Crispy Fish in Chilli Sauce

The first Australian Women’s Weekly cookbooks were published in the late 1970s and constituted a turning point in Australian cuisine. There were very few cookbooks on the shelves back then and everyone had the same ones. My small collection included The Margaret Fulton Cookbook, The Complete Asian Cookbook by Charmaine Solomon, Great Dishes of the World by Robert Carrier and Mastering the Art of French Cooking, volumes 1 and 2, by Julia Child.

From 1976 the Women’s Weekly released a new book every few months – eagerly awaited by keen cooks around Australia. My friend Ferne and I made every single recipe and compared notes when we met. Home cooks started asking their local supermarkets for new and unusual ingredients and the supermarkets had to keep up with the demand.

The Chinese Cooking Class Cookbook hit stores in 1978 and sold out within a couple of weeks. Since then, it’s been reprinted countless times, selling over 4 million copies around the world. My well-worn copy, now almost 40 years old, has comments and amendments on every recipe. The price of $3.98 is on the front page and believe me, I got my money’s worth.

This is where I learnt to cook Chinese food, before I moved on to the likes of Ken Hom and Kylie Kwong. If you don’t have a copy and can find one online or in a bookshop, grab it. You won’t be disappointed. To say it’s an oldie but a goodie would be an understatement. Other favourites of mine were Beautiful Biscuits, the Italian Cookbook and the two Dinner Party Cookbooks, but there must have been around 50 in the full series. For about five years they were my bibles and although I rarely use them now, I can’t bear to throw them out.

I haven’t made this fish recipe for over 10 years and had forgotten how good it was. The original recipe has twice as much batter, but I find this amount is just enough. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

500g skinless, boneless white fish fillets
Oil for frying, such as canola or sunflower
Batter:
½ cup plain flour
2 Tbs cornflour
1 egg white
4-5 Tbs cold water
Pinch salt
Sauce:
1 Tbs oil
1 Tbs grated fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ cup tomato sauce (ketchup)
¼ cup Thai sweet chilli sauce
2 tsp sugar
1 Tbs soy sauce
2 tsp dry sherry
2-3 Tbs water
Garnish:
Thin strips of the green part of spring onions, soaked in iced water

Cut fish into 2-3cm chunks. Mix all ingredients for batter until you have a thick, smooth batter. Place all ingredients for sauce in a medium frying pan, bring to the boil, then turn off the heat. Place all the fish pieces in the batter and turn to coat. Heat about 5cm oil in a wok, deep fat fryer or saucepan.

Remove fish pieces one at a time from the batter and lower into the hot oil. Cook them in 2 or 3 batches until golden brown and cooked through. Drain fish and place in the frying pan with the chilli sauce.

Turn on the heat in the frying pan and cook for a couple of minutes, turning the fish pieces gently, to coat them with the sauce. Garnish with spring onion slivers and serve with steamed rice.

Serves 4

Fish fillets with Curry Sauce

A quick and easy recipe for two, which can easily be doubled for four. You can use any kind of white fish fillets or steaks, or salmon fillets if you prefer. The sauce turns something ordinary into something quite tasty.

2 fillets fish (I used Basa)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 Tbs butter
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
½-1 tsp curry paste or powder
2 tsp grated ginger
1 Tbs finely chopped thyme leaves (or another fresh herb)
1 tsp grated lemon zest
To serve:
Lemon wedges
Fresh herbs

Preheat oven to 220°C. Line a shallow baking tray with foil and turn up the edges to catch the juices. Season fish on both sides with salt and pepper then arrange on the foil.

Melt butter in a small pan then mix in the garlic, curry, ginger, thyme and lemon zest. Spoon evenly over the fish. Bake for 8-10 mins or until cooked to liking. Serve garnished with lemon wedges and herbs. Broccoli goes well with this.

