Fins ‘n’ fillets

Bart Beek | VOLUME 29, ISSUE 2

Land meets sea in this selection of tasty dishes inspired by cuisines from around the world.

Surf ‘n’ turf – or reef ‘n’ beef – is a meat and seafood combination that’s been popular for decades. I recall preparing carpetbag steaks as a first-year apprentice back in the mid-70s. Considered the peak of luxury, and very popular in the 50s and 60s, they consist of a thick portion of eye fillet cut from the middle section, pocketed with fresh oysters and closed with a toothpick. As the steak cooked over the flame, the oyster juices would blend with the meat juices and create a delicious flavour.

Countless surf ‘n’ turf combinations can be found all over the world. The British favourite, oysters Kilpatrick, combines oysters and bacon: oysters are placed on a bed of rock salt and topped with smoky bacon and a generous splash of Worcestershire sauce, then fired under the grill … I must have made thousands over the years and they’re still as popular as ever.

Another example, gumbo, is a combination of various foods served as a soup or stew and presented over rice. It originated in the southern US state of Louisiana during the 18th century and today has many variations. This dish combines meats and seafoods and I’ve seen duck and shrimp gumbo as well as prawn and chicken.

One of the most popular dishes in Korea is jjampong, a spicy red seafood, noodle and meat soup combining Chinese and Korean cuisines. Its combination of pork, mussels, squid, prawns, chilli and noodles is very nourishing and is often considered by Chinese-Koreans as the most complete meal.

The cuisines of Thailand and Vietnam also excel in combining various meats with seafood. There, the most common meat that’s matched with seafood is pork, with prawn- and chicken-stuffed calamari, sometimes tossed through egg or rice noodles, also popular.

In this edition, I’ve presented my take on surf ‘n’ turf with five different combinations that all work extremely well. Try the seared scallops with freekeh (a cereal made from green wheat) as a stunning first course. Its bacon crumble adds fantastic flavour to complement the creamy scallops, while green peas add a sweet touch to balance the whole dish.

The roast duck salad with crispy calamari is one of my favourites. It’s best to buy the duck from a Chinese barbecue restaurant and purchase the freshest calamari you can find. The dressing is the hero of this dish: it’s a combination of sweet, sour, and salty, with just the right amount of ginger. It will have your guests salivating and asking for more, as will my pasta recipe combining chicken and prawns. This quick and delicious dish packs a garlic and chilli punch.

Lamb is tricky to combine with seafood because of its strong, dominant flavour. But in my mussel, crab and lamb ball broth, the addition of lemon zest in the lamb mellows it beautifully. The crab and mussel broth is fragrant and rich and can be made in less than 10 minutes.

Poaching fish in olive oil at low temperature creates the most succulent texture and richness of flavour while keeping the fish moist and reducing the risk of overcooking. The temperature of the oil should remain around 50°C. The oil will not take on the fish’s flavour and can be strained and reused many times. I serve swordfish with a delicious chorizo and eggplant salsa, which matches the fish beautifully.

Every meal deserves a good ending and the white chocolate, coconut and vanilla panna cotta delivers just that. This simple dessert has a beautiful texture with an exotic flavour and is served with a rich finishing sauce containing coriander seeds for a textural contrast.

Freekeh (pronounced ‘free-kah’) is one of the oldest grains in the world and very nutritional. It’s made by harvesting wheat while still green which is roasted and rubbed, giving it a delicious smoky, nutty flavour. Bacon and scallops are a perfect match and in this recipe I make a bacon crumble that adds both flavour and texture to this simple dish.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 35 minutes

Serves: 4

½ cup cracked grain freekeh

4 rashers middle bacon

150g baby green peas

2 small eschallots, finely diced

1 tblsp thyme leaves, picked

12 large scallops

2 tblsps extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup micro cress stems

2 radishes, thinly sliced

Place the freekeh into a saucepan with 500ml water. Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for 30 minutes or until tender. Drain, season well and set aside.

Place the bacon rashers onto a baking paper-lined oven tray and place into a pre-heated oven set at 160°C. Bake for 45 minutes or until fully crisp. Remove and cool, then blend in a food processor or chop with a knife to form a fine crumble.

