Paul’s Caul… the Spanish cook off

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For all those playing at home, I don’t have red hair and a beard and I’m not G-bags Mcfilthy mouth… no, I am not the father of this blog, I’m perhaps best described as this blogs estranged brother that likes to drop by unannounced and expects every thing that’s great about writing a blog whilst having no responsibility at all… yes that is me in a delicious nut shell, I’m simply a man called Paul who has a shit load to say about food and anything even slightly related to it, like travel, drinking and eating of said food.

I’m a chef that has been cooking for overs 20 years all over the place and I have been extremely fortunate to have known G-bags for all of that time. We share a love of food, swearing and most importantly telling the whole fucking world about it, so a blog seemed inevitable. I’m honoured he allows my scribbling’s to be part of foodisthebestshitever and I hope you enjoy them just as much as we love bacon, but lets face it that’s asking quite a lot. P

SPANISH COOK OFF

After spending a season admiring this guys food, I won’t lie I felt some serious pressure as we prepared for the Spanish cook off. This cook off entailed a four course menu with a canapé, cooked for Grants Dad Derek, the lovely Paula and our respective partners Rachel and of course Lauren. The rules were simple we would go shopping together at the local shops and then each choose a night to put on a slap up feed in Casa Oasis (Derek and Paula’s B’n’B). Grant choose Thursday night so he was first cab off the rank, I choose Saturday so I could gauge just how far I needed to push things. But all this meant was I had a day to stress as his food as expected was top notch. Other rules included you must be dressed at all times and never play Ouiji alone, but lets face it that’s just common sense.

Yes
Yes

The location and the ingredients were the only thing Spanish about our cook off, we may have been sweating a little more than usual and yes we were drinking the benefits of a tax-free live but not much tapas in sight. When we arrived at the supermarket it was a real treat to see a banging seafood counter full of interesting and unusual species ready to confuse travelling chefs who think they know a thing or two about food. But with a huge crowd hovering around it we decided we should start the shop before attempting to order said seafood in a language that we were sure to bastardise.
Yes
Yes

It was about now it dawned on us that nether of us know enough Spanish to successfully navigate around a shop, but with a total disregard for logic our shop began with a couple of donuts for the ladies being whacked in the trolley, lets face it a donut doesn’t need any translation. Next was the veg aisle and it wasn’t the array of goodies we had hoped for, what was there was nice stuff but not a lot of variety at all. So what people saw was two large chefs mumbling dishes under their breath as they tried to conjure menu’s in their heads. Yes we seemed autistic as we said things like “zucchini with parsley, watermelon with chilli and mint, but what the fuck am gonna do with this parsnip… fuck it I’ll grab it anyway” this is as far as I know how all chefs shop, sporadic with a sense of purpose that seems confident, when inside we have next to no idea what it going to be finally placed on plates.
Not the best pic but still hell yes
Not the best pic but still hell yes

Next was the booze aisle so two bottles of 7 euro gin was quickly placed in the trolley along with tonic, so it was back to the veg aisle to grab cucumber and lime, no one said we were organised. Meat was to follow and in the middle of the meat section was a magnificent sight… a god damn Jamon stall, set up like a beach shack that served the most delicious cured legs of black pigs, the nice lady noticed our drool and quickly offered to slice us some samples. I feel she actually feared for her life, as we salivated some more, so in turn she gave us more Jamon. I did like her and her generous ways, so I felt it only right to buy some serrano Jamon, for what I didn’t know but you cant go wrong with the nutty tasting salted leg of the famous Spanish pig. I cant help but now picture a Spanish pig wearing a flamenco dress drinking sangria in a small tapas bar watching football, but you know me and stereotypes, I effing love them.
Yes
Yes

I also have a penchant for black pudding, so when I noticed some Morcilla for 1 euro I didn’t even know what happened, but as I walked away they were in our trolley, I love my brain. Grant had been scoping out the meat section and picked up some mini balls of chorizo but his heart was still at the seafood counter so it was back to the iced up tubs of the Mediterranean’s finest. Mackerel, octopus and razor clams took his attention so the senorita kindly gutted the fish and bagged up the clams, he was nice enough to get me 4 small whole squid.
Yes
Yes

