Archive for Fish

Stronger, faster, higher, sillier

Are you catching much of the Olympics? We’re watching it constantly and I’m not sure if the kids have developed a new-found love of sport or are more excited about unrestricted access to the telly.

I enjoy the whole spectacle of it. I don’t really follow sport much at any other time, but I do like to use the games as a benchmark of where I am in life. I remember during Beijing in 2008, looking at my baby and my preschooler and thinking “WOW, by London, you guys will be BIG”, and here we are already. And big (and backchatting) they are.

Amazing how you can sit and watch nearly any sport or activity in the world if it’s being performed by the world’s best. The skill and dedication is awe-inspiring. But really, I wish the coverage would just leave it at that and not spoil it by interviewing the athletes. Not that they’re not fascinating, but you know… sometimes I don’t think we need overthink it too much. Like asking a swimmer about their race strategy. I’m guessing that they’re going to go as fast as they can for as long as they can, until the race is over and hopefully they’ve gone faster than everybody else. Usually there’s some excruciating chat full of clichés about going ‘harder, faster, performing on the night ‘or acknowledging the other competitors who also had intricate race plans that included going fast, all the way until the race was over.

For the next couple of weeks you might want to plan some make ahead dinners, so that you can drop everything to dash to the TV in time to catch that really crucial handball final, or to see the replay of the white water rafting capsize (which you can knowledgably comment on). Maybe try out this salmon mornay recipe. You can make it up at any stage during the day, refrigerate it then pop it in the oven whenever you’re ready.

Truly – salmon mornay. With a bit of paprika – delicious.

Salmon mornay

1 carrot, peeled, grated or diced finely (whatever suits your family)
1 zucchini, grated
1 ½ cups cauliflower (diced as finely as you need for your kids to not notice it)
125g can corn kernels, drained
415g can red salmon (red is much nicer than pink in this dish)
¾ cup frozen peas
Chopped chives (optional)
Juice of half a lemon
40g butter
2 ½ tbsp plain flour
½ tsp sweet paprika
1 cup milk, warmed (I just chuck mine in the microwave on medium/high for a minute or so)
1 ½ cups grated cheddar cheese
½ cup dried breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 180C. Dig out 4 oven proof bowls or gratin dishes (one large dish will also work but doesn’t look as pretty).

If your carrot is in chunks, pop it in a bowl, add a splash of water, cover and microwave until 90% tender. Drain and add to a large mixing bowl. Repeat with the cauliflower.

Add in the rest of the vegies and the salmon – breaking up into chunks and squishing the bones (keep them in though, for the calcium hit). Season with pepper, squeeze over the juice and mix well.

Place the butter in a medium non-stick saucepan over medium heat. When starting to bubble add in the flour and paprika and stir well with a wooden spoon. Cook this mix until the smell changes from acrid to biscuity and delicious (1-2 minutes). Gradually drizzle in the warm milk, stirring briskly and constantly. At first the mixture will thicken up then it will smooth out into a sauce that coats the back of a spoon.

Remove from the heat and stir in 3/4 cup of the cheese until melted. Pour this sauce over the vegies and combine really well. Divide out into your oven dishes.

Combine the remaining cheese with the breadcrumbs, sprinkle over the top of each and bake for 20-25 minutes until bubbling and golden.

Serve with salad and crusty bread.


NOTE – allow plenty of cooling time before letting the kids tuck in.



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Remembering to press pause

A while back I woke up with a headache, slightly hungover and it was January 1.

Then I blinked, cried as Mr M&P started school and then sneezed and it was April. After a shower and another hangover it was June and two report cards later the year is half way done and I’ve still not hung up my 2012 calendar.

It’s frightening to watch life accelerating away.

Yesterday, we pulled the reigns on the year and packed up the family for a day of adventure. Off early, we were breakfasting by the water by 9.30 and then on a ferry over to Scotland Island for a bush walk. We were back home by 2, energized and happy to have spent some fun time outdoors, together, creating a memory.

There was a waterway, bacon, eggs, coffee and a happy family.

Without meaning to we’ve been too busy and just let the year slip by. Yesterday was a good reminder about how important it is to force life to stop from time to time, to find some quality family moments. It’s true, the kids grow up too fast and it won’t be long until they don’t want to be with us at all, let alone walking along, holding our hands, being so incredibly gorgeous.

So back we go to term 3. Back to routine (sigh) and lunchboxes (sigh sigh). This lunchbox pasta salad recipe is from my Complete Lunchbox Planner – it has a little dose of vitamin C to help you through the rest of winter and it’s also a nice way to break out of the sandwich rut.

