Rainbow Trout & Prawns in a Coconut Cream, Chilli & Lime Bisque

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Occasionally something will happen which makes me realise how extremely unfit I am for a life in the wild. Not too long ago, I was bushwalking in the National Park and took a wrong turn, which ended up in us still being out in the bush well after sunset without food, shelter or a torch. What started out as a jaunty rumble in the forest looked like turning into a forced overnight stay with only leeches for company, and we started staking out possible sites for shelter. The main thing keeping me going, trying to find my way out, was that I didn’t want to become one of those bushwalkers who appear on the nightly news, walking sheepishly out of the park after being rescued by emergency services. In the park, I thought about what I would do for food, and wondered what my ancestors would have done. If it came down to hunting or gathering, I fall firmly in the gathering camp, and if I were forced to hunt, I think I’d prefer to try my hand at fishing rather than killing mammals.

For years, the only way I cooked fish was how I remembered it from my childhood: whole, steamed (though I cooked it en papillote in the microwave), with ginger, shallot and soy sauce. Lately I’ve been experimenting with different ways of cooking fish and this recipe is a keeper. First you make a quick creamy, zesty broth infused with Thai flavours. This stage can be done the day before, for an even quicker weekday dinner. Then just add the seafood and simmer until just cooked. I keep an eagle-eye on it as it is cooking as I don’t fancy overcooked seafood, and keeping the heat low will help.

Any type of fish would work in this recipe – salmon, monkfish, barra would all be perfect. However if your fillets are thick, cut into 1-1.5cm thick pieces so that they will cook in around the same time as the prawns.

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Rainbow Trout & Prawns in a Coconut Cream, Chilli & Lime Bisque

Serves 2

  • 2 rainbow trout fillets, de-boned (around 130g each)
  • 8 raw prawns, peeled and deveined (keep the heads)
  • 1/2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 small red chilli (bullet), de-seeded and finely chopped
  • 7cm length of lemongrass, smashed (optional)
  • 200ml coconut cream (coconut milk would work too)
  • Zest and juice from half a lime
  • 100ml chicken or fish stock
  • 2 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 Tbsp chopped coriander

Method

  1. Heat the coconut oil in a medium saucepan, add the onion and cook for 4-5 minutes until the onion has softened. I find that adding a tablespoon of water at the beginning helps the onions to soften without burning.
  2. Add garlic, coconut cream, stock, chilli, lemongrass, fish sauce and prawn heads. Simmer for 6-8 minutes to allow the flavours to meld and infuse, and to reduce a little. The bisque will turn a pretty pale coral colour from the prawn heads. Add the trout, prawns and lime zest and simmer for several minutes until the seafood is cooked. Remove the prawn heads and discard.
  3. Garnish with the chopped coriander.

Seafood Stew

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After a feast of roast suckling pig one night last week, I swore to eat light for a while, simply because afterwards I felt heavy and full in a stodgy, ready-to-hibernate-for-months kind of way. What do I then go and order a couple days later, but roast pork belly. So I finally made good on my promise to myself to eat more seafood, and I’m sure glad I did. This stew contains fish (whichever you prefer, or which looks best at the market), mussels and calamari in a thick flavoursome tomato base. I cook the seafood separately before adding it to the tomato sauce, to ensure that everything is cooked properly. The tomato base can be cooked in advance, making it even quicker to throw everything together.

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Seafood Stew

Serves 3-4

Tomato Base
  • 1 Tbsp butter + 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 small onions or 1 1/2 large onions, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 150ml tomato passata or tomato puree
  • 800g can diced tomatoes
  • 1 red capsicum, roasted and peeled, finely chopped
  • 150ml chicken or fish stock (optional)
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp dried tarragon
  • 1/2 – 3/4 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
  • Mussel cooking liquid
  • 1 fish fillet (I used deep sea bream, but you can use any fish you like), around 300g, cut into chunks
  • To serve: 2 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
  1. Cook the onions in butter and olive oil over low-medium heat until completely softened and caramelised. Do not let it brown as it may become bitter.
  2. Add the other ingredients except the fish and parsley for serving. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. (I start the tomato base off and then attend to prepping the other seafood ingredients.)
  3. Add the fish and calamari (cooked as per below) and turn heat to a low simmer. Cook until fish is done, around 5-8 minutes (time will depend on the type and size of your fish).
  4. Add mussels (cooked as per below).
  5. Sprinkle with parsley and freshly ground black pepper. Salt to taste (note that the mussel cooking liquid will have added some salt).
Calamari
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 2 small/med calamari
  • 45ml white wine
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • dash of salt

Cut under the eyes to separate the tentacles from the inedibles. Discard the cartilage (looks like a piece of clear plastic). Wash out the insides under running water. Peel off the skin (the pigmented thin skin) and discard. Slice into rings. Saute in butter and add the remaining ingredients (adding the garlic towards the end to avoid burning), cook for approximately 5 minutes, or until done. Set aside.

Mussels
  • 1 dozen green-lipped or black mussels, cleaned and beards removed
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 45ml white wine

In a large pan, heat the oil and add garlic, mussels and white wine. Cover and cook until mussels are open and the meat is cooked. Remove the meat from the shells. Reserve the cooking liquid, which is to be added to the tomato base.

Variation

Add 1 cup of chopped fennel bulb. For the fish component, use 1 deboned spanish mackerel cutlet, cut into bite-sized pieces.