With a full trolley we hit up the register to assess the damage but it was only 116 euro, which is only about 150 Aussie dollars, which is so effing cheap for a full trolley of goodness. Once home Grant started to truly formulate his menu and what he came up with was…

• Paprika caramelized Plantains for a canapé/snack
• Razor clams, octopus with ginger & tomato
• 5.5 minute egg with charred asparagus, egg dressing, chorizo
• Mackerel, spiced aubergine caviar, torched broccoli, roast cherry tomato, saffron sauce
• Banana cake, whiskey strawberries, mango custard, toffee banana & mint

What we were treated to that night was nothing short of spectacular, I wont lie I’m very jealous of the way Grant plates his food, its stunning and just so different from my plating. I was crossing my fingers under the table hoping for his flavours to be rubbish, but no such luck, all dishes were a triumph both visually and flavour wise. My personnel favourite was the octopus and clam dish with a hint of ginger, spring onion and a little chilli… here is his recipe and some photo’s of other dishes…

Oh dear good lord yes
Oh dear good lord yes

Razor clams with octopus

250g octopus
20 razor clams
4 spring onions
1 knob of ginger
1 small bunch of coriander
12 sprigs of parsley (for garnish )
4 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 Juice and zest of a lemon and a lime
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
2 shallots
6 tablespoons extra Virgin olive oil (3 for garnish )

• Season the octopus with salt, pepper, garlic, chilli and lemon. Either bbq or grill then oven cook on a low heat for around an hour
• Cook razor clams for ten seconds in boiling salty water. Take the clam from the membrane, discard the latter and boil the empty shells to sterilise
• Fry shallots , garlic, spring onion, ginger and finally tomato paste and paprika until shallots are soft and the tomato has been cooked out
• Thinly slice both the octopus and clams and add to the frying pan to combine
• Add the lemon, lime and olive oil and cool
• Once cold add chopped coriander and place mixture into sterilised shells
• For service grill until warm, place on plate and garnish with olive oil and parsley

The bar was not only raised it was fair up me, I wasn’t comfortable with the situation or this analogy but I was very well feed and honoured to be part of a home cooking challenge with such an incredible chef such as Grant. So over the next day I plotted and planned many dishes but with an extra day up my sleeve I did have the upper hand.

Friday came along and it was deep sea fishing in the med for day time activities followed by cooking our bounty as the sun went down, but I still managed to whack out a dessert in the afternoon. I made 6 glasses of ginger and chilli panna cotta and some spiced cookie dough, these made me sleep a little easier, as I had a bit done for Saturday night. But when I awoke on Saturday I checked the panna cotta’s and as I’d had to set them with agar agar they were heaps more set then I wanted, in fact they were rubbery as fuck so I decided to take from glasses and blended then whip to make into a ginger and chilli cream. Then it was my time to finally decide on some dishes so I scribbled down my thoughts…

• Roast pear with balsamic, blue cheese wrapped in serrano Jamon
• Ginger & lime squid on a watermelon chilli & mint salad
• Morcilla, tapenade, asparagus salad
• Herby beef, parsnip puree, confit cherry tomatoes, spring onion
• Chilli & ginger cream, spiced biscuit crumb, coconut rum & mint macerated strawberries, candy floss

All in all I was happy with what I served up, especially since all was produced in a home kitchen with limited ingredients. My squid dish seemed to be the people’s favorite, whilst the morcilla was mine, one day these two might have the same out come. I have before made many versions of this squid dish and I think I have even given you the recipe before so instead I will give you the desserts recipe…

More yes
More yes

Chilli & ginger cream, spiced biscuit crumb, coconut macerated strawbs

Chilli & ginger cream

300ml cream
200ml milk
120g sugar
1 dried chilli
1 small knob fresh ginger
1 teaspoon of agar agar

• Heat all except agar in pan and simmer for 5 minutes to infuse flavours, then whisk in agar and simmer for 1 minute, strain into container and refrigerate
• Once set, blend until smooth then whisk up into nice thick cream. Whack into piping bag