Something different for the lunchbox

Citrus pasta salad

375g pasta spirals
½ punnet cherry tomatoes, quartered
200g mild feta, diced
1 carrot, peeled, grated
2-3 tbsp pinenuts, toasted
½ tsp zest of each a lemon & orange
400g tuna in springwater, drained

6 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp orange juice
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp sugar
¼ tsp minced garlic

Cook the pasta according to packet directions.

Place all the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake to combine. Toss cooked pasta with other ingredients and the dressing.

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What the kids eat in… Russia

Perhaps it’s my frozen feet, but I’m back thinking about world food and looking for inspiring ways to warm my cockles. I’m figuring that a country with large chunks of permafrost might be able to give me some good guidance.

So what do the Russians feed their kids in those early years before Vodka becomes the staple diet? Well, the freezing climate and general poverty makes for a fairly grim culinary history (of course, this is just my opinion), but a fish pie or ‘kulebyaka’ is a bit of a bright spot. Traditionally it’s made with a thicker pastry, but I’ve got a great filo version that is so nice and crunchy that the kids are guaranteed not to notice the range of vegies which combine with the rice and boiled eggs to provide a complete nutritional shot.

Now, fearers of filo, I hear your pain. It can be a nuisance to work with. But if you give it plenty of time to defrost you’ll have a better chance of success. Once thawed, open it out, cover it with a clean, damp tea towel and be a bit patient. Your first one or two might not be quite so gorgeous, but they’ll still be yummy and that’s the main thing.

Crunch, yum. Crunch, YUM. Feet still cold though.

Filo ‘kulebyaka’ cigars

1 packet filo pastry
250g packet microwave rice
415g can red salmon (pink will do, but red is much nicer in this recipe)
3 spring onions, finely sliced
1 small carrot, peeled, grated
1 small zucchini, grated
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled, diced
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tsp dill

Leave the pastry out to thaw – read packet for product specific instructions.

Preheat the oven to 190C, line two trays with baking paper.

Cook the rice according to packet instructions. Set aside leave to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, combine all of the vegies, salmon (crush any bones), eggs, zest, dill and pepper. Add in the rice and mix well.

Open the (well defrosted) filo out. Spray a sheet then fold it in half, so that it’s almost a square. Dollop ¼ cup amounts of mixture in a line parallel to the fold line. Allow about 3 centimetres free at either end. Roll the pastry around the mix. Don’t worry if you get a tear. Just keep gently rolling until you have a nice cigar shape. Squeeze the ends closed.

You can make these to this point then refridgerate until you want to cook them. Just give them a spray of oil and store them between layers of baking paper.

When you’re ready to cook them, pop them on the trays. Spray with oil and bake for 20 minutes until golden and crunchy.

Makes about 16.

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From the suburbs to the world in just over an hour

I’ve got yet another awesome parenting moment to share with you (I do like to make you all feel better about your own efforts)… I went to pick up my daughter from her friend’s house at 3pm on Sunday afternoon. Was offered champagne. Had to admit that not only would I love one, but that I’d already had a couple, whilst on a playdate with my son, which had started at 10am. Bad look? Much?

It’s been nearly 8 months since THE MOVE and I’m having trouble keeping up with the partying pace of the suburbs, but I must say I’m having a great time and I’m wondering why I struggled raising kids in apartments for so long when there were spacious blocks, sunshine, beer (and champagne) fridges and HOBBIES to be enjoyed out here.

Still, with highs come lows, and Monday did roll around. Not only was the washing not done, but neither was the shopping, the nurofen box was empty and the kids were HUNGRY since all we’d managed for dinner the night before was boiled eggs.

I’m still trying to catch up, which is why it’s taken so long to post up this congee recipe. Over on facebook, some were intrigued and unfamiliar with congee, which is eaten by over 2 billion people throughout China, Asia & India. Basically it’s a rice soup, affordable to make and fantastic comfort food. The name, texture and additions change depending on the region.

In Japan it’s called Okayu, served thick, with eggs & grilled fish. Koreans eat juk, of course served with kimchi and the Indians call it kanji, a runnier version, served with lentils and chutney. Throughout all of these cultures, it’s commonly given as a first food to babies. Pretty similar to rice cereal after all, but a hell of a lot tastier.

