Recipes: Al Brown celebrates FISH


Al Brown’s name has become synonymous with the celebration of authentic Kiwi cooking. In this excerpt from the reprint of his award-winning recipe book Go Fish, we share his recipes for two classics: mussel and bacon fritters and smoked fish.

Recipes: Al Brown celebrates FISH
Al Brown celebrates FISH

Mussel recipe

Lamb, sauvignon blanc, and Greenshell mussels would probably be the three most-recognised products to be directly associated with New Zealand by people from other countries. Our Greenshell mussel industry has been built from very humble beginnings into what is now a complete success story as an export earner and a recognised leader in the traditionally fickle world of aquaculture. We are so lucky to have this delicacy fresh, alive, and available on a daily basis. I think sometimes we are guilty of overlooking the modest mussel in favour of other shellfish. And then when I pick some up and cook them in the shell or throw them under the grill with a topping or two, I am constantly blown away by their flavour, texture, and juiciness. We do love our fritters in New Zealand and these, with the addition of a little bacon, work a treat.

Mussel and Bacon Fritters

Makes 30-odd canapé-size fritters

When making fritters the key is to get them to hold together without being too doughy. Always add just some of the batter and then cook a small fritter to see how well it stays together. If it's falling apart, add a little more batter and cook another one. It's also a good time to check the seasoning of the fritter.

Ingredients:

  • 150g rindless bacon
  • Cooking oil for frying
  • 450g cooked mussel meat (from about 2.5kg live in the shell)
  • 1/3 cup finely diced red onion
  • Finely minced zest of 1 lemon
  • 1½ tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup fritter batter
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 egg whites
  • Cooking oil
  • Lemons to serve

Cook and serve

Step 1: Fry the bacon in a pan with a little oil until slightly crisp. Remove from the pan, chop into a small dice, and place in a mixing bowl.

Place half the mussel meat in a food processor and process until quite finely minced. Add this to the bowl. Roughly chop the rest of the mussel meat into a fine dice. Add to the bowl along with the red onion, lemon zest and juice, basil leaves, parsley and sugar, and season with the sea salt and pepper.

Mix all together, then fold in the cup of fritter batter. Cook a little of the fritter mix to check the consistency and seasoning, as mentioned above. Refrigerate until required.

Step 2: Take the bowl of fritter mix out of the fridge. In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until firm. Fold half the egg whites into the fritter mix and then fold in the second half.

Heat a skillet or griddle top on the barbecue to medium heat. Add a little cooking oil to the surface, then spoon out small amounts of fritter batter. Cook for a couple of minutes on each side until golden. Place on a platter, give them a good squeeze of lemon juice and then serve.

Note: For brunch or breakfast cook larger fritters and serve with hollandaise sauce or a couple of eggs.

How to smoke a fish

  1. Make an angled cut on either side of the head
  2. Remove head
  3. Cut down one side of the back bone
  4. Cut through to just below the skin
  5. Repeat on opposite side
  6. Expose backbone
  7. With kitchen shears, snip the backbone out
  8. Butterfly fish, ready for seasoning
  9. Apply liberal amounts of sea salt
  10. Apply liberal amounts of sugar
  11. Place in smoker, light the fuel, close the lid
  12. Check after 15-20 minutes. Remove once cooked through.

Fritter Batter - Makes 2 cups

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • Salt and freshly ground
  • black pepper

I use this simple batter recipe for all my shellfish fritters. It just binds the ingredients and holds them together in the cooking process. The art of making a good fritter is to use just the right amount of batter to bind — too much and the fritter will be doughy and tough, too little and the fritter will crumble and fall apart when cooking or, worse still, when serving. When I make a batch of fritter mix, I always cook one fritter to taste and see what the consistency is like once cooked. If I find it's too dense, I simply add a little more milk to thin out the batter slightly. If it's the other way and the fritter is falling apart, I'll add a little more batter, cook another one, until I'm happy with the consistency. Another way of lightening up a batter of any sort, even a pancake batter, is to whisk a few egg whites just before you start cooking and fold them in at the last minute. It works in the same way as soufflé, getting lots of air into the mixture and making the fritters light and airy.

Method

Break the eggs into a blender with a whisk attachment or similar, whisk the eggs for one minute, then add the flour, baking powder and milk. Whisk to a smooth batter. Add a little salt and pepper to season. Refrigerate until required.

Citrus Mash

Serves 6

  • 1kg floury potatoes (such as agria), peeled and quartered
  • Pinch of salt
  • 300ml cream
  • Finely grated zest of one lemon
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to season

Decadent, bad for you and completely delicious! Serve as a side dish with confidence with any simply cooked fish.

Method

Place the potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with cold water and add a healthy pinch of salt. Place on high heat then, once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook until soft (around 20 minutes).

Pour the cream into a small saucepan, add the lemon zest and place on low heat to steep the zest in the cream.

Once the potatoes are soft, drain completely, add the cream and lemon juice, and mash until smooth and silky. Season with sea salt and pepper. Keep in a warm place, or reheat over a water bath or in a microwave when required.

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