Winter 2013

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A CRAVING for critters of the sea

Hello folks. Hope you’re weathering the winter. The nights are long, the sun is up there briefly, but Tassie in winter ... ah, we live in a wonderland.

The last time we were in communication – that was at the beginning of autumn – I raved (you might say rattled on) about the wonderful, economical meals that can be had from our locally farmed mussels.

Well, folks, I’m still in seafood mode. This time I’m spreading the word about some slippery suckers populating the waters around our island state – squid, calamari, octopus and cuttlefish.

I have a cookbook at home written by a foodie named Alan Davidson – he’s long dead but he was passionate about the meals he could make from, yep, these slippery suckers.

He wrote: “This group of creatures lacks allure. They all look like bags with heads on top and eight to ten tentacles sprouting therefrom. But they can be very good eating if properly prepared.”

Now the late and lamented Mr Davidson was writing about Mediterranean seafood, but these ugly critters of the sea populate the waters of the world. Not only do the Italians, Greeks and Spaniards love their squid and its mates. So too do the Japanese, who finely slice their seafood and cook it in mirin (rice wine) and soy sauce.

We’re so lucky to have such a profusion of squid and its cousins in 

the waters around Tasmania. The seafood is so healthy for you ... and so is the price! You can buy a whole squid for around $7 a kilo. The preparation is a bit fiddly and there is some wastage, but it’s very economical. Cleaned squid tubes sell for around $18 a kilo. For a hearty winter meal for a family of four you would need around 750 grams.

Some slippery suckers, such as cuttlefish, may not be in your ordinary supermarket or fish shop, but can be found at Glenorchy seafood market. They’re certainly worth tracking down and in this edition I have two great cuttlefish recipes.

I’m told that all these critters – unlike the aggro claw-waving crayfish – are intelligent ... well as much as fish can be intelligent. Some species can change colour and even their shape to fool predators.

KNOW what you eat!

Scientists have a name for them – cephalopods.

You and I know them as calamari, squid, cuttlefish and octopus. The scientists tell us these critters have large brains – but they’re not smart enough to avoid ending up in my recipes.


SquidSquid

We commonly see the arrow squid, so named for its fins which are broad and make the fish look like an arrow.

 

Calamari (above)

This is a more delicate creature which is distinguished from a squid by its swimming fins along the full length of the body. Calamari are normally almost transparent, thus invisible to potential predators.

 

OctopusOctopus

As the name implies, it has eight tentacles, each is lined with twin rows of suckers. The octopus passes the winter in deep water, but comes close to the coast in early spring and passes the summer in inshore waters.

 


Cuttlefish

CuttlefishThis oval-shaped critter has eight short and two long tentacles. It secretes an ink, which was formerly used to make the colour sepia.
It contains a large internal shell (some call it a bone), which is sometimes seen washed up on the beach – it’s full of calcium and is used as a pecking object for pet birds.

HOW to cook squid. . . and its slippery cousins

Here’s how I prepare them for cooking:

Squid, calamari and cuttlefish

Under running water, wash and clean inside and out, discarding the head and the transparent cartilage (quill). Remove the tentacles (these can be cooked).

Cut the body open and pat dry. Score with a crisscross pattern on the inside, taking care not to cut right through.

Cut into equal pieces. Blanch in boiling water for 20-30 seconds; remove and refresh in iced water. Drain and dry well.

Octopus
Make sure it is tenderised first (see tips).

Cook in a large pot of boiling water for up to 1 hour, depending on
the size.

Once cooked and cooled, remove eyes and beak from the head, and remove suckers. Cut up as required.

SALT and pepper squid

500 g fresh calamari
2 tablespoons self-raising flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
corn flour
vegetable oil for deep frying
4 green shallots chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 red chilli chopped

Five spice mix (more than you’ll need for this recipe – store the rest in a snap-lock plastic bag with the air squeezed out)

1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon celery powder
1 tablespoon dry chicken stock 1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon five spice powder

Combine the five spice mix ingredients and set aside.

In a bowl mix self-raising flour, oil and a little water to make a paste.

Place calamari and tentacles in to the bowl and coat well.

Then sprinkle each piece with enough corn flour until the pieces are dry.

