My father loved fishing. Our holidays passed by in a whirl of rods and floats. We spent our days in search of the best catch: in the mornings it was surface fishing for garfish, afternoons was at the beach catching whiting, while balmy nights were often spent by torch light, prawning. He taught me how to chase eddies in the tide to find good Flathead and where to gather oysters. Dad could happily spend hours out in the boat or on the beach – more often than not he would have a good catch, but sometimes we would come home with nothing. He didn’t seem to mind – I think it was more the fishing than the fish that Dad enjoyed. My love of the rockpools surrounding Sydney, and the seafood within, was the reason behind our restaurant name. I guess it was that background that made me totally comfortable with fish, at a time in Australia when seafood was not often on the table in many people’s homes. To me, our long summer days are absolutely made for seafood feasts shared with friends and family.
Select and Store
It’s important to choose the most vibrant, handsome-looking fish you can. It’s easier to tell if a fish is fresh by looking at a whole one: the eyes should be clear and shiny and it will smell of the sea – a sweet fresh smell, not a fishy one. Shellfish should either be alive, or look bright and vibrant if dead. Seafood such as oysters, mussels and clams should be heavy and full of salt water. Squid and octopus should be vividly coloured and shiny.
Seafood Antipasto - Serves 4-8 as part of a shared banquet
A wonderful dish we serve at my Melbourne restaurant Rosetta. Please use any seafood you like - just make sure it's fresh from the fish monger.
- 600g clams/vongole (or mussels, just remember to clean them and pull out the hairy beards)
- 330g whole octopus with tentacles, gutted and cleaned, thawed if frozen
- 2 small squid with tentacles (about 330g), cleaned
- 450g raw prawns, shells on 1/3 cup (80ml) white wine
- 30ml lemon and oil whisked together to taste
- 2 celery stalks, leaves reserved, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
- 2 cloves of confit garlic, finely chopped
- Soak the clams in cold water for 15 minutes, then drain and rinse well.
- If using fresh octopus, beat it with a meat hammer to tenderise it (you don’t need to do this if you are using frozen octopus, as freezing has a tenderising effect). Rinse well under cold running water, wiping with a clean sponge to remove any excess saltiness. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil (do not add salt as this will toughen the octopus). Add octopus, cover and reduce heat to low. Gently simmer for 20-30 minutes, until tender. Drain well, then cut octopus into bite-sized pieces.
- Meanwhile, bring another saucepan of water to the boil. Add the squid and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon. Allow to cool, then separate the tentacles from the squid and slice squid bodies into strips.
- Add prawns to the pan of squid water and simmer for 2 minutes or until they have changed colour and are just cooked. Remove with a slotted spoon. Allow to cool, then peel and devein.
- Place clams and white wine in a large saucepan over high heat. Cover and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until clams have opened. Remove from heat and strain, reserving cooking liquid and discarding any clams that haven’t opened.
- Whisk 50ml of strained clam cooking liquid with the lemon oil. Season with sea salt and black pepper.
- Put the octopus, squid, prawns, clams, chopped celery and celery leaves in a shallow serving dish. Drizzle the dressing over the seafood. Scatter with the parsley and garlic and serve immediately.
NOTE: If the clams are packaged and pre-washed there is no need to soak them – just remove them from the packet and rinse.
For more recipes from our food partner Neil Perry make sure to purchase Neil Perry's Good Cooking available in-store and online. Click here to purchase.
Words & Recipes by Neil Perry | David Jones Food Partner