Serves 2

 

Egyptian Baked Fish with Tomatoes and Prawns

This tasty Egyptian recipe for fish was sent to me by Jane, a friend who lives in Vancouver. We met Jane and her husband while we were visiting my brother last year.

In the original recipe it says you can use a whole cleaned and gutted fish or fish steaks. I opted for the latter to avoid the bones. As with many tomato-based dishes, the leftovers were even better than the first time round.

6-8 thick firm white fish steaks or fillets (eg cod, halibut)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup sultanas or raisins
1 cup white wine
2 Tbs olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ cup chopped parsley
1 x 400g can tomatoes
1 cup water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp sugar
2 Tbs chopped fresh oregano or marjoram
12-16 whole cooked prawns (2 per person) shelled and deveined

Season fish with salt and pepper and drizzle with the lemon juice. Place sultanas and wine in a small bowl and leave to soak.

In a large frying pan heat the olive oil and cook the onion, leek, celery and garlic over moderate heat, stirring often, until soft but not brown. Add the parsley, tomatoes, seasoning, sugar and water. Drain the sultanas, keeping the fruit, and add the liquid to the tomato mixture. Simmer for 25 minutes or until the sauce has thickened, stirring often and crushing the tomatoes with the back of a spoon.

Meanwhile preheat oven to 200°C.  Oil a large shallow lasagne-type dish, tip in half the tomato sauce and spread out evenly. Arrange fish and lemon juice on top. Sprinkle the marjoram and the reserved sultanas evenly over the fish. Cover with remaining tomato sauce.

Bake for 30 minutes or until fish is cooked. Arrange prawns over the top for the last 5 to 10 minutes of cooking and spoon some of the sauce over each one.

Serve with steamed rice.

Serves 6-8

Japanese Raw Fish Salad

We went to a Japanese restaurant in Bangkok last month which served delicious, light and very reasonably-priced food. I ordered a raw fish salad, which was a generous main course size and cost around $10. It was so delicious we went back, I ordered it again and decided to recreate it when we got back.

This is a recipe for people who like raw fish. Buy very fresh, sashimi quality and discard any fibrous, stringy bits as you cut it up. While the idea of fake crab stick is an anathema to many people, that’s what they used in Bangkok and I was pleasantly surprised. It added a touch of sweetness to the flavour combination. If preferred substitute cooked crab or leave it out and use a bit more fish.

The salad was topped with about two tablespoons of salmon caviar. These salty little delicacies explode in your mouth and really make the dish. They must be much cheaper in Thailand than they are in Australia where they retail for over $30 for a 100g jar. In this country there’s no way you could be so generous with the caviar and only charge $10 for the dish. You can buy red fake caviar in most supermarkets for a fraction of the cost, but it’s not the same thing and to be avoided.

About 8-10 cups small salad leaves
350 firm white fish, cut into fat matchsticks
350 salmon, cut into fat matchsticks
200g crab sticks, cut into fine julienne
Sauce:
1 cup mayonnaise (preferably home-made)
¼ cup tomato sauce (ketchup)
Juice of 1 lemon
Tabasco or hot chilli sauce, to taste
Garnish:
1 small jar salmon caviar

Arrange salad leaves on 4 large or 8 small plates. Arrange the fish and crab sticks on top in layers.

Mix all ingredients for sauce. Drizzle over the salads and garnish with the salmon caviar.

Serves 4 as a main course or 8 as a starter

Fish Fillets with Miso, Soba Noodles & Asparagus

This recipe Which came from a Coles supermarket magazine is quick, easy, tasty and healthy. What more could you want?

Fish Fillets with Miso, Soba Noodles & Asparagus

4 boneless, skinless, white fish fillets (about 150g each)
2 Tbs miso paste
3 Tbs orange or lemon juice
2 tsp honey
2 tsp soy sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
180g dried soba noodles
2 bunches asparagus, cut into 2
150g snow peas, sliced
2 tsp sesame seeds, lightly toasted
2 spring onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

Place a large saucepan of water on to boil and turn the grill on high. Line a baking tray with foil, spray with oil and place the fish fillets on top. Mix miso paste, orange or lemon juice, honey and sauce sauce. Brush both sides of the fish with this mixture and season lightly with salt and pepper. Place fish under the gril and cook for 8-10 mins or until cooked.

