Fish, Fish and more fish

By | Australia, Fish | No Comments

I thought if I kept posting photos of the beach you might stop reading. Even if you continued I might have stopped writing. The perfect beaches made me wish I had stayed in Australia, where although the autumn has started, it is a lot warmer than Toronto. Here it is supposedly spring, but the temperatures are still in the basement and there is nothing green in the garden. We even had snow flurries yesterday!

One of the many delights of my Australian visit was the seafood, I ate it at almost every meal and was spoiled for choice. I ate snapper, barramundi, garfish, oysters, prawns (shrimp to North American readers), but my favourite were the sardines pictured above. I love sardines, fresh or canned. We often think of canned fish as some how less than fresh, but it’s not true.

Canned fish was once a luxury, but it has lost much of its appeal. However, in France where canning began, canned sardine are often millésimé, like wine with a vintage date stamped on them. These cans are carefully stored for up to twenty-five years, during which time their contents turns into a rich paste that sardine aficionados relish. I have some in my basement in Paris and turn them every 6 months.

Canned fish also take pride of place in tapas bars in Spain, and elsewhere, check Bar Raval in Toronto. I always have canned fish in my pantry, it makes a quick meal. Canned sardines, not millésimé, were the fast food of my childhood and I remember opening them with the big key attached to the bottom of the tin. Now they have a ring pull, more practical perhaps, but not nearly as much fun. Here, from Bones: Recipes, History, and Lore is that childhood dish, improved with experience.

Serves 2

One 100 g can good quality sardines, packed in olive oil of course

4 not-too-thick slices country bread

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons chopped dill

Fleur de sel

A lemon

Preheat the broiler.

Toast the bread under the broiler: well on one side and lightly on the other, so that it is dry and just colored. Spread the lightly toasted sides of the bread with the mustard. Arrange the sardines on top, then drizzle with olive oil from the can. Place on a baking sheet and broil until the sardines are hot and the bread is darkening on the edges.

Sprinkle with the chopped dill, and a little salt. Give them a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and serve with a lightly dressed salad of frisée or arugula, a little bitter to balance the oily sardines.

If you need more ideas on how to cook with canned fish you should check out my friend Barbara-jo’s book Tin Fish Gourmet: Great Seafood from Cupboard to Table.


Fish & Chips

By | Australia, Chips, Fish, Flake, Potato cake, Sauvignon blanc, Shark | 3 Comments
There are lots of things I love about Australia and one is Aussie fish and chips. Growing up I ate fish and chips about once a month – a  rare take out meal in our family. We drove to the local shop where they cooked the battered fish and hand cut potatoes in bubbling beef tallow – delicious memories. So, when I was back in Melbourne, my mother and I went to pick up dinner and let me relive my childhood. 

 As we pulled up I realized I’d forgotten the wonderful graphics these store have…….

This image is painted right onto the store window (my flash is giving the eyes their surreal glow). Yes it’s a shark. As they have no bones they make great deep-fried fish fillets that we call flake. The graphics continue inside on the menu board.

The menu has expanded. since I was a child, and now includes a grilled fish option but why?  A fish and chip shop is all about frying.
I stayed true –  fried fish, chips and a potato cake  – a disk of potato battered and fried. But you have chips Jennifer! Yes, but a potato cake has its own unique texture and I’ve never seen them else where. There was a choice of 11 different fish, 11- I’m lucky to find 2 in Toronto. We chose flathead a sweet  fish that’d been hastily added to board so we knew it was very fresh.

We drove home with that wonderful aroma of food fried in clean fat filling the car. We ate them with a lemon wedge, picked from the tree on our way through the back door, my mother’s homemade pickled onions and a chilled Aussie sauvignon. Who says you can’t recapture the past? You can improve on it – I never enjoyed my fish and chips with a glass of wine as a child.