Boil the peas in salted water for three minutes. Drain, refresh in iced water, drain again and set aside.

Heat a saucepan and add in a tablespoon of olive oil. Add in the finely diced eschallots and cook for one minute until soft. Combine in the thyme leaves and drained peas, tossing well. Season and keep warm.

Place the remaining olive oil into a heavy-based pan and heat to a high temperature. Add in the scallops and grill for 90 seconds, then turn once. Cook for another 90 seconds, remove and rest on a warm plate.

To serve, place a spoonful of the freekeh onto a serving plate. Top with a portion of pea mix, a sprinkle of bacon crumble and the scallops. Garnish with several cress stems and some radish slices.

This method is perfect for cooking swordfish – it doesn’t absorb any oil and comes out delicious and succulent. The oil temperature is kept low during the process which can be done on the stovetop or in the oven. The chorizo salsa’s Mediterranean flavours team perfectly with the swordfish.

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves: 4

4 x 120g swordfish portions

Salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

3 cups extra virgin olive oil

Onion gel

30g butter

250g brown onions, sliced thin

1 sprig thyme

200g full cream milk

95g thickened cream

150g chicken stock

Salt, to taste

2.7g gellan F

Chorizo salsa

100g chorizo, peeled and sliced thin

1 medium eschallot, diced

1 tblsp rosemary leaves

1 Japanese eggplant, diced

1 cup yellow baby tomatoes, halved

2 tblsps continental parsley, torn

To make the onion gel, heat the butter in a small saucepan and add in the sliced onions and thyme. Cook for five minutes until soft but not coloured. Add in the milk, cream and stock and simmer for five minutes. Remove the thyme sprig. Puree the mixture with a blender.

Measure out 400g of the liquid and place into a saucepan. Add the gellan F and combine with a hand-held blender. Heat to 95°C, place saucepan into an ice bath and continue to blend until cold, thick and smooth. Season, strain and set aside until required.

To make the salsa, place a frypan onto the heat and add a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the chorizo and cook until slightly crisp. Add the eschallot and rosemary leaves, cook for two minutes. Stir in the diced eggplant, cook for three minutes.

Remove from the heat. Fold through the tomato halves, parsley and two tablespoons of olive oil. Season well and set aside.

Warm the remaining olive oil to 50°C. Season the swordfish well and place in the warm oil, fully submerging for six minutes. Remove and drain.

Present the swordfish with onion gel and warm chorizo salsa.

This dish is bursting with Southeast Asian flavours and has a dressing that’s simply magical. Make a big batch of the dressing and store in the fridge for more salads later. Buy the duck from a good Chinese barbecue restaurant and select fresh calamari on the day you prepare the dish.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 3 minutes

Serves: 4

½ Chinese roast duck, skin and meat sliced

½ medium Chinese cabbage, shredded

1 small red onion, sliced thin

2 snake beans, cut small

1 medium carrot, grated

1 tblsp roasted peanuts, chopped

1 bird’s eye chilli, sliced very thinly

½ cup garden mint and coriander, torn

1 cup calamari, cleaned and cut into 3cm strips

½ cup rice flour

½ tsp salt

Dressing

3 tblsps caster sugar

2 tblsps fish sauce

3 tblsps rice wine vinegar

½ cup water

1 tblsp fresh ginger, minced

1 clove garlic, crushed

2 tblsps fresh lime juice

Prepare the dressing by boiling caster sugar, fish sauce, vinegar and water. Simmer for five minutes, then allow to cool and add the ginger, garlic and lime juice.

Plunge the calamari into a saucepan of boiling water for 20 seconds, remove, drain and dry. Toss into a mixture of rice flour and salt, shake away the excess. Deep fry at 180°C for one minute until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and set aside.

Combine in a large bowl the sliced duck, cabbage, onion, beans, carrot, peanuts, chilli and herbs. Dress well with the dressing and serve immediately along with the crisp calamari.

