There are not many cooking shows that I watch but I always make sure to watch Food Safari presented by “trendy and funky host Maeve O'Meara teaches viewers about a new culture in each episode of this Australia-based series, including how to prepare recipes from that episode's featured region”. Each episode explores a new cuisine with the help of professional chefs and home cooks who show us their tips and secrets, chef’s recipes and classic favourites.
It is quite an eye opener as she discovers and shares with you some places right here in Sydney that you never heard of nor visited before. On the few occasions that we followed her story and paid homage to the show by eating at a place that was featured on Food Safari, we were never disappointed.
What I also like about this show is that because the recipes are shared by home cooks they are very easy to follow. You can just envisage yourself walking around your own kitchen at a comfortable pace cooking a delicious dish that will be thoroughly enjoyed around the dinner table later on.
It was during an episode about Singaporean cuisine that one dish caught my attention, Tamarind or Assam Fish. It was a mention of tamarind paste that gave my test buds a jump-start as the combination of sweet and sour tastes is one of my favourites. Despite the fact that you can only find this condiment in the Asian aisle of most super-market, I quite often use it as a substitute for lime juice in salads or whenever sourness is required. It is great for dipping sauces, however, be mindful of how much you add as it is quite strong.
I dutifully scribbled down the ingredients and watched the episode closely in order to re-create it later in my own kitchen and to share it with you, my dear readers. I, however, have tweaked the recipe to make it more suitable for our palates and simplified the process without compromising the flavours.
To feed 4 people you need:
800 gr of Spanish mackerel cutlets
2-3 tbsp of plain white flower
2 tsp tumeric powder
3 tbsp of olive oil
2 tbsp of brown sugar
1 lemongrass stalk
3 tomatoes, chopped into cubes
½ L water
2 tsp tamarind paste
2 long green chilies
For the spice paste:
2 red onions peeled and quartered
1 red chili (deseeded)
3 cm piece of ginger
3 tbsp fish sauce
½ head of garlic
Place all the ingredients for the spice paste into the food processor and blend into a paste. To maker a tamarind water, just pour water into a bowl, add tamarind paste and mix well.
Spread the flour on a big plate, sprinkle with tumeric powder, salt and pepper and mix. Dip each piece of fish into the mixture on both sides shaking off the excess. Pre-heat the frying pan over medium heat, add oil and when hot, fry the fish for about 3 minutes on each side until slightly golden. Remove and place on a paper towel to draw away the extra oil.
In the same pan, fry the spice paste for a couple of minutes until fragrant then add tomatoes, pour over the tamarind water, throw in lemongrass, green chilies, some salt and sugar. Bring slowly to the boil and have a little taste - the flavour should be a mix of hot, sweet and sour and salty. Gently slip the fish back into the pan and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes.
Serve with brown rice (healthier version) and Asian Slaw