Spiced biscuits

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
3 cups plain flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoon hot water
1 tablespoon four spice

• Cream butter and sugar then add all ingredients one after another then roll into logs in cling wrap and freeze or chuck in fridge
• When want them just slice into ½ cm slices and bake at 180 until coloured nicely
• To make crumb blend once cold in a blender

Macerated strawberries

• Chop strawbs into ¼’s and toss in Malibu rum and fresh mint. Leave for a while so they all get together
• You can then start the build on the plate, I whack some crumbs down first, then the strawbs in a nice pile then pipe 5 different sized blobs of the cream, crumble some freeze dried raspberries around the place and finish with some candy floss on top of strawbs

The week finally came to end with so many memories of lazing by a pool and eating lots of delicious food. Who won you ask? Well I think the other four people were the real winners, but I give my vote to Grant as his food is always food I wish was something I’d produced, and special mention to Derek and Paula of Casa Oasis for allowing to chef’s into their kitchen and home to do what we do best… cook, eat & drink.

Warm salad of squid, chickpeas, olives, tomato and herbs with nutty za’atar

warm salad of squid, chickpeas, olives, tomato, herbs and nutty za'atar
It is difficult to conjure up a cracking meal with what can be only described as eff all. I am not a magician; I don’t even have the skills to do a basic card trick and I certainly do not possess the powers of alchemy.

What is not difficult though, is creating a cracking meal with what I was faced with tonight; fresh squid, herbs, spinach and tomatoes from the garden, our own marinated capsicum (peppers), olives, chickpeas and some za’atar with a bit of nutty addition for good measure.

If we are reading from the same book (but let’s face it; we are probably not. In fact I don’t think our books are even from the same library as I am ashamed to say I would’ve skipped on straight past the public book loan place and picked myself up a magazine from the news agent next door) we both know that there shall be a damn attractive salad emerge from this stack of ingredients. A fantastic, light, summery, still-trying-to-cling-on-to-those-last-few-warm-days type salad.

Anyway, you can see this shit is going to be good so I’ll get right on with the main event.

No magic involved here
No magic involved here

Squid and chickpeas getting to know each other
Squid and chickpeas getting to know each other

Eat it quickly... and without the children
Eat it quickly… and without the children

WARM SALAD OF SQUID, CHICKPEAS, OLIVES, TOMATO AND HERBS with NUTTY ZA’ATAR (serves 2 if you feed the kids toasted cheese sandwiches for dinner and then eat yours once they go to bed)

500g fresh squid, cleaned, scored in a criss cross (not Kris Kross. That would involve pants being worn backwards and that’s just weird whatever planet you’re from) pattern on the inside of the hood and then cut into 2x4cm pieces
1 cup cooked chickpeas (the ones from a tin are fine)
1 handful tomatoes, chopped
1 handful olives
1 handful roasted and marinated capsicum (peppers), sliced
A handful of fresh mint and basil, torn
2 handfuls of spinach, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons nutty za’atar (recipe follows)
A splash of oil
Juice of ½ lemon
Seasoning
A couple of beers or something white to wash it all down

• Get all of your mis en place ready before you start cooking because once you begin it’s all going to be over very quickly… yeah, a bit like your performance under the sheets last night
• Get a heavy based frying pan plenty hot. Add oil and then squid. Toss for 45ish seconds
• Remove from heat and add the chickpeas to warm through for a minute
• Combine with all other ingredients, dress with lemon juice and a splash of olive oil, season lightly and sprinkle with nutty za’atar-y goodness

NUTTY ZA’ATAR

2 tablespoons za’atar
2 tablespoons chopped almonds and walnuts

• Mix it all together and bam, there you go

Prawn san choi bau with squid balls for our last night in Iluka

This, my friends, is what I call san choi bau
This, my friends, is what I call san choi bau

This folks, is sadly my last post from Iluka. My seven days of love and sunshine are almost at an end. A week of a post a day (a PB for me too, I might add) devoted purely to our holiday eating is almost done. Soon the afternoons when I sit on the verandah of the holiday house, a bottle of liquid inspiration by my side, and type these words for you shall be gone. There will be no more early morning fishing trips, no swimming and skating all day long. No. I shall be returning to work. Reality is a harsh evil stepmother of a bitch. She is harsh like the face of an out back farmer with three-day growth. Harsh like the breath of a five-buck hooker. Harsh like the tongue of the salty old sea dog. Getting the picture?