This hearty combination of mussels and lamb is served in a fragrant broth. The crab stock that forms the base of the dish can be made in less than 10 minutes. Clean the mussels thoroughly, rinse in cold water and drain well to remove excess salt water.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Serves: 4

200g fine lamb mince

1 small eschallot, finely diced

½ lemon, jest and juice

1 tblsp continental parsley, chopped fine

Salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

12 black mussels, scrubbed and beards removed

1kg blue swimmer crabs, cleaned, chopped and meat separated

2 tblsps extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 small brown onion, sliced fine

1 small leek, white part only, sliced

½ fennel bulb, sliced

½ cup dry white wine

1lt fish stock

1 tsp saffron threads

2 ripe tomatoes, de-seeded and diced

2 tblsps parsley, chopped

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Combine together the lamb mince, diced eschallot, lemon zest, parsley and seasoning. Form into marble-size balls and bake for 10 minutes in the pre-heated oven or until cooked.

Heat a large deep pan to medium heat and add in the olive oil. Place the garlic in and stir, cooking for 20 seconds. Add in the crab bones, onions, leeks and fennel. Cook on high heat for several minutes stirring well, and then add in the white wine. Stir the pan well, and then add in the stock and saffron.

Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and allow to simmer for five minutes. Pass through a fine strainer, return the broth to the pan and skim away any fat and oil from the surface. Add in the mussels and crab meat, place a lid on the pan and boil for several minutes until the mussels begin to open.

To serve, place three mussels and several lamb balls onto a bowl, add a little diced tomato, then ladle some of the broth and crab meat over the top. Finish with the lemon juice and parsley.

The combination of prawns and chicken is delicious. The sauce binding them in this dish is made with olive oil and white wine, plus pan juices from the prawns and chicken.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Serves: 4

50ml extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 small eschallots, finely diced

1 medium chicken breast, sliced thin

12 green prawns, sliced in halves longways

60ml dry white wine

1 cup semi-dried tomatoes, sliced

½ tsp chilli flakes

½ cup continental parsley, roughly chopped

Salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

400g dried pasta: spaghetti or penne

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until just done (about eight minutes). Keep hot and retain half a cup of the pasta water.

Heat a large heavy-based frypan to medium heat and add in the olive oil. Add in the garlic, cook for 20 seconds, then combine in the eschallots and cook until soft (about 3 minutes).

Turn up the heat and add in the sliced chicken and prawns, cooking until almost done. Then add the white wine and reduce by a third.

Combine in the semi-dried tomatoes, retained pasta water, chilli flakes and hot drained pasta. Check for seasoning, toss through the parsley and serve.

This pleasing dessert is a beautiful finish to an evening spent dining. I like to present the panna cotta upside-down to show off its gloss and vanilla seeds. The coriander seeds in the glaze add a gentle spice note while the orange juice complements the chocolate and coconut.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Makes: 8 portions

400ml thickened cream 135g coconut cream

50g caster sugar

½ vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped out

150g white couverture chocolate, chopped small

1½ gelatine sheets, titanium strength

1 punnet raspberries

4 ripe figs

2 tblsps caster sugar

Palm sugar and coriander syrup

90g palm sugar, grated

1 tsp coriander seeds

135ml orange juice, in two quantities: 30ml, 105ml

Make the syrup by melting the grated palm sugar in a saucepan together with the coriander seeds and 30ml orange juice. Continue to cook until the colour turns a rich golden brown, then add the remaining orange juice. Simmer until the mixture is well blended. Remove from the heat, cool and store in the refrigerator.

Combine together in a saucepan the thickened cream, coconut cream, sugar, split vanilla bean and its seeds. Bring to a gentle boil, turn down and simmer for five minutes to allow the flavours to infuse.

Place the gelatine leaves into a bowl of cold water and soften for five minutes.

Place the white chocolate into a mixing bowl and strain the hot cream mix directly over the chocolate. Stir to incorporate. Squeeze out the excess water from the gelatine leaves then add to the hot mix. Stir until dissolved and well blended.

Allow the panna cotta mixture to cool to room temperature before pouring into individual moulds, placing several raspberries into each mould. Place in the refrigerator to set overnight.

Cut the figs in half and lightly sprinkle caster sugar on each cut side. Brown with a brûlée torch or under a hot grill.

Place the moulds into a bowl of hot water for 20 seconds, gently invert onto a serving plate and allow the set panna cotta to slide out. Present with a little of the glaze and a fig half.


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