fish recipes salad

A warm salad of smoked mackerel, paprika-roasted cauliflower and red rice

Looking at this salad now, I feel like one or other of the ingredients should be dropped – maybe the rice, or if not that then the currants. But despite being a bit of a mish-mash, it tasted delicious. The mackerel was very fishy, which played well against the pine nuts, currants and sherry vinegar. The cauliflower and rice gave it all some body and chewiness. A very satisfying lunch.


half a cup of red rice
half a small head of cauliflower
olive oil
sea salt and black pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon mild paprika
sherry vinegar
half a small bunch of young cavolo nero
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 tablespoons currants
Dijon mustard
1 small whole smoked mackerel

Cook the rice in boiling water until al dente. Drain and set aside.

Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Break the cauliflower into florets and place in a baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and toss to coat. Roast for about 15 minutes, until the cauliflower is starting to become tender and just starting to go golden on the edges. Remove from the oven and sprinkle over the paprikas and a dash of sherry vinegar. Toss together and return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes, until cooked but not soft. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Remove any thick stems from the cavolo nero, then cook briefly in boiling salted water until just tender. Drain and refresh under cold water. Squeeze the water out of the leaves with your hands, then lay the leaves out on a chopping board. Cut into bite-sized pieces.

Toast the pine nuts in a small pan over low heat until they are just starting to colour. If the currants are dry, you can soak them in a little hot water and sherry vinegar to plump them up, then drain.

Make a dressing of sherry vinegar, olive oil and Dijon mustard to taste; season and shake well to emulsify.

Remove the skin and bones from the mackerel and flake into bite-sized pieces.

Combine all the salad ingredients in a bowl, add the dressing, and toss gently. Eat at once.

Serves 2.

fish lunch recipes

Composed plate of spring

We just had the perfect spring lunch: incredibly delicious, and about 10 minutes from feeling hungry to sitting down to eat.

For two:

1 bunch of purple sprouting broccoli, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
half an avocado
a palmful of pine nuts
150 g good smoked trout
a lime

Put the broccoli and the asparagus into stacking bamboo steamer baskets, and steam over a pot of boiling water until tender – ours took around 5 minutes.

Peel the skin from the avocado half, and slice the flesh.

Toast the pine nuts in a small pan until lightly golden.

Flake the trout into large bite-size pieces.

Place the broccoli, asparagus, avocado and trout on a flat bowl in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Scatter the pine nuts over the top, and squeeze lime over everything. Eat.

fish mediterranean pasta recipes

Orecchiette with cauliflower, sardines, pine nuts and capers

Sprrrrrrrrring!!!! Ted’s back in Melbourne after three and a half weeks in the US, we’ve had a weeks’ holiday together at home, and we’ve sat in the sunshine, gone walking in the Dandenongs, worked in the garden, read lots of books, and eaten the first asparagus of the season. I am so, so refreshed. (I am ignoring the results of last night’s election. La la la la, it never happened, don’t think about don’t think about it, just make lots of donations to family planning and refugee charities.)

I spent quite a bit of the last week lolling around thinking about the things I should be doing, and instead just lying on the couch reading novels. But after eight days off work I am finally full of energy, so have made kimchi and torshi left, planted out seeds for summer (nine varieties of tomatoes, lots of greens, herbs, chilis, many other things), cleaned up my bike in preparation for riding in to work tomorrow morning, and even done some of that yoga I’ve been planning to do for the last several months. Oh man I love spring in Melbourne.

We made this dish for lunch today after spending the morning out under the sunshine in the garden. I know the proportions of pasta to sauce are reversed from what they traditionally should be here, but I just really love cauliflower. Sorry, Italian grandmas.


Sicilian-inspired orecchiette with cauliflower, sardines, pine nuts and capers

600 g cauliflower, cut into small florets (1-2 cm)
olive oil
sea salt and black pepper
2 large golden shallots, finely sliced
4 anchovy fillets in olive oil, chopped
aged red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons pine nuts, gently toasted
2 tablespoons currants or small sultanas
1 generous tablespoon salted capers, rinsed
1 tin good sardines
100 g orecchiette
large palmful each of finely chopped dill and parsley
chili flakes, optional

Pre-heat the oven to 180 C. Toss the cauliflower with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper, and roast for about 20-30 minutes, until golden around the edges.

