Even the most dedicated host will admit that summer has a way of changing our priorities. At some point, we begin to realise that our time outside has become much more important than our time behind the stove. For this summer issue of Club Marine Magazine, I’ve chosen dishes that prove you don’t have to sacrifice your tan to create dishes that will delight your dinner guests.
My super yellow Thai curry prawn dish makes use of the best prawns for summer. And if you have any trouble selecting prawns, I’ve listed information to help you select the best for your eating pleasure.
One of the quickest recipes in this issue is also one that will really impress your friends: drunken mussels. There’s also a quick guide to mussel preparation and some tips on what to look for when buying mussels in the first place.
If it’s fish you like, I’ve provided a helpful way to determine if what you’re buying is truly fresh, along with a barramundi recipe that is absolutely delicious.
Lastly, get the kids in the kitchen and get them to help prepare my easy fried rice recipe. It’s quick, healthy and simple – and they’ll all love it.
Drunken mussels in beer with garlic and thyme
Mussels are some of our cheapest and tastiest ocean treats and they cook in a matter of minutes. For this recipe, allow a full kilo of fresh mussels for four people and cook the mussels on the day of purchase.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Prepare the fresh mussels by removing the beard and scrubbing away any foreign particles on the shells. Give them a quick rinse in cold water and allow them to drain in a colander.
Gently heat a large, deep saucepan and add the olive oil. Add the sliced garlic, chilli and thyme sprigs. Stir on gentle heat for 30 seconds until fragrant.
Pour in the beer, then add the pepper and the mussels. Boil, then cover with a lid and steam for four minutes. Toss them about occasionally to ensure even cooking. Discard any mussels that have not opened.
Toss through the parsley, check the seasoning levels and serve in deep bowls.
Inexpensive and delicious, low in fat and high in protein, these treasures from our ocean should be on everyone’s table. Mussels can be cooked in a flash and they’ll take up almost any flavours that we wish to add.
Ninety five per cent of the mussels we consume are farmed and take around two years to harvest. The most common mussels available are blue or black. Mussels must be alive when purchased and can be refrigerated for up to two days.
To clean: place the mussels in a bowl or sink of clean, cold water and rinse well. Grab and pull the beard firmly down and discard (the beards are used to attach themselves to culture ropes or bags). Do this process just prior to cooking them, and place them into a colander and allow to drain.
To steam: use a large pan with a tight-fitting lid, adding some liquid to assist with steaming and flavour. You can create extra flavours by adding diced vegetables, spices and herbs. It should take just four minutes for fresh mussels to open. Discard any unopened mussels.
Crispy-skin barramundi and Laksa broth
This recipe looks fantastic, tastes amazing and it’s very quick to prepare. The ginger works really well with the Laksa broth and the crispy skin is an absolute treat.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Bring the water to a boil and add the Laksa paste, stir well and set aside until required.
Rinse and place the cannellini beans into a food processor and blend until smooth. Place into a small saucepan and heat gently.
Crush the hot cooked green peas, season well and keep warm.
Place the ginger threads onto the flesh side of the fish and season. Heat a heavy-based frypan, add the olive oil and place the fish in, skin side down.
Hold down for 30 seconds using a pallet knife. Grill the skin side for four minutes, until golden and crisp, then turn and cook for a further three minutes.
Place a circle of bean puree onto a warmed plate. Centre the plate with a portion of crushed green peas and gently pour some of the Laksa broth around the bean puree.
Top with the crisp barramundi and serve immediately.
Why do we eat fresh fish? Because it tastes great and it’s good for us. The key word here is ‘fresh’. And your best guide would be your local fishmonger. Get to know them well and be prepared to ask their advice on what’s best on any given day. A good fishmonger is indispensible when you are looking for someone to help and guide you in the right direction of freshness, flavours and cooking techniques.
The fresh test
The best way to assess the freshness of a fish is to use your senses. If you can, smell the fish. It should have the clean smell of the ocean. Look at its eyes; they should be clear and bulging. Its gills should be bright red (not brownish). The skin should be glossy and firm when squeezed.
