Tag Archives: Tasting Australia

HAKE WITH A DUKKA CRUST

Dukka is an Egyptian spice blend comprising toasted nuts and seeds, the combination of which varies depending on the cook. The ingredients are ground together until the texture is that of a coarse powder.

I first encountered dukka, not in Egypt, but in the Willunga farmer’s market in MacLaren Vale, South Australia during Tasting Australia 2005. Dukka seems to have insinuated itself into the Aussie food culture and sharing a crusty loaf of fresh bread, dipped in extra virgin olive oil, then in dukka, over a bottle or two of good wine is as good a way of whiling away an afternoon as I know.

The hake recipe was an experiment that worked, at least for me and my lunch guests. I served it with a butternut squash risotto and a green salad of French beans, mangetout, garden peas, red onion and rocket in an olive oil and tarragon vinegar dressing – an adaptation of a recipe I found in Yolam Ottolengi’s superb book ‘Plenty’.

In Australia it’s easy to buy dukka but I haven’t found it in Dublin. My recipe is still ‘work in progress’. This the best so far.

For the dukka

2 tablespoons whole hazelnuts

2 tablespoons macadamia or brazil nuts

1 1/2 tablespoons sesame seeds

1 tablespoon sunflower seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Small pinch ground dried chillis (optional)

Small pinch ground cinnamon (optional)

Preheat oven to 200 degs. C. Arrange nuts and sunflower seeds in a single layer on a baking tray. Roast for 10 minutes and remove. Meanwhile, in a large frying pan over medium-high heat, roast sesame, cumin and coriander seeds, stirring often, for 7-8 minutes or until sesame seeds are golden brown. Allow cool. Pulse all dukka ingredients in a food processor or an electric coffee/spice grinder until finely ground – but do not grind to a paste. Apparently dukka can be refrigerated in an airtight container for a couple of weeks but in my opinion, it is best made and used fresh.

For the hake

4 fillets hake, skinned

Small glass of dry white wine

Small knob of butter

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Lemon

Preheat the oven to 200 degs. C. Arrange the hake fillets, side by side, in a flat dish. Pour the wine around the fillets, making sure that the tops of the fillets are well above the level of the liquid. Sprinkle some salt and pepper over the fillets, plus a few flakes of butter. Add a squeeze of lemon. Bake in oven for 10 minutes. If necessary, pour off some of the liquid. Crust the fillets with the dukka and return to oven for a further 10 minutes.

Other white fish, cod, haddock, monkfish, pollock etc would work just as well. If using flatfish, keep the liquid level low. If the top of the fish is soaked in the liquid the dukka crust will go soggy.

TASTING AUSTRALIA 2010 – ADELAIDE DIARY

Day 8

Kicks off very quietly, like one of those old blacky-white colonial-themed movies. “I can’t stand it, Carruthers. The drums have stopped; it’s too demmed quiet out there.” The media room is deserted as I saunter down for my crossants and multiple espressi. Oh, Jesus, it’s only 5.30.

The inner insomniac strikes again! Hard to sleep when it’s so hot. For a person who is pretty conversant with emerging technology how come I can never figure how to work an hotel air-conditioning system? Why is it I always end up with the heating stuck on the ‘American Tourist GTi’ setting? Why do I never seem able to summon up the temerity to seek help from hotel staff? I draft a curt note and leave it meekly on the reception counter. It reads “Please set room air conditioning to minimum. Thank you. 912.”

I go walkabout in a deserted Adelaide, which would be a very pretty town if they knocked down all the utilitarian modern architecture and just left the huge and sympatico parks and fab churches, returning an hour or two later to find my colleagues have eaten all the croissants and taken up all the space at the computer stations. Clearly they have been as tardy about sending copy home as I have and are now breaking their fingers to recover lost time and meet once far-away but now imminent deadlines.

Outside, along the Torrens, the public are flocking to the fair. The ‘boating lake’ is busy once more and the local sailing club has organized racing for Cadet dinghies. The young crews seem much more sporting than the precocious little bastards at Bolton SC. No, well, not much, illegal pumping of sails; no NSPs (non-sailing parents) on the bank doing their F1 Team Manager thing – binoculars draped around neck and screaming “Nigel! For godsakes bloody tack now!” Here, it’s all very civilized.

I mosey back to the hotel and do an interview with a local radio man and another with Evan Kleiman whose weekly ‘Good Food’ programme, produced by Harriet Ells is a great reason for tuning into Los Angeles radio station KCRW. The interview is here http://www.kcrw.com/etc/programs/gf/# It’s the third one on the programme called ‘Compostable/disposable’, no sniggers please

For lunch I go to Mongkok on Gouger Street, a northern Chinese restaurant recommended by the nice student serving in the coffee shop I breakfasted in on day one. Despite her recommendation it’s not that cheap – doubtless there’s a special tariff for attractive Chinese students – but it is very good. I had a searing hot beef dish. I also came across – in Pitt Street, I think – a Korean butcher with sit down barbecue tables in the adjacent room. How good is that for saving on shoe leather, if not air miles. Truly Adelaide is full of sendipitious culinary surprises. After lunch I track down the Chinese herbalist and buy shedloads of ginseng; also a patent catarrh cure I’d recommend to anyone, consisting of little black balls, like large beads of caviar – you take 8 at a go, three times a day. Farewell, Dublin’s winter at last.

In the afternoon the Barossa boys turn out in force. Big Bob Mclean, legend in anyone’s lunchtime tells me he enjoys a bottle of ‘stickie’ for breakfast. “Surely you mean with breakfast, Bob?” “No, for” he emphasizes, with a guffaw of a laugh. Louisa Rose from Yalumba struggles in with an Imperial (that’s six bottles in one) sized monster of the impressive Signature Shiraz. She doesn’t trust any of us to pour.

At some point I have to go up and put on what Rankin calls “your dining t-shirt” for the Cordon Bleu World Food Media Awards Dinner. I decide to confound him by wearing a jacket and tie. After some deliberation I ditch the tie. It is Australia, dammit. At the do I am pleasant and polite to all but of course inwardly seething because the purple prose of my restaurant reviewing didn’t make the podium. Still, one of my NZ chums, Margaret Brooker picked up a Silver Ladle for her children’s cookbook so I was slightly mollified. Rankin makes a fine speech, name-checking me as the man who led him astray in 2005. Fame of a sort, I suppose.

Good to rendezvous with WA’s noted wine writer and old buddy Peter Forrestal again. Forrie was in good form. The après nosh seemed a much lower key event than last time. Didn’t get to cavort in my customary energetic dance sequence with the delightful Maggie Beer, shame that.

Not too late a night. We are leaving for the amazing Kangaroo Island at first light. And the air conditioning has been turned down to 18. Bliss.