Meanwhile, heat a little olive oil in a small pan and saute the shallots and anchovies for 5 or 6 minutes or so, until the shallots are golden and the anchovies have melted. Add a good dash of aged red wine vinegar, and continue cooking for another minute or two. If the shallots need to soften some more (they probably will), add a slosh of water (preferably from the pasta that will be cooking, if you’ve read all the way to the end of the recipe before beginning) and let them cook further until the water has evaporated and the shallots are done.

Cook the orecchiette in boiling water until al dente, then drain, reserving a cup of the cooking water.

Tip the drained pasta back into the pot in which it was cooked, then add the shallots, cauliflower, pine nuts, currants and capers (and chili if you want it), and mix together. Break up the sardines very slightly, and add these and the herbs to the pot, and mix through gently so as not to turn the sardines to paste. Serve at once.

Serves two.


asian breakfast chitchat eating out fish salad vegetarian

Excellent things from the last few weeks

I’ve been running a bit ragged recently, so it’s a perfect time to have a pot of tea, take stock, and list a bunch of good things.


1. I recently learned to add a star anise when making a long-cooked beef stew. Transformative!


2. I give thanks for dumplings, and that it is so easy for me to get good ones here. Recent standouts have been the steamed wontons with chili oil at Hutong (tender skins, good filling, perfect chili), xiao long bao at Shanghai Street Dumpling, and everything in general at my beloved Gourmet Dumpling.


3. The midwinter arrival of citrus and avocado season. I made this salad for dinner one night last week. So good and refreshing.

Salad of hot-smoked salmon, avocado, blood orange and watercress

80 g hot-smoked salmon, flaked
a small palmful of pine nuts, toasted
1 large blood orange, supremed
half a smallish avocado, peeled and cut into 1-2 cm pieces
the leaves of a decent bunch of watercress
good olive oil
wholegrain mustard

Combine the salmon, pine nuts, orange, avocado and watercress.

Make a dressing by whisking together the juice that escaped from the orange, a dash of olive oil, a teaspoon of wholegrain mustard, and a pinch of sea salt. Toss with the salad.

Serves 1.


4. Having watercress growing in the garden at last after a couple of failed attempts. Such a great winter salad green.


5. The Egyptian eggs (poached, rolled in dukkah, then lightly fried) on a potato and pumpkin rosti, with rocket and chili jam, at Dood328 in Brunswick. So good, and the staff there are lovely too. Also, not having to queue for brunch = a good, good thing.


6. Dainty Sichuan in the city. This place gets a bit of hate but I love it. Went there for dinner last night with the lab and ate 10 fantastic dishes. Fish-fragrant eggplant, chinese leeks with tofu threads, chili chicken wok, ultra-spicy black fungus, many other things I can’t remember.


7. This morning’s breakfast, which was delicious but, even I recognize, slightly crazytown. Man I love savoury breakfasts with greens and asian flavours though.

For the steel-cut oats, I use this recipe and make enough for four days at one time. I also usually make two or three serves of the greens and use them for multiple breakfasts, or add them to lunches.

Steel-cut oats with asian greens and a runny fried egg

dash of olive oil
2 shallots, sliced
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 small thumb of ginger, finely minced
chili flakes
150 g of mixed greens – I used a mix of what looked good in the garden: sprouting broccoli, cavolo nero, purple kale, a couple of broccoli leaves and red mustard leaf

1 serve cooked steel-cut oats

1 egg

sesame oil
sesame seeds

Chop the greens into smallish pieces. For broccoli and kales, I blanch them until they’re becoming tender, then drain. The softer greens I just chop.

Heat a dash of olive oil in a large pan, then add the shallot and cook a few minutes until golden. Add the garlic, ginger, and chili flakes to taste, and cook a further two minutes, then add the greens. Stir well, add a slosh of tamari and another of water if necessary, and cook until everything is tender.

Fry the egg. I do this by heating a pan over low heat, adding a dash of olive oil, cracking in the eggs, and putting a lid on top. Cook until the white is just set and the yolk is still liquid.

Put the oats into the middle of a flat bowl. Spoon the cooked greens around the oats. Slide the egg on top. Over all of this, sprinkle drops of tamari and sesame oil, more chili flakes, and sesame seeds. Eat at once.

