We’re tough, you know. I drink my coffee black and my spirits neat. I have a degree in archaeology and I work for Landcare and I sometimes get to drive the big diesel dual-cab Mitsubishi Triton to Wickens to buy a rabbit and onion pie and an imported chinotto. Our ruggedness has a long pedigree, surfacing initially in the wilds of St Kilda where you had to scale Junkie Mountain and fight through the thicket of b-list actors to obtain a flourless chocolate torte and a decent espresso. It was hard work with no guarantee of success – sometimes you would get to Harley Court to find that the last escargot had already been sold. Those were dark times. Morale suffered.
But now, man, we live in the regions. We’re so tough that we can’t even get to a decent espresso and have to make it ourselves with the dual valve Bialetti Brika ordered over the Internet from “town”. We weren’t even on ADSL 2 at the time. We’re so tough we’ve had to install apps on our iPhones to ensure survival under emergency circumstances – a knot tying guide, a torch, astronomical software in case life-saving celestial navigation is required. I imagine that we are going to need these apps when we start practicing genuine local food procurement. Pete’s really going to need google maps and a compass if he’s ever cruising the wilds of the Otways in a deer stalker stalking deer.
Those of you still living in the city can’t even imagine the kind of tough, ruggedy choices we face. Last week at the pier, my brother and his wife seriously had to consider who has going to hold the iPhones and who was going to ruin their clothes leaping in after the children when they leaned out just a little too far looking for fish. And they’re not nearly as tough as us (sorry, guys). Their clothes are much nicer, though. Pete, the kids and I were back there today for a fishing trip. Fishing is a frightfully tough thing to do and because we’re so tough and the animal kingdom responds to to our alpha-species domination vibes, we actually caught four fish. Two bream and a mullet. All undersized and had to be thrown back. We (well, I) also reeled in a large and frighteningly ugly spiny death fish that unhooked itself at precisely the moment we were starting to really panic about what to do with it. Good sport, no food in it. Just as well I’d dropped into the fishing co-op before hand to pick up some fish for the lovely and delicate steamed fish cakes I made for dinner.
Steamed coriander fish cakes (serves 4)
- 750g firm fleshed white fish, roughly minced in a food processor
- 1 lightly beaten egg
- 1/4 of a cup of very finely sliced spring onions
- 1 small carrot, shaved with a vegetable peeler, shavings finely sliced
- 1/2 cup finely sliced coriander stems (leaves would be OK)
- 1 tsp minced ginger
- 1 tsp white sugar
- 1 tsp oyster sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 tbsp sherry or Chinese cooking wine
- 2 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 bunch bok choy
- 1 small leek
You’ll need to start by making some decisions based on your steaming capabilities -the fish cakes will be laid on plates and steamed like at yum cha so you will need to set up a plate or series of plates to sit inside whatever steamer/s you have available. The recipe makes about 18 cakes. I place a rack inside my wok so I needed three plates. Rinse the bok choy and cut the leaves off the base. Cover your plates with the leaves and very finely sliced leeks. To make the fish cakes, simply mix all the remaining ingredients together in a bowl. If you’re worried about the fish cakes binding properly, you could mix a little bit of cornflour through the soy sauce before you add it to the mix. I didn’t do this and it was not a problem. Take a 1/4 cup of the mix and press it into a flat cake and lay them on top of the vegetables. Repeat (obviously, I hope). Place them in the steamer and cook for 5 -6 minutes. Serve with rice and plenty of fresh coriander.