Temperature control is the key point here, so keep your fish chilled with ice packs in the car on your way home from the market. Have your fish cleaned by the fishmonger at the time of purchase, or do it as soon as you get home. Keep it covered in the fridge with cling film until you are ready to cook it. Fillets with dark bloodlines should be separated with baking paper or cling film to reduce the ‘staining’ of other fillets.
I prefer to flame-grill fish cuts that are firm and not too delicate as they can burn and dry out quickly. Recommended cuts for flame-grilling would be dense fish, like tuna and swordfish. Also, cutlets of whole fish with a centre bone work very well. Baste your fish with marinades or oils to add moisture and flavour during the cooking process.
Grilling fillets on a hot-plate with the skin on helps to protect the delicate nature of the fish flesh. The skin of some fish is delicious when grilled crisp.
Cut slits into the sides of whole fish to help the heat penetrate evenly and cook it quickly. A hooded barbecue will work like an oven and give all-around heat.
Follow these basic tips and you’ll have beautifully cooked fish every time.
Preparation of calamari
You can ask your fishmonger to clean your purchased calamari, but it’s good to know how to do it yourself, too. It’s quite easy after you have done several and you know the steps. And it’s less expensive to purchase them whole and to clean them yourself.
For successful fish filleting, we need a flexible, non-slip fillet knife and a heavy-based cutting board. Take your time and don’t rush, so you feel quite safe with the technique and you minimise flesh wastage.
Stir-fried beef with fried rice
Nearly everyone loves fried rice and here’s a recipe that takes no time at all to produce. The vegetarians can have the rice with no meat and maybe add tofu or sautéed mushrooms.
Preparation time: 12 minutes
Heat a wok and add the two tablespoons of sesame oil. Add the Nasi Goreng paste and stir until fragrant. Stir in the cooked cold rice and toss through until all the grains are evenly coated.
Add in the cucumber, peas, carrot and egg strips then toss well until all combined. Remove from the wok and keep warm until required.
Heat your empty wok again and add the sambal olek to the sesame oil. Add the sliced onions and fry for one minute. Add the sliced beef and stir-fry on high for 30 seconds.
Place the fried rice into a bowl, top with the stir-fried beef and onions, and finish with coriander.
How to pick your prawn
There are many species of prawns available on the market, but the three most popular on our kitchen tables are …
Banana prawns are mostly large and have a smooth shell with a light yellow colour. Other colours that they can be marked with are blue and red. Banana prawns have a beautiful, rich and sweet flavour.
The southern king
Southern king prawns are probably the largest prawn available on the market, with a reddish brown/yellow striped colour and a delicate, soft textured flesh.
Tiger prawns are also tagged under various names and have black and white stripes on their bellies. The flesh of the tiger prawn is firm and delicious.
When a recipe refers to a ‘green prawn’, it simply means it’s raw. Green prawns can come fresh (whole), fresh (peeled), whole (frozen), frozen (peeled) and deveined.
When buying fresh, uncleaned prawns, clean and cook them on the day of purchase. Never buy a green prawn with black heads or one leaking black juices.
In regards to cooked prawns, never re-cook them. Simply clean and serve chilled. All frozen prawns should only be thawed out in the fridge.
Yellow Thai curry prawns
This is a super-quick and very popular dish with strong, bold flavours that will please all. The yellow curry paste is spicy and rich, yet mild in chilli, so even the kids will love it. Serve this with steaming hot rice and a side dish of sambal olek.
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Gently warm a wok or saucepan and stir-fry the olive oil and curry paste until fragrant. Stir through the kaffir lime leaves along with the coconut milk, cooked potato, water, fish sauce and palm sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil and combine well.
Add in the prawns and simmer for several minutes until cooked through. Then stir in the whole tomatoes, sliced chillies and roughly chopped coriander leaves. Combine together and present in a deep bowl with a spoon and fork.