Fresh King George whiting with salsa served with wilted spinach on a bed of jasmine rice
2 big fat albany whiting
1 bunch english spinach
1 tin of chopped tomato
1 or 2 cups rice
chopped ginger & chilli
tom yum soup mix
green curry paste
lime & coriander
An intrepid friend drops off two big fat King George whiting, fresh off the boat.
Whiting are just tremendous crumbed and pan fried with a bit of lemon, but this month on Cooking With Art Director we are going to try something a little more adventurous than our usual sandwiches and fried food.
This month, you will learn how to turn your unwanted old vegetables into gourmet accompaniments and how to make your kitchen scraps look like garnish.
Rule number one: Make the most of what you've got.
Scale and gut the King George whiting. If you're doing this inside, do it in a plastic bag. Cut the fishes' heads off if you like. This will help them fit into the pan, especially those big whiting from King George Sound.
Now, look in the fridge. Think laterally. Take out whatever looks like it might go with fish and put it on the kitchen bench to ponder as you go. I happened to have some spinach. If you don't have spinach, use anything you find in the vege compartment.
Put some rice in the rice cooker and add water until the rice is covered to the depth of your first knuckle. Switch it on to Cook. A red light should come on. Put the lid on and trust the technology. Heat up some oil in a pan. Olive oil or sesame oil or any edible oil. Use massage oil if you've got nothing else. That stuff is edible. Drop in a dollop of curry paste and heat it up until it smells nice. Chop some ginger and chilli and chuck that in. Be generous. Ridiculously hot spices never hurt anybody.
Rinse the whiting and lay them in the pan, head to tail. They should look like the symbol on the Pisces horoscope in the weekend magazine.
Open a tin of chopped tomato. Never, ever hesitate to open a tin of chopped tomato. Tins of chopped tomato are one of the seven wonders of the world. Chuck it in. Find that tin of tom yum soup mix you opened the other day. Chuck a bit of that in too. Go on, be generous.
Then add a whole lot of salt. Salt is great, especially with fish. We love salt like the tree loves the axe.
If you've got one of those cracked sea salt dispensers, you can add the salt with a flourish. A flourish will improve the flavour of any sauce.
Rummage in the cupboard until you find a lid off a cooking pot, a big one made of glass. Put this over the pan to help the fish cook in its sauce, sort of broiled in a bouillabaisse. Keep an eye on things as you open a bottle of red.
Conventional wisdom says drink white wine with fish, but fuck conventional wisdom. Open a bottle of red. A Marlborough region pinot should do nicely. Pour a big glass and start knocking the spots off it.
That leftover spinach from the fridge might look limp and unappetizing, but trust me, it will be fine. You just need to scare it with a bit of heat. At the last minute, rinse it and throw it in on top of the bouillabaisse.
The sauce you are cooking is not, in fact, a bouillabaisse, but you should never let the facts stop you from employing impressive gastronomic terms. If anyone queries your etymology, use the word fusion to describe your culinary creation. If even that fails to impress them, and they persist in their pedantry, tell them that if they don't like your bouillabaisse (make sure you pronounce bouillabaisse as if you have a piece of hot potato in your mouth) they can take their bowl and spoon and allez à la cuisine de potage.
Having rid yourself of this boorish interloper, cast your eye about the room for the beautiful girl. Use the word again with an expansive gesture, then offer her a drink. Tell her dinner will be ready in a couple of minutes. Act at all times like a epicurean Great White Hunter. Girls just love that kind of gear.
Knock some more spots off the pinot.
If you've timed it right, that rice cooker will shortly emit a satisfying "ping".
Make a bed of rice on the plates. A bed with fluffy pillows of rice. Food preparation is a metaphor for how you live your life, so do it right.
Lift the whiting from the pan, and lay the luscious creatures on their bed of rice like lesbian porn stars. Squeeze on some lime (or lemon, if you must) while singing the lyrics from Led Zeppelin's Lemon Song.
Once the fish is put to bed, pour on the sauce and then dress the dish. You can't beat a well-dressed dish. Use a few sprigs of coriander. If you don't have any coriander (and i didn't) then just use whatever comes to hand, god damn it. The fish will look absolutely naked without garnish. See the photograph above if you doubt me - that fish is virtually pornographic in its gastronomic nudity. Use parsley. Use the growing green tops off those old carrots in the vege crisper. Or just pick anything from the garden, except oleander leaves, chuck it elegantly on top, and plant some coriander tomorrow.
Finally, add some cracked pepper with - that's right - a flourish.