Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cygnet Town F.C. Est 2014

The townsfolk of Cygnet are proud to announce that Cygnet will be represented in the Tasmanian Football Federation Southern League 4, with the formation of its newest club, Cygnet Town F.C.

The club sprouted from the established Monday night indoor soccer group, the Cygnet Sea Dragons junior team’s parents and the dogged efforts of Matt Evans (not the Gourmet Farmer!) Dave Sayers, George Wilson, John Gorrie, John Andrews and numerous other enthusiasts.

With fantastic local support, especially from Dr John Wilkins and the Port Cygnet Football Club, generous sponsorship from local businesses we were able to hurdle each challenge and played our first ever game, a friendly which we won convincingly.

Our first official game was on Saturday the 12th against New Norfolk away and we were thrilled to win 4-3.

Our inaugural home game, at Cygnet oval is on Saturday 26 April at 4pm with bar facilities and a barbeque. Come out and support community sprit at its best!

Go the Town!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Tasmania has shit chefs!

Relax: I only wrote this title to generate lots of hits from Google.

"Tasmania was widely known for having the best produce in the nation, but the worst chefs," explained local food writer Matthew Evans. That changed with the establishment of new farm-to-table restaurants and cooking schools around the state.

This paragraph in the Wall Street Journal lifestyle section featuring Tasmania as a foodie paradise has ruffled a few local feathers.

It suggests that before the diaspora of tree-sea changing foodies decamped to the island, it was bereft of the skilled craftspeople required to do its lauded produce justice.

Whilst this might be unpalatable for some whom feel slighted by the comment, the fact remains that in the last ten years Tasmania, its producers and its restaurants have generated an unprecedented level of awareness.

Throw into the mix, advocates like Tetsuya, Kylie Kwong and Neil Perry, the international reputation of the Agrarian Kitchen and the popularity of the aforementioned Evans's Gourmet Farmer series and a clear picture emerges underpinning the publics perception that Tassie is a bona fide food bowl.

The elephant in the room in my opinion, is that this has largely been accomplished by the efforts of newer Tasmanians.
This is not to take from the pioneering efforts of the preceding generation of foodie trailblazers at all. However, I think its more an indication of the perception of Tasmanian restaurant and café culture beginning to aim as high as that of its revered produce and as a result we are gaining unprecedented attention, which can only be a good thing right?

Also, we are all aware that phrases and comments are not only taken out of context by accident but also by what slant the journalist wants to convey in their article. There may have been many more examples of glowing endorsements for this states dining reputation that may have been edited out?

Though I’ve personally had some differences with some of my contemporaries over the years, big personalities tend to bring out the best and worst in us all, I have come to accept that we in the foodie community have much more in common than we do differences.

Perhaps we should concentrate more on this aspect rather than the counter-productive and divisive of the former, then we can all benefit from Tasmania’s upwardly mobile profile.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Left overs 101

What to do with left over roast chook

For many years I have overseen kitchens that have delivered thousands of meals, toss in my gregarious and generous nature with food, my deep seated need to nurture people and my own appetites and you are left with a profile person that is not very suited to cooking for small numbers, like my own family of five, me included.
When your fridge and freezer starts to bulge with sticky-taped labelled take-away containers with the over catered family dinners its pretty obvious you are suffering from ‘Over Catering Syndrome’ or OCS as we call it in the game.
Let’s shift down a gear though. I’m always startled and dismayed by the reported waste of food that Australians reach every year. According to this website, we waste a staggering 8.7 Billion dollars worth of food per year.
Perhaps the reasons why we throw out so much food are manifold.
Firstly I reckon we just don’t trust food not to be off. Instead of trusting our noses, we look to use by dates as the default position. It says use before the 24th and it’s the 25th today so I should bin it. I think observing and smelling first should be our first responses to questioning foods consumable authentication.
Secondly, we crave variance in our diets and for many, eating the hero and cast of last nights dish a second time doesn’t hold much appeal. My theory on this is that we seek reward/comfort/titillation/validation of our day through the evening meal and the prospect of eating a similar thing to last night reminds us of yesterday’s woes.
Thirdly, we are promiscuous in this country when it comes to our tastebuds. We are easily swayed by Turkey on Monday,Malaysia on Tuesday and Argentina on Wednesday etc. It’s a challenge for us to commit to a singular cuisine. This I believe, is our weakness and our strength when it comes to that old chestnut of a quandary ‘Does Australia have a unique cuisine’
Anyways, quite often we have left over chook after a roast as two of our brood are parsimonious in their imbibing of the flesh. I love feeding our pets with strips of skin, flesh and tendon like the next person but I’m always left with a sense that the poor chook should’ve been totally consumed by us, the people who have instigated and amassed this whole mechanism to get our meat to the table, well not us personally but we are the consumers at the end of this line and should be accountable.

