As promised in my previous post, here are the recipes for the seafood dishes that we prepared to share with our family at Christmas.
Well, this wasn’t too difficult. The folks at Eat Fish had already cooked our magnificent King Island cray and cut it into halves. Maggie scooped all the flesh out, cut all the legs and claws off, piled the flesh decoratively into one of the shells and placed everything on a platter covered in lettuce leaves. The cocktail sauce was made using our tried and proven recipe.
Smoked trout and herb dip
Separating the trout flesh from the skin and bones is a fiddly task but the end result is worth it. If you store the dip in a fridge overnight, the flavour will develop further.
1 whole smoked trout
4 tbsp mayonnaise
3 tbsp light sour cream
2 tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp (20ml) chopped parsley
1 tbsp snipped chives
1 tsp chopped dill leaves or ¼ tsp chopped tarragon leaves (not essential)
generous squeeze of lemon juice
several drops of Tabasco sauce
- Remove the skin, fins and head from the trout. Carefully remove the flesh from the bones. Pick through the flesh a second time to locate any remaining fine bones.
- Use your hands to break up the flesh into small pieces and place in a mixing bowl.
- Add mayonnaise, cream and mustard and combine well with a fork or spoon.
- Add pepper, herbs, lemon juice and Tabasco, mix together and taste to adjust the seasoning.
- Refrigerate briefly to regain thickness. Serve with crackers or vegetable crudités
I posted this recipe soon after my 60th birthday. The only change we made this time was to dice the tomatoes on Christmas Eve, season them with the salt, pepper and sugar; the bowl was covered and spent the night in the fridge. This step enhanced the flavour of the tomato, but it is still preferable to add the herbs to the salsa shortly before you serve the dish, so that each herb retains some of its distinctive flavour.
Once you’ve made this at home, you won’t need to order it from a restaurant menu; you can order something you haven’t tried before instead! We like to use the smaller mussels produced in and around Port Philip Bay, available fresh from good fishmongers.
1 kg fresh mussels
dry white wine
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 bay leaf
12 black peppercorns
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
¼ tsp chilli flakes or 1-2 chopped fresh chillies
2 tbsp tomato paste
400g can crushed or diced tomatoes (or equivalent quantity of tomato passata)
½ tsp sugar
½ cup dry white wine
salt and pepper to season
1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
- To prepare mussels for cooking, soak raw mussels in cold water for 10 minutes, scrub and remove the beard with a small sharp serrated knife.
- Meanwhile, sauté the garlic and chilli in olive oil for 2 minutes over low-to medium heat in a saucepan. Add tomato paste and stir for a further minute. Add tomatoes, sugar and white wine, cook briefly, adjust seasoning and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and add chopped basil.
- While the tomato and chilli sauce is simmering, place mussels no more than 2 layers deep in a wide pan. Scatter over some or all of a finely chopped small onion, a few peppercorns, a bay leaf, a sprig of thyme and enough dry white wine to cover the bottom of the pan by 1cm.
- Seal with a tight-fitting lid (close any steam vents), turn heat to maximum and wait 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, lift lid and, using tongs, remove all the mussels that have opened. Place the pan back on the heat for 2 minutes and discard any mussels that have not opened at this second attempt.
- Remove one half of each mussel shell and place the remaining halves flesh-side up on wide bowls..
- Spoon the tomato and chilli sauce over the mussels and serve immediately, perhaps with fresh crusty bread and a green leaf salad.
Crayfish (lobster) thermidor
There is no shortage of recipes available for this dish; here is what Maggie did.
She made a simple bechamel sauce using 30g butter, 20ml plain flour and 1 cup of liquid (3 parts milk to 1 part dry white wine). She added a medium-sized fresh bay leaf just before the liquids were added to the butter and flour roux. When the sauce had thickened, the bay leaf came out and she added 2 tsp of Dijon mustard. Off the heat, she added a couple of handfuls of grated gruyere cheese and the chopped green sections of three spring (green) onions.
The finished sauce was spooned over the crayfish flesh in the shells, stabilised by scrunched-up sheets of cooking foil in the base of a baking dish. Then Maggie sprinkled some more gruyere cheese over the sauce.
To finish the dish, we placed it into an oven warmed to about 150C for about 10 minutes, until the cheese had just begun to melt. Then we turned on the grill in the oven and placed the baking dish to the second highest shelf until the cheese had begun to turn golden brown, taking care not to overheat the crayfish, because it was cooked before we bought it.