Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Tasmania's seafood (and Dr Cupcake's total obsession with it)

It's time for Dr Cupcake to depart from the normal theme of sweet things, and venture into some more savoury territory. There is a very good reason for this: the amazing quality and abundance of fresh fish and seafood in the marvellous island of Tasmania which I'm lucky enough to call home.

Tasmania was into seafood in a big way long before it was cool. My Dad, hailing from Melbourne, was mystified to discover 'scallop pies' on an early trip to Tasmania in the 1950s - he'd never had a scallop before. Now, scallops appear on every truly ritzy menu in the world... and country pubs in Tasmania STILL have 'Scallop Pie' as a popular special on their blackboards. What a place.

Tasmania's seafood scene is not just about scallops. If you're lucky enough to live here, you're presented with a wild abundance of cheap, fresh-caught or sustainably-farmed mussels, oysters, squid and octopus, salmon (fresh or beautifully hot or cold smoked), trevalla (or blue eye), stripey trumpeter and sashimi grade tuna. No wonder that Japanese luminary chefs like Tetsuya Wakuda come to hang out here - and that the brilliant Maasaki Koyama, in a cultural twist of fate, has set up the most amazing sushi shop in Geeveston, Tasmania's Deep South. I actually plan my life around Maasaki's attendance at the Hobart Farmer's Market... his occasional use of fresh sea urchin roe, trumpeter and other incredible sashimi goodies makes the market the best place to be.

If you've made it this far I'll assume you're a convert and talk openly about my obsession with smoked salmon, which is quite possibly the most heavenly food in existence. Its amazing mix of salty tang, its shimmering coral colour, its soft but firm texture is truly special. I have yet to come across anyone who doesn't like it - although apparently, Scottish indentured workers in the nineteenth century got so sick of eating smoked salmon that many of them had it written into their contracts that they could be given it a maximum of once a week. 

Here is my homage to Tasmania's seafood bounty - a few pictures and descriptions that come mostly from my own imagination and occasionally borrowed from others - hopefully they will inspire you, whereever you are, to look at seafood again and remember that it's not 'difficult'. Instead think 'I can do that!' And enjoy the wonder of the sea...

Salmon three ways. 

From top, clockwise:

Hot-smoked salmon with rocket, avocado, lemon juice and olive oil.

A teaspoon of hand milked salmon caviar, with a dollop of creme fraiche and a sprig of dill.

Whisky cured smoked salmon with a salad of purple carrot, bean spouts, radish and shaved lettuce, with an asian hot sour dressing.

Squid ink fettucine marinara. 

Home made fettucine with squid ink, topped with Tasmanian king prawns, scallops and mussels with Italian parsley. A light dressing of olive oil and garlic.

Seafood tasting plate (1)

Clockwise from top:
Hot smoked salmon with pea spout on a cracker.
Finger of cold whisky-smoked salmon with pesto.
King prawns with fresh basil and mayo.
Scallop in shell with pepper and dill.
Honey-cured smoked salmon slices on creme fraiche.
King prawn with lime wedge.

Bunch of redcurrants.

Seafood tasting plate (2)

A slightly simpler iteration, using very similar ingredients than above.

Clockwise from top:

Hot smoked salmon with a dill and pepper yoghurt.
Rolls of whisky cured salmon with mustardini (mustard sprouts).
Shards of Italian croccantini garnished with viola flower.
Salmon caviar with lemon wedge and pea sprout.

Baby whiting fillets, crumbed and fried

For anyone who says Tasmanian seafood isn't cheap... It cost $1.20 to buy these little whiting (at least, I think that's what they were).

They were sold as whole fish, and yes, they needed to be scaled, gutted and filleted. But I got the amazing Rohan to do the scaling and gutting, and it took me about a minute (and a very sharp knife) to fillet them.

They were completely awesome when crumbed and pan fried, served with a few lemon wedges, parsley and tartare.

An entree for two = $2.50 (including the lemon).
As a main? $5 for two. Now, THAT'S cheap. I love Tassie.

Seafood chowder. 

Tasmanian fresh-caught prawns, mussels and scallops, cooked in a thick broth of Tasmanian Dutch Cream potatoes, fish stock, and fresh Italian parsley.

And LOTS of pepper.

Seared tuna with daikon. 

Sashimi grade tuna served two ways:

(Bottom of plate) Ribbon of sashimi tuna, sparsely sprinkled with soy sesame dressing.

(Middle of plate) Seared tuna, coated in toasted sesame seeds and sprinkled with nigella seeds, on a bed of shaved daikon radish, with a soy sesame dressing. Lime, pickled ginger and wasabi on the side.

I hope you've enjoyed this little journey through the fabulous seafood of this island... Please, go out and experiment... find your own unique and wonderful way to enjoy the fruits of the sea!

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