Seafood with sizzle

Bart Beek | VOLUME 22, ISSUE 5

Many people shy away from preparing and cooking seafood. With a little guidance and practice, your confidence will grow.

Clear eyes and black pupils, skin that is firm and lustrous with tight scales, beautiful bright red gills and the smell of the ocean… So reads the standard description from serious seafood cookbooks on the common qualities of the freshest seafood. But despite such enticing descriptions, many people shy away from preparing and cooking seafood. Confronted with intimidating tasks like scaling, cleaning, filleting, skinning of your prized catch (or purchase), how do you even get started?

The answer is simple: ask your friendly fishmonger for advice, or get them to do it for you. With a little guidance and practice, your confidence will grow, and so, too, will your repertoire of brilliant seafood recipes.

In this issue, I have provided six recipes which are part of a series that I have just finished filming for Escape with ET, which appears Saturdays on Channel 10 starting October 27. The recipes are simple and well-suited for a family get-together, or can be jazzed up a little and presented at special dinner parties.

All these simple, but exciting recipes were cooked on a barbecue using a grill plate, hot plate, wok burner or simply roasted on the barbecue with the hood down. I have also listed some of my favourite wine matches that will work beautifully for each.

I’ll be presenting all of these recipes live on stage at the Club Marine Mandurah Boat Show from Thursday 11 to Sunday, October 14 2007, so if you’re there, come over and say hello to my son Kristian and me!

Grilled Snapper with Pickled Zucchini

Snapper is very popular with diners for its moist, firm flesh and mild flavour. Most cooking techniques apply to snapper as it can be baked whole, barbecued or poached. When cooking snapper with skin on, as in this recipe, cook the skin side first until crisp and golden, then carefully turn and finish the other side.

This recipe’s take on raw zucchini will surprise your friends with its vibrant flavours. Select good quality white wine vinegar and slice the zucchini as thinly as possible.

4 snapper fillets, 160g each, with skin on

90 ml Jingilli extra virgin olive oil

2 medium zucchini, washed and cut into long, thin strips

½ bunch basil leaves, picked and torn

30 ml white wine vinegar

1 small lemon

2 small tomatoes, diced

freshly cracked black pepper & sea salt flakes, to taste

Carefully cut the zucchini into long, thin strips and place into a glass bowl. Add the torn basil leaves, white wine vinegar, 50 ml olive oil and salt and pepper. Let this mixture marinate while you prepare the snapper.

Salt and pepper the snapper well. Place 20 ml of olive oil onto a preheated barbecue hot plate and grill the fish on both sides.

Divide the marinated zucchini among four plates and top with the snapper. Combine diced tomatoes, lemon zest, juice and olive oil, and drizzle the mixture around the plate. Serves 4

Abalone and Ramen Noodle Broth

Abalone is often referred to as “marine snails” and belongs to the same group as squid, octopus, clams and scallops. They are expensive, but their delicate flavour makes them worth the effort. Like nearly all seafood, they can become tough if overcooked. In this recipe, I cook the abalone slices for just 30 seconds.

360g cooked ramen noodles

500g bean sprouts, with trimmed ends

2 cups chopped coriander leaves

4 spring onions, cut at an angle

100g abalone, sliced 3 mm thin

50 ml Jingilli extra virgin olive oil

1 clove crushed garlic

2 Tblsp light soy sauce

6 Tblsp oyster sauce


6 cups light chicken stock

4 Tblsp sesame seed oil

2 Tblsp grated palm sugar

3 Tblsp fish sauce

1 cup small, whole fresh shiitake mushrooms

Boil together the chicken stock, sesame oil, palm sugar, shiitake mushrooms and the fish sauce. Taste for flavour balance and keep hot until required.

Slice the abalone as thinly as possible, place between plastic sheets and gently flatten out. Heat a frypan, lightly oil and sear the abalone for 30 seconds only. Remove from the heat and toss in the garlic and soy and stir for 10 seconds.

Place the warmed ramen noodles into hot serving bowls and top with the bean sprouts, coriander leaves and the spring onions. Place the abalone on top, ladle over the broth, and finish with a swirl of the oyster sauce. Serves 6

Baked Whole Baby Snapper with Moroccan Spices

This is a simple and fabulous way of presenting whole snapper. Plate-size whole fish would weigh around 500g to 600g and cooking times will be about 16 to 20 minutes. I find the easiest method of cooking is on a barbecue with a roasting hood. The aluminium foil locks in all the moisture and, when fully cooked and opened at the table, the aroma is simply beautiful.

The ‘Marrakech Magic’ from the Screaming Seeds Spice company is a wonderfully balanced blend of fragrant spices that can be found in most quality fine food stores throughout Australia and is well worth looking out for.

50 ml extra virgin olive oil

1 lemon, zest and slices

¼ bunch lemon thyme

½ small red onion, sliced

1 tomato, sliced

1 × 400g whole baby snapper

1 Tblsp Marrakech Magic Screaming Seeds Spice Mix

½ cup chopped continental parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

Using a gilled, gutted and scaled whole snapper, wash the cavity well and dry with kitchen paper. Using a sharp knife, score the top of the fish and season the inside well with the Screaming Seeds spice mix.