Serves 1.

fish lunch salad vegetarian

Sunday lunch of three salads

It’s summer officially, but not quite really. We’ve had some hot days, but they’re rare interruptions in the temperate progression of 20-degree days (and 12 degree nights). But when the sun is out, as it often is, I’m starting to get to wanting crispy salads and cold beer. We had Iñaki and Begoña, and Henry and Linda, and all the kids, over for lunch today. Henry brought a fantastic roasted spatchcocked chicken, I made these three salads below, and we finished with Greek sweets from Iñaki and Begoña, and this orange and lemon poppyseed cake. The sun stayed out for us during lunch, and while Iñaki let his gardening urge take over in the back yard (gardening date next Sunday, Iñaki?), and for a walk to the Union St park. Now it’s 7 pm and the sun is still up, but I’m thiiiiiis close to turning on the heater. Doesn’t matter, summer lunch was awesome while it lasted.


Couscous, eggplant, dried fig and orange salad

185 g couscous
250 ml boiling water
2 largish eggplants
olive oil
sherry vinegar
1/3 cup pine nuts
180 g sheeps’ milk feta, crumbled
1/4 cup currants
8 dried figs, chopped into 1 cm pieces
1 large orange, zest and juice
lots of fresh mint and parsley, finely chopped

Cut the eggplants into 2 cm cubes. Divide between a couple of large baking trays or dishes. Make sure that the cubes are in one layer, not piled up, otherwise they will steam rather than roast. Toss the eggplant with a glug or two of olive oil, a splash of sherry vinegar, and sea salt and black pepper. Roast at 180 C for about 30-40 minutes, until golden and soft.

Toast the pine nuts in a fry pan over low heat, stirring often, until they are lightly golden.

Put the couscous in a large bowl, add a good pinch of salt, and pour over the boiling water. Leave for 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork. I like to make the couscous early and let it dry a little before using it, but you can eat it warm if you like.

Once the couscous is cooked, add the roast eggplant, pine nuts, feta, currants, figs, the orange zest, half the juice, mint and parsley. Toss and taste. Add more juice and/or salt if needed.


Kipfler, green bean and smoked salmon

10 medium kipflers, peeled and cut into 2 cm pieces
about 40 green beans, tops trimmed
400 g hot-smoked salmon, skin removed
1 small bunch dill, leaves chopped
a couple of tablespoons olive oil
juice of half a lemon
2 teaspoons seeded mustard
sea salt and pepper

Steam the kipflers in steamer baskets over boiling water until they are tender. Boil the beans for about 4 minutes, until they’re cooked to your liking. Break the salmon into bite-sized pieces.

Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper. Put the potatoes and beans in a large bowl, and toss with the dressing. Add the salmon and dill, and toss again, gently. (You toss it in two stages so the salmon doesn’t get broken up.) Serve warm or at room temperature.


Summer salad, inspired by Jess

2 handfuls baby spinach leaves
2 handfuls rocket
2 handfuls baby cos, torn into pieces
2 cobs of corn, kernels cut off
1/2 yellow capsicum, finely sliced
1 small cucumber, halved, seeded, and sliced
8 giant cherry tomatoes, quartered
8 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
1 avocado, peeled and chopped
olive oil
vinegar (sherry, champagne, tarragon, your choice)
salt and pepper

Toss together all the vegetables. Whisk together the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Dress the salad and serve at once.


chitchat fish

Freezer full of ziplocks

Just quickly, dudes, because I am writing this in the last 5 minutes of my lunchbreak.

You know what really rocks? Freezing single serves of things like cooked wheat grains, barley, brown rice, beans, etc etc, in little ziplock bags. You can flatten them out before freezing, so they stack together beautifully in the freezer and take up almost no space. Then, when you are desperate for lunch or dinner, they will be sitting there, waiting only to be told how best they can serve you.

Example: this morning, I realised that I had no leftovers to take in for lunch, and knew that I could not face the uni refec with any kind of equanimity. So I opened up a tupperware, and threw in the contents of a ziplock of frozen wheat grains, a couple of handfuls of frozen peas, another couple of handfuls of baby spinach, and a piece of hot-smoked salmon. The grains and peas thawed during the morning, and at lunchtime I just chucked it all in the microwave for 90 seconds to wilt the spinach, squeezed some lemon over the top, and it was delicious. Thank you, past self who cooked up too much wheat grain one night a couple of months ago and put the leftovers in the freezer. The self of today salutes you.

fish recipes salad

Fresh sardines with zucchini, herb and caper salad

Tonight’s dinner was the delightful product of serendipity and greed. I was feeling restless when I woke up this morning, so headed out for a jaunt on the bike, planning to follow the river around New Farm and out to Newstead House. I footled over there (via various detours), lazed about on the hilly lawns for a while watching the calm river and the less calm sporty people dashing along its banks, then got back as far as the Powerhouse, where I found the path blocked off for the weekend markets.