Heat enough oil for deep frying in a wok. Add calamari in batches and cook quickly until golden and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon on to a paper towel to drain the oil.

Repeat the process until all calamari are cooked.

Drain the oil from the wok.

Add shallots and the chilli and garlic to wok. Cook for 30 seconds. Return squid to wok and add 1-2 teaspoons of five spice mix, toss well and serve.

WOK-TOSSED squid with celery leaves

800 g squid
vegetable oil
2 cloves of garlic chopped
1 red chilli chopped
1 leek washed and cut in strips
2 cups celery leaves
250 g cherry tomatoes cut in half
1⁄2 cup dill sprigs
lime, chilli and salt to serve

Heat a little oil in a wok over high heat and fry the squid in batches.

When the squid curls and is just cooked remove from the wok and set aside.

Wipe out the wok and return to medium heat. Add a little more oil and fry the garlic and chilli for 1-2 minutes. Add the leek strips and toss until wilted. Add the celery leaves and tomatoes and keep tossing. If the vegetables start to stick, add a little water. When the celery leaves and tomatoes have softened slightly, add the dill and cooked squid. Toss to incorporate all the ingredients then serve on a platter with lime wedges, chilli and salt as garnish.

STIR FRIED squid with capsicum

400 g squid tubes
3 tablespoons peanut or sunflower oil
2 tablespoons black beans, salted and fermented (sold in Asian product shops)
1 small onion cut in cubes
1 small green capsicum cut in cubes
3-4 slices fresh ginger
1 spring onion cut in short lengths
1 small red chilli
1 tablespoon rice wine
1⁄2 teaspoon sesame oil

Heat wok over high heat, add peanut oil then stir fry the beans, onion, capsicum, ginger, spring onion and chilli. Add the squid and rice wine, mix together and stir for 1 minute, sprinkle with sesame oil and serve.

CHILLI lime squid

750 g squid tubes
3 tablespoons peanut oil
2 tablespoons grated ginger
1 teaspoon chopped chilli or more to taste
1 teaspoon crushed garlic

Sauce

1⁄4 teaspoon crushed black pepper
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 teaspoons brown sugar
Juice and rind of a lime
11⁄2 teaspoons corn flour mixed with
1⁄2 cup water
handful of chopped coriander

To finish

1 small onion
1⁄2 carrot
1 small stalk celery
1⁄2 small red capsicum
Cut these into fine strips (julienne)

Mix all the sauce ingredients together in a jug.

Cut the squid into large pieces and score the inside flesh diagonally into a criss- cross pattern, taking care not to cut all the way through. Keep ready on a plate.

Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan. Add the ginger, chilli and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the squid for one minute only, just to seal, turning the squid once. Stir in the sauce and cook for 2 minutes or until the squid starts to go opaque. Add the vegetable strips for a brief fry, remove from heat and serve immediately.

DEEP FRIED squid with spicy salt

500 g squid tubes
1 teaspoon ginger juice (see below)
2 teaspoons spicy salt (see below)
1 tablespoon rice wine or sherry
oil for deep frying
coriander leaves for garnish

Clean the squid and wash well, open up and score in a crisscross pattern, then cut to required size. Blanch the squid, drain well then marinate in ginger juice and rice wine for 30 minutes.

Heat the oil to 180 C. Cook the squid for 30-40 seconds, remove and drain well. Sprinkle with spicy salt and toss to coat.

Serve with coriander leaves sprinkled over the top.

Ginger juice

200 g young ginger
Grate the ginger very finely, then combine with an equal amount of cold water.
Place in a piece of muslin, twist to get as much juice as you can.

Spicy salt

1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon ground peppercorns
1 teaspoon five spice powder

Combine all ingredients and dry fry in a pan for 2-3 minutes or until aromatic.

This spicy salt can also be sprinkled on chicken or duck when making roasts.

 CUTTLEFISH with spaghetti

500 g cuttlefish, cleaned and cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 chopped onion
1-2 cloves of garlic chopped
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste
400 ml can of chopped tomatoes

Heat the olive oil, fry the onions and garlic, add the cuttlefish, then the parsley and when half cooked add the tomatoes. Season to taste.

Finish cooking over a moderate heat.