I’ll try my best, OK? This is for four peeps

So….. At this juncture after dinner I’m left with about ½ a cooked breast, 1 ½ legs and one wing. These are not big chooks BTW; it’s just that my fam only eat a smidge of meat, preferring the vegies and copious amounts of (real) gravy to the flesh of a roast.
I strip off all the remaining meat and shred the skin. Reclaim all the bones and make a stock adding the usual aroma suspects and then reducing to its fundamentals, i.e. a light brown super chicken essence. Strain this and let it sit and be revered on your bench-should yield about 500mls
This stock will have an Unami profile of crisp chicken skin and form the cornerstone of your sauce for the leftover-pie of which you are about to embark.
Take about 100g of butter an let it froth in a heavy large-ish pot (2litre) before adding 1 diced onion and ½ a washed and diced leek. Let this sizzle at a low heat until the leek and onion start to colour and you begin to inhale the intoxicating aromas that only slow-cooked onionoids can deliver under the duress of fat and heat. Now add a few crushed cloves of garlic, some dried tarragon (its intensity is superior to fresh in long cooked dishes) and inhale one of the true Sofrito  aromas of which so many ancient dishes have their foundations celebrated.
Just as the Sofrito becomes Autumnal at its edges we turn the heat off and add a cup of flour, stirring into a paste and because we are using butter as a lubricant we’ll follow suite and use milk as the stock
Slowly add 1 litre of milk as you would when making a white sauce, stirring constantly to achieve smoothness. Once this is done you’ll have quite a thick paste but now you add your secret ingredient! You include that lovely reduced chook stock to your veloute and as well as enriching its flavour you’ll be able to dilute it enough for another 15 mins of ‘cooking-out’ the ‘floury-taste’. After this time, add your retrieved chicken meat, shredded skin and mix thoroughly. The filling should be quite thick when warm so stiff when its’ cold. Add some sea salt and pepper to focus the flavour before letting it cool completely
Next day, grease a 20cm spring form cake tin and line with ready-bought or homemade short crust or puff pastry, fill with the cold pie-mix and top with whatever pastry you’ve used. Brush with milky egg-wash before baking at 160C for 40 minutes.
Let the pie cool completely before trying to retrieve it from the tin. One that is done, portion it into quarters but leave it whole to re-heat.
Serve it with mash, vegies and a spicy tomato chutney or relish.
Two bites of the cherry.
Waste not, want not.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Err... this is a novel menu idea?!

Breakfast $50

Bacon, eggs (any way) toast, sausages, baked beans, grilled tomato, sautéed spinach, avocado, smoked salmon, hollandaise, creamy mushrooms, hash browns, chorizo served on a wooden plank

 You can Minus the Extras!
Sausages $4, baked beans $3, grilled tomato $3, sautéed spinach $4, avocado $3, smoked salmon $5, hollandaise $3, creamy mushrooms $4, hash browns $3, chorizo $4, wooden plank $3

Saturday, March 08, 2014

How to Rate a Penalty

Penalty rates, that vexed topic

The simple fact is people open businesses to make money.
Many if not most aim for profit but believe it or not, some are happy just not to go backwards. So not all businesses are the same however nobody takes the risk of opening a small business like a café or restaurant to lose money.