Lay a sheet of aluminium foil on a table and line with baking paper. Drizzle the olive oil onto one half of the paper and top with the lemon zest, herbs, onion and tomato slices. Place the snapper on top of the mix and carefully fold the aluminium foil into a square, adding a little salt and olive oil before wrapping up the parcel. Place into a preheated (180°C) barbecue, close the roasting hood and bake for 18 minutes or until fully cooked.

Carefully remove, transfer to a serving plate and present with a green salad and some crusty bread. Serves 2

Grilled Flathead in Red Curry Glaze

The tails of the flathead are considered to be the best part of the fish. Although they can become quite dry when grilled, this recipe ensures that the flathead stays moist, tender and sweet. The curry is simple, but flavoursome, and will take only 10 minutes to make. It can be served with steamed ginger-infused rice, and can be frozen quite successfully.

600g flathead tails, cut into 8cm pieces

30 ml Jingilli extra virgin olive oil

300 ml coconut cream

4 Tblsp Thai-style red curry paste

2 medium brown onions, halved and sliced 5ml thick

4 Tblsp fish sauce

1 Tblsp palm sugar, thinly shaved

1 small birds eye red chilli, seeds removed and finely sliced (optional)

1 bunch Thai basil

1 lime

½ bunch Coriander

Heat a wok with half of the coconut cream (taken from the top of the tin) until separation occurs. It should look split at the edges of the wok and the whiteness almost faded. The bouquet of roasted coconut should be prevalent. Add the red curry paste, combine and fry until fragrant (30 seconds).

Add the sliced onions and stir-fry quickly for 1 minute. Add the lime zest and juice, palm sugar, fish sauce, chilli (optional) and remainder of the coconut cream. Finish by adding the torn Thai basil leaves and roughly chopped coriander.

Grill the flathead pieces on a preheated oiled hotplate and place into serving bowls. Ladle a portion of the curry over the fish and top with a little extra coconut cream and coriander. Serves 4

Grilled Yellow Tail Kingfish Cutlets with a Spicy Asian Salsa

Kingfish is a great eating fish with a small amount of easily-removed bones, medium flavour and white flesh. It can dry out a little when cooked, so baste it with a good extra virgin olive oil during the cooking process and do not overcook.

Cutlets are less expensive than fillets and will hold a little more moisture because of the centre bone. The salsa in this recipe has a variety of textures and an Asian/Mediterranean flavour that goes very well with the kingfish. For a main course portion, select cutlets that weigh at least 260g to allow for bone wastage.

60 ml extra virgin olive oil

6 portions yellow tail kingfish cutlets


6 button mushrooms, cut into 1 cm dice

½ teaspoon Sambal Olek

1 Tblsp grated ginger

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 Tblsp shaved palm sugar

2 Tblsp sesame seed oil

2 Tblsp extra virgin olive oil

3 Tblsp red wine vinegar

3 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced

3 green onions (shallots), sliced into 5mm pieces

½ cup coriander, chopped salt and pepper to taste

Brush the fish cutlets with the extra virgin olive oil, season and chill until required.

Combine the mushrooms with the remaining ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Check the salt and pepper and hold until required.

Barbecue the cutlets for several minutes on both sides and present with the salsa. Serves 6.

Coral Trout with Wasabi Crust and Green Tea Noodles

The aptly-named coral trout is found in the waters around coral reefs. They have firmly textured, sweet flesh and are delicious when grilled on the barbecue, poached or baked whole. Their skin colour varies between red, orange, pink and tan and all have small blue dots covering their entire upper body.

The asking price for coral trout is on the high side, but they are a beautifully flavoured fish. In this recipe, I flavour the fillets with wasabi and use eggs to create a crisp coating, and then present them with a green tea noodle salad.

4 portions of coral trout fillets, cut into halves

2 eggs

2 tsp wasabi paste

Vegetables & Green Tea Noodles:

4 cups Hakubaku organic green tean oodles, cooked

4 cups shredded iceberg lettuce

1 cup diced tomato

1 cup sliced cucumber

1 cup bean sprouts

1 cup coarsely chopped coriander ½ cup grated carrot


3 Tblsp fresh lime juice

3 Tblsp light soy sauce

3 Tblsp extra virgin olive oil 1 tsp sesame seed oil

1 tsp Sambal Olek

1 Tblsp freshly grated ginger

Beat together the eggs and wasabi and set aside. Add the coral trout, combine well, cover and refrigerate until required.

Place all the vegetable and noodle ingredients into a large mixing bowl and, using a gentle hand, combine well. Prepare the dressing by combining all the ingredients well. Place half the dressing into the salad, coating well.

Using a carving fork, place it into the noodle mix and turn gently until you have formed a neat, round stack around the tongs. Place the small stack of noodles in the middle of a serving plate.

Heat the barbecue plate, add a little extra virgin olive oil, and quickly grill the fish pieces on both sides. Place on the side of the noodle mix and cover noodles well with the dressing mix. Serves 4.

Bart creates and tests all his recipes at his state-of-the-art Essence Food Studio kitchen. In November, the multi-award winning events studio will celebrate five years of business. Essence is a fusion of culinary and professional entertainment, a unique experience combining professional food and wine presentations, live music and an interactive learning environment – a tourism venue unlike any other in the city of Melbourne.