This is delicious poured over cooked spaghetti.

CUTTLEFISH cooked with their ink

500 g cuttlefish
1 onion sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
125 ml white wine or verjuice
125 ml water
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 tablespoons parsley
chopped salt and pepper to taste

Remove the guts, eyes and beaks from the cuttlefish, but keep several of their ink sacs.

Wash the cuttlefish and cut into pieces around 2 cm square.

Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry the onion until its starts to go golden, then add the cuttlefish. Add the wine and an equal quantity of water, the contents of two or three ink sacs, chopped parsley, salt and pepper and the pine nuts.

Cover, bring to the boil and then simmer gently until the liquid has evaporated.

CURRIED octopus

1 kilo of cooked octopus sliced in to 5 cm pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion finely chopped
1 clove crushed garlic
3 tablespoons curry paste
1 teaspoon crushed chilli
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can coconut cream
grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander or basil
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil and fry the onion and garlic until tender. Add curry paste and chilli and cook for 5 minutes over gentle heat. Add tomatoes and half the coconut cream, lemon rind and juice and the octopus and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring.

Stir in the rest of the coconut cream, the coriander or basil, season to taste. Serve with some steamed rice and chutney.

BARBECUED octopus

1 kilo cooked octopus, cut into pieces

The Marinade

250 ml olive oil
1 tablespoon oregano
2 tablespoons wine vinegar
120 ml wine or verjuice
salt and pepper

Combine ingredients and marinate the octopus for 30 minutes.

Place the octopus pieces on the grill and turn them so they cook all over. When cooked put them on a serving tray or in a bowl, pour the marinade over them, toss well and add a squeeze of lemon juice and some freshly ground pepper.

TIPS to get your fitness routine on the right track

Hello Brighton residents ...

My message in the autumn edition was all about the benefits of leaving video games and the comforts of home and enjoying the outdoors.

Now this is sometimes easier said than done and even in my own family I can see that while the thought is there, keeping on track with an exercise routine doesn’t always happen.

Here are some tips on how to approach your exercising routine.

My first and most important tip is to have fun with activity. Exercising may not sound enjoyable at first, but before video games took off the greatest times were spent ‘running around’ with the family. Activity doesn’t have to be torture and can be as enjoyable as you want to make it.

There are no rules, no right and wrong when starting off an activity routine. Don’t compare yourself to others and remember that everyone’s strengths and preferences are an individual thing.

Don’t be afraid to seek advice.

Everyone has a story to tell and everyone starts out from the same point at some stage.

Any exercise is exercise. One of my favourite sayings is ‘if a lot of people give a little it makes a lot, but if a lot of people give nothing it makes nothing.’ The same applies for getting healthy. Small steps are the best way to make change. Don’t stress if you don’t drop a clothing size straight away.

You don’t have to go to the gym to do exercise. Make it link in with what you enjoy. Grab a golf club and hit balls

downintheparkorgetona bike. You can even learn to master the Gangnam style dance. The kids will love it and it sure is a good way to get moving and shaking.
There are many ways to get active. If you hate the type of exercise you are doing, you probably won’t want it as a part of your lifestyle and you’ll quit. Keep trying new things until you find something you love. If something isn’t for you, don’t give up on the end goal, just take a different road. Not everyone has to be a marathon runner to be healthy.

Be honest with yourself and think about what makes you tick before you start. This will better the chance of you not getting bored with exercising and will help you commit. For example, some people need company for motivation and have a chat and a laugh as they exercise. Others hate people seeing them run etc and are thus better off getting up to see the sun rise and starting their day on their own terms.

View exercise like you view food.

Your body, and mine, needs both and exercise is actually a treat for your body, rather than a punishment.

Stay positive. As I wrote in the autumn edition, everyone who achieves big things goes through tough times. For all the kids out there, think big! If I could make the Olympics as a kid growing up in Tassie then why can’t you? Never be told you can’t achieve something.

My last tip for today is that you must

be patient. We all go through a stage when we start exercising and the body hates being pushed and we think it can’t be done. That’s why it’s important to start small and build your exercise routine in your own time. This phase is normal, but trust me when I say it all gets easier and your body adapts to getting stronger and more ready to take on new challenges. Feeling the change is an amazing thing, so for anyone in the first few weeks of exercise who thinks nothing will ever change, have faith that it will. And when it does you will get a satisfaction you’ve never had before.