Meanwhile cook noodles for a minute or two, then add the asparagus and snow peas and cook for another 2 mins or until vegetables and noodles are cooked. Drain well and mix in half the remaining miso sauce. Divide noodles and vegetables among 4 serving plates. Arrange fish on top and spoon over remaining miso sauce. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and spring onions.

Serves 4

Asian Style Kingfish Ceviche

When we were in Newcastle recently we dined at a restaurant called Sprout. The Kingfish Ceviche ordered by one of our party was so good we all had a taste!  I decided to try and recreate it on return to Canberra. I added the pink peppercorns (see note below) which were a definite plus to the flavour and colour combination.

Asian Style Kingfish Ceviche

300g Kingfish fillets (or other firm white fish)
Juice of 1 lime or half a large lemon
1 small bulb of fennel, trimmed and thinly shaved
3-5 radishes (depending on size) thinly shaved
2 spring onions, very finely sliced on the diagonal
4 stalks asparagus, blanched and cut into 2-3cm lengths
2-3 tsp very finely sliced lemon grass
1 cup coconut milk
2-4 tsp fish sauce, to taste
2 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp finely chopped fresh chilli (or to taste)
2 tsp brown sugar
1 Tbs vegetable oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
To garnish:
Pink peppercorns

Cut fish into bit size slices and mix with the lime or lemon juice. If you like your ceviche very lemony add more lemon juice. To blanch the asparagus, cook them in boiling water for 1-2 minutes then refresh under cold water, drain and pat dry with paper towel.

Leave fish for an hour or so, stirring from time to time, then mix in remaining ingredients, keeping some fennel, radish and asparagus for garnish. Season to taste then arrange on serving plates and garnish with the reserved vegetables and a few pink peppercorns.

Serves 6 as a starter

Note: A pink peppercorn (baie rose in French) is the dried berry of the Peruvian Peppertree. They were so-named because they look like peppercorns. The flavour is aromatic and only slightly peppery. They go well with all kinds of fish dishes, including Gravlax and smoked salmon. Available at specialty shops such as The Essential Ingredient.

Mustard-Glazed Salmon with Zucchini Ribbons

Apart from being quick and easy salmon is versatile, light and full of goodness, so I serve it about once a week.

We’re growing yellow and green zucchini in the garden. If they grow too big – which they seem to do very fast when you’re not looking – I use them in this delicious recipe for Zucchini with Tarragon. If I catch them when they’re smaller (10-15cm in length) they’re ideal for making into ribbons.

There were some tomatoes which needed using up, two pieces of salmon thawing on the side and a fridge overflowing with zucchinis. The result was this colourful recipe which was simple, but delicious. Great for a mid-week dinner for two, but snazzy enough to make when you have guests – just increase the quantities. If you don’t have any yellow zucchinis use all green ones. If you find English mustard too strong use a milder one such as Dijon.

Mustard-Glazed Salmon with Zucchini Ribbons2 green zucchinis (courgettes)
2 yellow zucchinis (courgettes)
1 Tbs olive oil
3 medium tomatoes, cut into small dice or equivalent in baby tomatoes
1-2 Tbs chopped fresh basil (or parsley or coriander)
2 salmon fillets with skin, about 180g each
2 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp made English mustard
2 tsp olive oil, extra
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
To serve:
Extra virgin olive oil
Cracked Pepper

Wash and dry zucchinis and trim the ends. With a vegetable peeler cut them into ribbons. Cut about 4 on one side, then turn the zucchini and cut another 4 and keep going round till you’re left with the core which is mainly seeds, which you can throw away. Place ribbons in a covered microwave dish with 1 Tbs water and cook on High for 3 minutes then drain thoroughly.