I pack up all the things I deemed necessary to make my holiday complete; a few clothes, some books, my knife kit, I-pad, MacBook, IPhone, beard trimmer (don’t know why I packed this. I am well renowned for not trimming my beard very often at all), external hard drive, camera and vibra… er… nothing – all complete with chargers. Enough technology to be considered a NASA mobile command centre 20 years ago but today, bare necessities.

It is also quite possibly time for a proper wash to cleanse my self of this fishy aroma. For the past week I have been using fish for bait, catching fish and prepping seafood every single day. Nothing wrong with that, but to be sure I am starting to smell like the toilet door on an old prawn trawler.

So what do I have to help ease the pain of this impending reality of getting back to my other life (Seriously, it’s not that bad… I just love holidays as much as anyone else out there I guess)? A cleanse. A big fat healthy cleanse. No booze. No cigarettes. No meat on meat cook-ups. Just healthy eating, probably a green smoothie or two and other things conducive to a healthy lifestyle. Wish me good luck with that one.

But before that happens I will indulge myself in one more seafood cook-up. Mostly because I am damn well still on holidays for one more day and also we shall be joined by Jennee tonight after a week by herself at our real life home, and to quote her last Facebook status directly; “It has become very apparent that if Gray is not here then I would probably eat eggs on toast for dinner every night and always have an empty fridge! I think it may be time to welcome the family back to the fold…. I have run out of eggs Graeme.” So that girl is ready for some food loving too…

Stir-fried prawny goodness
Stir-fried prawny goodness
Jennee could not wait another second. Sometimes  as a food blogger you just have to work with what you've got...
Jennee could not wait another second. Sometimes as a food blogger you just have to work with what you’ve got…

SAN CHOI BAU with squid balls and prawns
300g king prawns, peeled, de-veined and diced into 1cm pieces (the fish shop only had cooked prawns so that’s what I got, but fresh would be my choice if available. They would need to be cooked with the onion though)
½ brown onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 thumb sized piece of ginger, grated
1 cup shredded cabbage
1 carrot, grated
½ cup peanuts, chopped
1 cup cooked rice… jasmine, basmati, brown. Probs not arborio… use your smarts kiddos
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon chilli in soy bean oil
Other things that would work well in here include bean sprouts, water chestnuts and bamboo shoots
Squid balls, iceberg lettuce (not butter lettuce, frissee or mesclun mix. Iceberg lettuce), coriander and an Asian inspired dipping sauce/salsa to serve
• Stirfry the onion and garlic (stirfry = hot pan/wok, yeah?) for one minute
• Add the ginger, cabbage, carrot, peanuts and rice and toss for another minute
• Add the sauces and prawns and rock that shit for one more minute
• Check seasoning, adjust if necessary, serve in lettuce cups with squid balls, coriander and salsa

Squid balls
Squid balls

Squid balls
500g fresh squid, cleaned and diced
200g pork mince
½ cup cooked rice just to help it stick together. Breadcrumbs would work but I like rice
1 eshallot or ¼ onion, chopped
1 long red chilli, chopped
½ kafir lime leaf, chiffonade
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk lemongrass, chopped
1 teaspoon fish sauce
A good pinch white pepper
• Process everything except squid, pork and rice, to make a coarse paste. Set aside
• Now pulse squid, pork and rice in a food processor (the same one you used for the spice paste should do the trick) to make a coarse paste all of their very own. Don’t put it all into the food processor together and think you will achieve the same result. The squid and pork will end up pureed to shit and you still want a bit of texture in there
• Mix the spice paste and the meat paste together. Form into small balls or quenelles and fry in hot oil for 3 minutes, turning regularly
• Serve with the other stuff

Bye bye Iluka. It’s been swell… really swell

Herb crumbed squid rings

This made my belly very happy
This made my belly very happy

We have just been to the Fisherman’s Co-op and procured ourselves a nice little bag of fresh squid. And how much did that squid cost us, I hear you ask. Well my friend, I am here today to tell you right now that it cost not a penny more than seven Australian dollars and thirty cents of the same nationality.

