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Posts Tagged ‘fish’

pappardelle with hot smoked salmon & chives

In pasta, quick, spring, year-round on 22 November, 2011 at 5:21 pm

Last week, when I made this pasta, I had just returned from a busy weekend in Auckland: time spent with new friends, a full-on and utterly fantastic Saturday at the (first ever!) New Zealand Food Bloggers’ Conference, a prolonged boozy Sunday brunch (complete with bubbles and strawberries and peonies and asparagus!) in the big, rambling Ponsonby villa of one dear friend, a catch-up with another over some quick oysters at Depot, subsequently nearly missing my flight and then actually nearly missing my flight after I bumped into another friend outside the airport terminal.

It was a whirlwind weekend, one that reminded me that people* (both new to me and old) are generally wonderful. That there’s nothing that unites us quite like sharing good food. That I love Auckland.

There. I said it. Near-blasphemy coming from someone as stubbornly in love with Wellington as I am, I know. Words I never thought I’d utter but that I’ve slowly been warming to over the last year or so, forming the words silently with my mouth while no one is looking: I actually really love Auckland.

I don’t really know quite how this came about. I mean, I never really was into that whole Auckland-hating business but I did have the occasional sneer: at the traffic jams, at how self-absorbed all those Aucklanders are (well, all the stereotypical ones I’ve never met), at the soulless city centre (it’s getting better). But you know what? It’s actually tiring hating on Auckland when you don’t really hate it, when every time you’re there you can’t wipe that stupid grin off your face, despite the congested roads and the North Shore.**

Because for me, having grown up in a city where bumper-to-bumper traffic is a fact of daily life, where getting across town to meet up with friends is more than a 10-minute walk, where you plan nights out around taxi rides or sober drivers, the suburban sprawl of Auckland feels perversely comfortable. Maybe even relaxing, in a strange way.

When I’m in Auckland I almost think I could live there. I’ll walk through Mt Eden or Ponsonby or Grey Lynn in a little fantasy world – if I lived here, that’d be my favourite cafe, this would be the little shop I’d always pop my nose into on the way home, I’d get all my cookbooks from Cook the Books (if you were at the post-conference dinner last weekend you would too), I’d be friends with this greengrocer and I’d live in this house or that one or one just like it, and it’d be nice, and I’d be happy.

I feel a bit unfaithful to Wellington when I’m thinking these thoughts. But deep down I know if I ever leave Wellington it won’t be for Auckland but for somewhere a little less familiar, something that’s as yet unknown. And so I come home.

The downside of a weekend fling with Auckland is the exhaustion that follows. Wellington’s so familiar and comfortable; it’s a place I love dearly, but sometimes it feels like I know it just a bit too well. And so coming home feels a bit like waking up from a really good dream, the kind where you want to shut your eyes as hard as possible and will yourself to fall back asleep in the hopes that maybe you’ll fall back into it again. The kind where your head’s in the clouds for a good couple hours in the morning, maybe even until lunchtime, and you need something good to ease yourself out of it.

So that’s how I came to make this pasta last week. I was on my way down from that familiar old Auckland high, filled with a vague sense of longing for sunshine and Queenie’s and Ponsonby Road and friends and that amazing braised and rolled pig’s head at the Tasting Shed. So instead of the salads that have filled my life in recent days*** I was craving something a bit more substantial, something to get me settled back into my normal routine.****

I was also craving something really specific: the karengo hot smoked salmon from Plentifull Deli on Majoribanks St. So on the Monday after Auckland I popped into Plentifull - no salmon. I made do with buying myself some other little treat, and on Tuesday afternoon, I phoned ahead: “hey, do you have any hot smoked salmon today?” “let me check… oh, we’re just smoking some now; it’ll be ready in a couple hours”.

And if there’s anything that can pull you out of a dream-like post-holiday daze, it’s the satisfaction of getting exactly what you want. So I practically skipped home after work, a little parcel of fragrant, smoky fish in my handbag (yes, my bag smelled great – albeit fishy – for the next day or so), cooked up a big batch of noodles, and this dish was born.

*including, but not limited to, all the wonderful people I met for the first/second/third time at the conference:

AlessandraAlliAndreaBronCarmellaChristinaChristyEmmaJacoJemmaJulieKristinaIngrid & VanessaLesleyLouiseMairiMoiraRosaRowanSasaShirleenSueVivian

(Special thanks, of course, goes to Alli for organising the conference, Sasa for being such a lovely lovely host, Andrea, Jaco, Alessandra, Emma, Louise and Bron for the fantastic presentations and all of the conference sponsors:

Annies - Bell Tea - Cook the Books - Coopers Creek - Cuisine - Gravity Coffee - Gu Puds - Hubbards - I Love Pies - Kohu Road - Kokako - Loaf - Mad Millie - New Holland Publishers - Pacific Harvest - Photo & Video International - Teza - The Tasting ShedWhittaker’s)

**not really picking on the North Shore here particularly. It was just the first thing I could think of that I had some form of perceived contempt for. I don’t, actually… also, I really think my opinion of Auckland has improved a lot now that there are people there who are lovely to me and drive me places. And thus talk to me during traffic jams in a much better way than, say, a taxi driver/fellow bus passengers could. Thanks, friends!