That’s enough for now and I hope it helps. There really are many great things that go along with getting fitter, but some skinny red-head can’t show you them. You’ve got to see it yourself.

I’ll be back next time with a little piece on goal setting.

Bye for now, Tristan


THE berry best

Strawberries and blueberriesWhen the days shorten and temperatures plummet I get a bit tired grumpy. I’m sure you do too.

A doctor mate reckons it’s all to do with our bodies producing stuff called melatonin in the darker conditions. They call this melatonin the hormone of darkness.

But there’s a way to counter melatonin and get back to being your bright and happy self.

Get outside in the garden. Being outside in what sun there is produces another body chemical – serotonin. This serotonin is the good guy at this time of year. It promotes physical and mental wellbeing.

Grow some yummy berries. Tasmania’s cool conditions allow the growing of Australia’s most succulent berries.

So what do you grow?

One of my favourites is the blueberry, which my same doctor mate reckons is one of the best health foods about (it’s got all those cancer-fighting antioxidants).

A shrubby bush related to the azalea, blueberries are also a great option. They can cost a small fortune in the shops; better still, the plants don’t have thorns.

It pays to check your local nursery for the best varieties. Planting a couple of different varieties can extend your harvest.

Before planting in a sunny spot that drains well, dig in plenty of organic matter (old decomposed hay or farm manure is ideal).

Blueberries need regular watering and fertilising (use an azalea/camellia fertiliser if you like) as conditions warm up, and depending on the variety you plant, expect crops to start about December-January.

Next on my ‘berry best’ list are scrumptious raspberries.

You can buy them as a bare-root plant like roses. Again, they need a humus- rich soil that drains well. They are a suckering plant with rambling stems, so give them some support to climb up, maybe a bit of old trellis or a couple of wires strung between two posts.

As the canes grow, tie them to the trellis or wires to keep them heading in the right direction. Raspberries can be affected by extreme frost, so it pays to site them in a protected spot.

In the same way, you can grow boysenberries.

They’re a cross between blackberries, loganberries and raspberries (they look like a longer version of a blackberry) and are named after the gardener who first grew them in California in the 1920s, Rudolph Boysen.

Back then no-one liked them, so poor old Mr Boysen, who had broken his back in an accident, quit growing them. Then much later another farmer, Walter Knott, got hold of some and turned them into an overnight berry sensation at his famous Knott’s Berry Farm, now one of America’s top amusement parks.

Being a little wilder-growing than raspberries, boysenberries will need more space.

The trick with boysenberries is to cut off canes from which you have already picked fruit, because these canes won’t bear again.

And then there are strawberries. You can grow them from runners or crowns in raised beds, in pots or in tubs. But grow them. Fresh strawberries are a Tassie garden delight.

They like a rich, well dug soil and liberal amounts of blood and bone – or rotted down sheep manure will keep them more than happy. Avoid clay soils.

If growing in beds, make the beds about 15-20cm high by 70cm wide.

To keep the plants cosy, spread black plastic sheeting over the beds and in

under soil at the sides. You will need to cut slits in the plastic for the runners to stick out. Water and fertilise regularly and check for snails and slugs.

As winter’s end gets near, cut off about 30cm of the end of each cane (this makes them bushy). And watch for birds. They love ’em too, so you might need to put some bird netting.

Raspberries, blueberries and boysenberries are right to go in at any time over winter, while strawberries are best planted from August.

And what about ...?

While you’re out in the garden dosing up on serotonin, you might want to consider a crop of broad beans, peas, potatoes, onions or potato onions.

The potato onion is an old style onion that largely went out of favour because farmers found them harder to mechanically harvest than others. You can sometimes find them at nurseries or you may have a mate who’s been growing them for years. The best time for planting is around the shortest day of the year; the best time for harvesting is around mid- December when the foliage dies off.

My mate Jack who grows them reckons they’re the only onion worth planting. He pickles them in various vinegars and spices ... and then labels them Jack’s Brilliant Pickled Onions. He’s not modest, but he sure knows his onions!