Rainbow trout curry

There was nothing very inspiring in the way of fish at the shops today and I didn’t feel like meat but there were some nice looking rainbow trout.  I’ve been cooking rainbow trout ever since the early ’80s.  A simple grilled rainbow trout – rubbed with salt, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil – accompanied with lemony potatoes and a simple green veg was a stand-by dish.  It was one that I could serve up to guests (though strangely I discovered that a lot of people were scared of whole fish with bones.  Actually a lot of people just didn’t eat fish!)  The potatoes were key:  cubed and cooked in a small amount of chicken stock which was then reduced with some butter and the addition of lemon juice and then fresh chopped dill, chives and parsley folded through and a final cracking of black pepper.  It still remains a dish I do on occasion.

I have a rather wonderful – and super easy – Thai recipe for rainbow trout with little Thai pea and apple eggplants.  Alas here in Noosa there are no such things.  And in that particular dish, you can’t just substitute ordinary eggplant or even the Japanese variety.  But I did think that a red-style curry with pumpkin would work well, perhaps with some zucchini and a handful of snow peas for colour and to accompany, a cucumber relish.  Quick and easy.

Making Thai-style curries is a process of just going with whatever’s in your fridge/pantry and letting your taste buds guide you.  So if you don’t have a particular ingredient, either skip or substitute.  For this curry I had on hand:

  • lemongrass
  • coriander (you need the roots for the paste)
  • garlic
  • kapi (shrimp paste)
  • coriander seeds
  • white peppercorns
  • galangal
  • red shallots
  • chillies

and that’s all that is needed for a basic curry paste.

To make the curry I brought some coconut cream to the boil and then added my curry paste (just blitz all the above ingredients) and let that cook until it was nice and fragrant, then added some coconut milk, fish sauce, shredded lime leaves (I have a little tree in the garden) and some extra chilli (because I like my curries hot) and then put in the whole trout and then the pumpkin, then zucchini and finally towards the end, the sno peas.  A final flavour adjustment – dash more fish sauce, squeeze of lime juice and meal done!

Jasmine rice on the stove – also something that you just set and forget.  The  cucumber relish is super easy too.  It’s equal parts sugar, coconut vinegar and water (4 tablespoons) and some chopped coriander root , brought to the boil and stirred until the sugar dissolves then set aside to cool.  If you have in your pantry a jar of pickled garlic, this goes in nicely, but if not, it doesn’t really matter. Finely slice red shallots, chilli and cucumber into a bowl then pour over the vinegar mixture.  Delicious and super quick and easy.  All you then have to do is wait for the evening to get on  – never a good idea to start cooking too early.

Cooking for foodies

What to cook for foodies who have eaten everywhere?  When we get together with my brother and his partner here in Sydney we generally go out one night and then have a night at our place – cooking, drinking, eating, drinking.  A lot of drinking.

Generally we confer on a menu and then all pitch in to cook.  Food is most often Asian – Vietnamese or Thai – and always lots of little dishes.  It’s a lot of work.  I usually begin a few days in advance, making lists, shopping, preparing rubs and marinades and then on the day I’m generally in the kitchen chopping, mixing, etc while everyone else is either sitting reading papers or standing around chatting to me.  Its a small kitchen so more than two people gets a bit, well, let’s just say it cramps my style.

This time, celebrating three birthdays we decided that we would do low-key and simple.  And just for a change: Indian.  My husband is a great South Indian cook, having lived in India for seven years – he make fantastic dishes including lots of vegetarian ones as well as delicious fresh chutneys. One of his most outstanding dishes is a chicken liver curry.  Sounds weird but it is to die for.  Its very rich and very hot (lots of green chillies) so we don’t have it often (maybe just once a year). For anyone who is a fan of chicken liver this is a must try dish.

For entree I made crab and prawn cakes wrapped in banana leaves with a coriander and mint chutney.  M made a coconut and red chilli chutney to go with the curry as well as a vegetable dish with zucchini and carrot cut into matchsticks and then  tempered with traditional South Indian spices:  mustard seeds, cumin seeds, black gram dhal, asafoetida, split red chillies and curry leaves.  To temper: heat a tablespoon of ghee and when hot throw in a tspn of mustard seeds, cumin seeds, the black dhal, half a teaspoon of asafoetida (this is very strong smelling) 2 split red chillies and a handful of fresh curry leaves.  When the leaves begin to split and the seeds pop add the raw vegetables and a few tablespoons of water, put a lid on the pan and turn the heat off.  The vegetables will steam and absorb all those wonderful flavours. Its quick and easy and incredibly delicious.  You  can add shredded coconut over the top.

 

Although none of us are really dessert people it never feels right to me not to make something.  But it has to be light and not overly sweet and not complicated.  So I thought a coconut panna cotta would be the go – rounding out the flavours of cardamon etc in the previous dishes, I roasted some peaches with cinnamon, cardamon pods, rosewater and a dash of wine.  It was the perfect ending to a flavour packed meal.  And to top it off:  coconut vodka!