Deeper into the Blue – or dinner of Frutti di mare

Karma or not (see the previous post “Feeling blue”) but my relationship with blue blossomed to the point that, when I was about to host a dinner party, it become a colour scheme for a table setting.  But I didn’t want my guests to associate the colour blue with the food I was about to cook.  The reason being that according to colour psychology blue is one of the most popular colours, but it is one of the least appetizing.

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So I thought I’d better call it “Frutti de mare” instead.
Mini vol au vents filled with tea smoked salmon mousse
Sesame seed crusted crab cakes served with sweet chili sauce
Roast barramundi with a medley of seasonable vegetables
Orange and red onion salad
Wine: Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc

This menu is ideal if you are having guests who are pescaterians or if their religious dietary inclinations are unknown to you.

Tea smoked salmon mousse

You need (for 8 people):

16 small size vol au vents

2 pieces, appx 500g of fresh salmon (tuna is absolutely fine)

2 tbsp of white sugar

2 tsp of sea salt

2 tbsp of jasmine rice

2 tbsp of aromatic tea (jasmine, pekoe)

2-3 tbsp whole egg mayonnaise or crème fresh (to your liking)

1 tsp of horseradish cream

1 tbsp of capers

1 medium Spanish onion, finely chopped

Lemon juice to taste

Bunch of coriander (as much or as little as you like), chopped

Bunch of dill – ditto

A drop or two of red Tabasco sauce (optional)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

It is the first time in my life that I have smoked any food but I have to say if you are armed with the proper cookware, it is not that difficult and the result is a heavenly delisious, moist fish.A wok is ideal but it has to have a rack and a lid which mine doesn’t, so I opted for a bamboo steamer which works well as long as it sits snugly on top of the pan leaving enough space between them to accommodate the ingredients for the smoking process.

Prepare your fish by sprinkling it with a mix of sugar and salt, then place into the steamer and cover with the lid.Line the bottom of the pan with foil, mix remaining sugar, jasmine rice and any flavoured tea of your liking and pour over the foil, cover loosely with another sheet.Place it on a burner on medium heat and wait until the smoking process kicks in, once you smell and see the smoke rising from the pan, place the steamer on top and smoke for about 8 minutes.The fish should be of a pale pink colour inside and out, but make sure not to overcook it as the process continues even when you take it off the stove.  I prom

Once it has cooled down, flake it, mash it and mix with all the ingredients.Adjust the seasoning to your liking, if the mixture looks too thick, add more mayo or thick cream. And, of course, if you cannot be bothered with “all that jazz”, smoked salmon from the supermarket will do the trick, except I’d rather blend it with all other ingredients. This recipe is very versatile and almost every ingredient could be substituted.  The trick is to make sure that the filling is not runny and have some body to it.

Upon your guests arrival, warm up the vol au vents in the oven for a couple of minutes, fill up with the mousse and garnish with a twig of dill and a quarter of a slice of lemon.Serve immediately.

While your guests enjoy the hors d’oeuvres, get on with the entree

Sesame crusted crab cakes
You need (for 8 people, 2 per person)
1 kg of crab meat (I just bought the packet of crab meat from the supermarket)
Half a cup of coriander leaves, finely chopped
Half a cup of spring onions, finely chopped
1 tbsp of whole egg mayonnaise
½ cup of breadcrumbs
1 egg
Splash of Tabasco (optional)
1 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper
Flour for dusting
Bread crumbs for crumbling
2 eggs for frying
Vegetable oil
3-4 tbs spoons of sesame seeds

Rocket or any fresh leaves to serve

When opening the packet of crab meat, make sure to get rid of any excess liquid that might be in it. Combine the first nine ingredients and give it a good mix to achieve consistency, give it a taste and adjust the seasoning.   If the mix seems a bit runny, add more bread crumbs.  Take a table spoon and scoop the crab mixture, roll it into a ball with your hands, then flatten between your palms and place on a tray.  Continue with the rest of the mixture.  Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.  Take two clean dry flat plates, scoop 2-3 tbsp of flour onto one plate and spread around, beat two eggs in a bowl, spread sesame seeds onto another plate. 
Take the crab cakes out of the fridge, heat up the frying pan or two, to speed the process, pour vegetable oil, take one cake, dip both sides of it into flour first, dust off the excess, then tip it into the egg mixture, then into the sesame seeds and into the pan.  Make sure that the heat is moderate, fry for about 5 minutes on each side until golden brown, place on a paper towel to drain off the oil excess. 
To serve – place some rocket leaves in the middle of a plate, place two cakes on top and garnish with a slice of lemon.  Serve sweet chili sauce separately.
Roast fish fillets with a medley of seasonable vegetables
You need (for 8 people):
8 X 200g any white fish fillets
2 bulbs of fennel, sliced into rounds
1 medium red onion, sliced into rounds
3 tbsp oregano, chopped
3 tbs thyme, chopped (I used dry options for both)
80 ml extra virgin olive oil
2 red capsicums, deseeded and sliced into strips
8 vine-ripened tomatoes, quartered
2 tbsp capers
8 anchovy fillets
150 gr Ligurian olives (they are not pitted, so you may substitute them with kalamata olives which are)
1 tsp chili flakes
4 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
2 cup of white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lemon wedges to serve
Preheat the oven to 200C.  Place all the vegetables on a backing tray and give them a good mix.  Mix through the capers, olives, anchovies and herbs, sprinkle chillis, season with salt and pepper, pour the wine and place in the oven.  Roast for one hour, stirring occasionally, the vegetables should be tender and the tomatoes melting into the sauce.
Remove from the oven, snuggle the fish down into the medley, drizzle with the remaining oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place it back into the oven for about 10 minutes or to your liking.
To serve – spoon the medley onto a plate, place a piece of fish on top, sprinkle freshly chopped parsley and garnish with a slice of lemon. 
Orange and red onion salad

You need (for 8 people):

4 oranges
1 big red onion, thinly sliced into rings
300 grams of rocket leaves or mescalume salad
2 tbsp of dill, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Carefully peel oranges, then slice horizontally into about 1 cm thick slices.  Scatter rocket leaves evenly on a big plate, arrange oranges, place onion rings on top, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  To finish off – sprinkle over with chopped dill. 

The salad could be served either with the entree or the main course, it complements both dishes.