In hospitality, the weekend trade is usually the busiest. This is factored in when someone decides to take a gamble and open a hospitality business. They understand that weekday trade will not be as great as weekend trade and so staff it accordingly with more staff at the weekend to cope with demand.
The penalty rates awarded to staff working over the weekend add a considerable percentage to the businesses wage costs. This is then borne by the business and can and does often eat into any profit that the business may have gleaned over the weeks trading.

At this juncture, many people will say and not unreasonably I might add, that ‘Your business plan should have accounted for the penalty rates in your wage forecasts’.
True and I agree entirely.
It’s not as if penalty rates are a new thing is it?

The fork in the road that divides people and their opinions on penalty rates appears pretty quickly when businesses decide to raise the price of their goods and services to adjust for the loss in profit that paying penalty rates manifest.
Businesses are accused of gouging, being greedy and holding the public to a ransom of sorts.
This is the bit that I don’t get.

Would you expect other businesses to absorb the cost of doing business on the weekends and losing profit as a result? Taking it further would you as a shareholder, be prepared to reduce your dividend because the company you invested in had to account for a higher wage bill for staff who worked weekends?
No you wouldn’t. You’d expect your company’s executive to adjust by raising the cost of its product/service to keep the profits coming.
Hospitality businesses are no different.

The problem is that being in the business of Hospitality is oft confused for being in the business of service solely because of the perception from the dining public, that its operators do this because they ‘love’ it.
Sure most of us do, we’re lucky we’ve found a vocation that we enjoy.
However, like a performance on stage, our job eventually comes to an end when we pack up, clean down and ring off the till.
This is when reality bites.

The till is the leitmotif, the inescapable truth that the restorative production that you are enjoying within a cosseted and welcoming enclave is a pantomime performance for which you must eventually pay. No matter how convincing a exhibition the players make to assure you otherwise and suspend your disbelief, eventually you’ll have to depart this wonderland and retreat to your own reality, via the till.
So for some, a previously enjoyable repast spent idly imbibing, can evaporate speedily leaving one with a disconcerting feeling that they had just partaken in an illusion of generosity and their purse is all the lighter as a result.

This feeling is at odds with the perception that some people have of hospitality and is at the heart of the misgivings they then reserve for the operators who respond by putting their prices up at weekends and public holidays to make sure they are also being recompensed for opening during such times, as well as their staff.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Cry me a Burger

