Something fishy

It’s been three weeks since I was in Melbourne but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the amazing fish I had at Bottega. I think – and this is a big call – that it was the best dinner I’ve EVER had.

Being a bit of a restaurant dilettante it’s also a big call to say that I think it may be the nicest place I’ve dined. But I think it’s a call that I have to make.

Mel did a full blog post about Bottega that you can read here. However I need to show you my meal. Being the best meal I’ve ever had, it really deserves to be featured on my own blog.

I forgot to take a photo of the bread they served, so you’ll just have to take my word for it – it was Really Good Bread. And I never use title case incorrectly so you know I’m speaking the truth. It had a lovely, chewy crust and a moist, soft centre. The waiteress came back later to offer us another piece, which I turned down. Biggest mistake of my life people. No other bread will ever compare.

Anyway, I digress. This is the fishy. It’s a pan seared barramundi served with black rice, parsnip puree and salsa verde.

Dessert for me was a trio of house made sorbet, raspberry, strawberry & passionfruit. Cleansed my palate perfectly.

The question now of course is whether to go back next time I’m in Melbourne? What if I return and it doesn’t live up to my expectations? And would I order the same fishy dishy or try something different? It’s such a tough, first world problem to ponder.

In the meantime, I’ve been cooking a lot fish. Not to try and recreate the Bottega meal, but just because I was reminded how delicious and versatile it is.

Last Friday night I made steamed blue eye with black beans from Neil Perry’s Balance and Harmony cook book. You can scroll to the end of the post for the recipie, but I will advise cutting the soy and shaoxing by half. The black beans were far too salty.

That greenery in the background is meant to be beans and bok choy. I totally oversteamed the bok choy though so it was more like flop choy.

I made the prawns from a sambal recipe in Adam Liaw’s new book, Two Asian Kitchens. I’ve only ever watched one episode of Master Chef (with the Sporles) but that episode was all it took for me to develop a crush on Adam. So talented, so cute and as his tweets now show, he’s pretty sweet and witty too. Anyway, I’m digressing – the prawns were hot, hot, hot and yum, yum, yum. Not for the faint hearted, that’s for sure! While I was making the sambal assam that you stir fry into the prawns, my nostrils started to burn. Felt like a fire in my nose, which I kind of liked….but then, I’m weird like that.

Neil Perry’s steamed blue eye with black beans: 

Cooking Time Prep time 15 mins, cook 15 mins
Serves four

 – 4 green onions, trimmed and halved
– 600 gm  blue eye trevalla fillets, cut into four pieces
– 4 tbsp black beans
–  2 tbsp light soy sauce
– 4 tsp Shaoxing wine

Put the green onion in a large shallow heatproof bowl and place the fish on top. Combine the black beans, soy sauce, and Shaoxing and pour over the fish. Put the bowl in a large bamboo steamer over a saucepan or a wok of rapidly boiling water, cover with the lid and steam until the fish is just cooked through (7-8 minutes). Carefully remove the bowl from the steamer.

Adam Liaw’s prawn sambal: 

Serves 4
Preparation: 15 minutes
Cooking: 5 minutes

1 large brown onion, sliced
1 kilo of prawns, peeled and deveined
2 cups sambal assam

1) Heat oil in a wok over medium-high heat until smoking. Fry the onion for 2 minutes or until softened but not browned. Add the prawns, stir fry for about 1 minute or until starting to turn opaque.
2)  Add the sambal assam (below) to the wok and simmer for 2-3 minutes until the prawns are cooked through.

Sambal Assam
Makes 300-350ml
Preparation: 10 minutes + 10 minutes standing
Cooking: 25 minutes

2 tbsp tamarind pulp
10 eschalots, roughly chopped
10 red chillies ( I used birds eye from Mum & Dad’s garden but any chillies are ok)
4 cloves garlic
60gm palm sugar
5g sea salt flakes
1 tsp dried shrimp paste

1-  Put the tamarind pulp in a heatproof bowl and add 250ml boiling water. Leave to cool, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes until the water is cool enough to touch comfortably. Strain the tamarind liquid, pressing the solids with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. Scrape the bottom of the strainer into the liquid, and discard the solids.
2 – Combine the eschalots, chillies and garlic in a food processor and process to a rough paste. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat, add the paste and reduce the heat to low. Cook the paste for 10-15 minutes, stirring regularly, until much of the moisture has evaporated and the mixture is fragrant.
3- Add the tamarind liquid, sugar, salt and shrimp paste. Cook, stirring occasionally for 10-15 minutes. Store in an airtight container in the freezer.

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