Thursday, February 23, 2006

fish fest continues

I am always amazed at how intimidated people are of fish. I hear it all the time ‘I love seafood, I just don’t know how to cook it'. Sure fresh flesh requires more thought than nuking a frozen fish finger – but in reality only slightly more effort.

Today’s delight is sardines. These are fillets, not the whole shaboodle. My favourite propagandist does a mean whole sardine dish – the cavity is stuffed with lemon thyme (or often just ordinary thyme and some lemon) and marinated for a couple of hours in a combo of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, lemon rind and cumin. The fish is then grilled on a cast iron grill. I swear they taste even better each time he makes it.

With these flavours in mind, I adapted it for fillets.

Sardines so easy anyone can do it

Combine: 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and half as much lemon juice. Add 1 tsp of ground cumin, another of grated lemon zest, 2 cloves of garlic and some freshly ground salt and pepper. Actually I used limes as I was out of lemons. I had no thyme, but with heaps of rosemary in the garden I figured that this was a strong enough herb to meet the robustness of the fish. Strew in your herb of choice and let marinate for an hour or 2. In this case it was how long it takes to get through a delicious sauv blanc with my neighbour.

Visitor dispatched and fish ready to be cooked, I was planning on teaming it with potatoes and salad. To speed things up I made some kumara and potato roesti. Necesity is the mother on invention. This is the basis of my cooking – start with an idea and adapt according to available ingredients, time and energy. I had one lame spud and the wine demanded I have a little more starch for ballast, hence the addition of sweet potato.

Kumara and potato roesti
Grate a potato and squeeze it out in handfuls over the sink to get rid of excess juice. Do likewise with a kumara (red skinned, white flesh sweet potato that can make a homesick kiwi cry). Don’t let the grated kumara sit unattended for long or it will oxidise and go an unappealing grey colour. Combine in a bowl with some olive oil (enough to lightly coat, but not so much it swims), salt, pepper and fresh rosemary. Cook in a medium-hot fry pan – either in 2 inch discs or as one big cake. When brown and crispy turn over to cook the other side.

When the roesti are almost done, slip the sardines under a hot grill. They are skinny little beasts and already half cooked by the marinade so they need barely 2 minutes a side. Serve with a rocket/tomato salad or what ever takes your fancy.

The fish has the tang of citrus and a slight under current of cumin. Somewhere in between is the rosemary and garlic.

It is all far too easy.

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Anonymous kitchen hand said...

Absolutely wonderful. And always adapt - that is my motto.

9:14 pm  

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