My version is a cultural hybrid, quite thick, and cooked until the rice is breaking down but still has some texture. I use it as a carrier for small cubes of fish. But if your kids will fuss over that, then shredded cooked chicken (even a BBQ chicken) will be a fantastic variation.

vegie smugglers fish congee

Perfect for babies, the elderly, the sick (and hungover).

Fish & corn congee

¾ cup short-grain rice
6 cups good-quality chicken stock
3 tbsp shaoxing wine (Chinese rice wine)
1-2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
125g can creamed corn
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
White pepper
300g boneless skinless firm white fish fillets, diced
¼ red capsicum, seeded
125g can corn kernels

Sliced spring onions and coriander sprigs, to serve

Rinse the rice well under running water, drain and add to a saucepan with the stock. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 50–60 minutes until the rice is soft and breaking down. Stir regularly to avoid sticking.

Add the shaoxing wine, soy and oyster sauces, creamed corn and ginger. Add white pepper to taste.

When this is nice and hot, add the fish and vegies and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5–6 minutes until the fish is just cooked through.

Serve the congee topped with spring onion and coriander.


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Let the festive season begin

Perhaps I’m allergic to my new house, because it seems that I’m waking up on most Sunday mornings with a headache. You see my new house is quite FESTIVE with a nice deck and views and I find myself entertaining a lot of FESTIVE FOLK. And we drink wine. And being a bit of a drinking lightweight who can only safely imbibe 2-3 glasses of chardonnay before I’m in the hangover zone, I’m finding myself spending most Sunday mornings with a slight haze of discomfort and a new appreciation of the clever R&D teams who masterminded Nurofen zavance.

Perhaps there is something in the water of this big dry land that does predispose the population to a love of getting drunk. There is something GREAT about the sense of fun that comes with a warm afternoon, good friends and a cold glass of something that makes you giggle.

Yet again on the weekend, I served up something yum for the adults, but left the kids to run amok with a sausage and sauce in a slice of bread. Not even any onions. I know it’s a top Aussie BBQ tradition but with a full two months of festivities ahead, I think I need to do better and lift my nutrition game. No more mumblings about ‘fridge space’, ‘easiest options’ blah blah blah.

So I’m rummaging through recipes and thinking about ways to keep the upcoming summer parties slightly more healthy for the kids. Or at least providing good options for them that are enticing for the adults too. Probably a chip or two fewer wouldn’t hurt any of us.

The first thing that sprang to mind was this sushi slice. Most kids will eat some kind of sushi – it’s easy to adapt the filling to suit your family’s tastebuds. This recipe is a classic avocado and tuna combination which seems like a good place to start. Do you think your kids will eat this? What fillings will you try out? I always like to hear your opinions on my recipes.

And why sushi slice? Well, it’s perfect for folks like me who adore Japanese food but never quite got the hang of the whole rolling a sushi roll thing. Just two lamington trays the same size and you’re done. And it’s great party food, as you can make it a few hours ahead and refridgerate it. The less I have to handle sharp knives after a wine the better.

Anyway, let’s clink glasses and ‘kampai’ to the upcoming (healthy) party season. And of course, if you do find that you’re waking up with a headache EVERY morning, you might want to look over at AA and have a think about whether it might be time to pass the mineral water instead.

No sausage? No bread? Heresy!

Flat-pack sushi squares

1½ cups sushi rice (short-grain rice, available at most supermarkets)
2¼ cups water
100ml sushi seasoning
(or make your own: 90ml rice vinegar, 3 tbsp caster sugar, 1 tsp salt)
4 sheets nori seaweed
½ cucumber, sliced in half lengthwise, seeds removed, grated
1 small carrot, peeled, grated
95g can tuna in brine, drained
125g can corn kernels, drained
1 tsp soy sauce
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 avocado, very thinly sliced, covered with a drizzle of lemon juice

Pickled ginger (optional), to serve

Give the rice a really good wash under running water until the water is no longer milky. Drain. Pop the rice into a saucepan and add the water.

Place the (well-fitting) lid on the pan and bring the water to the boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer for 10–12 minutes or until the water is nearly all absorbed. Turn off the heat, leave the pan covered and let it sit and steam for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the vinegar, sugar and salt (if needed). Pour over the rice and use a wooden spoon to mix through.

Prepare a lamington tin by lining it with plastic wrap. Place a layer of the nori seaweed paper over the bottom (use scissors to cut them to fit).