I do love a burger and I’m particularly fond of the Aussie fish & chips shop or take-away version but of late it seems this variety is becoming more difficult to find.
Presently we’re being swamped by American styled burgers. Whilst this might sound like an oxymoron, as American styled burgers were the proto-burger to our Aussie version for generations to follow, however these day we are trying to replicate the modern burgers of today’s America. Sadly, our Aussie version is being left behind, like the Neenish tarts, apple slices and custard tarts of our high st bakeries before they got Zumbo-ed. Don’t get me wrong, I love a macaron as much as the next bloke, unless that bloke happens to be the McCafé Mephisto. You know when Maccas start selling ‘em it’s OVER, Portlandia style.
There are at least five burger places or places that specialize in burgers in Hobart alone. I commend people putting their money where their mouth is and having a red hot go. God knows there are some big ‘Talkers’ and ‘Gunnas’ in this small city and its surrounds, so I tips me hat to ‘em.
I suspect we are seeing a fork in the road as far as the burger aesthetic is concerned.
Where the large, crunchy roll, flat beef patty, almost raw onion, egg, bacon, cheddar, iceberg, tomato slice, tinned beetroot (and possibly pineapple ringed) roamed our towns, suburbs, city streets and late night strips, lumbering along like Brontosaurus unaware of the impending E.L.L.E event(remember this movie?) before comets in the form of American Burgers detonate across the globe.
Perhaps the Aussie burger just got too big? It’s true; many versions became so monolithic that they needed a small Bunnings step-ladder to approach them. In fact navigating one to take a singe bite was out of the question, instead one had to chart and manoeuvre, like a tactician organising different fronts in which to attack with the Medical core of napkins carriers, not far behind. Some appeared with toothpicks to hold them together, which were then replaced by sate skewers, followed by school rulers and I heard recently of a joint that use Jousting Irons to keep the filling in tact!
The American version however is (ironically) smaller. The patty is fattier, the sauces are liberally applied to the point of saturation and the buns are sweeter and softer.
It is not without some irony that the American burger and its Aussie counterpart are both very messy to eat, both having a Napkin Factor TM of five a piece.
Considering that the Aussie burger Tower is considerably bigger, so I’d say in terms of sustainability, certainly as far as the Napkin FactorTM is concerned is more sustainable.
Look I love pickles in a burger but I would never have considered adding them to an Aussie if it not for the insidious creep of American burger culture. When I make a hamburger at home, no pickles, but when I was an American styled burger I can’t get enough of em, Kooky hey?
Perhaps at the heart of this second wave of American Burger fascination afflicting pedigreed chefs and operators is the dawning realization of the homogenization of the dining publics’ palette. Behind every Dude-Food fad is an insecurity as to what the public may want to eat and a hospitality sector increasingly becoming risk adverse.
Buts it’s perhaps the most glaring of observations, to me at least, that those whom regularly partake of a burger and chips for lunch might not fall into the catchment of what these New Burger Burghers are aiming for. I can’t think of any instances when the most prosaic but satisfying of food can be embellished by a celebrity or cause to make it a stylized version of its former self which become more successful than its progenitor?
Look no further that the explosion of ‘Gourmet Fish + Chips’ shops that occurred in the early nineties. Yes they lifted the game overall, using fresh and correctly named fish being the two most prominent achievements however very few of them remain in their former incarnation. Why? Well I believe that too many tried to profit by ‘Gourmet-ifying’ what used to be a very egalitarian repast. Meanwhile some old fish and chip places not only continue to operate but some actually thrive.
Ironically some of these old school places will soon become targets of the cool-hunters eager to leverage off them morphing into ‘institutions’, a word regularly deployed to hide all manner of sins that would not be tolerated outside of its time capsule.

Will the Burger go the same way? Time will tell.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Is food blogging dead?

This question has probably been asked countless times before so excuse my lateness to the party and those seeking evidence that I am not one of the worlds great noticers need look no further than my query.
All that aside, it does appear that many of the food blogging alumni whom must take credit for piquing my interest in the craft, back in 1996, have all but fallen off the perch or in the very least post about as frequently as Scott Morrison gives us arrival updates or Tony Abbott praises our ABC.
Many of these bloggers had been blogging for quite a few years already and through their observations, writing, wit and taste for the iconoclast, I, like many others sought their alternative views on what had become a fairly stifled and beige reportage of current food trends, reviews and profiles.
This is not to say I don’t admire much from the scribing of printed food-journalists but an emerging edgy counterpoint to balance their sanctioned and paid for opinions, bought a fresh dynamism to the genre and we’re all better for it too imo.
Before the food bloggers splintered into factions, fizzled, became a Catherine Wheel caricature of themselves or lap-dogs for PR there were a disparate group of people I identified with who bought an interesting perspective to this emerging oeuvre.
I suppose for me its parabola arrived at the first ever food bloggers conference, EAT DRINK BLOG event held in Melbourne in 2010.
It was here I got to meet people from my own tribe, people with whom I shared a common thread. They were a disparate mob and because of this I suspect collectively they shone a lot of light into a dark space very quickly. This kind of energy is not without consequence and sadly I think it could never be sustained long-term with the intensity required and so, we are now here.
I must also mention that in 1996, there was a lone but prolific Tasmanian food blogger, The Hobart Restaurant Bitch, who’s pithy and at times snarky style I enjoyed and who inspired another Tasmanian, Helen Ellis, to start her own blog, Rita’s Bite, which still continues albeit infrequently, to date the HRB site hasn’t been updated since 2011.
I won’t name everyone at the conference for fear of missing somebody out, you know who you are, galvanised by a last hoorah in that tiny Sth Melbourne bar when nothing else was open.
After this, we all went our separate ways, some stopped blogging altogether, others still limp along and yet some continue to thrive.
What passes for food blogging these days is a foreign to me as another language. In fact, I question whether I identify as a food blogger at all, certainly not by recent standards.
2010 was a time when the term didn’t sound quite so trite.
Initially, the conduit to interaction with peers was through blogs but the baton changed when Twitter arrived. Established bonds and friendships forged by blogging have morphed into twitter followers and succinct conversations. Whilst I have a love/hate relationship with Twitter (we were separated for a time) it has enabled me to stay connected. On the other side of the ledger though, I lament the passing of some really engaging articles penned by some sharp, observant and very witty people.

