Sri Lankan Squid Curry

My friend Doug and his wife had a holiday in Sri Lanka last month. The gourmet food tour was organised by a company called Intrepid Travel and they had a fantastic time tasting delicious local food at restaurants, cafes and private homes, as well as visiting food markets and factories.

This Squid Curry was one of Doug’s favourite dishes so he sent me the recipe and I decided to give it a try. I left out the pandanus leaf because the Asian supermarket I use only sells it in huge bunches, but I did buy the curry leaves. The ones I didn’t use will keep for next time. I added a touch of sweetness with the palm sugar and used spring onion as a garnish because I didn’t have any coriander.

The squid itself doesn’t have much flavour but the overall result makes a nice change from the usual chicken, beef or pork curries.

1 kg squid tubes, cleaned (I used a frozen pack)
3 Tbs vegetable oil
10 dried curry leaves (I used a few more than that)
1 tsp each whole mustard and whole fennel seeds
A square inch piece of Pandanus leaf (optional)
1 Tbs grated or finely chopped fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Half a large onion or 3-4 French shallots
1 tsp each ground cumin, coriander and turmeric
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
1 x 400ml can coconut milk or cream
Ground cayenne pepper and salt to taste
2-3 tsp palm sugar or brown sugar
Garnish:
Chopped fresh coriander or thinly sliced spring onion

Cut squid into bite-sized chunks and score any thicker pieces. Mine were all the same thickness so I didn’t need to do this. Wash and dry with paper towels. Heat oil in a wok or large pan over high heat. When very hot add the curry leaves, pandanus leaf and whole seeds and stir for a few seconds then add the ginger, garlic and onion. Stir fry until starting to brown then add the ground spices and tomatoes. Stir-fry for a few minutes.

Add coconut milk and mix well. Simmer to reduce slightly, season with cayenne pepper and salt. Can be prepared ahead of time to this point. Mix in squid and cook for a few minutes until tender. This won’t take long and if you overcook it the squid will be rubbery.

Garnish with coriander or spring onion and serve with steamed rice.

Serves 4-6

Bruschetta with Goujons of Fish, Peaches & Buttermilk Dressing

This recipe was inspired by a bruschetta we ordered while we were in Chicago last year. I remember it was topped with homemade fish fingers – otherwise known as “goujons”- peaches, tomatoes, cucumber and a creamy dressing. The rest I had to invent.

The tomato is often thought of as a vegetable, but in fact it’s a fruit. If you don’t like fruit with savoury dishes, you won’t like this recipe, but I love the fresh flavour combination. If liked leave out the bread. Leftover dressing is delicious served with any salad.

4 slices of baguette, cut on the diagonal (I used sourdough)
Olive oil to brush onto the bread
500g white fish fillets (I used Basa) cut into fat fingers
3 Tbs plain flour, seasoned
1 egg, beaten
1 cup or more breadcrumbs (preferably Panko)
1 small cucumber, sliced on the diagonal
A few cherry tomatoes, halved
2 peaches or nectarines, peeled and sliced
2 Tbs olive oil
25g butter
Fresh herbs such as mint or coriander
Buttermilk Dressing:
¼ cup mayonnaise (preferably homemade)
3 Tbs buttermilk
1 Tbs chopped chives
2 tsp cider vinegar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, crushed

Coat fish fingers (goujons) with the seasoned flour, shaking off the excess, then with the beaten egg and lastly with the breadcrumbs. Heat oil and butter in a large frying pan and fry them for 2-3 minutes each side, or until golden brown and cooked through. Drain on paper towels.

Place all ingredients for dressing in a jar with a lid and shake well. Brush the bread on both sides with the olive oil (if liked mix in a crushed clove of garlic) then grill till golden. I toasted mine in an electric sandwich press which works well and avoids having to turn on the grill.

Arrange toasted bread slices on 4 plates. Arrange the fish on top then garnish with the cucumber, the tomato halves and the peach or nectarine slices. Drizzle with some of the dressing and garnish with fresh herbs.

