Monthly Archives: March 2016

Good Friday Fish Pie

When we went to Mollymook a couple of months ago, we had dinner one night at Rick Stein’s restaurant.  While overall the restaurant didn’t blow me away (particularly for the price), I did love the fish pie.  A bit of googling and I found the recipe had been published in a UK newspaper some years ago.  Since it was Good Friday, and I had some leisurely time in the kitchen, I thought I would have a go at making it.  It is a very rich, but very delicious, dish.  Serves 4.  A very simple green salad would go well to contrast the richness.


A few notes on the recipe
– I found the veloute – though decadent and tasty – to be a little thicker than what we had at the restaurant. I would next time reduce the amount of roux (flour/butter) a little, rather than add more stock as the quantity of veloute you end up with is more than plenty.
– Next time I’d also put some finely chopped parsley through the base of the pie, some green would be nice and add that touch of freshness.
– Also the original amount of crust was 30g of butter and 50g of Panko, but this ended up being a rather thin crust so I doubled it.
– I used unsalted butter, otherwise if your stock is salty the overall dish might end up being too salty.
– while this was made in one large dish, it would also be lovely in individual ramekins

For the velouté
600ml fish stock
300ml milk
50g butter
50g plain flour
2 bay leaves
1 crushed clove
1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg

Place the stock and milk in a pot and bring to the boil then take off the heat. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and cook for about two minutes, stirring constantly. When it starts to smell nutty, add a third of the stock and milk mixture, and keep stirring until it thickens and is completely smooth. Add another third and stir, then add the final third and, when smooth, stir in the bay leaves, clove and nutmeg and leave to simmer gently for about half an hour. Pour the velouté through a sieve and set aside.

For the pie
200g finely chopped onion
60g butter
30g parmesan cheese, grated
50ml double cream
Juice of ½ lemon
400g fish fillet (I used monkfish, snapper would also work well)
200g shellfish or crustaceans (I used prawns and scallops, a bit of crab would be lovely as well)
50g flour
30ml vegetable oil
10g butter, extra
100g button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 tsp French mustard
1 tsp truffle oil
Preheat oven to 180C

Slow-cook the onion in the butter in a saucepan for 10 minutes or until softened. Pour the strained veloute into the sautéed onions and add the parmesan, double cream and lemon juice. Set aside.

Cut the fish fillet into bite-size pieces. Season with a little salt and turn over in the flour. Fry for 2-3 minutes in a frying-pan over a medium heat using the vegetable oil and butter (the fish does not need to be fully cooked). Remove the fish to your pie dish. Fry the mushrooms in the same pan, adding a little salt; stir in the mustard and add to the pie dish. Now add the shellfish or crustaceans to the pie dish. They can be put in raw, but if large, slice. Drizzle the truffle oil over. Pour the sauce over the fish.

For the crust
100g Japanese panko breadcrumbs
60g melted butter
Mix the breadcrumbs with the melted butter, and spread over the top. Bake for 20 minutes so that crust is lightly golden.


Ho Lee Fook, Hong Kong

I found myself in Hong Kong for work recently and a bunch of us headed over to Ho Lee Fook in the lively Soho district.  I’d heard good things about the creations of Taiwanese chef Jowett Yu, who spent some time at Sydney at Tetsuya and Mr Wongs, among others. Head down the stairs past the peacocks and waving cats and the basement dining space awaits – dark but with some bright wall lights.

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There is plenty on the menu that looks inviting and it is hard to decide what to order.   Our friendly server tells us that night they have the crispy skin chicken as a special – usually it needs to be ordered in advance – and tells us there is only one serve left.  When we say we’ll take it, she does an Olympic worthy sprint to notify the kitchen so someone else doesn’t grab it. That’s what you call service. Once back, we give her our other choices and ask what she thinks.  “How hungry are you”, she says, “because you really should add the beef short rib”.  It is their signature dish she tells us, so it needs to be done.

There’s also a pretty impressive whiskey menu if you’re in for a big night.

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We start with Mom’s “mostly cabbage, a little bit of pork” dumplings with a sacha soy dressing.  These are plain yum with a nice chunky texture inside.

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Then onto a unusual dish of grilled calamari, with a very clever touch of delicious quid ink onion jam, XO sauce, shishito peppers, and some spiced pumpkin seeds giving some texture. I did find it a little dry though, a drizzle of something over the octopus would have helped.

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Simply done stir-fried greens – asparagus, broccoli, sugar snap peas – ensured that we felt sufficiently virtuous. So too did the twice-cooked green beans with pickled turnips, five-spiced tofu, Chinese olive; the beans had nice freshness and crunch.

Next came the Kurobuta pork char-siu.  When we ordered this we were asked “lean or fat” – we opted for the lean but it was still juicy and very very tasty.

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The shell fish oil was very distinct in the prawn lo mein, so a good dish for those who like robust flavours.

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The special crispy skin chicken arrives. It has this slightly sour crumb sprinkled over it, I am not sure what it was but I loved it and the texture it added.

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Then came the signature roast Wagyu short ribs.  Knock out dish, adored the jalapeño purée and the green shallot kimchi it came with.