***from the simplest of leaves dressed only with sea salt and olive oil to more complex combinations of grain and legume and all sorts of good stuff!

****not for long, though – I’m off to Melbourne tomorrow!

PAPPARDELLE WITH HOT SMOKED SALMON & CHIVES
(serves approximately two – quantities are rough so adjust as you see fit!)

Cook some pappardelle (I used about 100g of this stuff) in well-salted boiling water. Drain, reserving a bit of the pasta water.

Once the pasta is almost ready, heat up about 1/3 cup creme fraiche and 1/3 cup cream in a wide, shallow pan. Add about a tablespoon each of grainy mustard and lemon zest and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper if needed.

To the sauce, add some flaked hot smoked salmon (I used about 100g, which was perfect) and a tablespoonful of chopped chives. Add the cooked pasta and toss gently until all the noodles are coated in the creamy sauce (use some of the pasta water to thin the sauce if the it’s too thick).

Serve, topped with a little extra salmon and chives to garnish (if you care about things like that).

scrambled eggs with smoked mackerel & chives

In breakfast, year-round on 5 August, 2011 at 3:42 pm

I have a confession: I’ve had this for dinner at least six of the last nine or ten nights. It started one night when I bought some smoked mackerel to make fish pie but got preoccupied doing other things, and bam! It was nine o’clock, I was ravenous, no fish pie anywhere in sight. So I did what I often do when I get into that night-time so-hungry-so-tired state: popped some bread in the toaster and cooked up some scrambled eggs. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, I found myself flaking a bit of smoked mackerel into the eggs.

I have no idea what was going through my head in that brief moment between sitting down and digging in, but I don’t think I was prepared for the overwhelming, eye-widening oh-my-god-why-haven’t-I-done-this before feeling that hit me with the first bite. You know, that stunned, amazed feeling you get when you’re at a restaurant or a friend’s house and have something cooked just a little differently to how you normally do it at home, and you kind of half-squeal with delight. Except I was eating this at home, alone, and is there really a point of squealing if you’re just doing it for yourself, for something you’ve cooked? It’s kind of smug, if you think about it. (I did go and have a bit of a squeal to my flatmates, excitedly offering them forkfuls of eggs. They were less than enthusiastic, something about having just-brushed teeth. Pshh, weak.)

I’m not going to get all spring-is-upon-us yet, because it’s still August and there’s till plenty of time for soups and stews and braises and warm puddings and hot drinks, but there’s no denying the days are getting longer and maybe, just maybe, this is a dish that starts to creep into spring territory. Okay, scrambled eggs can be enjoyed year-round. As can smoked fish and chives. But there’s something just so cheerful about pillows of bright yellow, flecked with grass-green chives.

 

Like porridge, scrambled eggs are one of those things people get pretty particular about: everyone I’ve talked to has their own method. So, like with the porridge, I’ll share my method in the hopes of winning one or two people over – but really, cook your scrambled eggs how you like. Just try adding smoked fish and chives. It may blow your mind. It did mine.

SCRAMBLED EGGS WITH SMOKED MACKEREL & CHIVES:

Crack an egg or two into a small saucepan, add a splash of cream and a little knob of butter. Heat gently over low to medium-low heat, using a heatproof spatula or flat-bottomed wooden spoon to stir it together, but not too much, scraping the bottom of the pan as you go. If it starts to cook too quickly, take it off the heat and give it a stir. Keep repeating this until it’s almost-but-not-quite set. Remove from the heat – the eggs should continue to cook from the residual heat in the pan. If they don’t firm up as much as you’d like, heat gently a little bit more. But be careful! Nobody likes rubbery scrambled eggs.* Once they’re at your desired consistency, stir in a spoonful of sour cream or crème fraiche, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, a tablespoonful or so of chopped chives (to taste), a couple of tablespoonsful of smoked fish (use whatever you like – for me, it was mackerel), flaked or shredded with a fork. 

Last night, nine-o’clock again and hungry and tired from packing for a weekend away** I had this with a pungent spoonful of homemade sauerkraut on the side, and a tall glass of stout. Aside from the fact that I felt a little like I was eating a breakfast fit for a North Sea fisherman*** it took the whole thing to a completely new level. Of  “oh-my-god-this-works-perfectly” triumph, and a little bit of anguish and insecurity that no one else was there to share this revelation. Which is why I’m sharing this little tidbit with you.

*I had some the other week at a cafe I usually like very much. I was so sad, kept thinking longingly of my home-cooked eggs. But that’s another story.

**I’m off to the mountain (yippee!) so this was more involved packing than my usual throw-some-underwear-in-a-bag-and-hope-for-the-best routine: climbing on chairs, pulling boxes out of storage, looking for snowboarding gear, etc.

***and here you discover my complete ignorance ofNorth Seafisherman and their typical breakfast choices. But, if I was some swarthy European fisherman in the cold, bleak sea (again, this is totally theNorth Seaof my imagination), this is what I’d be having for breakfast.  

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