Nose to scale

On Sunday morning I escaped my chores and fled to the City Market to watch Martin Bosley deal to a practically still-flapping snapper (a kind of bream, to Northern Hemisphere readers). It was 90 minutes of brilliance.
I don’t do this sort of thing very often, in fact the last time I went to any kind of cooking demo was to a risotto masterclass at Carluccio’s in Covent Garden. I was massively pregnant, ravenous, and unable to drink any of the chianti my fellow classmates were knocking back. This was a rather different kettle of, err, fish.
Martin, who is a bit of a megastar among New Zealand chefs, turned this 3kg beast into tartare and carpaccio, then baked the fillets in a soy-mirin glaze before serving up the head with a lemony beurre blanc. The assembled group looked on admiringly, sipping glasses of Gisborne chardonnay (“It has to be past noon somewhere in the world,” the man sitting next to me said cheerily.)
It was an incredible, inspiring class. I admit, I don’t have the knife skills to make carpaccio at home, but I feel confident enough to tackle the head. Now it’s just a matter of catching one…

Martin Bosley, left, and his lovely assistant, Seamus

If you are in Wellington over the next few months you should definitely check out the other classes on offer. Martin Bosley will be back again the weekend before Christmas, but there are lots of other great people scheduled in before then. Go on, you know you want to…

Little fried fish

It’s whitebait season again, but we’ve yet to hear any reports from the Coast as to how its going. This isn’t unusual – whitebaiters are notoriously secretive, especially those who sell their catch without the knowledge of Mr IRD. Last year the Boy Wonder experimented with frying the tiny fish in a pan, Spanish-style, rather than binding them in traditional egg fritters. It was a great success, if labour-intensive. But last week he stumbled on an even better way – a sort of oven-fried version, made with a recent newspaper-wrapped delivery from Westport. The other thing that’s changed from last year is that a pound of whitebait (they only come in Imperial measures) used to be enough for two of us – now we have to share it with our smallest dining companion. That’s not a bad thing.

West Coast Whitebait Oven-Fried

Oven-fried whitebait
Excuse the Coaster-style description, but there’s no point giving this a fancier name (except ‘bloody good oven-fried whitebait’ perhaps). All you need with this is a crunchy green salad and a bit of baguette. Oh, and lots of lemon halves.

1 lb (about 500g) whitebait
salt and pepper
olive oil – about 1/2 cup

Defrost the whitebait and rinse under the tap to get rid of any grit. Drain well.
Preheat the oven to 200C and pour about 1/2 cup of olive oil in a roasting dish. (You may need more – the BW is a bit vague on exact measurements). Heat the oil in the oven for about five minutes. While it’s heating up, dredge the whitebait at a time in seasoned flour (shake off the excess in a coarse sieve.) Carefully tip into the hot oil and return the roasting dish to the oven. Cook for about 20 minutes, until the little fish are golden brown and crunchy. Serves two greedy adults and one voracious toddler for dinner – so at least four adults for lunch.

Do you have a favourite way to cook – or eat – whitebait?

Dedicated followers of fashion

It may surprise you to learn that New Zealand Fashion Week is on at the moment. I mean, New Zealand isn’t exactly renowned for its haute couture or gorgeous inhabitants (no one ever comes away from a trip to Aotearoa saying “oh, the women are so stylish!” or “the men are so handsome!”).

A fine Kiwi specimen, image via here

I don’t follow many fashion blogs, mostly because I don’t need to be reminded that my ‘look’ (harried working mother, accessorised with streak of toddler snot) isn’t going to win any prizes. But for this one, written by a colleague of mine, I’ll make an exception. If you have any interest in fashion, Antipodean or not, you should check it out. You should still check it out if you’re not interested in fashion, because it’s hilarious – and because she asks why food critics say what they think but most fashion writers don’t, which is an excellent question.

Are you a dedicated follower of fashion?