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The deserts coming out looked great, but alas there was no capacity after that feast!

Ho Lee Fook,  1 Elgin St,  Hong Kong, Ph +852 2810 0860






Nonna Alfia’s biscuits


nonnaalfiaWhen my parents came to Australia a few decades back, they didn’t know a word of English, not even hello. In their tiny villages in Italy back then, studying more than one language wasn’t exactly on offer. I remember Mamma Rosa telling me when she arrived here that she saw the world “sale” in several shop windows. “Sale” in Italian, pronounced sal-eh, means salt; confusion reigned, why were all these stores selling salt, even dress shops?

Between them they did not have much family here, my father in particular, so as newlyweds they forged friendships with other young newly migrated Italian couples, together figuring out the more bewildering aspects of their adopted home. Those friendships would last decades and now they enjoy the freedom of their empty nests, overseas travel, and swapping stories of their grandchildren, relishing the Nonna and Nonno titles. The women halves of these couples – Comare, as we call them, a word Southern Italians use traditionally referring to your Godmother but often bestowed on close family friends – along with Mamma Rosa, are like the Italian version of the women in the movie Steel Magnolias – strong, loyal, hardworking, true. I love them all dearly.

Once, many years ago at the house of one Comare, I tried these biscuits that I loved, they were made by her mother, Alfia. From then on, each time her mother made them, a thoughtful bunch wrapped in foil would be bought over to Mamma Rosa’s just for me. I asked Alfia’s granddaughter for the recipe, so here they are, Nonna Alfia’s biscuits. The detail was light (she is now 86) and my first batch wasn’t quite right.  I tried a half batch the next time and did a little tinkering, but here is the end result. I used a heaped tablespoon to measure them out, which does make them quite big, if you want them more dainty use half a tablespoon.

2 eggs
1 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp Sambuca (or other liquor)
100ml orange juice
600g self raising flour
Icing sugar, for dusting

Making them
Pre-heat oven to 160 degrees fan forced.
Whisk eggs and sugar until combined. Add milk, juice, vanilla and liquour and whisk till combined. Fold in flour until combined. Using a spoon or icecream scoop of desired size, scoop out the dough and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper into a circle and flatten slightly. Repeat until all the mixture is used. Dust liberally with icing sugar and bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly golden.

Fig, prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella salad


Recipe inspiration can be found everywhere these days. This one was inspired by a recipe I saw on an inflight magazine, and takes simple ingredients that work nicely together. Serves 6-8

250g rocket leaves
250g sliced prosciutto
250g buffalo mozzarella
8 figs cut in quarters

100ml honey
100ml white wine vinegar
150ml water
handful of thyme sprigs
100ml extra virgin olive oil

To make the dressing, place the honey, vinegar and water in a small pot and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 15 or so minutes until it has reduced by a third. Add the thyme, remove from heat and allow to steep until cool. Remove the thyme then add the olive oil and whisk.

Lay the rocket leaves on a platter and pour over dressing. Layer on prosciutto, torn buffalo mozzarella and figs. I bought my buffalo mozzarella at Salt Meats Cheese, but you can also buy it at Italian delis.

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In My Kitchen, March 2016

There hasn’t been a lot of activity in the kitchen of late, it’s been a while since my last post.  Between work and Project Tame the Garden, there hasn’t been a lot of spare time the last few weeks.  The garden is finally starting to look “less jungle” and somewhat tidy, so we can now start to think more about how we will use the space.  By my estimate, in the last couple of months, we have removed at least three tons of overgrowth, weeds and general garden mess.  It hasn’t all gone to waste though – a few hundred excess plants we gave away.   Some went to a farm a couple of hours from Sydney, others to a project in Alexandria, and others still to random homes; I’m glad they could be put to use.

In my kitchen are some flowers from the said garden.

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We also found in one corner a beautiful bay tree. I’ve been using the fresh bay leaves in pasta sauce and soups.  They give such a lovely aroma.

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The boys have been asking for baguettes rather than loaves in my weekly bake, so I’ve been trying my hand at those.  I watched a few YouTube videos on how to roll and shape them.  They are still a bit wonky but they are getting better.

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The boys also asked for some brownies.  I used Donna Hay’s standby brownie recipe which is very easy and made with pantry staples.

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In my kitchen is this delicious chocolate with Black Truffle Salt, a thoughtful gift from one of our summer interns at work.

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And a savoury truffle gift from a friend, I will let you know what they’re like!

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There was also a delivery of fresh figs, from the tree of a family friend. I adore figs, and the fact that they can be used in both savoury and sweet dishes.

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I used figs and this fantastic buffalo mozzarella in a salad.

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In my kitchen is some elderflower cordial and Prosecco, combined with lemon, muddled mint and ice cubes to make a refreshing drink called “the Hugo”.

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And finally in my kitchen is this amazing layered carrot cake made by a dear friend, it tasted even better than it looked!

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Thanks to Maureen from Orgasmic Chef for hosting the monthly IMK link ups – take a peek at kitchens around the world!