We have done our dawn fishing followed by a morning at the beach and the skatepark thing, so now is my time to sit back. As I write this (just for you) the kids are in two different rooms watching the same show in stereo. They don’t get to watch much of the picture box shows at home so I figure while on holidays they can pretty much do what they want… except catching pet snakes… or throwing dog poo at each other… or throwing dogs at each other… so they can’t to anything, but they can watch a little TV. And me? Well I’ll just sit back and have myself a cheeky beer, hit a few keys on my laptop (and I may even pay attention to what I’m doing so the words I form don’t resemble some kind of top security government code that only a kid with autism is going to be able to figure out) and convey to you a recipe for one of my all time favourite things to eat in the world. Ever.

Crumbed squid rings.

That’s right, crumbed squid rings. A childhood favourite of mine that has grown into an adult monster of an obsession. Like the Kaiju in “Pacific Rim”… a big monster just like that.

I remember when my younger brother Matt would come home from “squidding” with a couple of big squid or maybe a cuttlefish (it didn’t matter, it was all the same to us) in hand and mum would crumb the lot of it up, deep fry it and we would eat squid for the afternoon. I’m a big boy now so I get to eat squid whenever I damn well choose to. One of those moments shall be today. Look out sqiddy, here comes Uncle Grazza…

You know what? There’s a heap of herbs in the garden at this place so I’m going to chuck some of them in too.

The boats dropping off the squid at the Fisherman's Co-op
The boats dropping off the squid at the Fisherman’s Co-op
Seven bucks and thirty cents. Buying squid for bait is more expensive
Seven bucks and thirty cents. Buying squid for bait is more expensive
A few herbs from the garden
A few herbs from the garden
All crumbed up and ready to go
All crumbed up and ready to go
Time for you little suckers to get in my belly
Time for you little suckers to get in my belly

HERB CRUMBED SQUID RINGS

This recipe is per person… work that one out for yourself

200g fresh at fuck squid (this stuff was landed at 8am today. I saw the boats come in)

1 small handful mixed herbs; I had parsley, rosemary and sage, chopped

1 cup breadcrumbs

½ cup flour

1 egg beaten to with-in an inch of its life (these jokes* clearly never tire with me), or just beaten with a splash of milk, which may be more applicable here

Vegetable oil or something similar to shallow or deep fry

Seasoning

Chips, salad, mayonnaise** (yes, I fricking love mayo alright. It is my favourite condiment ever. Although I do love anything you could call a condiment, mayo always comes out on top… yes, just like your gay lover) and lemon/lime to serve

  • Clean your squid by cleaning your squid. Keep the tentacles because they are the best part
  • Slice the tubes (this is what we call the body of the squid) into 1cm rings. Guys, do not be tempted to put the tubes in the microwave for ten seconds and use them as a tool for masturbation. This is not conducive to a tasty meal or a good family lifestyle
  • Mix the breadcrumbs with the herbs and a good hit of salt and pepper
  • Now the squid rings go through the flour, and then the eggwash, and then the crumbs. If you fuck with this system it will not work
  • Heat your oil to 180C-ish (flick a few breadcrumbs in there and if they sizzle up to the surface quickly you’re good to go)
  • Now fry your squid in batches of 10 or so (I would suggest doing this with a shirt on even if you are on holiday. Hot fat. Lesson learned) for 1 minute, turning regularly. They should be crisp and golden. If they are pale and soggy you should probably put them under your bed with those socks that look much the same…
  • Put the first batch aside on paper towel to drain and repeat until you’re all done. These puppies have a magical ability to hold their heat for a while
  • Sort the chips and salad out all by yourself. Here is a recipe for mayonnaise
  • Don’t forget to put some lemon/lime on the side

*Could be loosely termed as jokes I guess

**You could put a few cornichons, capers and a bit of dill through the mayo to make tartare, or some ketchup and Tabasco to make marie rose (seafood sauce), some sriracha hot chilli to make something awesome, or add whatever you want really…

Graz vs Queenie aka. snapper and prawns vs squid and chorizo

SAMSUNG CSC

Word was passed about the station… the challenge was on.