All things must come to an end I spose?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

What type of restaurateur/café/food business owner are you?

Restaurateur you say? I like the sound of that more than food + beverage curator
The Empire builder
Not content with a single outlet to showcase their style of hospitality, these moguls are intent on having a beachhead in every city, town or village with their ubiquitous brand. They are the catalyst toward a homogeny of eating and serving styles and an enemy of diversity.

The Mum + Dad show
Battlers, often immigrants specialising in ethnic foods. From the cheap n cheerful school of hospitality. Oft overlooked by the guides and food arbiters unless of course they intend on doing a bi-yearly retro piece celebrating unsung heroes etc.

The rabbit in the headlights
So shit scared of putting a foot wrong, they’ll quickly hand over all the decisions about décor, food, bev and staff recruitment to their accountant who’ll veto every decision. ‘Frozen chips are cheaper’, Chicken Caesar salad sells better or doing stock audits after every single service. Frequent abusers of the 'Menu by committee' approach.

The waiter + the chef
Buddies who speak the same language at the start. Often worked together in other establishments where they both felt they were under-appreciated and they talents overlooked. Some of these pairing can and do work but many find the reality of having a mate as a business partner can go south very quickly. Those snide underhanded comments about their former employer were fun back then but hard to adjust to with their own staff and themselves.

The idealist
Sadly these idealists are the type of operators who keep the people making For Lease signs very rich ‘I just want to open a place that gathers its food and drink from within 20kms of the CBD’ I’m sorry but foraged foods from Melbourne’s night cart lanes is not appealing. ‘You know a little local eatery, the kind of place that I’d go to if I lived here’ I don’t think that rustic Italian in a high priority for the Housing Commission tenants near-bye. ‘I don’t want to be ageist, I want all aged people working here’ I’m sorry but unless you are the Hopetoun Tea rooms most people don’t want to be served by their Grandma or Granddad.

The ever present
The difference in appearance to these people and their staff is shocking. First thing you notice is that they look like they don’t sleep, ever. Deep recessed dull eyes encircled by dark saggy rings under them. They’ll save money by doing the laundry themselves, taking rubbish to the tip, ironing all the uniforms, buying cheap soft drinks on special at Cash n Carry, sent staff home early on a quiet-ish night and step into their sections. They’ll always be the first to arrive and the last to leave and have a whiff of the martyr about them.

The chef-hater
They people despise chefs with a passion and what makes it even worse for them is that they need them. They bristle whenever the chef gets a mention in a review, but neglect to refer to the owner, them. Paydays are the worst as they see tonnes of cash end up in the chef’s pocket, even though they’re the ones who’ve risked everything to get their place running.

The never there
The only evidence that these people are the owners of a business is their name as licensee above the door. In fact some long term-staff keep a photo of their boss so they might recognize them if the happen to darken the doorstep. Often all communication is done by phone, text or email.

The environmentalist
Everything is local, organic, bio-degradable, sustainable, ethical, natural, fair-trade, roof-top apiary, kitchen garden, water tanks, re-claimed fit-out materials, salvaged items, reticulated water, re-usable bottles, op-shop cutlery and even recycled waiters aprons, Phew! ‘What’s that? You want us to take your order? Don’t you think we’ve got enough to do!?

