Friday, 4 June 2010

Sicilian Stuffed sardines

As I mentioned in my last post- the kids were on a seafood cooking bonanza.

It started as a result of Mr.11 making a request to go shopping at Vic Market with his dad.

Hubby G came home with a few always when he shops at the market, but I am soooo not complaining!

This time it was a kilo of sardines- with the explanation that "They were only 5 bucks a kilo!" Let it be noted that I love a bargain- and I love Hubby's surprise market purchases so I was not unhappy!

What it did make me think about as a result of Mr.9's  somewhat surprising reaction was "At what stage do we starting getting the "ooks" about food and the preparation of it for eating?"  And by preparation I mean the whole process- from the slaughter,  to the butchering,  to the table.

I was mulling over this because I was a little taken aback by Mr.9's enthusiastic request to gut and fillet the sardines.

A couple of days before we had watched the Italian Food Safari.   Mr.9 had watched it too and had obviously taken in every last bit of information about how they hand filleted the sardines to make Sicilian stuffed sardines.

I was lucky enough growing up in a family that took a great interest in eating lovely food- and for reasons much like mine now- as a celebration of life.  Although I grew up in the suburbs of Adelaide we had our own chickens, ducks, guinea fowl and quails in the back yard.  We used the eggs and we also slaughtered the chooks for eating.

I remember this (the slaughter that is!) as being such fun- sounds gruesome perhaps!  It didn't seem like it to me as a child.  It was just what happened when you wanted to eat a chook.  Dad would do the honours wielding an axe and then us kids would watch in hysterics at the way the chook would run around after with no head!  Perhaps not an act for the squeemish - but we loved it!

The carcass would then get dipped in the boiling copper to loosen the feathers and we would pluck away contentedly........the family together doing these jobs laughing together.  I remember it very fondly indeed.

I suppose growing up doing this helped me have an appreciation and an awareness of the reality of what it means to eat meat, poultry etc.  I guess I took it for granted then,  but now as I watch children who are asked simple questions such as "Where milk comes from?"  and they answer "the supermarket", I realise that I grew up within an extraordinary situation in this sense.  I have never been "ooked" by food.  We used as much as possible which meant eating offal too.  But it wasn't disgusting as it is often thought of but just another part of the animal to eat.

So here we are living in a society where our kids think money comes out of walls and milk comes from the supermarket......hmmmm concerning? Yep, I think so.  And perhaps as we have become more dissasociated with most things we have also become more dissasociated with the preparation of food we have also become more "ooked"- for want of a better term!

I am all for rewinding the clock on a few things such as these old traditions- all the while I am all for modern conveniences such as the dishwasher! Oh hail the dishwasher! I simply would DIE without it.....!!!!!

I have mentioned before that I am all for SLOW childhood a bit like SLOW cooking.  Simplifying life a little and getting back to some of the basic joys we have lost touch with.

It is the simple things like food preparation that I believe bring a family together.

And so it was that I took great joy in Mr.9's enthusiasm to recreate the Sicilian stuffed sardines he had watched on Italian Food Safari.

Hubby G took the whole fish out of the bag and Mr.9 got to work.  He was the one who explained to his dad and hten to his little brother how to do it.

"You rip the head back and then slide your thumb in to the hole.  Then push you thumb along the bone and open it out.  Then take out the guts.  Then you put your thumb under the back bone and slide it along to remove the spine.  Flatten it out and put it on a dish". Well couldn't have said it better myself!

His enthusiasm was infectious as Mr.7 was very keen to get stuck in also.

Hubby and I helped make up the stuffing but the hardest job was done!

Hubby then stuffed one butterfly fillet with the mix of fresh breadcrumbs, lots of parmesan cheese, parsley and garlic and then placed another butterfly fillet on top (a la a sandwich) and dusted them in flour before shallow frying them.

Sooooo more-ish!  And it totally cured me of my winter ills I had been suffering from.  Mr.7 who is usually the least adventurous of all our tribe tucked in and devoured them- much to Hubby G's dissapointment!  He was hoping for more.  Well take a look- how good does that look!!!!!!

Best of all was the fun everyone had working together to prepare soemtihng that we all sat and enjoyed together.  And not one mention of "ookyness" - not once!  Not bad....

For the recipe click here to be taken to the Food safari website.  It's worth the effort guys!

And today's song is one the kids will love!  (Thanks Kiki)

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Kids weekend seafood fiesta

After 3 solid weeks of winter illness that knocked a couple of us flat (Mr.9 and me) I am back!!

I realised how attached I have become to my blog in such a short time!  I have really missed writing it......happy to be back in action!

Towards the end of last week Mr.11 asked Hubby G to go to the market.  We live in Melbourne and are so lucky to be blessed with several fantastic fresh food markets.  But Queen Vic Market was on Mr.11's mind.

