on high heat and melt butter (I like to use oil instead).

Add the egg and cream cheese into the pan and stir through until the cheese melts, reducing the heat to medium-low.

Add in the smoked salmon pieces and stir through for a few seconds, until the salmon turns pink.

Remove from the heat and serve with pita bread, or baguette slices.

Devour!

suave sushi

Ehm. Just thought I’ll make a little announcement that YES, I’m still alive 😉 You may have caught me at your blog commenting on your amazing posts, but I’ve been so busy since last Monday, I think I missed all the online fun. Well, my blog did anyway 🙂

 

I’ve had family come up from the south and visit, and we’ve all been so busy catching up with one another, sleeping late, waking early, then partying until the next morning.. Yesterday my cousin and I decided we’ll make some sushi to take to a dinner party we were invited to, and despite my huge list of dishes-waiting-to-be-posted, I’ll put up this simple yet amazing sushi recipe.

Instead of your odd rice-stuffed sushi, I decided that it’s a lot funner and tastier with rice vermicelli. I’ve made this before, and I’ve done it again now, so I’m going to be really bold and claim I invented this, but I’m happy to give over the title to someone else if they deserve it 😉

 

These sushi rolls were prepared by me, and cut by my cousin, so a big thank you Heb for making them look amazing! Despite the fact the filling was not centred properly, they were a big hit at the dinner party (I mean that no one asked for soy sauce because they were too busy munching these down!)

Yields: 20 x 1-inch pieces

Ingredients:

3 sheets yaki nori seaweed

45 g rice vermicelli

2 tsps white vinegar

1 small cucumber

1 small carrot (optional)

1 tin tuna in sunflower oil (185 g)

1 1/2 tbs mayonnaise

wasabi for flavour

water for sealing the sushi rolls

 

Method:

In a small saucepan, bring water to a boil.

Break the vermicelli in half and add into the saucepan.

Cook for five minutes on medium-high heat.

Drain the water and place the vermicelli in a bowl.

Add in the vinegar and stir through; set aside.

Peel the carrot and cucumber and cut each into thin strips (lengthwise).

Drain the oil from the tuna and mix in the mayonnaise.

Prepare a bamboo mat; place the sushi sheets shiny side down.

Cover the sushi with the vermicelli (about 1/2 an inch thick), leaving a centimetre from the top bare.

About a third of the way in, place a few spoonfuls of tuna and line with carrot or cucumber horizontally.

Add a dash of wasabi and use the bamboo mat to roll the sushi, applying some pressure with every roll.

Wet the end of the sushi and seal the roll.

Use a clean, wet knife to cut the sushi into pieces, cleaning it after every cut.

Repeat until your filling is finished.

Add sesame seeds or nigella seeds to the filling if desired.

Serve with soy sauce,

Devour!

 

cheery cheddar cheese crackers

We saw her get freshly pressed for it.

We read her creative idea.

Now it’s time for her destructive turn.

Yields: ~ 70

Ingredients:

2 cups grated Colby cheese (the type you use does make a difference)

1 cup plain white flour

4tbs butter

1/2 tsp onion salt/powder

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

orange food colouring (optional – Aussie cheese is yellow, if you’re looking for the psychologically pleasing orange colour, then add it in 🙂 )

Method:

Grate your cheese in case you missed the term “grated” in the ingredients list. 😉

Note when measuring out grated cheese, push it down into the cup otherwise you’ll have a heap of air in there, and not enough cheese.

Place all the ingredients into a bowl.

I just had to add in that orange. It’d be horridly yellow without it.

Integrate together using your hand.

Pulse in a food processor until doughy. I did this in two batches so it can better integrate.

Transfer back into a bowl and mix in with your hand until a smooth dough forms.

Pop into the fridge for no less than 20 minutes, but no more than overnight.

In the meantime, make your cracker cutter.

I started by using a sharp knife to cut off the top. I wanted to keep as much of the bottom I can in case I ran into trouble.

Smoothed out the edge with a pair of scissors.

Next I cut off a few centimtres of the can to make my cutter. Not too thick, not too thin.

I found the middle and bent it slightly.

I held the ends and about a third of the way in, I bend it out.

Again, about a quarter of the way out of the remaining part, I bent it in to make the tail.

I put a little dent so it can curve inwards in the middle of the tail.

Cut off excess metal.

Tape the tail together. And you’re ready to use your cutter!

When ready, flour a surface and rolling pin.

Remove the dough from the fridge, and pop in a greased tray to chill.

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees celsius.

Roll out the dough (0.5 cm 0.2″ thickness) on a floured bench.

To cut, press down on the cutter with your entire palm, this will avoid cutting your fingers!

Repeat. Cut. Cut. Cut.

When ready, remove the scraps and place into the bowl you had the dough in.

Pop the fish on the tray.

Use a toothpick end to punch an eye in the fish.

And use it’s side to make a smile. This is of course optional. I used an awesome toothpick, check it out.

Look! They’re so happy!

Return to the fridge for another 10 minutes.

You can begin making your second batch if necessary.

Pop the tray into the oven and cook for 20 minutes.

When done, remove from the oven and leave aside to cool.

Make squiggles from any last bits of scrap dough you have, these can be waves (awesome for creating interesting pictures).

When you’ve finished cooking, leave in the open air so they can crisp up quickly.

To be extra fishy (or cheesy?) serve with tuna…hahaha…

Apparently can remain in an air tight container for a week (they wouldn’t last that long anyway!)

Devour!

glorious garlic prawns

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

300g pre-cooked cocktail prawns (with their tails on!)

1/3 cup white vinegar

1/2 green capsicum

1/4 red capsicum (optional)

1 onion

2-3 cloves garlic, crushed

1/4 lemon

1/2 tbs tomato paste

1/2 tbs tomato sauce

1/2 tbs bbq sauce

pinch of salt, pepper, mixed spice, & paprika is optional

Method:

Thaw the prawns if frozen.

Drain the water and add the prawns, vinegar and pinch of ground pepper into a large bowl.

Mix until the prawns are well coated. Leave in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Note: this is just to get rid off any rancid taste the prawns may have. If you like that flavour, then you can skip the above steps.

Finely slice the onion into wedges.

Finely slice the green and red capsicum (into thin strips). Add the onion and capsicum into a pan.

Squeeze the quarter lemon (onto the capsicum), then cut the skin into thin strips and add to the pan.

Add a 1/4 cup water and place the pan on medium low heat.

After 2-3 minutes, add the sauces, spices and garlic.

Cover and cook until the onion and capsicum have softened, stirring occasionally.

Remove the lid to help any excess water evaporate.

Drain the prawns making sure no vinegar gets into the pan!

Add the prawns into the pan and cook for 1 minute (and literally no more).

Note: pre-cooked prawns means that you’ll either cook them for 30seconds – 1 minute, or they will become tougher than rubber boots. If you fancy, you can skip cooking them all together. Just add them to the pan after turning the heat off, cover and leave for a minute.

Immediately remove and dish up.

Serve as part of your dinner menu (and be courageous and try a tail – they’re packed with glucosamine and add a crunch – but only if it’s your fancy).

Devour!