Eating Fish

January 18, 2010

Since I’ve been back from Cape Town, I have been craving chips (french fries or potato wedges) which I had quite a lot of when I was visiting South Africa. The South Africans love their fried potatoes so much they even have a sandwich composed of white bread, a very thick layer of chips and ketchup. I had a portion of one of these sandwiches at Maryam’s Kitchen, downtown Capetown, and delicious as it was, I didn’t need to eat for hours since it sat very solidly in the bottom of my tummy the rest of the afternoon. Thankfully, I’ve returned to Brooklyn to brimming sackfuls of potatoes from my CSA share, and have thus far made myself fried chips and eggs for breakfast two times in four days…

I ate a lot of very tasty fish while I was in Cape Town, including the prerequisite trip to Kaulky’s in Kaulk Bay for freshly caught fried fish and chips at the water front. While in Kaulk Bay, I had this lovely plate of preserved sardines and lemons at the Klipkantein for breakfast one morning with a good cup of rooibus tea. I’d say we all need to eat more fish for breakfast in general.

I resisted cooking too much in Cape Town (after the cooking extravaganza in London over Christmas), but we bought a fabulous bit of yellowtail tuna which I broiled with leeks for our dinner one night. My sister in law made a delicious salad to go with the fish (black sesame seeds, salad greens, red peppers, strawberries, chick pea sprouts, wasabi… I have to beg her for the recipe) and a steaming potful of sticky rice.

Broiled Tuna with Ginger and Leeks
4 large fillets, cut into two or three so you have about 8 to 10 pieces. Rinse and pat dry. Season very lightly with salt and pepper.

Marinate in the following for at least 15 minutes:
1/4 – 1/3 c soy sauce
1-2 Teaspoons hot chilli sauce
4 garlic cloves minced (we used roasted garlic)
1-2 Teaspoons white sesame seeds
2-3 Tablespoons rice vinegar
1-2 Tablespoons sesame oil
1 heaping Tsp grated fresh ginger
Generous pinch of sugar

(Quantities are approximate, this is very much a pinch of this and a dash of that sort of recipe)

While fish marinates, slice up one large leek (wash and drain sliced leeks in at least 2 changes of water so you don’t end up with sand) and saute this on low heat in about 1-2 tsp of oil or butter. When the leeks have started to soften, add a heaping tsp of fresh grated ginger to the pan and keep sauteing until leeks are tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat broil to high setting. Arrange fish skin down on a baking pan (line with parchment paper or foil). Pour any marinade from the bowl over the fish and drizzle with another tablespoon or so of sesame oil.
Broil in top part of oven about 10-15 minutes until fish is brown and cooked inside (test with a fork, if fish just starts to flake, take it out of the oven. You don’t want to over cook.)

Arrange broiled fish on a platter and spoon sauteed leeks over the fish. Serve with salad and sticky rice. You could probably use any other nice white fish such as tilapia, or mahi mahi.

Scaling Fish

January 12, 2010

(I won’t even explain where I’ve been. There’s no point, I am officially useless at keeping up this blog…)

I spent Christmas in London with my Uncle and Aunt y and cousins. Christmas in London is always a fabulous mix of Nigeria meeting British culture: I revel in endless cups of tea and English shortbread while we cook up pots of jollof rice, egusi soup and other homey favourites.

This year a good friend of the family, Uncle Olu, decided to cook the bulk of our Christmas dinner. Uncle Olu is a seasoned cook. Even better, he can cook endlessly, with seemingly no end of energy. I am in awe.

Our Christmas menu involved jollof rice (a pilaf cooked in tomato sauce), moi moi (steamed bean cakes– in this case Uncle Olu filled them with boiled eggs and fresh stewed tuna), yam potage (white yam stewed in tomatoes), fried plantains (my aunty sprinkled in cinnamon– very new thing for me), lemon and herb roasted turkey (I always end up doing the turkey… ),fruit salad, green salad, roast potatoes, piles and piles of Uncle Olu’s fried tilapia and  my Christmas butter cookies (Gourmet, December 2005, may she rest in peace).

Two days before Christmas, my uncle and aunty, Uncle Olu and myself piled into the car at half past six to drive out to the Billingsgate Fish Market on the eastern end of London to buy fish whole sale for the holiday meals. We bought a case of whole tillapia, another of sea bream, more of  prawns, and a small whole tuna. This of course meant that we ate fish non stop for practically the rest of the week, but it was all delicious and I learned some good tips from Uncle Olu about how to scale fish.
First you fill the sink with cold water and submerge the fish. Then you scale the fish by working from the tail towards the gills with a table knife, going against the grain of the fish to fleck off the scales. This is surprisingly easy and very satisfying to feel the smooth skin once the scales are off. Its a little trickier around the gills and the eyes on the head. We saved all the heads either for stewing or seasoned and fried them up with the rest of the fish. After scaling, we cut the fish at the neck and squeeze the gills out. For the larger fish, you slice a third of the way down the belly and squeeze out the innards. Not the most pleasant but it goes quickly. Next Uncle Olu gives the fish another good rinse in cold water then soaks them in lemon juice and water. After which we seasoned with salt, pepper and bouillon cubes from home (okay fine, Knorr cubes for those of you who are in the know…)

And thats it! We stewed some in a lovely thin red tomato sauce which resulted in sweet, tender pieces of fish which we ate with white rice. The rest we pan fried or grilled for Christmas dinner. (I convinced Uncle Olu to let me season some with ginger, scallions, and soy sauce… when it was cooked he admitted with surprise that it was delicious. Whew!)
It was a feast.

Meanwhile, I’m in Capetown visiting my brother and sister in law. I’ve had some interesting adventures with vegan cupcakes…