My birth date is in March, and my star sign is Pisces – I’m a ‘mutable’ water sign, and I do truly follow the flow wherever it takes me. Ironically though, when it comes to cooking and eating fish, my experiences are fairly basic. After seeing Nami’s very impressive Cantonese steamed Fish I’ve been thinking about fish an awful lot.
My experiences with fish to date include:
- battered fish & chips being the takeaway of choice up and down the Eastern seaboard of Australia – I love those memories of the torn, greasy paper holding a piece of fish, a wedge of lemon and some soggy chips. I can remember not only where I’ve eaten the crunchiest chips (Burleigh Heads), the best calamari (our local – Mooloolaba Spit) and the tastiest fish (Watson’s Bay, Sydney), but the people I’ve shared those experiences with.
- a few attempts at grilled fish during my uni days, using lemony & chilli foil parcels in a crappy oven in our share house.
- eating tuna and onion sandwiches in a roadside park whilst on a road trip with my nan – oh my, how I despise tuna! Seriously, is it not the same as cat food?
- Oktoberfest 2002 – watching a German man with a very long moustache eat a herring and onion roll. I had taken a pregnancy test that day in the hotel (I was about 10 weeks pregnant with Alex) and was feeling particularly squeamish. I still remember that fish head sitting alongside his moustache.
I ate fish as a vegetarian (pescatarian, whatever) but never made much effort to cook with it. Growing up, my dad wasn’t a big fish fan because he disliked getting the bones out. Funnily enough, Mr B’s dad is not a big seafood fan either because of a bone-stuck-in-the-throat experience, so it was never on the menu very often at home for me as a child or adult.
Whilst I would love to cook with fresh seafood more often, it’s ridiculously expensive. Our fabulous local fish catches are exported overseas and we either pay $10-$20 per kilo for inferior imported products of dubious origin, or $30+ per kilo for local options, not all of which are fresh.
I lashed out today and bought a big piece of perch – but not big enough to feed the whole family. I comprised and did what frugal mothers everywhere resort to – I made it stretch further. I knew I wanted to turn it into a pie of some description but needed more inspiration, so I turned to my new favourite ‘healthy’ cookbook, OMG! I can eat that?
Remember the zucchini pizza crust? It’s a firm favourite here now, and one of many recipes from Jane Kennedy’s second book that I’m certain I’ll be making a lot. Whilst I really loved her debut cookbook Fabulous Food, Minus the Boombah (reviewed here), her second book has won me over so much that I
made encouraged my children to buy it for me for Mother’s Day. There are so many recipes that have grabbed my attention, and her fish ‘piemakin’ was one of them. She defines her ‘piemakins’ as pies served in ramekins without the boombah pastry. Perfect!
I adapted Jane’s recipe a little as I only had one piece of fish, and added some chopped prawns and peas to bulk out the seafood component.
Fish & Cauliflower Pies
- 1 teaspoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 onion, sliced
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 3 tablespoons white wine
- 1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard
- 250ml (1 cup) fish or vegetable stock
- 400g firm white fish fillets, cubed
- 1/2 cup baby peas
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- zest of 1/2 lemon
- tablespoon of chopped tarragon
- tablespoon of chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 cauliflower
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 1 tablespoon Greek yoghurt
- 1 teaspoon horseradish
- 50g grated parmesan cheese
- Preheat your oven to 180°C. Heat the butter and olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat and saute onion and garlic until soft. Add wine and let it simmer for a few minutes. Stir in the wholegrain mustard, and season with salt & pepper.
- Add stock, stir through and let it bubble for a few minutes. Add fish (and prawns if desired), lemon juice, lemon zest, tarragon and parsley, reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
- Cook cauliflower with milk in a saucepan or microwave until tender. Add yoghurt, horseradish, and season with salt & pepper. Process in a food processor or with a stick blender until smooth – it should look like mashed potato.
- Transfer fish mixture to desired serving dish – use a shallow casserole dish, or 4 ramekins or pie tins. Top with cauliflower mix, sprinkle with parmesan and bake in oven for 25-30 minutes, until golden.
I served the individual fish pies with a carrot recipe I discovered in a hefty tome I borrowed from the library called Home Cooking. I gather it’s author, Rachel Allen, might be a bit of a big shot somewhere but I’ve never heard of her. Her fab carrots really called out to me from the pages though…
Buttered Carrots with a nutty crumble topping – serves 4-6 as a side dish
- 4 medium-large carrots
- 60g butter
- 30g flaked almonds
- 60g breadcrumbs
- 30g grated parmesan
- Peel carrots, slice into desired thicknesses and cook in saucepan or microwave until just tender.
- Melt butter in a frying pan until frothy, then pour 1/3 into a bowl for later.
- Add almonds to frying pan and cook for 2-3 minutes or until golden, then add breadcrumbs and season with salt & pepper. Cook for another 2-3 minutes then stir through parmesan.
- Drain carrots and mix reserved melted butter throughout. Serve immediately as a side dish, with sprinkled crumble on top.
- Rachel’s original recipe uses 15g of finely chopped hazelnuts and 15g of flaked almonds – I stuck with almonds this time. I also used parmesan instead of Gruyere, and omitted the chopped parsley she used, mostly because it was dark and I didn’t want to go out to the garden to get some!
These carrots were seriously good, although far too much crumble to carrot ratio – I have a whole container of it leftover, and hopefully it will still be crisp enough to use tomorrow. This photo doesn’t do justice to the nuttiness at work here, and it’s a big improvement on the fancy sesame honey carrots I learnt to make in high school home ec classes.
The fish pie was a light and fulfilling meal – I was feeling particularly virtuous after eating such a healthy & satisfying dinner! I felt the tarragon was a little overwhelming so would cut back on that next time, but otherwise I really enjoyed the flavour, and the cauliflower mash is just genius.
Now if Mr B. and the kids could catch some more fresh fish, we’d be enjoying these dishes more often…no pressure honey!