The day was set. It would be yesterday, in the past.

The protagonists of this challenge would be my fair Jennee’s brother, Queenie, and my self, Grazza McFilthymouth.

The challenge would be set in our kitchen.

The challenge itself? We would each choose four ingredients that the other would have to use in his/her meal. After that it was white mans rules. We would take a trip to the fish shop and buy whatever seafood we desired for our dish, plus we could use any other ingredients we were keen on… as long as the chosen ingredients and the seafood starred like an over made-up, under dressed, pre-teen dancing queen. Rules and regulations were discussed, sweat bands and long socks were donned, steroids were ingested and the Jane Fonda warm up tape was in the VCR and ready to go… all that was required was that someone hit play, which we did, but the tape wasn’t rewound and we didn’t have the privilege of spare time right now so there was no way we could wait for the tape to rewind. It was on with the challenge, warm up or no warm up.

Just like an outback camel race, there were at least three people who were genuinely excited about this event.

Straight to the food.

The ingredients
The ingredients

Team Grazza

Ingredients; kiwi fruit, garam masala, cashews and coconut water. Plus I went out and bought myself a nice little snapper and a kg of un-cooked prawns.

I wasn’t heaps pleased with the choice of kiwi fruit as one of my ingredients. Kiwi fruit is definitely one of my least favoured fruits. It made me think of having fruit salad with the main course, which really doesn’t appeal to me as I am more a fruit salad for dessert kind of guy. But eff it, I had kiwi fruit so dessert with the fish it would be. “I’ll even put some more bloody fruit in there”, I said to self. Self smiled and reached for a mango, I’m pretty sure Queenie was shitting himself right about now… and if he wasn’t, he should’ve been.

I ended up with two dishes; baked whole snapper with coconut water dressing, salad of kiwi fruit, mango, coconut and cashew with kaffir lime, and prawns with garam masala chermoula. You want the recipes? You got it.

A lovely little snapper
A lovely little snapper
The kiwi fruit number was really good. I will do that again
The kiwi fruit number was really good. I will do that again
Damn, damn tasty
Damn, damn tasty

ROASTED SNAPPER

2 kg snapper or something else that is a tasty fish, and leave it on the bone for something different. The meat is so damn moist and delicious…

½ cup coconut water

salt

coconut water dressing, kiwi fruit, mango and cashew salad, coriander and fresh lime to serve

  • Preheat oven to 200C
  • Score each side of the fish (I gave mine 8 out of 10). This helps it cook evenly and peel away into nice chunks for serving. Douse with coconut water to get this coconut water challenge started. Season with salt on both sides
  • Roast the fish for 15-20 minutes, or until cooked through and is peeled easily from the bone
  • Place the fish on a plate that will hold it… in hindsight, a banana leaf would’ve looked hot but, well, that’s hindsight. Pour the coconut water dressing over and serve the salad on the side
  • Well done. Get yourself a beer. You deserve it

COCONUT WATER DRESSING

2 cups coconut water

½ cup castor sugar

1 tablespoon fish sauce

  • Simmer coconut water and sugar until reduced by half. Season with fish sauce. Bang on

KIWI FRUIT, MANGO & CASHEW SALAD

4 kiwi fruit, diced

2 mango, diced

½ onion, diced

1 cup cashew, roasted and chopped

1 cup shredded coconut, roasted (do it in the oven while it’s waiting for the fish. A minute or two should do it. And whack the cashews in there too)

½ long green chilli, deseeded and diced

½ kaffir lime leaf, shredded super fine

1 tablespoon olive oil

  • Combine. There is your salad
The prawns
The prawns

PRAWNS WITH GARAM MASALA CHERMOULA NEXT TIME I PROMISE

 

Team Queenie

Ingredients; chorizo, beetroot, onion, cheese of his choosing. Plus he got himself a kg of nice little fresh squid.

