Thursday, February 16, 2006

wild barra

Thursday, I may have mentioned already, is my favourite day to cook. This is when the fridge groans with fresh produce and I have time to play. However of late various impediments have got in the way of anything other than fast and furious cooking.

Thursday again and I find myself with some fish and a hungry tummy. After last weeks high due to discussions about how I can get a decent kitchen, one with real benches, room for a table and a dishwasher – the preliminary plan and quote was presented today. I had been chrystal clear with the dynamic duo about my budget but the figure they gave me was at least 80% over my absolute limit. I felt like sitting down and weeping.

Instead I went out for a massage and come back hot, sticky and hypoglycaemic. But first, before I could contemplate cooking, something more important – a large brandy and soda because I had peaked at the quote again and felt downcast. Drinking, of course is never the answer, however in moderation it can fall under the heading of “first aid” sometimes.

Once revived I approached the fridge. Today’s challenge was a large chunk of fresh barramundi. This was the dinky-di version from the Northern Territory not a suss Asian import. Really, you have to have a good relationship with your fishmonger these days. I haven’t cooked barra before but found the lure of the wild version too good to pass up. I asked the kind mistress of fish how she liked to cook it. “Steam or bake it” she advised, “It gets a bit dry if you fry it”.

I am comfortable with baking fish – fillet or whole, scattered with various flavours and wrapped in baking paper. An ex had a penchant for wrapping in paper bark from trees lining his street – but on a major road the pollution makes me hesitate to follow suit.

But steaming is another kettle of, um, fish. I was thinking – ginger, spring onion and soy but finding only a wizened knob of ginger put paid to that idea. I love the flavour of kaffir lime leaves and whenever friends donate some to me from their trees, I put them in a ziploc bag and throw them in the freezer. In a dessert bowl I mixed about a tablespoon each of lime juice and fish sauce, added some finely sliced fresh chilli (little round, red - blow your mouth off kind that the florist sold me as a decorative bouquet), kaffir lime leaf and long slivers of spring onion. The barra was at least 5cm thick, so I scored some deep slashes and rolled it in the liquid in the bowl, then leaving it skin side down placed the lot in a bamboo steamer.

While the tasty fish steamed in its sauce, I julienned a lot of carrot and zucchini and added that to the matching steamer to be placed on top for the final five minutes.

Now timing those minutes was a bit hit and miss. Stephanie Alexander tells us that a fillet took about 8 minutes, but this monster was closer to 15.

The verdict. The flavour was sensational; the lime leaves and chilli made my taste buds sing. In fact the juice was so perfect, at first I sipped it off the spoon like a rich soup. The fish was dense but really moist and well mingled in the marinade. The skin though was a bit gelatinous, so I gave it to a grateful cat.

Fortunately I rinsed off the chilli first!

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Blogger Ed Charles said...

Wild barra beats farmed. And Ikea Kitchens beats the rest. I've been through the maths and the fact is that you can buy an install a globally sourced kitchen – with all the fancy German blum draws – for one-third or a quarter of the price of a local supplier. Sad, I know but just let me know if you want to know more – I did it myself. Believe me we are taliking less than $5,000 cf $20,000 or whatever your budget is. Or you can do it for much mch less depending what you want. You must not be fooled by these people.

1:10 am  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

I will follow you up on this. Part of my problem is an old house that needs chimneys taken out, floors redone, internal walls moved - unfortuately not just slotting a kitchen into a ready space.

8:38 am  

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