Recipes: BRAD KING | Images: BRYDIE THOMPSON
Nothing beats the taste of freshly caught fish and it always makes for an easy, nutritious meal. Nature’s bounty! At The Falls Retreat, our paddock to plate ethos definitely extends to the sea, where we look to source a variety of sustainable seafood for our menus. Being located in Southern Coromandel, we are blessed to be living in a region with relatively good access to source it freshly caught.
Snapper is recognised as the most popular recreational fish in New Zealand. However, with Forest & Bird listing this as ecologically unsustainable in their Best Fish Guide a few years ago, we are always looking for alternatives. Kingfish and bluefin are similar to snapper in terms of consistency and taste and make for a more sustainable option. And the good news is there’s plenty more choice! It’s worth pushing your boundaries further and trying the likes of kahawai, mullet and trevally — these are dark oily fish with plenty of flavour and worth introducing to your home cooking repertoire.
At The Falls Retreat, we often cure and smoke our seafood. It’s a great way to add taste and texture whilst also preserving fish (the addition of salt draws moisture out of the food by the process of osmosis and keeps it edible and safe to consume for longer). Hot smoking is by far the easiest method, and with a simple smoker and your own curing salt (kept in an airtight container to be able to use time again) you are ready to go.
A smoke/cooker is very portable and easy to use, so take it to your bach or next holiday to the beach so that you can experiment with your daily catches and different types of fish. You just can’t beat it for the taste!
Cured and Smoked Fish
Fish Curing Salt Recipe
1kg brown sugar
750g coarse sea salt
½ tbsp ground cardamom
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
3 bay leaves
½ tbsp fennel seeds
½ tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp chilli flakes
½ tbsp black peppercorns
½ tbsp whole cloves
2 star anise
3 juniper berries (find these amongst the array of spices at your local Vetro)
Mix brown sugar, salt, cardamom and cinnamon together.
Toast all other ingredients and finely grind.
Combine the sugar and salt mix with spices and mix well. Store in an airtight container and use as needed.
When curing fish, it all depends upon size and thickness of product.
Recommended curing times
Terakihi/gurnard/kahawai — 1–2 hours
Salmon — 6–8 hours
Cover fish in cure by sprinkling over top (do not massage!) Always remember to add more cure to the thicker parts of the flesh.
Once curing is achieved, wash fillets under cold water and pat dry. Place on racks and put into fridge for at least 4 hours to produce the necessary pellicle, ready for smoking.
Hot smoking usually occurs between 50–80°C, and we use this method for our white fish. Length of time depends on product and smoker but when ready the fish should be moist and flavourful and the flesh should flake apart.
Cured Salmon served with Fennel & Herb Slaw and Sour Cream on Crostini
For an entrée or light meal, use 150g of cured salmon and put together with a fresh green herb slaw. (Here at The Falls Retreat, we use organic produce from our gardens including mint, coriander, Vietnamese mint, Thai basil, snow pea tendrils and shoots and mustard greens, all depending on what’s in season.) Dress in extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice.
Serve with a quenelle of sour cream (we love the Lewis Road Creamery one!) and good quality crostini, garnished with orange segments and baby beetroot.
Easy and delicious!
As a family we have recently taken up fishing as a hobby and have enjoyed utilising my tried and tested smoking and curing recipes for our own catches on meals at home. Try this for yourself.