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January 19, 2009

pumpkin: pwn; fish:pwned

Posted by dogpossum on January 19, 2009 8:34 PM in the category fewd and gastropod

fom.jpg I'm sure I've crapped on about this great little cookbook before (potato salad, orange salad). It's called Flavours of Mexico (in the 'Good cook's collection', published by Fairfax in 1998). Yesterday, as we searched through The Diet Book for something even remotely interesting, I suddenly remembered this nice little Mexican cook book and its lovely salads. This book is about how I like my cookbooks - large pages, bright, coloured photos. I could do with something a little more substantive (82 pages isn't quite enough, thanks), but when every recipe you've made from a cook book has been gold, you kind of figure you're getting all-wheat, no-chaff.

Tonight we made 'Squash with Green Onions'. I was actually cooking a fish in the oven using a recipe from the book (Roasted Garlic Fish) which didn't turn out so well. The fish was a poor choice - I'm just buying everything one by one, figuring out their strengths and how they should be cooked as I go. So far The Squeeze (who's only new to whole fish and was at first entirely suspicious) is a big fan of the Coral Trout. I've forgotten this one's name, which sucks. I should have gone with my instincts and gotten Snapper, but I didn't. But as the oven was on and I was flicking through the book for a nice salad dish, I came across the squash recipe.
I didn't have any squash, though. Just pumpkin :D It was freakin' wonderful. As it was cooking, we almost expired from delight.

Here's the recipe:
1kg butternut pumpkin, peeled and chopped
350g yellow or green patty pan squash (those cute little yellow ones that taste like zucchini)
4 carrots, peeled and halved
2 tsp finely grated lime rind
1 tbsp olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
155g feta cheese, crumbled

Green onion dressing:
12 spring onions, sliced
3 mild fresh green chillies, sliced
1/3/90ml cup olive oil
1/4 cup/60ml apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp lime juice

Ok, first thing to note: don't leave anything out (except those yellow squash - we did). Everything is essential.

1. Chop up your pumpkin and carrots. I cut them so they'd take the same amount of time roasting - so bigger pumpkin, smaller carrots. The Squeeze likes his pumpkin sloppily overcooked (he's just new to pumpkin too, but he's all over it now), I don't. I don't mind my carrots having texture. He does.
Grate that lime rind over the veggies. Do it - don't leave it out or substitute with lemon! And grate it very finely so it gets everywhere - not big chunks. Add that olive oil (even less if you can - you don't want this to get greasy). Grate some black pepper over it - to your taste (don't go nuts, but don't be too stingy).
Ok roast those suckers til they're done - golden and soft if you have a good oven. Cooked and kind of damp if you have a shitty oven like ours.

2. Make the dressing. We actually only had 750g pumpkin, 2 carrots, no yellow squash. So I only used 6 spring onions. That was a lot. Perhaps too much, as you're using white and green parts. But while you can reduce the proportion, do be generous with your onion - it's meant to be a key feature, not a tiny little decoration. Slice that onion diagonally - don't make tiny little circles.
Add the chillies. Don't leave those out. We only used one small red one, and we ended up with a salad that was a tad too sweet. Use those chillies. Use nice green ones, too. Add that olive oil. Add all of it and then be stingy with the final dressing - don't screw up the proportions before hand.
Add that apple cider vinegar. Don't use any other type of vinegar - that's your only option. You want that appley taste.
Add that lime juice. Do it.
Whisk that dressing.

3. Cut your feta cheese into chunks. Crumbled gives you a kind of feta slop.

4. Ok, put your roasted veggies on a serving dish (breathe in that fabulous pepper/lime combination - yum!). Add the feta. Pour over the dressing.


It's so good, it's just freakin' amazing. If you're not sure about the oil, then reduce the amount of dressing you add at the end - don't stuff up the proportions. It's actually quite a wet dish - you can afford to reduce the amount of dressing you use.

This dish is so freakin' good, we made do with it and tomato/mint/coriander salsa when the fish turned out crap. The fish tasted like dirt. I'm sure it wasn't mullet.

BUT the recipe was quite special:

1.5kg whole fish such as bream, snapper, whiting, sea perch, cod or haddock, cleaned
1 lemon, sliced
2 fresh red chillies, halved
3 sprigs fresh marjoram
7 cloves garlic, unpeeled
30g butter/splooge of olive oil
1/3 cup coconut milk.

1. Ok, get your garlic and roast it in a pan. I used a cast iron pan. You want the cloves to get charred and the garlic soft. When it's done, tip it into a bowl and squeeze out the guts. Get rid of the skins. Lick your fingers here - this is one sweet taste.
Add the olive oil. I substituted olive oil for butter and think I preferred it. I also didn't use very much - just enough to carry the flavour of the garlic.

2. Shove some lemon slices, the chillie and the marjoram inside the fish. Don't skimp on the chilli - you won't taste it much. Don't exclude the marjoram - it's essential.

3. Rub the garlic slime over both sides of the fish. Put the fish in a grill-proof baking dish. Cover with foil. Cook until flesh flakes (20-30 mins depending on your oven and the size of your fish).

4. Remove foil, place under hot grill and cook for 3-4 minutes until skin is crisp. Serve with a drizzle of coconut milk.
We didn't bother with the coconut milk. The fish tasted yuk, but the sauce was fabulous.

I did find a copy of this recipe book here. Look for it second hand. I've made many things from it and loved them all. It's kind of Mexican for beginners, but it makes you realise that some things are very important in Mexican cooking:
- limes
- coriander and mint (fresh of course)
- salady bits
It doesn't have any recipes that use mince. It does have recipes for roasted chili duck and quail with rose petals. It uses a lot of different types of chillis, most of which are hard to find in Australia (in both Melbourne and Sydney), so you might want to grow your own. If you're a hardcore Mexican foody, this will be too basic for you. If you want a few tasty salads and vegetable dishes and some simple, low-fat but high-taste recipes for meat and fish, this is a good option. We love it.

Posted by dogpossum on January 19, 2009 8:34 PM in the category fewd and gastropod