I totally intended to wheel my way around the edge of the markets and get home for a shower, when my eye was caught by a stall selling early cherries. Stonefruit is the one thing – the only thing – I like about Brisbane summers, and the good stuff is just starting to show up now. I was caught in the cherries’ tractor beam and found myself buying half a kilo before I was fully aware of what I was doing. Once having pushed into the crowd while wheeling my bike, I figured I might as well press on through, and manfully (ha!) resisted buying the several dozen other delicious but unnecessary things that caught my eye… until I got to the fishmonger. I’ve been craving sardines for weeks. Screw the meals I’d planned for the weekend, those sardines were coming home with me. And they did. I escaped without further purchases (except for two small buffalo mozarella, which can be squeezed into the planned meals quite nicely, alright?), and spent an enjoyable afternoon planning how I was going to eat the first few fillets.

In the end I decided to make something almost precisely like this salad of Helen’s, sans anchovies. I love julienned zucchini (especially since Matt and Leonie gave me a julienne peeler so I no longer need to brave the terrifying mandoline) and this combination is crispy, fresh, and sharp, the perfect complement to some quickly panfried sardines.

Sardine dinner for one

1 medium zucchini, julienned finely
1 handful parsley leaves, torn
1 handful mint leaves, torn
2 teaspoons salted capers, soaked and drained
8 tiny cornichons, cut into slices

1 small clove garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon or so seed mustard
juice of half a small lemon
top quality olive oil

fresh butterflied sardines (I ate 6 small and thin ones)
good bread (a ficelle from Chouquette in this case)

Toss the zucchini, herbs, capers and cornichons together in a bowl. Make the dressing by combining the garlic, mustard and lemon juice, then whisking in olive oil to emulsify. Combine salad and dressing well.

Heat a frypan over moderate heat, and add a little olive oil. Fry the sardine fillets until just done – mine took 2 minutes on the skin side followed by about 40 seconds on the other side.

Plate up the sardines, salad and bread, and eat at once. Divine. Fresh cherries for dessert just make it even better.

fish salad

Public holiday salad


Salad of mackerel, white beans, capers, watercress, etc.

This is to remind me that we found good tinned mackerel fillets at Pennisi in Woolloongabba, and I should go back and buy more.

fish pasta recipes

Fusilli with smoked salmon, spinach, lemon, creme fraiche, etc etc

We had good company tonight, and good pasta to go with it.

Ian, Lisa and Caroline came over for dinner, and we all caught the bus to New Farm from Toowong together.  So there was no time for fussy cleaning up or doing dinner preparations before people arrived.  But we’d planned for this, and I am growing less concerned about mess as I get older, so there was no drama.  We arrived, cracked open beers, and set out olives, brie, grilled eggplant and crusty bread, to sit and chat for an hour.

Then I headed into the kitched to make the main meal.  Two big pots of water on the boil, one for pasta and one for green beans.  Some cherry tomatoes halved and put in the oven for a quick roast.  Wash a big bag of baby spinach, flake about 300 g of smoked salmon fillets, take the zest and juice of one lemon, chop a bunch of dill. Put 500 g of pasta on to cook.  When it comes off, drain it and put the pan back on the heat.  Add the spinach, wilt for a minute, then add back the pasta, together with the salmon, lemon, dill, a couple of spoonfuls of baby capers and several spoonfuls of creme fraiche.  Stir over low heat until the creme fraiche is melted.  While doing this, chuck the green beans in to cook for 3 minutes, then drain and refresh under cold water.  Pull the tomatoes out of the oven and dress with garlic oil, salt, pepper and the leaves from a bunch of oregano.  Serve up the pasta, and on the side the roast tomatoes and the blanched beans.  Open the third (or fourth?) bottle of wine and dig in.  Pretty good for less than 20 minutes’ cooking.

Afterwards, retire to the lounge room for more wine and, a little later, gelati. Think about how lovely your life is and how much you like your friends.  Enjoy.