Not surprisingly, as a chef, I spend most of my time in the kitchen and there is nothing more important to me than my knife. It’s an extension of my hand and, in a way, it’s my paintbrush – my tool to create. But if it’s not sharp, it will under-perform and slow down my efficiency.
For this issue of Club Marine Magazine, I’ve detailed exactly when and how to sharpen your kitchen knives. There’s an amazing recipe for red emperor tossed with spaghetti. And for the salmon lovers out there, I’ve added three delicious ways to present this beautiful fish, which I’ll also prepare on selected episodes of Escape with ET on Channel 10.
Grilled salmon with cucumber ribbons and pickled carrot
Salmon is often raised on fish farms and has a rich flavour, with firm pink flesh. It can be cooked as cutlets, fillet portions, whole fish, or raw as sashimi. A mandolin (a cutting tool) is ideal for cutting the carrots and turning the cucumber into perfect thin ribbons.
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Combine the carrot strips, lime juice, vinegar, fish sauce, sugar, garlic and sliced chilli. Place into a glass bowl, cover with plastic film and chill for 12 hours.
Heat a heavy-based fry pan and add the olive oil and lime zest. Place the salmon in the pan and cook to your desired rareness, then remove and set aside.
Add the butter and lemon juice to the hot pan, place the salmon back in and spoon the mix all over the salmon. Season well and present on the strained carrots with several cucumber ribbons.
Smoked salmon on warm citrus potatoes with tomato, dill and capers
With its fabulous flavours and contrasting textures, this recipe goes equally well as a canapé or as a first course. The warmth of the potatoes enhances the flavour from the smoked salmon. My preferred choice of smoked salmon for this recipe is Huon Aquaculture Premium Tasmanian Smoked Salmon.
Keep the Kipfler potatoes whole and just scrub well. If using the chat potatoes, dice first into 10mm cubes. Steam the potatoes until fully cooked. When tender, strain and place the hot potatoes into a bowl, together with the onion and capers. (If using Kipfler potatoes, remove the skins by hand). Another great way to add flavour is to oil and barbecue the cooked whole potatoes until scorch marks appear on the sides. Then dice and continue as below.
Add half of the mayonnaise to the potatoes, lemon zest, juice, herbs and combine well. Use the remainder to sauce the plate later. Place the warm mix neatly onto the centre of a plate.
Top with two slices of gently folded salmon, sauce the plate and present with the salmon roe, capers and dill sprigs.* Huon smoked ocean trout works equally well in this recipe.
Pan-tossed red emperor with spaghetti and broccolini
The red emperor is a reef fish found in warm tropical waters. It has a beautiful pink body with matching red-pink fins. The cooked flesh is clean, firm and white, has a large flake and finishes with a delicious sweet flavour.
Preparation time: 30 minutes (to roast the pumpkin)
Boil a large pot of salted water and cook the spaghetti until just cooked. Remove, strain and set aside until required.
Heat a heavy-based fry pan on gentle heat and add the olive oil, anchovy fillets and garlic slices. Mash the anchovy with the back of a spoon until it almost dissolves in the pan. Add the sliced chilli and cook for a further minute.
Place the fish slices in the pan and toss gently until just cooked, and then remove to a side dish.
Turn up the heat a little and add the broccolini to the pan. Toss for one minute then add the pumpkin and semi-dried tomatoes.
Cook for 30 seconds then add in the spaghetti, fish slices and parsley. Season well and serve in warm, deep pasta bowls.
Salmon Yakitori with somen noodles and coriander
Somen noodles originated from Japan and are made from wheat flour, salt and water. They are very thin and take just two minutes to cook in boiling water. Yakitori is a classic Japanese sauce rich in flavour with a superb glossy finish. Yellow rock sugar can be purchased in most Asian grocery stores.
Preparation time: 10 minutes
To make the Yakitori sauce, combine the sake, mirin, dark soy and rock sugar in a heavy-based saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce down slightly and cook until it’s slightly glossy, then set aside until required.
Gently brush the salmon slices with a little of the Yakitori sauce.
Pre-heat a heavy based non-stick pan, add the olive oil and place in the salmon slices. Cook for 1 minute, brushing with the glaze, then gently turn and do the same to other side. When cooked to your desired rareness, remove and serve.
Toss the noodles with the coriander, seasoning and lemon oil. Place onto a plate, top with the salmon, a little drizzle of the sauce and finish with a sprinkle of sesame seeds.
Video note: watch Bart prepare his Salmon Yakitori on episode 15 of Channel 10’s popular marine lifestyle television show, Escape with ET on February 27.
There are many reasons why knives go blunt quickly – mostly, it’s misuse. So if you want to extend the performance of the knife, here are a few things you should do.
Use wooden or composite plastic cutting boards only. Keep your knife edges well away from glass, marble, ceramic and steel bench tops.
Never place your knives into a dishwasher as the heat and hot water can cause damage to wooden handles. The high acidity of the chemicals used can also cause pit marks and corrosion on the blades.
Do not store the knives loose in a drawer. It’s very dangerous and blades lose their sharpness quickly by bumping and sliding into each other.
Use the correct knife for the task at hand. Never attempt to chop a raw bone with a cook’s or chef’s knife. Use a meat cleaver and a heavy wooden cutting board.
Get in the habit of sharpening your knives with a sharpening steel at least once a week. That way, they should remain sharp and perform at their best.
When cleaning knives, wash with gentle detergent, rinse under clean water and dry immediately. Never drop or place a knife in a sink filled with soapy water. It can cause a very nasty surprise for the unsuspecting person who puts their hands in the sink.
There is a good selection of options available for the safe storage of knives. Metal and wooden knife blocks, magnetic strips, chef’s knife rolls, slotted wall hangers and individual edge guards can all be purchased in kitchenware stores.
Finally, remember, it is a mortal sin to use a knife to open cans in the manner of a screwdriver! Select the most appropriate knife for the task at hand. Good knives do not come cheap, so use them wisely, give them respect and they’ll reward you with years of service.
When a steel is no longer effective on a knife, it’s time to sharpen it using an abrasive stone. My preference is a Japanese combination whetstone. These offer two grits on one stone. A medium 1000 grit for initial sharpening and an ultra-fine 6000 grit for finishing result in a highly-polished edge. The coarser grit is used to remove the worn shoulders of over-thick edges, and the finer grit is used to sharpen the final cutting edge.
The Japanese stones need to be lubricated with clean water. In fact, they should be soaked for a while prior to the sharpening procedure to be most effective. Then, they should be kept wet as you sharpen the knives. I find these stones are the best way to sharpen a knife; they reveal a new layer of cutting abrasive as the stone grit builds up and washes away.
To use the stone, place a small, damp towel onto a bench top and place the whetstone on it, pointing left to right with the coarser grit facing up. The cloth will prevent it from moving and stop the water from running over the bench.
Hold the knife firmly with two hands and run the blade from heel to tip at 15 degrees to the stone all the way from edge to edge. Grind one side for 2 minutes, then turn and do the same for another 2 minutes, remembering to maintain the 15-degree angle.
Turn the whetstone over to the ultra-fine grit and repeat the procedure to remove the burr and to polish the edge.
Lastly, run both sides of the blade across a sharpening steel at 20 degrees several times with even pressure. Ten or twelve long, even strokes on both sides are the key to success.