Saturday, February 23, 2008

Claypots, St Kilda

It's time for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival and unfortunately I'm too busy to participate. Shock and horror I know, but my best friend, N1 is getting married next weekend and there's much to do. Not to mention the 4-day working weeks I've been enjoying as a result of hens trips away and the wedding itself. Every second weekend I seem to take Friday and Monday off so it's a high life.

Between dress fittings, shoe shopping and various other tasks for the bride, there hasn't been much time for food, so I was keenly anticipating a visit to Claypots in St Kilda last night. I am a relative seafood newbie, refusing to eat fish the entire first half of my life and only recently converting to prawns. So Claypots was going to be a challenge. I desperately wanted to go to see the place live up to it's reputation but did this mean I had to eat the slippery things that come from shells?

As I had tennis lessons 'til 8.30 I sent my dining companions along to deal with the stressful event of getting a table. I managed to swan up at 9pm, down half a beer and stroll straight in. Oh what an easy life. However it must be said the others didn't arrive until 8.30 and we were still seated by 9.30 (for those that don't know, Claypots does not take boookings).

The restaurant is a pure festival upon entry. Walk through the bar to see glum faces of people desperately seeking a table then it's straight past the kitchen with the evening's selections staring at you from the display. Continue and you're confronted with tables of noisy people criss-crossing arms to get at the communal seafood plates while jazz blares in the background. We were seated in a booth, carriage style complete with luggage rack overhead. The waitress then went through the complicated process of ordering: all fish comes with potato and bokchoy and is priced according to size, with the famous Claypots ideal as side dishes or entrees.

Now if you think you're happy to eat late and believe turning up at 8.30 for a 9.30/10 table is no problem, be warned that they do run out of fish, a testament to their freshness policy I'm sure. We were able to choose from Snapper and Dory. Not such a big deal when you can still choose citrus roasted snapper to share.

Our fish was preceeded by a giant king prawn each. You might think all king prawns are giant but I now know there are king prawns, and there are king prawns. Served with bread and dripping in garlic oil I think we had the latter. Now I hope I'm not being sacreligious but I wasn't overly taken with the claypots. A mixture of rice, fish, mussels and pippis meant that yes, I did eat the slimy things from shells. I did this in quite a brave fashion after the obligatory chew or swallow jokes but honestly, I couldn't taste much other than the cajun spices of one and the moroccan spices of the other. Not to worry, it was handy filler to supplement our sensational snapper. I honestly believe this rather large snapper had been eating citrus it's whole life such was the intensity of flavour. Eating fish skin has never been so enjoyable. Underneath the pearly flesh had ot be the seafood version of wagyu beef, surely. I've never had such wonderful fish before, not even my parent's neighbour's macadamia and coconut stuffed red emperor.

By the end of the night I may nearly been completely won over to the seafood side of life.

Claypots Seafood & Wine on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Orrechiette with rost peppers, preserved lemon and goat's curd

The observant among you will see that this dish is actually spirals with roast peppers, perserved lemon and goat's curd. I had previously bought the ingredients but not had a chance to get fresh orriechiette. When S-bo and I returned home from a weekend on an Echuca houseboat, we really didn't want to go to the supermarket. That's why I substituted spirals and frankly, it turned out well.

It's been a while since I've cooked a new recipe and this one was really really rewarding. It's effectively a warm tossed salad but the combination of extra virgin olive oil and goats cheese is very satisfying, even if they do take away many of the benefits of "salad". This was my second experience with preserved lemon too, and let me tell you, rinsing the lemon beforehand makes it a lot more palatable. Thanks to whoever gave me that tip. I love many things citrus and couldn't bear the thought that I wouldn't enjoy preserved lemon.

Like many of my "uncooked from the archives" recipes, this one came form an old Good Living clipping, back in the Sydney days. 31st Jan 2006 featured this recipe along with a profile of then-new Andrew Cibej's Surry Hills enoteca, Vini. If only I had've been. Next time Gadget.

This week sees the first round of ironchef for 2008 kicking off, so I've spent all evening researching dessert. Hopefully I can tell you all about it on Friday!

Orrechiette with roast peppers, preserved lemon and goat's curd
500 g orrechiette
240 g fresh goat's curd
1 large roasted, peeled and roughly chopped red pepper
1/4 preserved lemon, finely chopped
1/2 cup of both torn basil leaves and picked continental parsely
1/2 cup wild rocket
1 cup EVOO
60 g parmesan cheese, grated
Sea salt & Pepper
80 g black olive tapenade

Cook pasta in salted boiling water. Drain, reserving a small amount of cooking water. In a large bowl, toss together pasta, water and all other ingredients except tapenade. Place onto plates and top with tapenade.
Serves 4