Whole baked snapper with a lemon butter sauce

Ok, so this was dinner tonight to celebrate my Mum’s birthday and can I just say, despite Jasper’s meltdown and Grover copying whatever Jasper was doing, it was a sensation. What made it? Apart from spectacularly fresh fish? The.most.delectable.lemon butter sauce and barely cooked freshest of fresh spring vegetables. Heaven.

Whole baked snapper

  • 1kg snapper, scaled and gutted (this was just right for feeding two (female) adults and a couple of kids)
  • lemon, cut into thick slices
  • salt
  • olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 180C
  2. Liberally rub salt over the inside of the fish then rinse and pat dry
  3. Season fish with salt all over, inside and out and lay the slices of lemon in the cavity of the fish
  4. Drizzle over some oil and rub into the skin
  5. Slash the fish to ensure even cooking
  6. Bake for 35-45 minutes depending on your oven and your preference for how well you like your fish cooked.
Lemon Butter Sauce
  • 1 tbsp very finely diced or sliced shallots (I used a third of a brown onion very finely chopped)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 6 peppercorns, coarsely crushed (I didn’t do this as Mum hates anything peppery)
  • 100g unsalted butter, cut into 6 chunks
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  1. Simmer shallots, wine and crushed peppercorns in a small heavy-based saucepan until there is no obvious liquid left and shallots look mushy
  2. Over a moderate heat start whisking in the butter, a chunk at a time, adding the next chunk just as the previous one has been incorporated.
  3. When all the butter is in the sauce, remove pan from the heat, still whisking, and add the lemon juice and the salt and pepper.
  4. Strain into a warm bowl and hold over warm water (not hot) until ready to serve (this takes minutes not hours). I didn’t do this at all as it was ready as the fish was ready and I just plated it up
Serve with barely cooked butter beans, sugar snaps, snow peas and broccolini tossed in a little salt and butter.

Vietnamese Chicken Salad

Granted it’s not quite the weather for such a summery dish, but sometimes you just can’t take any more soups, stews, pies (gasp) or roasts.

I can’t remember where this came from, I think it’s a Donna Hay number but it could just as easily be from Bill Granger.
Vietnamese Chicken Salad
  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 3-4 cups chicken stock
  • 8-10 peppercorns
  • several sticks of fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 tblsp caster sugar
  • 50ml fish sauce
  • 2-4 long chillies, seeded and shredded
  • 1/2 small cabbage, shredded (or Chinese cabbage)
  • good handful each of Vietnamese mint, Thai basil, coriander, spearmint
  • handful unsalted peanuts, roughly chopped
  1. Place stock, peppercorns, and ginger in a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer
  2. Season the chicken with a little salt and poach for 15 minutes
  3. Cool in the stock
  4. Make the dressing – the longer it gets to stand, the better it tastes
  5. Drain the chicken and shred with your fingers
  6. Combine chicken, cabbage, herbs and peanuts and drizzle over the dressing
  7. Serve immediately.
Obviously this has infinite variations – I like adding some bean shoots for extra crunch and sometimes julienned carrot and cucumber. You know, whatever’s in the veggie drawer really.

Marinated Buttermilk Drumsticks

I must preface this post by saying it is a bastardised take on some Nigella recipe which I can no longer recall – I think it was for a whole chicken that you spatchcock and then marinate, but who knows.

Anyway, this is all loose and easy.
Shake those shoulders out.
I’m not giving set amounts because this changes every time I make it.
But each time they’re all snaffled. Even the extras I thought would do for lunches the next day.
These can be as healthy or as decadent as you like – in that you can skin them or not. If you do skin them I add a drizzle of oil to the marinade.
It is also compulsory to marinate them in a snaplock bag as Nigella does. Compulsory.

Buttermilk Drumsticks

  • Drumsticks – I normally do at least a dozen
  • Buttermilk – for a dozen I use a cup, but sometimes more
  • mustard -whatever takes your fancy – hot English, Dijon, seeded – they all work a treat – normally a good big teaspoon will do the trick
  • couple of smashed garlic cloves (you can peel them if you wish)
  • a lemon, cut into chunks, squeezed and then the lot put into the bag
  • good pinch of sea salt
  • healthy dose of freshly ground black pepper
  • fresh herbs of your choice (tarragon and sage are absolute winners in my book)
  • swig of olive oil
  1. Put everything in a large snaplock bag and smoosh it all together, rubbing it vigorously into the chicken, then marinading it for as long as you’ve got
  2. Preheat oven to 200C
  3. Line a baking tray with baking paper – although you can leave this out and do it in a ceramic dish as they’re easier to clean
  4. Bake for about 30 minutes until they’ve got good colour and are done.
  5. Serve with whatever you wish.