The franchisee
‘Sure I used to be in Tyre Retail but the principles are the same right?’ Err no.

We just do our own thing and hope people 'get us' operator
This mob are keen to 'school us' in technique and product which can border on the condecending and at times high farce. They tread a fine between' Emporers new clothes' syndrome and genuine novelty and its a divisive one at best. One mans 'I went there and all I got was some lemony wine and a burnt carrrot' is always anothers 'It literally took my breath away, the audacity, the high wire act of genius without a net'.

The copycat
Every design and restaurant concept from every book ever published on the subject has been scoured and appropriated by this type of operator. Ever flicked through a book seen a picture of a successful restaurant say in New York, London or Paris and thought gee that’s looks similar to the big joint at Southbank? Hmmm

The family run show
These often start up as the Mum + Dad show but often the next gen end up working there usually for a pittance. Other staff are exposed to all that pent up family angst and are unfairly roped in to take sides which never ends well as blood is always thicker than water.

The egotist
The name of the joint is a dead giveaway if it has the name of the proprietor in it. Usually something like ‘Casa della Rocco’ ‘Chez Marguerite’ or ‘Branstons on Pickle’.
Faded and yellowing past reviews adorn the sad windows and collecting dust are pictures of the owner with C list celebrities, disgraced politicians and former sporting greats.

The vanity project
Usually backed by wealthy family to indulge them and get them out of their legitimate business affairs. No expense is spared on the fit out, advertising, wages etc. The soft opening parties are extravagant and memorable for their largesse but the fun times turn sour when customers are expected to pay, preferring to stay away in droves.

The dinner party host/hostess
‘So we had just finished a fabulous truffle stuffed Camembert and the remains of yet another bottle of Bolly when I thought: I could do this for a living!’
Crikey the eighties were responsible for many conversations like this one materializing into real ventures by operators who actually believed they had the bona fides to run a hospo business.

The cooking show contestee
OK they got voted out in the second round by who could ever forget that golden TV moment when they broke down after they read out- loud the telegram from their Gran Gran is hospital who said ‘Follow your dreams’ before slipping into a coma.
They always wanted to be a restaurateur, it’s in their blood, they were born to do this, the profession chose them and they are heeding the call. OK that’s fine but when you’ve also been a contestant on five other un-related reality TV shows, it’s OK for me to be a bit of a sceptic

Have you got any of your own to add?

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

An old recipe passed on, added to + still breathing

I once pinched a joke  from the primary writers of  the tv spy show 'Get Smart', Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, which became part of my repertoire from the age when I started my apprenticeship, 1982.
It went like this: At a dinner party, a friend had enjoyed a dish I had made and I told them it originated from a an ancient Italian lady on her deathbed who motions me closer so she can whisper something into my ear.
I oblige, leaning over her heavily.
She painfully recants a message into my ear before succumbing to the grim reaper.
I lean back and those around me witnessing the event breathlessly enquire,: 'What were her last words?'
to which I reply solemly: 'her last words were, Get your knee off my chest!'
Anyway this segues into a real-life passing of the baton for which I am ever grateful. 
No knees were involved BTW.
Yes of course Dr. But he'll  still be able to finish the dinner service won't he?