Hubby G used to treat us all with his weekly dawn trip to "the Vic".  It was like winning the lottery for me every Saturday morning.  He hasn't been doing it for a while but Mr.11's request has him back in the swing!

He would dissappear in the dark with his double trolley to fill it with wonderful loveliness of all sorts. When he came home, the kids and I would eagerly await what treasures he had found for us all hidden in lovely crunchy brown paper bags!  Then I would busy myself with ideas about what to do with all of our bounty.  My idea of heaven!

I just loved the surprise of finding out what I would have to play with that week! A bit like a mystery box challenge really- only without the judges breathing down your neck and with time on my side to do a bit of research!

 So it was here that Mr.11 wanted to accompany his dad.  

Shopping without a list is not for everyone- as a tragic bargain queen from way back I love it!!  I am happy to make something up from what I have available and take great joy in 'buying a bargain'.  Equally there is nothing at all wrong in shopping with a list.

Mr.11 loves to have a list.  He was ready armed with his list to cook - OCTOPUS! That was what he really wanted to cook.  And I certainly wasn't about to argue! Funnily enough in the midst of Mr.9's terrible illness two weeks ago he asked me if "we had any octopus?"- as you do! I don't know what it is with my kids and octopus.....

Mr. 11 had done some research and found a recipe for Octopus cooked in red wine- which my lads renamed 'SQUIDWARD STEW' - being big fans of Spongebob Squarepants obviously.  The recipe looked great- simple ingredients, simple method and we chatted about how we could make it even simpler.  It was a one pot wonder- MY FAVOURITE!

So off trotted my little piggies to market to market to buy a baby octopus........

They came home with beautiful bounty! A kilo of beautiful opalescent baby octopus, some beautiful fresh whole sardines (more on that later......), one bulging ruby pomegranate- just because we love them, some beautiful puy lentils , fetta cheese, some glorious blue cheese (surprising tasted and chosen by Mr.11) and some amazing fresh organic Royal Gala apples and some fresh bread from Franks bakery. So so good. Simple, delicious, quality fresh produce.  That's what it's all about.    And although these are beautiful exotic seeming ingredients- the seafood was well below $10 per kilo each- you can't buy any meat for less than that, so we weren't talking about bank breaking eating here- just delicious and unusual.

So Mr.11 was keen to get started.  He read the recipe through and get out what he needed.  For my kids cooking I usually always replace the bit where it says - finely chopped/diced onion- with an instruction to 'blitz baby blitz'!  It takes away the problem of finely diced fingers being added to your beautiful food and it is just as effective- if not more!  SO when you read that in any of my recipes for kids you can assume we are doing a 'blitz baby blitz'!

So here is the recipe.  I can say it was an ABSOLUTE pleasure to watch him cook so confidently and competently! And the result was DIVINE!


What you will need:

  • 1kg baby octopus (make sure they are debeaked before cooking)
  • couple of tablespoons on olive oil
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic 
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cups of red wine
  • 1/4cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup tomato passata or equivalent canned chopped toms
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 tsp sugar

Firstly 'bltiz baby blitz' the onions, garlic and fresh herbs.  So easy!!!! You may never fine dice again!

Mr. 11 harvested the herbs fresh from the garden- these are added into the blitz mix.

Add olive oil to heavy based pan.
Add blitzed mix.
Stir till caramelized slightly.

Then add baby octopus and stir.

Cook for a couple of minutes and then add all other ingredients.

 And then stir with love- it makes it taste better I promise!

 Simmer gently for 2 hours- or until octopus is tender.  Mr. 11 left it for 3 hours- just to be sure!

And the final dish was mindblowingly DELISH!!!!
Check it out!!!!

 My sole contribution was a salad.  I used the puy lentils, pomegranate and fetta cheese together with coarsely chopped cucumbers, tomatoes and loads of basil.  Then tossed it all with a dijon mustard vinaigrette.  It went very well with the unctuous rich octopus as it was crunchy and fresh.

We also served it with HAIRY MASH- our family term for mashed potatoes cooked and smashed with the skins on.

What a meal! SO I dare you to get your kids in the kitchen. Mr.11 has only been cooking for a couple of years and that is what he can do- if he can you can too!

I'm happy that my kids are growing up understanding about where food comes from and how to treat it with love.  Cooking for them is exciting and fun and through it their palates have become quite adventurous.  And their very busy mumma gets to have a bit of a break and enjoy the fruits of their labour- I ain't gonna argue with that!

Next time I will tell you what Mr.9 and Mr.7 did with the whole fresh Sardines......AMAZING!

And to cook with love you need to be listening to music you love- Mr. 11 chose....