Finally I have returned to college after an unexpected break. I missed the first lesson of Seafood as I was in hospital, but luckily I am able to do a make up class in a few weeks, which is a relief as the first class of Seafood is a foundation lesson to the block. The second lesson had such recipes as, Trio of Salmon, Fish and Fennel Pie, Prawn cutlets (yum) and Mussel and Prawn Chowder (double yum), but none of that arrived in the kitchen on the day….instead the ingredients for lesson three was delivered….so change of plan (which chef said is an everyday event in a restaurant kitchen). Lesson three was, Octopus in Red Wine, Calamari and Stir-fried Vegetables, Ceviche of Snapper and Oysters – Natural & Kilpatrick.
As always I was impressed with the quality and freshness of the ingredients we were provided to work with and with the generosity of spirit (and at times patience) of our teaching Chef. As we are required to know how to handle and prepare Seafood, we need to learn how to take the whole animal and break it down for the dish we are making. We started with the slow braised Octopus in Red Wine and today we used baby, uncleaned, octopus, which are very easy to prepare. Cut the head off under the eye line, poke the beak through and remove and cut the body in half. If you want to use the head, which you can, (and we did), it’s a messy but easy job (I suggest food handling gloves). Hook out the contents of the head, which includes the ink sac (hence the gloves). Wash and cut to open flat.
With the ingredients for the braise and a cartouche made, the octopus was left to gently simmer on the stove top under the cartouche over a low heat for just over an hour. The cartouche ensures the liquid doesn’t evaporate too quickly, important as not only is the liquid needed to cook the octopus but also forms the dressing for the finished dish. The octopus was served with a salad of mesclun leaves, green beans, tomatoes, yellow capsicum and parsley. The garnish was finely finely julienned yellow capsicum and a cheek of lemon.
Next we turned our hand to the Calamari….where as in the recipe I provided below asks for cleaned whole calamari, we had to clean ours! This entailed cutting off the tentacles, which were retained for the dish, pulling the head out (hopefully with ink sac attached), removing the wings and skin, removing the cartilage and any remaining intestinal matter. Once was calamari was cleaned and opened (sliced on the side which has the fold) it was very gently scored. The calamari was cut in random diamond shapes and cooked as per the recipe provided.
The last two dishes were more about the technique of handling the seafood than the cooking, which was minimal. First we needed to fillet the snapper for the ceviche. A couple of tricks here are; once you remove the fillet on the first side and turn the fish over to remove the second fillet, allow the head of the fish to hang off the board, this will allow easier access to remove the second fillet. Also, remove the skin before you start to pin bone – the bones stick to the skin (who knew?)! It was then a simple task of curing the diced fillet and adding it to the brunoise onion, chilli & corriander.
Chef decided to throw back to the 80’s and serve the ceviche in an avocado ‘rose’. Please see below Chef’s finished dish (beautiful) and my poor attempt…not so much a rose as…I don’t know what I would call it!. To be fair, Chef said he has made 100s of these and I was pressed for time, so the required finesse is clearly lacking. Regardless of how mine turned out, I have tried to show you the idea….you need to slice the avocado thinly (but not overly) and then make a long open tail of the slices (mine was not open enough) then roll it in on itself. Move it to the plate with a fish slice before filling with the ceviche.
Last were the oysters. I love them as they are…I don’t require any adornment apart from seasoning and a squeeze of lemon. The real lesson here was how to shuck an oyster. We had two different types, Sydney Rock (my oyster of choice) and Pacific. Chef showed us how to ‘attempt’ shucking without stabbing ourselves….these little devils are hard to open! First wash your oysters to remove any grit, then fold a tea-towel across your bench as this forms a ledge on which to rest the oyster and provides a protective cover for your other hand which holds the oyster in place. Starting at the base, insert the oyster knife and push in using all your weight, when you feel the knife has broken through start to wiggle the knife to release the foot. Your reward for this hard work hopefully is a beautiful oyster, which you need to bathe in salted water using a pastry brush to remove any grit, loosen with the flat edge of a bread and butter knife and flip over to serve ( for appearances sake).
I am so glad I am back and can’t believe I only have one more class for the year, followed by three weeks of assessments. I still haven’t secured a placement, but now I am returned to health I can start working on that again. Hope to see you next week!
Calamari & stir fried Vegetables with Chilli and Lime dressing
A beautifully colourful, tasty and quick dish…nice for a light summer lunch with a crisp white wine.
- .5 Cleaned whole Calamari
- 3 Limes (fresh)
- .25 bunch Corriander (Cilantro)
- 1 Small red chilli
- 30 mls Fish Sauce
- 30 gms Palm Sugar (can substitute white sugar)
- 100 gms Snow peas
- 100 gms Bean Sprouts
- 100 gms Zucchini (Courgette)
- .5 Red Capsicum (Bell Pepper)
- .5 Yellow Capscium
- .25 tsp Chinese Five Spice
- 1 tsp Light Soy sauce
- 1 tblsp Sesame oil
- 50 mls Peanut oil
Cut the vegetables (snow peas, capsicums and zucchini) into medium sized uniform shapes and deseed and finely chop the chilli.
Make dressing by grating the palm sugar and mixing with approximately 30 mls of lime juice and the fish sauce.
Cut two lime cheeks for garnish and takes corriander leaves from the stem.
Heat wok with half the peanut and sesame oil until smoking, add the vegetables , soy sauce and five spice. Sauté until cooked but still crunchy Remove from heat & place in a bowl.
Dry the calamari and cut down crease side to open up. Gently score the inside flesh being careful not to cut through, lightly season.
Add remaining oil to the wok and bring it back to high heat. Add calamari and chilli keep moving so as it cooks/browns but doesn’t stew.
Add the dressing, taste for seasoning and adjust as required. Return the vegetables to the wok and toss quickly.
Serve on a large platter and garnish with corriander leaves and a lime cheeks.