Heat the tablespoonful of oil in a medium-sized frying pan and cook tomatoes, stirring, for 2-3 minutes or until slightly softened. Add basil, salt and pepper to taste and the zucchini ribbons. Mix gently then turn off heat.

Meanwhile heat the extra oil in a small non-stick frying pan. Season salmon and place skin side down in the pan and cook until skin is crispy. While skin is crisping, mix the brown sugar and mustard and spread over the salmon on the three exposed sides. When skin is crisp turn salmon and cook on the underside for a minute or so, then very briefly on the other two sides so they are nicely glazed. When salmon is almost ready reheat the zucchini and tomato for a minute or so. Serve salmon on a bed of zucchini ribbons, with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some cracked pepper.

Serves 2

Note: I used 8-10 baby tomatoes instead of bigger ones. There’s no need to peel the tomatoes, but you can if you prefer.

Barramundi with Romesco Sauce & Sweet Potatoes

Romesco Sauce goes well with pan fried fish, chicken, roast lamb or beef, or in sandwiches, as a change from mustard or mayonnaise. It’s quick and easy to make, keeps in the fridge for up to a week and can be frozen.

Here I served it with pan-fried barramundi fillets, cooked until the skin was nice and crispy and mashed sweet potatoes. A delicious flavour combination.

Romesco Sauce:
1 large roasted red pepper from a jar (about six large pieces)
1 garlic clove, crushedBarramundi with Romesco Sauce & Sweet Potatoes
½ cup slivered/flaked almonds or pine nuts
¼ cup tomato paste
2 Tbs chopped parsley
2 Tbs sherry or red wine vinegar
1 tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp cayenne pepper or chilli powder
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Other ingredients:
1 large or two smaller sweet potatoes
25g butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 pieces Barramundi (about 180g each), skin on
2 Tbs olive oil
Parsley leaves to garnish

Sauce: Place all ingredients except oil, salt and pepper in food processor and process briefly until chopped. Scrape down the sides then with the motor running slowly add the oil and process till chunky-smooth. Season to taste.

Peel sweet potato, cut into chunks, place in a saucepan with some salt. Cover with boiling water then simmer for 15 mins or until tender. Drain and mash with butter and salt and pepper to taste.

Place olive oil in a non-stick medium sized frying pan. Pat fish fillets dry with paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Place fish in the cold frying pan, skin side down, then turn on the heat and cook for 4 mins or until skin is crispy. Turn fish over and cook for 2-3 mins on the other side or until cooked through. Serve fish on a bed of mashed sweet potatoes, topped with a dollop of Romesco sauce and garnished with parsley.

Keep any leftover sauce in a covered container in the fridge for up to a week.

Serves 4

Israeli Baked Fish with Feta

Our cleaning lady in Israel was also called Linda. My Hebrew was pretty basic, but she spoke Italian and I speak Spanish so we communicated in a weird combination of all three. A certain amount was lost in translation, but we managed.

When Linda’s son had his Bah Mitzvah she invited us to the celebration. We got terribly lost on the way and as we pulled up at the address we had been given – a huge building in the centre of town – the navigator was feeling somewhat frazzled . The sound of a big party was wafting down the stairs so we ran up to find a room packed with over 200 guests seated at tables for 10. Linda was nowhere to be seen, so not wanting to make a point of having arrived late we spotted a couple of empty seats in the far corner and sat down. We were soon onto our second glass of wine and having a jolly time. Suddenly the band started to play, everyone stood up and in walked the bride and groom. “Holy Dooley” said Matthew, “wrong party.”

It was impossible to leave without shaking hands with the happy couple as they were standing at the only exit and probably thinking “who invited them?”  We eventually found our party at the other end of the building.

