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Which fish?

"I think fish is nice, but then I think that rain is wet, so who am I to judge?" Douglas Adams

Apologies for neglecting the blog of late. It's marmalade season and it has been consuming most of my energy - that and a few other things that seemed to have all combined over the last week or so to take up almost all of my time. Today the last batch was completed - just in time as the oranges were beginning to go off and so I am back to blogging. And cooking too. I feel I have not really been cooking much of late. Certainly nothing very interesting.

So I am going to reward myself by trying out new recipes on two days this week. Tonight it will be cauliflower and I think it will be Ottolenghi's Mustardy cauliflower cheese. I'm not sure why he calls it mustardy as it also uses curry powder, which you would have thought would dominate the mustard. Anyway I thought it was worth a try, having bought a cauliflower just the other day as it was the bargain of the day, and they always look so beautiful. I did check out various other authors, and there were other ideas, to consider, but I decided to go with this one in the end. I'll let you know if it's any good.

But fish - tomorrow - or maybe I'll be a traditionalist and go for Friday, when it can be enjoyed with a nice glass of wine as well. We try not to drink during the week you see.

Since I bought Ixta Belfrage's book Mezcla I have been waiting for an opportunity to make one or other of her fish recipes. She has a few worth trying beyond the one I have already told you about - her variation on the Italian dish Aqua pazza. But today I'll just mention two.

The first is Brown butter sea bass with tangerine dipping sauce. It looks and sounds divine and is also not very complicated in spite of the long ingredient list. Fundamentally there are three parts to it - the fish - which is stuffed with herbs and spring onions; a citrus butter and the dipping sauce. No chilli involved I think, which is a bonus in this house. And tangerines - well mandarins here in Australia. Do we have tangerines? Are they the same thing with a different name? I can't remember. Anyway there are tomatoes in the dipping sauce too. The problem is getting hold of a whole sea bass I think. I'm pretty sure that the supermarkets only ever have trout as a whole fish. Everything else is filleted. So probably not, although I will have a look, and if I ever get back to the Queen Vic market I shall certainly be giving it a try.

Her other offering is Plaice with yellow and green tomatoes, which she describes as

"the ultimate midweek summer dish, as it only takes 10 minutes to make."

So what's not to like about that! Well it's not summer - but this is Melbourne, not London and on some good winter days, it's almost like an English summer day. Two problems though. No plaice here. But we do have whiting and I bought some frozen whiting last week just for this dish because I intended making this dish and never did. The second problem is the tomatoes of course. They are not cooked and so need to be good, and they are so expensive at the moment. However, I did see some vine ripened ones the other day at an almost reasonable price for the times, and I could always buy a punnet of those mixed colour ones too. So a definite possibility. It does have chilli, but I could use some of those miniature peppers instead, with perhaps a very few of the mildest chillies available.

I saw that somebody else had had a go at this and posted their effort on PixBender which seems to be another kind of Instagram where people share the trivia of their lives. Just like me really. Anyway, although it doesn't look quite as professional as the original - well surely it wouldn't. Otherwise why would book publishers employ expensive photographers and food stylists? This version is a bit more green rather than marginally orange. I suspect mine will be more red, because of the lack of green tomatoes. As I said, Ixta Belfrage does have other options - almost all of her fish recipes are tempting - but I'll leave it at these two for now.

Then there's another Ottolenghi partner - literally his business partner I believe - well he was, I don't know if he still is - Sami Tamimi - who, in his book Falastin - written in partnership with Tara Wigley also has two very tempting recipes. The first is

Roasted cod with a coriander crust which was featured in a recent Guardian newsletter. In fact this and the plaice recipe were my only two options to begin with, but I flicked the pages and saw the others. Anyway this recipe also features tahini and I am conscious that I really should play around with tahini rather more than I have done. Well so far I have only ever used it to make hummus. But these days more and more chefs seem to be doing other things with it - not just the Middle-easterners either. So yes, simple and also tempting. Coles has been selling some MSC accredited blue grenadier lately which, I think, would be a good cod substitute.

Or another baked fish from the same source - this time sea bass in his Seared sea bass with lemon and tomato sauce. The recipe link is to a blog called Jon and Jules whose writers tried it out on their seven year old. Apparently he doesn't usually like fish skin but ate all of this. According to them you had to get the skin crispy. I don't know whether the fact that this recipe is only available in this one place is a warning not to give it a go, although I can't see why. It is interesting how one recipe - like the one above - gets picked up and published here, there and everywhere and others only appear once. I shall definitely have a go at this some time though. I guess in some ways it's a variation on the Aqua pazza although baked not poached.

So I suppose it's over to you David. Your choice, because I just can't decide. One moment I think I'll go for one, and the next I think I'll go for another. So which would you choose?

POSTSCRIPT - oh dear when David went to put the labels on to Sunday's batch of marmalade he found it wasn't set enough, so now is slaving away recooking it - in batches - in the microwave. I had better go and help. Incredible demoralising.



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