Monday, June 7, 2010

Something fishy going on

It is a family tradition that if you are at home for your birthday, you get to choose what we have for dinner. Amita is predictable as his favourite meal in the whole world is fondue. He likes to eat it in the traditional Swiss way, simply bread and cheese. After cracking two ceramic fondue pots, one birthday I bought him -  a smaller Le Creuset (son of the blue pot)   that fits perfectly on the burner.

I threaten to fall into a swoon if I can’t eat something green at every meal and contaminating the fondue with any vegetable, except possibly potatoes, is frowned upon. The other serious problem is inviting guests for a fondue as he loathes sharing it. So that is one: an unhappy cook (not recommended) and two: guests duelling with fondue forks over a hot pot (also not recommended.)

After some delicate negotiation, he decided to choose something else – Bouillabaisse, a traditional fisherman’s soup from the Mediterranean cooked in one pot. I had never cooked it before and dived into Elizabeth David who in two and a half pages of text, gave stern warnings about not overcooking the different seafood but no indications of specifics. I eventually found a recipe from a well known chef on the internet and set off to buy about a million dollars worth of seafood. When I began to follow the recipe, I realised it had been posted without checking and was very hard to follow

At least I already had the pot and as we have been having cold nights, the wood stove is lit every evening and is perfect for a long slow simmer.

A good fish stock is absolutely critical to a good bouillabaisse and is expensive to buy as it comes in 375ml containers.
This is my version:

Fantastic Fish Stock

1 onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1 stalk of celery, leaves included, finely sliced
1 leek, thinly sliced
3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
One wing of barramundi, a large fish head, some prawn heads, whole cleaned fish or a combination of what you have.
A whole fish, head on, cleaned and chopped up roughly (I used perch)
3 large tomatoes, diced
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 handfuls of flat leaf parsley
2 bay leaves
1 orange, zested (with a peeler into strips) and juiced
1 lemon, zested (ditto) and juiced
½ C olive oil
1 tsp black peppercorns

Sauté the vegetables, except the tomatoes, in the olive oil over a medium heat until they begin to colour.
Add the fish and brown.
Add the tomatoes, bay leaves, orange, lemon and parsley and cook till softened then add the tomato paste.
Cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer for a minimum of two hours or longer. If cooking the stock over a couple of days, make sure that it is bought to a rolling boil each time before reducing the heat to a simmer.
If you are making soup, leave the lid on to retain the maximum flavour. If you want to freeze it, you can reduce it by simmering without a lid after straining.
Strain through a sieve and add salt to taste.
Freeze in 500ml containers until required.

Happy cooking,


Ps. The soup was amazing. I dished it up before bringing to the table so we managed to avoid any disagreements over the number of prawns and mussels and other tasty bits in each bowl. I was far too busy to take a photograph of the finished dish!

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