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Red Mullet 2

In this recipe I am using Red Mullet, also known as Goatfish; they are called Trigle in Italian. In Australia this little fish is very underrated, but travel to any country around the Mediterranean and southern Europe and you will find that it is highly esteemed.

Orecchiette, (pasta shaped like little ears) are popular in Puglia, a region in southern Italy bordering the Adriatic Sea in the east and the Ionian Sea to the southeast.

Replace the Red Mullet with any other sweet tasting white fish, such as whiting or try crabmeat – both are sustainable. Pink Ling, Red Snapper and Red emperor  are also suitable for this dish and all have an attractive pink skin; they are all fished in Australia and/or New Zealand and both countries aim to manage for a sustainable and productive stock (overfishing has occurred in the past and stocks in certain locations still require rebuilding – in Think Twice Category by The Australian Marine Conservation Society).


I always select less than the standard recommended 100g of pasta per person, especially if it is not for a main course. The following amount will feed 5-6 people in my household.

Red snapper fillets

300g fish: red mullet or similar cut into bite size pieces
300g broccoli or cauliflower or broccolini ( separated or cut into small pieces)
400g orecchiette
150g anchovies
¾ cup of olive oil,
2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
1 cup of chopped parsley
4 chopped tomatoes
1-2 chillies, remove the seeds if you do not want the dish to be hot

salt to taste

 Sauté the garlic and chillies in about ½ cup of oil, add the broccoli and toss them around in the pan until they are well coated. Add the chopped anchovies and cook until softened. You may prefer to leave the broccoli with a little crunch – if not – add a splash of water and cook for longer.
Remove the contents from the pan and set aside.
Pan-fry the fish lightly in the same pan with the rest of the oil.
Add the chopped tomatoes and parsley and cook for a few minutes until the tomatoes have softened.
Mix the two cooked components and reheat.
Dress the cooked pasta with the above sauce and serve.

PESCE GRATINATO (Baked fish topped with almonds and pistachios)

Almonds and pistachios as often used in Sicilian cooking as both are grown extensively in Sicily. The parsley and capers accentuate the attractive green colour of the pistachios.

The breadcrumbs are made with 1-2 day old bread – use good quality bread, for example sour dough or a pasta dura. Remove the crusts and make crumbs.

fish, 100g-150g for each piece
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
For the bread and nut paste:
80g pistachio (unsalted), chopped finely (but not too powdery)
80g almond meal or blanched almonds chopped finely
½ cup of extra virgin olive oil
½ cup capers, chopped
½ cup of finely chopped parsley
½ cup of fresh breadcrumbs
2 cloves of garlic, mashed
a little salt and freshly ground pepper
Make the paste by mixing all of the ingredients together – use a mixer if you wish.
Heat the oven to 225C
Line a baking tray with baking paper and coat it with a little extra virgin olive oil.
Sprinkle a little salt on each piece of fish and drizzle a little olive oil on each.
Place some paste on each piece of fish and spread it over each piece of fish – use your fingers.
Cook for 10-15 mins (according to taste). This will depend on the size of the fish, the thickness and how cooked you like your fish to be. If you cook your fish for longer you may need to place some baking paper on top of the fish to stop the topping from burning.




If you prefer to present them warm, the patties can also be warmed either in an oven or a microwave before your place them into small hot rolls, warmed in an oven beforehand. For the burgers presented at room temperature, you can add soft green salad leaves in the roll (young arugula/rocket leaves or cress or very finely sliced lettuce)

This  is a recipe from Small Fishy Bites, my new book. Release date Oct 1, 2013

During my most recent trip to Italy I was amazed to see how many hip bars specialise inmaking burgers. They are considered a fashionable snack to accompany wine or beer.
Burgers, like pizza are now universal and have been miniaturised and these mini burgers are
known as sliders.
Sliders are perfect food for when you’re entertaining—they are the perfect size to hold and so easy to slide into your mouth.

6 small rolls suitable for miniburgers
170 oz/500 g fish, salmon or a mixture, see above
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1 small egg
1/2 cup fresh bread breadcrumbs
extra virgin olive oil for frying

Herb paste

1 cup finely chopped fresh herbszest of 1 lemon or the skin of
1 preserved lemon, finely chopped
1/2 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3–4 cloves garlic, crushed
salt and freshly ground black
pepper, to taste

Cut the fish into chunks and mince using a meat grinder or food processor—I do not like the mixture to be too fine. Combine all of the ingredients except the oil—the mixture should be quite firm and hold its shape. You may need a few more breadcrumbs, depending on the type of fish you use.

Shape into 6 balls and flatten them slightly. Fry them in hot oil and drain them on some kitchen paper. Stuff the patties into rolls and place a dollop of herb paste into them before serving. Hold the rolls together with a toothpick or a small metal skewer.

Herb paste

A simple paste can be made with any of the following fresh herbs: coriander, basil, mint, tarragon or chervil. My preferred method is to chop the herbs finely and mix all of the ingredients by hand. Rather than using olive oil, you can use egg mayonnaise.