Makes 4 bruschettas

Salmon en Croute with Dill Mayonnaise

This recipe takes a little longer than most of the recipes on this blog, but it’s really not that complicated and an elegant way to feed a crowd.

I bought the salmon at Costco because their salmon never has any bones in it. If there’s one job I really hate it’s removing salmon bones with tweezers. In Australia puff pastry comes in pre-rolled squares which measure about 25x25cm. If you live somewhere it’s sold in a block you will need enough to roll out to a rectangle which is a bit bigger than double the size of the salmon.

1 side of salmon (skinless and boneless)
Puff pastry (I used three 25x25cm squares)
2 leeks
1 bunch spinach
50g butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 egg, beaten
To serve:
1 cup mayonnaise (preferably home made)
1 bunch dill, stalks discarded

Clean leeks to remove any grit then chop finely, using all the white part and some of the green. Heat half the butter in a frying pan and cook leeks gently, stirring often, for 10 minutes or until soft but not brown. Add cream and cook until evaporated. Season to taste. Wash spinach and remove stalks. Place in a large saucepan with just the water clinging to the leaves and cook, stirring, until wilted right down. Place in food processor with the remaining butter and process to a slightly chunky puree. Season to taste. Prepare the leeks and spinach the day before and keep refrigerated.

Roll out pastry. I used three ready-rolled squares. Two squares stuck together and one square cut in half and stuck together lengthwise then joined onto the two big squares along the long side. Roll over the joins with a rolling pin so they stick. If using a block of pastry you will need to roll it out thinly to a rectangle slightly larger than twice the size of the salmon. Place pastry on a lightly greased baking tray – I used the shallow oven tray which came with my oven. If liked, line the tray first with baking paper.

Spread the leek mixture down the centre of the pastry in the shape of the salmon, then lay the salmon on top and cover with the spinach. Make sure the salmon is covered entirely by the leeks on the bottom and the spinach on the top. Fold in the two ends of the pastry which should be 2-3 cm longer than the fish. Cut diagonal slashes into the pastry on the two sides as far as the salmon, then bring them in alternately to create a pseudo-plait, pinching the ends together. If it doesn’t look like a work of art, don’t worry it will look amazing when it’s cooked. If liked, arrange a row of diamond shapes, made from pastry off-cuts, down the join in the middle, to cover any imperfections. Refrigerate until serving time.

Preheat oven to 180°C. Brush pastry all over with beaten egg. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until well-browned. Place mayonnaise and dill in food processor and process until smooth.

Serve slices of the salmon pie with the dill mayonnaise. New potatoes and a steamed green vegetable such as broccolini, asparagus, green beans or snow peas go well with this.

Serves 8-10

Salmon Tartare with Orange and Passionfruit

This starter, adapted from a recipe I found for smoked salmon, is delicious and light. If you’re a fan of sushi you won’t be put off by the idea of eating uncooked salmon. It really doesn’t taste raw, but you could always use smoked salmon or Gravlax instead of the raw fish.

The flavour combination of salmon, orange and passionfruit is a winner.

About 750g fresh salmon or salmon trout
2 cups fresh or bottled orange juice
1 tsp honey
Pulp from 4-5 passionfruit
2-3 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh dill
Pink Peppercorns

Remove skin then cut salmon into small bite-sized pieces. Refrigerate while you make the sauce. Sieve the orange juice to remove any pulp. You will need 2 cups after sieving. Place in a saucepan and boil to reduce to about two thirds of a cup. Place in a jam jar with the honey, passionfruit pulp, oil and seasonings and shake well. Adjust the amount of passionfruit pulp and oil to taste.

Mix half the dressing with the salmon then divide among the plates in a pile in the middle. Spoon additional dressing over and around the salmon then garnish with the dill and pink peppercorns. You may not need all the dressing.

Serves 6

Variation: to make a more substantial dish add some diced avocado and serve on a bed of lettuce or rocket leaves.

Note: so-called pink peppercorns are not peppercorns at all. They have a very special, slightly perfumed flavour and can be found in specialty cook shops such as The Essential Ingredient. They go well with any salmon dish.

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.