Recipe Category: Guest Chef July 2019
My parents emigrated from the UK and brought their Britishness with them, which they hung onto for dear life. Growing up, our roasts came with Yorkshire pudding, the only fish we ate was battered and none of us knew
what a pavlova was. If we weren’t devouring apple pie for dessert, it was a Victorian sponge cake, which is the first thing my mum taught me to cook. The recipe came from an old cookbook given to my mother by her Aunt Mary and the colour plates of tarts and roasts and strange fish terrines would fascinate me and instilled in me a sense of wonder about recipes. “Could I make this,” I would continually ask myself. The book is sadly lost.
Funds were slim when I was young and we didn’t have an electric mixer. I creamed the butter and sugar by hand, beating in the eggs with a wooden spoon – I don’t recall owning a whisk – and lastly adding the flour.
I found when Mum transitioned to a mixer, the texture of the cake changed slightly and became a little lighter. I always loved the buttery density of the sponge made by hand. The resulting cake was toothsome
and dense, buttery with a slightly chewy crust. For a special occasion, the sponge, made in two sandwich tins, was filled with strawberries and cream, but usually, it was just strawberry jam, which I prefer.
One of my favourite ingredients during the New Zealand winter months is our citrus. Plentiful, juicy and, since they are in season, affordable; limes, lemons, oranges, grapefruit, tangelos and mandarins all brighten up a winter menu.
Feel free to use your favourite citrus in this cheery dish that works well with any fish, although the marinating time may vary. When using a whole fish, especially when superfresh and caught by hand (which does tend to make the flesh more tender), I like to use a little part of the thicker end of the fillet for a ceviche. Takushi Maekawa, my head chef of 14 years (yes 14!), helped develop this dish.
This dish is inspired by the buffalo wing sauce my partner Kareem Harvey created for our fast casual restaurant, Love Chicken.
When deep-fried, the wings and collars from blue cod (and other fish like hāpuka and snapper) are the seafood version of chicken wings, so this seems like a nobrainer for us. The fish wings, like their poultry cousins, are cheap, too – you can feed a party with these – and available at most fishmongers. We use Kaitaia Fire hot sauce, an organic hot sauce made from chillies grown near Lake Ohia on the North Island. The chilli sauce has the
perfect amount of acidity for this dish, so if you are using another hot sauce, you may need to balance with a splash of red wine vinegar. A bench-top fryer, while not essential for this dish, is easier and safer when deep frying at home.
In New Zealand we tend to prefer our fish fillets skinless which is a shame. The skin of fish such as snapper, tarakihi and blue cod crisps beautifully in the pan and adds great texture and crunch to a dish.
At Fishbone we actually buy blue cod skins from one of our suppliers for this dish, as our fishers are loathe to sell us blue cod fillets with the skin on – the request upsets the workers on the filleting line. Of course, if you are buying a whole fish, like we do on occasion, no need to worry about sourcing some skins.
Maine in the north eastern part of the USA is the home of clam chowders and I must have dined on perhaps half a dozen during a road trip there nearly a decade ago. The thin soups, flavoured with dried thyme and swimming with clams and potatoes, were all served with oyster crackers that you crushed with your hands and added to the soup (the crackers were oyster by name only).
Still, when I wanted to tell the story of this trip through a dish at Fishbone I couldn’t pass on the idea of an actual real oyster-flavoured cracker or bread. That seed of an idea blossomed into the smoked oyster crumble recipe and now the crumble, atop a fillet of blue cod and surrounded by a saucey version of chowder, is one of our signature dishes on the menu at Fishbone.
Not only do we use most of the whole fish – blue cod – which we source from our mate Nate in Bluff who catches the fish by hand – but at Fishbone we shuck our own oysters, not always successfully, so this dish makes great use of those broken bivalves we cannot serve.