CALAMARI RIPIENI CON FORMAGGIO FRESCO E MARSALA (Stuffed calamari with fresh cheese and braised in marsala)

I use marsala fina or secca (dry) for my cooking. It is nothing like marsala all’uovo – unfortunately this has given marsala a bad name.

Marsala is the fortified wine of Sicily. Like sherry, there are various blends and some is aged in wood for longer than ten years; it is called marsala stravecchia and as noble as any good liqueur. Those of you who have been to Sicily and have visited the Cantine Florio in Marsala, in the province of Trapani would know what I am talking about.


The squid are stuffed with fresh cheese. Being a Sicilian/ Italian recipe, the soft cheese used for the stuffing can be one of the following: tuma, pecorino fresco, mozzarella, fior di latte, bocconcini and even ricotta….and not the tub variety! On this occasion I used Danish feta – definitely not traditional, but I had some marinading in extra virgin olive oil, dry oregano and fennel seeds in the fridge.

There were other liberties I took with this recipe: Instead of the parsley, I used fresh marjoram, once again, because I had some growing and because I like the sweetness of this herb – it goes well with nutmeg and with soft cheese. Not Sicilian either! My mother would never have approved of the “fusion” ingredients – Italians are a bit like that, they stick to what is correct and proper. I have come a long way! You may be wondering about the dark colour on the body of the squid – it is because I do not bother to strip each squid meticulously  – what comes off, comes off.  ( The same with octopus!)


For a main course estimate 1 squid per person – these are medium sized squid – usually the smaller the better as large squid can be a bit rubbery.  For an antipasto the squid can be cut into slices and feed 6 people.


4 medium squid 1 cup breadcrumbs (small), made from good-quality day-old bread 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely cut ¼–½ teaspoon nutmeg 150g fresh cheese cut into small cubes (see above) 1 cup dry marsala 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.


Clean the squid: pull off the head and the inside of the squid and discard. Cut off tentacles and save them for another time. Toast the breadcrumbs in a little oil. Cool. Mix the breadcrumbs, cheese, parsley and nutmeg together and add the seasoning. Stuff the squid and secure each end with a skewer. Sauté each squid in olive oil. When golden, add the marsala, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes (depending on size). Uncover and evaporate the juices as necessary.




Two of my friends live on Waiheke Island in the Hauraki Gulf of New Zealand, located about 17.7 km from Auckland. They both have kayaks and when time and weather permits one or two of them go fishing and it seems that every time they do, they catch fish.

They catch mainly snapper off Oretangi Beach where they live, but if they go to some of the other bays they catch John Dory, Kingfish and Hapuka. The fish in the three photos were caught on two separate occasions and when I stayed with them we enjoyed eating fresh fish very much .

My friend boned one of the fish, a Kawhai, a New Zealand fish which needs to be bled. He smoked it using a simple smoker and manuka wood smoking chips.

We cooked some of the snapper in colourful, enamelled, cast-iron mini “casseroles” or “dutch ovens” using simple Sicilian flavours: tomatoes, capers, garlic, olives and some Sicilian common herbs.. They are brought to the table straight from the oven so do tell your guests to be ultra careful when they eat from them. Also protect your table with mats.

Of course the ingredients can go into one large casserole, covered and baked for 25-30 minutes.

For 4 people

4 pieces of fish (1 serve per person)
4 peeled red tomatoes (or tinned)
1 tbs capers
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
½ cup of fresh herbs, use 1 or more: parsley, basil, oregano, chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 green olives or black olives, stoned

Preheat the oven to 220°C.
Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan and pan-fry the fish lightly.
Add a little salt. Remove the fish and set aside.
Add the other ingredients and sauté, until the juice of the tomatoes is
Spoon some of the tomato mixture into each mini-casserole. Place 1 piece of
fish in each and top with more tomato.
Either cover with a lid or if using a different type of ovenproof small baking dishes cover with metal foil and bake for 7-10 minutes, depending on how cooked you like your fish.


MARMELLATA DI AGRUMI CON MIELE (Citrus jam or marmalade made with honey)

I quite often use jam (good ones, lots of fruit and not too sweet) in desserts and sometimes I use them as a base for sweet sauces to accompany cakes, crepes, fruit salads and puddings. This time I wanted to make a strong tasting citrus jam that I could use to make an ancient Sicilian dessert.

Sicily is the land of citrus.


I love honey and I frequently use it in the place of sugar and when I make jam I also often add some liqueurs or spirit. For example in this recipe I could easily have added a tablespoon of an orange or lemon flavoured liqueur – Cointreau or Grand Marnier.


4 citrus: I used 1 lemon, 1 Seville oranges, 1 tangello, 1 orange, 
2 cups water, 
½ – ¾ cup honey

I removed some of the peel from the tangelo and cut some of it very thinly. Peel /cut off all skin and white pith and discard.
Chop fruit roughly, discard seeds( these make the jam bitter).
Place pulp and water in a saucepan, cover, bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Add honey, and boil it uncovered, without stirring, for about 20 minutes or until set (semisolid).

If adding liqueur add about 2 tablespoons towards the end of cooking or if making a sweet sauce add the liqueur to thin the jam.