In 1992 I was working in a little Italian café on Weymouth Street opposite the Advertiser and Australian newspapers, called Manna café. It was a Mon to Frid gig and the only evening we opened for dinner was a Friday night after which the boss would shout us drinks at the local pub.
We specialized in Italian food and our claim was bolstered by the presence of an elderly Italian lady, Maria (what else?) who oversaw the authenticity of our food.
Maria and her husband Ettore ran the much lauded Ettore’s Ristorante for many years but could not relax into retirement and so worked 11am to 3pm daily.
I’ve worked with some grumpy people in my time and Maria was right up there but her redeeming quality was her passion for food, cookery and her Italian heritage. I reckon she must have been about seventy when I worked with her but she was as nimble and dextrous at a person a quarter her age.
The café was owned by a young Greek couple who also employed their elderly parents, Vassili and Connie. All the waiters were Italian including a poster boy for Italian machismo and handsomeness, Marino who of course had a swag of female admirers amongst the clientele.
Vassili would spend his weekends picking the wild olives gleaned from the Adelaide foothills and the parks, then spent hours slashing each one before purging in cold water to start the pickling process. He would also catch flathead, calamari and garfish which provided our kitchen with seafood not usually reserved for such a humble venue. Vassili also was up there on the grumpy stakes. Perhaps this was due to the painstaking task of cleaning the wild artichokes that he also gleaned from the hills.
His already toughened hands bore fresh scars from his weekly tousle with the thistles and their spikes.
I didn’t realise it at the time but I was very lucky to work in a venue where so many elements and passions fermented to make such a complex and rewarding environment to be part of.
It was here that Maria taught me, actually she never ‘taught’ anyone. You had to watch, that’s was it. She didn’t like questions and she’d get very tetchy if you tried to write anything down in her presence, so it was all ‘Watchy-Learny’.
Most Marinara’s rely on fresh seafood for their flavour punch but in my opinion, they can often taste a bit one dimensional and that’s just the good examples.  As you eat you go: ok prawn, hmm yes fish bits, yes I get the garlic hit but beyond those identifiable tastes the pasta often seems at odds with the seafood it’s supposed to carry.
Marias’s recipe circumvents this malady.
OK, recipe warning here: for people who find the pronounced taste of the sea too confronting, stay within the confines of the prosaic marinara. If however your tastes embrace the broad spectrum of food from the deep blue, think sea urchin roe or the Japanese Chawanmushi then this recipe is for you.
What she creates is a baseline seafood flavour through the usage of canned tuna, anchovies, cuttlefish and mussels. This trench of seafood flavour provides the conduit for the layered additions of other fish. Remember that this is a pre-made base cooked in bulk as it lasts for an age so I haven’t included amounts-Maria would be proud of me!
You start with a classic sofritto. Diced onions, celery, lots of olive oil, crushed garlic cloves (lots) dried chillies (numerous) bay leaves, dried oregano and a bit of sweet paprika. The ingredients should be swimming in oil.
Then add chopped anchovies, canned tuna, chopped capers, green and black olives.
Then add a quantity of crushed tomatoes, white wine, whole cleaned mussels and cuttlefish. Toss in some fresh black pepper and a smidge of sea salt.
Let this simmer until the cuttlefish are tender which will take about two hours on a medium heat.
Let it cool before refrigerating.
Now here’s my secret embellishment: Hey don’t Tut Tut! Everybody ‘Interprets’ or ‘Re-Imagines!’
After you have filleted some fish, Schnapper, flatties or whatever, put the bones and skin on a tray and cook in the oven for at least three hours on the lowest possible heat.
You want to get them as dry as possible. Overnight is better on the pilot light.
Let them cool completely before putting the dried bits into a vitamiser or blender, add a bit of sea salt flakes and then pulverise to a powder.
This powder is gold. This powder is your friend. This powder elevates the most humble seafood bake into a transcendental experience. Store it in an air tight container in pantry.
My other secret embellishment is this:
Pangratatto. This translates as dried breadcrumbs, preferably sourdough ones. Excellent for absorbing juices and flavoursome oil left in a pan. Absolutely integral to lifting the flavour profile of any pasta dish, in my opinion.
Ok you have the mise en place ready for a spectacular Marinara. Pasta boiling freely in plenty of salted water. Fish bits cut up, prawns peeled, scallops cleaned, crab meat picked etc.
Heat some oil and fry off your fresh seafood, then add a few spoonfuls of your Maria’s secret recipe Marinara mix, check seafood is cooked, add drained pasta, a scattering of dried fish powder and a handful of pangratatto. Finally add heaps of fresh chopped Italian leaf parsley, some lemon zest, portion and serve.