Welcome to my tales of cookery school, food and travel

The first 30+ posts of this blog describe my experiences as I complete a nine month cooking course - the City and Guilds Diploma in Food Preparation and Culinary Art. I did this after I moved out of full time employment and it was purely selfish - I love food, cooking, eating and drinking. Subsequent posts are about, food, travel and adventures.

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Monday, 20 February 2012

Week 28: Omega 3 and me

Yum! Seafood.  After a week of fish, molluscs, crustaceans and cephalodpods my omega levels can only be at an all time high and my heart must have a smiley face on it.  I wonder, does all this week's good omega  fatty acids counteract the weeks and weeks of saturated fats?  Perhaps not, especially as some of what we make this week still gets the butter and cream treatment.
Regular readers will recall Week 12: two fish and a scoop please and I won't repeat the descriptions of à la française, à l'anglaise and other coating and frying techniques.  Mercifully, we do not do much frying this week except for deep frying one fillet with an egg white batter, which I have to admit is pretty delicious.  However, before the hunter gatherer gets too excited, I must say we will not be getting a deep fryer any time this millennium. And I am unanimous in that.

We begin the week with Moules Marinière - a delicious classic with a fancy French name for steamed mussels.  We are lucky here in New Zealand to have the best mussels in the world - the native green lipped mussel.  Trademarked as New Zealand Greenshell mussels, we export to more than 60 countries and mussels are responsible for around $300 million in export earnings. They are terribly good for you, being high in omega 3s and also haem iron, containing 3 times as much as steak on a per gram basis.  A 100 gram serving provides about a quarter of an adult's daily protein needs. Do I work for the Seafood Council? No!  Do we have the only green lipped mussels in the world? Yes!  Is this nature's super food?  Maybe!  But I digress. Moules Marinière - mussels steamed in white wine and shallots, thickened with a tiny bit of beurre manie (flour and butter) and finished with cream (just a little, to provide non heart friendly fats). I'll say it again - yum!

We continue the fab food fiesta with crispy skinned salmon on cauliflower puree with salsa verde; Cajun baked prawns; and Calamari. Actually we deep fried the squid rings and serve them with a tasty dressing. And it is still only Monday! 

Tuesday we get down to the business end of the fish - filleting round fish and flat fish (i.e. flounder, turbot, sole - the ones that are asymmetrical and generally have two eyes on one side of their head). We then go about abusing them in the name of classic cookery. There is a very good reason you seldom see Sole Véronique on menus these days, even if Delia Smith does think it deserves a revival - she must be deranged.  I say that in a caring way with full consideration of the facts: she is a saint in the UK and taught England how to boil an egg;  when living in London I learned a lot from her 1978 BBC TV cooking series; and I do still refer to her excellent book Delia Smith's Complete Cookery Course.  However, I do not see how she can regard poached fish napped in a velouté sauce finished with a liaison (you remember liaisons from Week 6: Cold weather and hot dishes) is in any way enhanced by the addition of  - grapes.  As you and I both know, grapes should only ever be crushed, fermented, and bottled.

We all agree our favourite day is Wednesday, when we smoke fish (in a smoker, obviously) for fish cakes which are herby and delicious with the smoky fish flavour.  When we pane them we use rolled oats instead of breadcrumbs and that gives a crunchier fuller, toastier flavour than using regular breadcrumbs.  They look good too, as you can see in the picture - though bear in mind these are in an uncooked state. 

It is easier than you may think to make a smoker using things you already have in the kitchen. Put your smoke source, we use manuka wood chips -  in a roasting dish, place a rack over it with your fish on the rack, seal the unit with tin foil and put over a low gas flame. It doesn't take long, about 15 minutes to smoke fish and this method can be used for lots of other foods which may or may not need further cooking, depending on what you smoke.

We also all love the seafood tajine, for which we use white fish, prawns, mussels and squid, marvelling at how we can all use the same recipe but get such different flavours in the end result. Kenya boy's is heavy on the chili, mine with fresh coriander added at the end, others have been judicious with the turmeric, or not cooked the spices out resulting in a powdery aftertaste.

I'm not confident on assessment day. My filleting (we use terakihi on the day) goes well though I am slow, and the fish stock is lovely and clear, so no problems there. While my moules are good with the sauce just the right consistency and flavour (because of the salt water that comes out of the mussels they are easy to get too salty), I am not happy with the Véronique - well, who could be?  However it is better than I judge and chef awards me Distinction - once more the only one this week.  I'm creating a hard act for myself to follow!  You know what it's like, once you get on a roll, any fall back feels like failure even when it is still a pass.  We have only two more assessments before the grand final. Coming up, more pastry technique and you know what that means.......quite a bit a butta.