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December 21, 2010

Hermanus 2010 and Spice-crusted Yellowtail

It begins.

The hustle- bustle Christmas holidays that require many mugs of tea and coffee, and the wearing of crocs. Yes, I need plastic shoes to get through this. I resist and wear my Birkenstocks on day One and feel ready to sink into the floor, heavy- legged.

Imagine hearing this in the kind of voice used in film previews:
One chef.
One kitchen,
One elderly lady,
Three extended families.
53 days.

I feel like the first dish I make this season should be original, my own creation. I haven't really held a chef's knife in a few months, but I reckon inspiration will strike me like a lightning bolt while I stride through the Supermarket aisles. 

The word on the street is that there is a brand spanking new MALL in Hermanus. This news is about as big as the Titanic was in 1912. Plus, there is a new super-sized Checkers grocery store inside.The Checkers is indeed big- in fact it's almost beautiful, and it has a very nice icy fish counter. The fresh Yellowtail looks so firm, so juicy, that inspiration has no choice. It strikes. 

Spice- crusted Yellowtail with baked Baby Aubergines, snappy Summer Veg, and Basil Dressing
( serves four) 

For the fish: 
  • 4 Yellowtail fillets, skin- on
  • 10 ml each whole coriander and cumin seeds
  • 5ml chilli powder (adjust according to taste) 
  • 2ml freshly grated nutmeg
  • 30ml black sesame seeds 
  • salt and black pepper
  • 30ml butter
  • 1 lemon
For the veg: 
  • 4- 6 baby aubergines
  • 20ml olive oil
  • handful of basil, shredded
  • salt and pepper
  • 200g fresh asparagus, peeled if necessary
  • 200g fresh sugar snaps, cut in half diagonally
  • 100g mixed baby tomatoes, halved
  • 10- 20 good red olives, de- pipped if you please
  • 2 handfuls rocket
For the dressing: 
  • 60ml extra- virgin olive oil
  • 40ml balsamic vinegar
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 handful basil, chopped
  • salt and pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Fish first. Get a frying pan nice and hot and dry fry all the spices separately, except for the nutmeg. You'll know they're ready when the spicy aromas start to catch you in the nose. Mix the spices up and leave them in the pan. 
  2. Season the fish on both sides, and brush the skin sides with olive oil. Brush the top side generously with the melted butter and smack, flesh side down, onto the spice and sesame mixture to create the crust. Squeeze the juice of one lemon onto the flesh side. Yum. 
  3. Get a griddle pan smoking hot. Fry the fillets, skin side first, not moving them for the first minute. Then pick them up and turn them 90 degrees to make a snazzy criss- cross pattern. If it doesn't char, your pan is not hot enough. Finally, flip them over and cook the spice- crusted side for a minute or two. The fillets won't be cooked through yet, so pop them onto a baking tray and drizzle with remaining butter until ready to be cooked through ten minutes before dinner. 
  4. Give that same griddle pan a little wipe down, and keep it hot. Brush the aubergines with olive oil and rub generously with salt and pepper. Its all about the criss- cross today, so slash the flesh into a diamond pattern and char the little brinjal babies on all sides. Poke the shredded basil bits inside and pop into the oven. 
  5. Blanch the asparagus and sugar snaps until still very crunchy. Plunge into cold water and drain. Combine with the olives and olives. Zest the lemon reserved for the dressing and add. 
  6. Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, balsamic, basil and seasoning. Serve the majority in a jug on the table but toss a bit of it in with the veg and the rocket. But take it easy on the rocket. You don't want a soggy bunch of greens ruining a summer day. If you're feeling artsy, drizzle some dressing on the plate. 
  7. As dinner time approaches, cook those yellowtail fillets through, testing with a sharp knife for doneness. Serve on a cold plate, with the little baby aubergines, snappy veg and perhaps a bright lemon wedge alongside. Pretty, nice. 

Ps. Mrs X doesn't eat carbohydrates (and she's a exceptionally fit looking elderly lady if any of you are looking for a tip) but I would recommend serving this with blanched pasta rice that has been seasoned, drizzled generously with olive oil, and tarted up with some chopped parsley.Pasta rice is nothing too riveting- just pasta that is shaped liked rice. But it wriggles down nicely with fish for some reason. It is also known as risoni or orzo and is quite readily available.

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