I mean seriously people, does it get much easier than that?

Roast pork

I’ve conquered my pork cooking fears. Well, at least the roasting part. Next, chops.
I grew up in a house where the only pork product ever consumed was bacon and even that was boiled before being fried to get rid of the salt.
Dear GOD it’s a miracle I’m still alive.

Anyway, because I didn’t grow up with pork, my cooking with it has always been hesitant. Combine that with appalling pork products available to us – pork that in a marketing executive fit of stupidity involved trying to pitch it as a healthy meat so breeders bred out the fat and therefore the flavour – and my experience has always left me wanting.

But as artisan breeders start getting rare tasty breeds back into our butchers and onto our dining room tables, my willingness to try and incorporate this tasty meat into our diet is having pretty good success.

Then, the other day, I roasted a piece of boned pork shoulder and Oh.My.GOD it was good.

Roasted boned shoulder of pork

  • 1.4 kg piece of boned shoulder, skin scored and piece tied thanks to the butcher
  • salt
  • stock
  • wine
  1. Preheat oven to 220C
  2. Rub salt all over the meat
  3. Place on a rack in a baking tray and cook at 220 for 30 minutes to get the crackling underway
  4. Drop temperature back to 180C
  5. Pour a cup of stock into the baking tray and a cup of (white) wine in as well
  6. Leave it alone to cook for a further hour
  7. Pull out of the oven, cut the string, cut the crackling from the roast and if necessary, crank the oven back up to high and put it back in to finish it off
  8. Cover the meat and let it rest

I served it with some roasted potatoes, pumpkin and sweet potato, peas, brussel sprouts and gravy.

Gravy

  1. Drain off any excess fat from the baking tray and place over a low-medium flame on your stove top
  2. Scatter over a heaped tablespoon of plain flour and cook off for a minute or two or three – scrape it around and work in some of the crunchy bits off the baking tray
  3. Have a kettle of boiling water on hand
  4. Add some water, stirring furiously as you go to work out any lumps and keep adding until you have a good runny liquid
  5. Cook over the flame until it thickens.
  6. Cooking the roast with the stock and wine in the bottom makes this gravy extra tasty.

The boys had left over roast beef and gravy sandwiches the next day for school.

Satay Beef Stir Fry with Vegetables and Hokkien Noodles

I’ve got a satay sauce recipe that I’ll post next as it is sensational but a bit more complex than the one below.
That said, the one below is very tasty, very easy to pull together and was a big hit in this household. A big thank you to Krista who posted it the other day. The amounts below are pretty flexible – just taste and add more of the bits you like. You can also – of course – use whatever vegetables take your fancy. I am moderately obsessed with broccolini at the moment. In fact, apart from broccoli with orrechiete, I doubt I will ever go back to steamed normal broccoli with dinner any time soon.

Satay Beef Stir Fry with Vegetables and Hokkien Noodles

  • 500g beef (I used rump steak from the pointy end, it was divinely tender and tasty)
  • splash of soy sauce
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 carrot, cut into sticks
  • 1 bunch broccolini, cut into lengths
  • 6 shallots, cut into lengths
  • 2tbsp sesame seeds, toasted in a hot dry wok at the very start
  • fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1 x 600g packet fresh hokkien noodles, prepared according to the packet
  1. Slice the beef thinly and drizzle over some soy sauce and lots of freshly cracked pepper
  2. Heat a smidge of oil in a wok and over high heat quickly sear the meat in small batches* – don’t let it stew in there, it can be pretty rare as it will keep cooking when you set it aside and throw it back in at the end – and set aside in a dish
  3. Heat a little bit more oil and add the carrots, I add a splash of water here and throw the lid on for a minute or so just to help cook them so they’re not hard but still have a good bite
  4. Add the broccolini and shallots and again, maybe add a splash of water if you need to get some steam in there to aid the cooking process
  5. Return the meat to the pan, toss through
  6. Add the noodles and the sauce
  7. Sprinkle over the sesame seeds and fresh coriander to serve.

Quick and easy satay sauce

  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 8 tbsp peanut butter
  • 6 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, smooshed
  • 4 tsp ginger, minced
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 4 tsp sugar
  • pinch cayenne (I forgot this)
  1. Mix together and adjust flavours to taste

It’s that simple folks.
Dinner on the table in like 15 minutes.


* it took me so long to accept that this was the way to do it. Patience is not something I have much of so it was a very begrudging acceptance that searing meat in a stir-fry in small batches resulted in an infinitely better end dish. But it does. So just suck it up and do it right. Small batches, high heat, quick.