Little Fish

by Linda on April 17, 2014


I had two recipe successes at the beach, and this is the other one.  I live with a bloke whose idea of bliss is standing thigh deep in ocean on an overcast day using all the sensory skills of a hunter.  We were at a good fishing beach, there was a nice east coast low making perfect conditions, he spent many hours at it.  And still, we ended up at the fishmonger.

There is an odd contradiction in buying fish because you can’t catch any.  It makes “sustainable” species a very clear and present idea.  I stood there wondering what to get and feeling very conflicted.  Then the person in front of me bought a $3,  500 gram packet of little fish.

“What are you planning to do with them?”
“Just flour them and fry them and eat them whole, with a cold beer.  They’re wonderful”.

I had no idea what they were but working on the principle that small fish are lower down the food chain and less threatened than larger fish, I took a punt.

“I”ll have what he had.  What are they?”

OK, so I’d never had anchovies before any way except out of a tin.  But I followed the directions and they were, as promised, wonderful.  Tossed in flour with a little salt and pepper, deep fried in small batches in a pot of light olive oil for just a couple of minutes, eaten whole.  I did make up a bit of a dipping sauce with lemon juice, garlic, a little bit of chili, finely chopped onion and finely chopped parsley.  And we had a good debate about whether they were better with the head or without.

When I got home I looked them up on Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide from Australian Marine Conservation Society, and the banner image is anchovies.  About as sustainable as you get. Spanish tapas recipes take the head off and butterfly them removing the gut, and this wouldn’t be hard to do, but with the little ones we had (about 3 inches or 75 mm long) it’s hardly necessary. Anchovies are up there with sardines as a source of omega 3s and no risk of mercury like the larger predator fish, and omega 3s are important for a whole range of health benefits from cardiovascular to mental health.  And $6 a kilo.  A new favourite.

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Sourdough Banana Bread

by Linda on April 14, 2014

banana sourdough bread

I make this the first time on holiday at the beach.  I had my sourdough starter with me (doesn’t everyone take their sourdough starter to the beach? Yes, he comes on holiday, mostly for pancakes but you never know). I’m not totally obsessed though – I had flour with me but none of my usual at-home stock of multigrains or spices or nuts. So it was overripe bananas, sourdough starter, flour and a little salt and that’s all.  And it was spectacularly good.

So of course, when I got home I had to try to go one better.  In the weeks since, I’ve tried adding kibble and adding nuts and adding cinnamon and nothing has come near that beach perfect banana-y but not overly sweet crusty and chewy bread, toasted with butter and nothing else.  Simple and divine. Overcomplication is the enemy of some recipes.

The Recipe:

It starts with a standard fed sourdough starter.  My usual method is to feed a cup and a half of starter with a mug of baker’s flour mixed with a mug of water.  A cup and a half of it put back in a container with a loosely fitting lid in the fridge, and the rest (about a cup and a half full) left in a bowl covered with a tea towel on the bench overnight or for a few hours.

With clean hands, into the starter, squoosh 4 big over-ripe bananas.  You want them well squooshed in but not blended.

Add a teaspoon of salt and enough baker’s flour to make a smooth, soft dough.  Knead briefly. Like all sourdoughs, there’s not much kneading involved, just lots of letting it take its own sweet time.

The dough is softer and moister than I am used to with my normal wholemeal or multigrain breads but it is still smooth and elastic like a good bread dough.

Put some mild flavoured  oil (I use macadamia oil) in a bowl, roll the dough round in it, then leave to sit  covered with a cloth, for the day or overnight.  It will more than double in size and be soft and spongy.  In warm weather at the beach it proved beautifully overnight but like all sourdough, it has its own temperament and in the cooler weather this week it took about 12 hours.

Flour the benchtop, knock the dough down and knead very briefly, then put it into an oiled tin.  It’s a bit soft to bake freeform – it does cook nicely but it’s a wide flat loaf and I liked it better with a bit of height to the loaf.  Slash the top of the loaf and let it prove again for one and a half to two hours – again it depends on the weather and the temperament of your starter.  It will double in size again.

Bake in a medium oven for around 40 to 50 minutes, till the top is nicely browned and it sounds hollow when tapped.  Take it out of the tin and put it back in the oven for 5 minutes to get a bit of crustiness to the bottom.

We ate it warm straight out of the oven, or toasted in thick slabs for breakfast.  But it would probably go really well as a sandwich too, I’m imagining it with chocolate nut spread or honey and peanut butter.

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Moroccan Pumpkin Salad

by Linda on April 12, 2014

It’s glut season for pumpkins, and though the brush turkeys have made a serious dent in them, we have more than I want to try to store.  By the time the season ends we’ll be over pumpkin.

But for now it’s a treat. This is a very fast, healthy, easy, seasonal, meal in a bowl. It will generously serve two on its own, or four as a main side dish. The key ingredient, besides the pumpkin, is a Moroccan spice mix. You can use a ready bought mix but I have fresh turmeric, ginger, and chili in the garden, and besides turning very ordinary ingredients into something special, they also fend off the viruses that change of season can bring.

For this recipe, I use a mortar and pestle to crush together a nut sized knob of fresh turmeric and one of ginger, a fresh chilli and a handful of fresh coriander with teaspoon of mixed dry cumin and cinnamon, a pinch of cardamom and nutmeg and just a whisker of cloves.

Put half a cup of couscous in your serving bowl and cover it with boiling water. Let it absorb the water, topping up as needed until it is a good texture.

Meanwhile, heat a swig of olive oil in a heavy pan. Peel and chop pumpkin into bite sized pieces. This recipe uses about 2 – 3 cups of chopped pumpkin, but as always you can vary. Saute the pumpkin along with a roughly chopped onion, a couple of cloves of chopped garlic, and your spices. If you use dried spice mix, use about two good teaspoons.

When the pumpkin is nearly there, add a handful of sultanas, ½ a capsicum cut into thick strips, and about 2/3 cup of cooked chick peas (garbanzos). Salt to taste.

While all this is happening, roughly chop some parsley, halve some cherry tomatoes and tear up some rocket. Toss the lot together with the juice of half a lemon and serve into bowls.

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