Pan-fried snapper with sage butter and herby, lemony couscous

When I left New Zealand for New York, they told me ‘oh the fresh produce is so expensive and nothing like home!’.

At times this has been partially true, but really I have been living in an exotic produce wonderland. The mangos in New York are unbelievable, so cheap and juicy perfection all year round. In our local (insane) supermarket you can buy edible cactus and more varieties of greens than you knew existed, the watermelons are the biggest I’ve ever seen. I eat more salads than ever. BUT dear god the meat. I’ve spent literally hours wandering in the cold, enormous meat chiller trying to work out the equivalent of an eye fillet steak. The chicken breasts are so large its scary, all I can think of is all those hormones they are fed… on top of that en-route to work each day I walk past a poultry slaughterhouse, one of the hundreds in Brooklyn. So, chicken is off the menu until I find a free-range, organic butcher. I’m saved by seafood, Food Bazaar (my local) has an amazing selection of fresh fish, filleted, in steaks or whole, all sorts of shellfish, baby octopus, even New Zealand Salmon at times.

I made this dish for my family when they visited me in New York, my mother is the best cook I know and, dare I be so cheesy but, a total inspiration to me. When I lived with my family at home I admit I rarely cooked, I just enjoyed eating sitting at the ‘island’ in our big open plan kitchen and watching her whip up dinner. It’s amazing how much I have absorbed, her tips and methods float around me when I’m in the kitchen.

Snapper with sage butter and herby lemony couscous

Pan-fried snapper:

4 snapper fillets

100gm butter

Flour for coating fish, about half a cup

the couscous:

1 cup couscous

1 small onion, thinly sliced

a handful of cherry tomatoes

1/4 tsp ground cumin

3/4 cup boiling water

1 tbsp olive oil

1 lemon, the rinded and juiced

A handfull of each of the following, roughly chopped:

parsley

cilantro (that’s coriander to you kiwis)

dill

mint

arugula (rocket)

basil

any other herbs and greens you like

save a handful of the herb mix for garnishing

for the sage butter:

150gm butter

20 sage leaves

ricotta to serve

lemon wedges to serve

1 cup of radishes, sliced or quartered to serve

salt and pepper

Place the couscous in a bowl and cover in boiling water, cover in cling film and put aside for 10 minutes.

Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry the onion till golden brown and soft, adding cumin and salt halfway through, set aside.

Mix the herbs, tomato, lemon rind and browned onions with the couscous, seasoning generously with salt and pepper. Taste test, add lemon juice and more seasoning according to taste. Set aside.

Melt the stick of butter in a saucepan, add sage leaves. Fry sage leaves in butter until deeper in colour, fragrant and slightly crisp, only a few minute, move into jug or bowl, set aside. 

Coat the Fillets in flour and generously salt and pepper. Heat a knob of butter in the fry pan used for the sage butter, when melted and hot add the snapper to the pan. Cook for a few minutes on each side, until golden. Repeat with all fillets, being careful the wipe out the pan if the butter is starting to burn.

Arrange the couscous on 4 plates with the lemon and radishes. Place snapper fillets on top of the couscous, spoon over the sage butter and sage leaves. Serve with a blob of ricotta topped with the remaining herbs.

 

Roast vege stack with polenta and feta

The first time I ‘hosted’ a dinner party at home, I made this dish. I was cooking for my godparents, my parents and my little brother. All I can say is, I had a tantrum, I cried, mum saved the day.

On reflection this is a dead easy, very satisfying Autumn meal. I’ve made it multiple times since, for 3 times the number of people as that first attempt, my only hitch being (lack of) oven space for roasting the vegetables. You can really make it with any roasting veges you like, I have my favourites and I’m sure you do to. The tomato sauce is essential, you can make it with fresh tomatoes or canned tomatoes, depending on how luxurious you are feeling. If you use fresh tomatoes just make sure they are juicy ones. Make sure you buy the instant polenta, you don’t want to be stirring a pot of polenta for 40 minutes!

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Roast vege stack with feta and tomato-drowned polenta

Heat oven to 220 degrees celcius

1 large eggplant, sliced lengthways 1cm thick

2 courgettes sliced lengthways in thick strips

2 tomatoes for roasting, halved

2 red and yellow capsicums, or peppers if your american, sliced

4 portabello mushrooms

2 red chili’s finally sliced

4 whole garlic cloves, 2 chopped cloves

2 red onions, quartered 

a very generous amount of olive oil

salt and pepper

1/2 cup instant polenta

1 cup of chopped tomatoes fresh or canned

2 sprigs thyme, a few leaves picked off

a little sugar

1 small block of creamy feta, sliced into large flat triangles

toasted pinenuts if you feel like it

a handful of basil leaves to serve

Douse the roasting vegetables bar the chili, in oil and salt and pepper and toss till coated. Place on oven trays and cook in stages, starting with those that take the longest to roast, eggplant. Keep a close eye on the veges, flipping them 20 minutes in. They should take roughly 40-60 mins but it really depends on the oven. Use the warmer draw to keep the vegetables hot.

While you are roasting, make the tomato sauce. Heat oil in a pan and add the garlic, fry a little. Add the tomatoes, they should bubble and splatter, don’t be alarmed. Add the thyme, salt and pepper, and a tsp sugar. Simmer and reduce the tomato sauce. Taste test, it should be really flavorsome and and thick but still saucy enough to pour, if so take off heat. I tend to end up adding a lot of seasoning to make it really punchy.

For the polenta, follow the instructions on the back of the packet to make a thick polenta. Pour into a shallow dish and leave aside to set. after 10-15 minutes slice it into quarters.

Heat 2 tbsp oil in a pan and when hot, add the chili and fry for a little, just long enough to infuse the oil but without losing the colour of the chili. It will only be a few minutes.

To plate up, set your roast veges, feta, basil, pine nuts, polenta and tomato sauce on the bench together. Put each piece of polenta on each plate, and top each with 1/4 of the tomato sauce. layer the roast veges with slices of feta and bits of basil, then top with the chili oil, pine nuts and any remaining basil.