Luxury isn’t what it used to be. Less and less these days is it about being flashy or ostentatious or even necessarily expensive. More and more it’s about being authentic and natural and uncluttered. And time – that’s the ultimate luxury. Certainly it’s a pleasure to feel embraced in the heights of comfort – good linen, fluffy sheets, fabulous hot water pressure, but taking time out somewhere remote and beautiful, with fresh, natural food speaks to a new kind of luxury – one that allows you to feel connected and in tune with the environment, rejuvenated and revived.
When you’re lucky enough to gather your own seafood or drop a line and land a fish for dinner – in my book the sense of luxury gets notched up a step further. I always like to take a few cold beers and some snacks on a twilight fishing cruise. If you felt inclined you could make my yummy Sesame & Oregano Lavosh. I always seem to get hungry out on the ocean waves (as long as it’s not rough, in which case it’s me feeding the fish, not the other way around).
This beautiful snapper that I was lucky enough to land is probably at least 20 years old, which made it even more important to celebrate the eating part of the event! After gutting and scaling my trophy, I gave it a few deep slashes in a diamond pattern on each side with a sharp knife and then rubbed a tablespoon of red curry paste into each side, pushing it right into the scored surfaces. Charmaine Solomon curry and laska pastes are hard to rival. Rub them over fish like this before you roast it – the flavours work well with all kinds of seafood. A quick season with salt and pepper and then into the hottest possible oven, uncovered. The fish will take about 20-30 minutes to cook through, depending on its size. It used to be that you would cook it until the eye turned fully white, but at this point I am inclined to think the fish is actually a bit overcooked. Once the eye starts to whiten I check it with a skewer in the thickest part behind the gills and when the skewer meets no resistance I take the fish out of the oven, cover it with tinfoil and a cloth and rest it for 10 minutes. You’ll be amazed how much it carries on cooking during this resting time, which allows the juices to disperse evenly and renders the whole fish moist. When I have a special centrepiece like this whole fish I like to keep the other flavours around the meal simple – a wedge of lemon or lime, some rice and lightly cooked green vegetables are all you need. And a glass of chilled sauvignon blanc or even a fruity gerwurztraminer makes a great match.
With a surge running we had to swim to shore to get shellfish. Rose made a brave trip out to the rocks to get some mussels and then we found a deserted beach known for its huge beds of tuatuas. Here near the low tide line we did the famous pipi shuffle – twisting our toes across the sand side to side to feel for tuatuas (the difference between a pipi and a tuatua is that the pipi bisects evenly down the middle, whereas tuatuas have one short and one long side). It didn’t take long to get a bagful and then we hitched a ride on the side of the dingy to get back to the boat with our loot. Left in a bucket of seawater overnight with a sprinkle of flour (rolled oats also work well), the shellfish spat out their sand to eat the flour – this is a handy trick to get the sand out of any kind of shellfish. Next morning we feasted on tuatua fritters and Bloody Marys for breakfast.
To make tuatua fritters use my base batter recipe for Lemon Herb Fritters with Goat's Cheese, but instead of the herbs and lemon juice, steam open about a kilo of shellfish, remove the flesh from the shells and chop finely. Add to the batter along with the juice of a lemon and 2 tbsp chopped soft herbs, such as basil, chives or parsley. The batter should be quite thick and just drop from a spoon. Heat a little oil with a spoonful of butter and fry over medium heat for two or three minutes each side. If you are doubling the recipe, brown the fritters on both sides without cooking through and then put them on a tray in the oven at 180 degrees Celsius for about five minutes to finish cooking.
Bloody Marys by the Jugful
- 1 litre chilled tomato juice
- 1 cup chilled vodka
- 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp hot chilli sauce, eg Kaitaia Fire or Tabasco
- 2 cups ice cubes
Place ice in a big jug, add everything else and stir to combine. Serve in glasses with celery sticks. Makes enough for six drinks.