Day 5 – Pan-fried Fish with Roast Tomato Sauce and Chilli Lentils
The older I get the less risk averse I am towards eating fish. Yes, I was one of those people who would routinely order the only chicken dish when in a seafood restaurant – these days I’d dive head first (excuse the pun) into the most exotic of menus.
Despite eating and loving abalone and clams, vongole and scampi, yabbies and Morton Bay bugs and on and on and on … my preference is always for a simple meal. Seafood is at it’s best done quickly and simply. If you ever see it covered with an unholy cream sauce get the hell out of the restaurant FAST.
This dish is the sum total of its parts, ideal for cheaper cuts of fish and cooler evenings. It’s an amped-up fish stew relying on lentils and freshly stewed tomatoes rather than potatoes and a commercial ketchup. It’s damned fine eating however you do it.
4 x 140 g – 160 g pieces of firm-fleshed fish such as rockling, ling or whiting; sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste; 1 tbsp oil; 1 tbsp butter; 1 tbsp parsley, extra
Tomato sauce: 200g roma tomatoes; 2 tbsp oil; 1 small onion, finely chopped; 1 clove garlic, finely chopped; 1 tbsp chopped parsley; 1 tsp smoked paprika; pinch dried chilli flakes (optional); 1 bird’s-eye chilli, finely chopped
Lentils: 1 litre vegetable stock; 250g green lentils; 1 bay leaf; 1 sprig rosemary; 2 tbsp olive oil; 1 onion, finely diced; 1 carrot peeled and finely diced; 1 celery stalk, finely diced; 100g piece pancetta or speck (all in one piece)
Tomato Sauce: Preheat an oven to 210°C. Place tomatoes in a small roasting dish and roast for 45 minutes until the skins start to wrinkle. Remove from oven and switch off the oven.
When they are cool enough to handle, remove the skins. Crush the tomatoes roughly with the back of a fork or a potato masher in a large bowl.
Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onion and sauté for two minutes until softened. Remove the pan from the heat and add the crushed tomatoes and the remaining sauce ingredients. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Pour the sauce into a food processor or blender and blitz until smooth. Set aside until ready to serve.
Lentils: Heat the olive oil in a large pan and add the onion, carrot, celery, leek and the pancetta. Sauté for five minutes, or until the vegetables are softened.
Add the lentils, bay leaf and rosemary and simmer gently for 30 minutes until the lentils are tender and just cooked. Remove the herbs from the lentils and discard. Remove the pancetta, chop it up into 1cm chunks and return the meat to the lentils. