Friday, 8 January 2010

Lebanese Part 1

1. Tarator-Style Salmon Greg Malouf

Looks amazing, smells amazing, tastes.... not sure, but we'll get to that later. I decided to cook this one first for two reasons. One - because Maeve said it was the best thing she had ever eaten and two, because I already had the fish. Well - almost. I had a trout. Near enough.

Every year, my uncle catches an prepares a trout for Christmas Day. It may be just an excuse to go fishing during the hectic lead up to Christmas, but it is an excuse we are all prepared to let slide, given the end result. Usually, he steams or smokes it, stuffing it with lemons, dill and parsley.

In late December, when my father and I were surrounded by magazines and cookbooks, bickering about what to prepare, this was the dish we agreed upon first. I also quite liked the fact that it looked a bit fiddly, mainly because it annoys my mother, who likes to hover around during the afore-mentioned recipe search, screeching, "just do something easy!" This is most likely motivated by the fact that she is often one of those left to deal with the carnage that is the kitchen after a couple of days of food preparation. Let's just say that our mise en place is not so much "en place" as "all over the place." Anyway, the Tarator-style Salmon (trout) was an easy decision; the central focus of what became a Middle Eastern themed Christmas banquet.

We didn't have enough room to prepare the meat and the fish at home, so the plan was that my Uncle would ring for the cooking instructions on Christmas morning. This is where we began to seriously deviate from the recipe. Greg/ Maeve instruct us to bake a 4 kg salmon for 20 minutes on either side in a 150 degree oven. The fish should be seasoned with salt and pepper, drizzled with olive oil and wrapped in baking paper before being placed in the oven. This, I related to my father, who, in turn passed the instructions on to my Uncle. The following conversation ensued.

Uncle: What, with noting in it? Not even wine?
Father: "He wants to know if he can put wine in it.
Me: No. No wine. We need to follow the recipe. Greg knows best.
Father: She says nothing else on it.
Uncle: It won't be cooked evenly. I should cut it half.
Father: He says he should cut it in half so that it will cook.
Me: No! Turn it over half way through, like to recipe says. Anyway, we have a 2.5 kg trout, not a 4kg salmon. I'm sure it will be cooked. You might even need to reduce the cooking time.
Father: She says don't cut it.
Uncle: Well it's too big to fit in the oven, so I'll need to cut off the head.
Father: He wants to cut off the head.
Me: No! #$%@! It needs to be a whole fish!
Father: Look - you talk to him yourself!

Uncle agreed to follow my instructions (his exact words were: your wish is my command) but went ahead and threw in some wine, garlic and chilli anyway. The fish did remain whole, though.

A couple of hours later, well into the prep, my Uncle's partner arrived, bearing fish. "Ian's not coming," she proclaimed. My first thought was that I'd pissed him off with my pedantic adherence to the recipe, but according to Jenny, he had 'food poisoning'.

Allow my to digress for a moment in order to briefly discuss my thoughts on food poisoning. From my understanding, food poisoning occurs when some bug or another gets into your food. Everyone who eats the food, gets sick at a around about the same time, give or take a few hours. Reactions to bacteria in food can take between 6 and 72 hours to take effect. Apparently, nine times out of ten, when someone thinks they have food poisoning, what they actually have is viral or bacterial gastro. They blame their last meal because chucking it up is so unpleasant. Gastro scares me. There is nothing worse than feeling like death, as the same time everyone else in your household feels like death. Not only that, you can't eat anything, which is just evil. The only positive side-effect is the weight loss. The last time we all had gastro was last Easter, on holidays with two other families. Six adults and four children. We all went down like flies, one after the other.

When quizzed, Jenny confessed that others in the household had been sick in the previous week. "Did Ian do the fish?" I asked, trying to disguise my alarm.

"Yes, but I made him wash his hands!"

I decided at that moment that I was quite happy to prepare the fish, but that I would not be eating it. So, I made the dressing, the salad, roasted the walnuts and even scattered a few pomegranate seeds over the top. It looked gorgeous. Quite a lot like the picture, except the tahini dressing slid off a bit, so it probably needed a bit more yoghurt. The fish was also a little bent (as in 'not straight'), which gave it the appearance of trying to leap off the platter, as it was too big to fit in the oven.

Apparently it was delicious. And nobody got sick.


Melanie said...

I am loving this already. I've sent it on to the other half as I think he will be in raptures. He loves cooking food, we both love eating it, and I love reading stuff.

What's next?

Anna said...

I think it will have to be lebanese part 2... I'm going for all of the dips, kafta, salads and stuffed zucchini (if there are enough of them in the garden) in one big hit.

Lebanese Restaurant said...

Great post, thanks for sharing with us =D