Mix together the cucumber, carrot, tuna, corn, soy and mayonnaise. Pour off any excess liquid and discard.
Use wet hands to place half the rice over the seaweed. Evenly top with the vegie mix and the avocado, then carefully top with the rest of the rice and another layer of seaweed.

Put a second layer of plastic wrap over the top. If you have another pan of the same size, place it on top, weighted down with a couple of cans. Place in the fridge for 1–2 hours to firm.

When ready to serve, use a really sharp knife to cut the sushi into bite-sized squares. Serve with pickled ginger (if using).


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Something a bit fishy (and why my life resembles ‘The Block’)

The great Australian dream of home ownership is truly great, isn’t it? Somehow wrapped up in nonsense about freedom and opportunity we end up enslaving ourselves to ridiculous mortgages and weekends spent cruising Bunnings trying to find a parking space amid all the other folk pursuing their own Aussie dreams.

Our dream has just had a nightmarish phase as the simple sale of our flat coincided with US debt default worries, downgrades and stock market ‘volatility’ which made for some gut wrenching weeks as buyers fled the market and we were left with two mortgages, sleepless nights and a skin breakout that had me reaching for the concealer stick as though I was 14 all over again.

But thankfully we found just one person willing to pay at least something for our place. Let’s just say we weren’t in a great bargaining position and I could totally empathise with the contestants on ‘The Block’ who were barely able to mask their disappointment even under 8 tonnes of TV makeup and some pretty dresses.

But with everything signed and cooling offs cooled, the move is back on after a delay of several weeks. Which explains why my posts have been a bit all over the place. Too stressed to be inspired, I’ve been digging through the files to find pictures and old post ideas. My camera is buried in a box (hopefully) somewhere safe, so my only photography method is my iPhone which makes me as modern-as-tomorrow but not exactly precise.

So if you’ve thought there’s been something fishy with my posts – you’d be right! We’re nearly back on track though, so as a tribute to all things dodgy and cobbled together, here’s my ‘something fishy’ fish burritos recipe to enjoy.

vegie smugglers fish burritos

Adults might like some bottled jalapenos to add a bit of kick.

Something fishy burritos

1 red onion, finely chopped
1 zucchini, finely chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
½ lemon
1 tbsp olive oil
125g can corn kernels, drained
400g skinless, boneless firm white fish fillets (try barramundi)

To serve:
10 bought tortillas
Lettuce, chopped
Tomato, chopped
Avocado, chopped
Grated cheese
Mayonnaise (optional)

In a bowl, mix together the onion, zucchini, garlic, cumin, parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion mixture and cook, stirring, for 2–3 minutes, or until starting to soften. Tip in the corn and keep everything mixing around for another 2–3 minutes or until the vegies are lovely and soft. Remove and set aside.

Sprinkle the fish with salt and black pepper and add whole to the pan. Cook over medium heat for 3–4 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Squeeze over a little extra lemon juice. Remove from the pan.

Warm the tortillas according to packet directions. To serve, pile up the vegie mix, break off some fish and add lettuce, tomato, avocado, cheese and mayonnaise (if using). Roll up to serve.



Other fish recipes to try:
Family fish pie
Salmon bites
Baked tuna & tomato rice

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What the kids eat in… Malaysia

Lucky children in Malaysia grow up eating these delicious prawn fritters called Cucur Udang.

Super easy to make, they’re a good way to get the kids eating a new protein. Not that I desperately need them to grow fond of expensive seafood, but sometimes my best friend and I like a bit of adult gourmet, and this recipe is a way to deliver both a kid-friendly and adult-tasty dinner in one dish (just sprinkle over some chilli, spring onions and coriander for the adults).

And they’re cooked in no time at all, completing the recipe golden triangle of interesting, easy and delicious.

Makanan ini enak!

Cucur Udang

1 cup self-raising flour
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp ground turmeric
(for colour, optional)
250g cooked prawns
4 spring onions,
thinly sliced
125g can corn kernels, drained
Handful of bean sprouts
1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
2 eggs, whisked
Canola oil, for frying
White pepper

Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the salt and turmeric (if using).

Peel and devein the prawns then chop them into a texture to suit your family (I need to nearly mince mine). Add to the bowl with the spring onion, corn and bean sprouts.

Mix it all together and add the chilli sauce, egg and pepper. Add 1 cup water, a little at a time, until you have a good batter consistency.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium–high heat. Spoon in ¼ cup amounts of the mixture and cook for a couple of minutes. Turn over and cook the other side until golden and cooked through. Drain on paper towel.

Serve the fritters with salad and bean sprouts.



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