Linda gave me this easy recipe for a Mediterranean all in one fish dish which uses feta cheese to thicken the sauce. If you have more mouths to feed the onions and potatoes “pad it out”, as my mother would say, but I often leave one or both of them out. If preferred, serve potatoes, rice or Israeli couscous as a side dish.

This recipe makes a quick mid-week family dinner and is easy to halve – as I’ve done in the photo. In fact I don’t usually measure the ingredients, just do it by eye. It looks very colourful when you bring it to the table making it perfect for casual entertaining.

Israeli Baked Fish with Feta1.5 kg firm white fish fillets
Or 1kg fish and 500g peeled green prawns
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
300g feta cheese
300g black olives, stoned
12-15 baby onions (optional)
12-15 peeled baby potatoes (optional)
250g cherry tomatoes
½ cup olive oil
½ cup white wine or sherry
To serve:
3-4 Tbs chopped parsley, preferably flat-leafed
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 200°C . Cut fish and feta into 2-3 cm chunks. If using, cook onions and potatoes separately in boiling water for about 10 minutes, or until almost cooked.

Mix fish (and prawns) with salt, pepper and crushed garlic then spread over a greased lasagne-type dish. Evenly distribute the feta, olives and tomatoes, tucking them in between to make a pretty picture. If using, add the onions and potatoes. Move the prawns, if using, towards the top, so you can see them better. Drizzle with the wine or sherry and then the oil. Recipe can be made ahead to this stage and kept refrigerated for up to a few hours.

Bake for 25-40 minutes or until fish is cooked. Sprinkle with chopped parsley, drizzle with a little more oil and serve with crusty bread to mop up the juices.

Serves 6-8

Note: Potatoes and onions can be omitted. Olive stones can be left in if you are in a hurry and don’t have any pitted ones. Use green ones or pimento-stuffed if that’s all you have. If you refrigerated the dish before baking it will take about 10 minutes more to cook.

Smoked Trout Salad with Asian Dressing

One whole smoked trout is enough to make a light meal for two people. Whole hot-smoked trout are sold in supermarkets in Australia in vacuum packs. The use by date usually allows you can keep them for a week or two in the fridge before they need to be eaten. Handy for those occasions when you peer into the fridge thinking “What can I make for dinner with what I’ve got?”

Carefully remove the flesh in large chunks, discarding the skin and bones. I definitely have to wear my reading glasses to do this! Mix with freshly cooked pasta, adding a splash of cream and a few capers or chopped dill. Some halved baby tomatoes or rocket leaves are an optional addition.

Or make this Asian salad which is perfect for a hot summer’s day.

Smoked Trout Salad with Asian Dressing

Dressing:
3 spring onions or small shallots
1 clove garlic
½ small red chilli, seeded and chopped
2 Tbs roasted peanuts
1 Tbs fish sauce
1 Tbs tamarind paste (sold in jars)
3 Tbs water
3 Tbs palm sugar, chopped, or substitute brown sugar
Salad:
1 smoked trout, flesh removed, bones and skin discarded
2-3 cups small salad leaves
1 Tbs finely chopped lime (skin and flesh)
2 Tbs roasted peanuts, chopped
½ cup coriander leaves
Extra virgin olive oil

Dressing: Place onions, garlic, chilli and peanuts in food processor and process until you have a paste, stopping to scrape down the sides halfway. Place paste in a saucepan with remaining dressing ingredients. Simmer for 3-4 minutes then leave to cool. It should be thick and a bit sticky.

Meanwhile arrange salad leaves on two plates. Top with the trout pieces, the lime, peanuts and coriander leaves. Drizzle with some of the sauce, then drizzle a little olive oil around the edge of the plate. Any leftover dressing is delicious served with cold roast meats.

Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a starter

Note: some supermarkets sell smoked trout fillets without skin or bones.

Variation: to serve as finger food, separate the leaves of 2 heads of chicory (witloof or witlof) and top each with a piece of smoked trout, the remaining toppings and some of the dressing.