Queenies squid number
Queenies squid number

I don’t know what Queenies thoughts were because I aint no mind reader, but this is what he came up with; Squid stuffed with chorizo, beetroot, mascarpone and mint puree, soured onions. It was delightful and I’m sure Queenie will be happy to jot the recipe down and maybe also a short anecdote about himself and a few drunken carnival folk. Maybe.

We were going to get the score cards out at the end of the night but let’s face it, with a spread like this everyone’s a winner!

HAPPY EFFING NEW YEAR FOLKS! LET’S GET THIS SHIT STARTED…

Jennee’s Birthday Feast(s)

HAPPY BIRFDAY JENNEE

A dodgy photo of a dodgy fam...
A dodgy photo of a dodgy fam…

Yesterday was the date of birth of my lovely betrothed, Jennee. A magical day indeed. The day started as if we were in a fairytale. We awoke in a mansion over looking Byron Bay and the lighthouse, surrounding by beautiful lush green fields and a tempting glassy blue ocean. Who would’ve believed it… and then reality started to creep into to the scene. We were no longer Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. This was not our fairytale at all. No, we had stayed here at the invitation of our friends who, the night previous, had thrown a cracker of an engagement party, and by Jeeves I think I was still drunk.

I had to get to work.

Jennee hit the beach nice and early and by 8:30 she was seated in the restaurant I work at (yeah I know, pretty rough that I worked on her birthday but the thing is, when I bought birthday presents for Jen the stall owners insisted that I pay them with cold hard cash, thus I worked. Jennee likes presents, cold hard cash it was) and ready for the birthday breakfast*. Jennee had spent a good part of her working week unproductive and continuously in thought as to what this birthday breakfast may be, and then it was finally decided. There was fanfare and trumpets and a town crier, just like a royal wedding or the finals of “Pop Asia”, this was an event not to be missed. “What will it be?” the voices murmured around the crowd until, like a giant game of Chinese whispers, the murmur reached the beginning again, where It had become “red cat three”… Now, what the hell was I talking about? Ah, Jen’s birthday breakfast. Gluten free toast with, avocado, tomato, feta and chorizo salsa, rocket, poached eggs and chilli jam. It looked good. I wanted to eat it. Well that’s a lie. I didn’t want to eat anything but I knew I would’ve wanted to eat it if I had not now sobered up enough for a cracking hangover to kick in. She said it was really good.

Gimme some white mans magic pills. Make stabbing pain in head go away….

My work day ended just in time. Well, it actually ended the same time it always does but I don’t think I could’ve gone any further, plus I needed to make dinner for Jen. Now… what did she want?? And this is where I got really lucky, for Jen desired a seafood feast, and this to me is easy entertaining. I can do this on autopilot no dramas at all.

Prawns and oysters have a special place in my heart... and my belly
Prawns and oysters have a special place in my heart… and my belly
Puttanesca baby octopus at the front, some other stuff behind that
Puttanesca baby octopus at the front, some other stuff behind that
Salmon carpaccio
Salmon carpaccio
Herby squid rings
Herby squid rings
Mmmmm
Mmmmm

We had cooked prawns, fresh oysters with soy mirin and ginger, wakame, salmon capparccio with lemon, soy, coriander and olive oil, herby squid rings, braised baby octopus with puttanesca flavours (yes you will get a full recipe for that one shortly), oven chips (recipe here), salads, beer, cider and by the end of it all we had damn full bellies. A minimal effort (don’t tell Jen that though), using fresh produce for a great result. The only things I had to cook were the octopus, squid and chips. Which leaves so much more time for drinking away this hangover…

Truly a great way to entertain, unless of course you are allergic to seafood, in which case this feast may be very similar to suicide or eating actual shit. Too far? Bye bye.

*I guess being married to a chef may have it’s downfalls (although nothing immediately springs to mind) but having someone to personally cook whatever birthday meal the furthest reaches of your brain’s culinary expanse may desire, is certainly not one of those downfalls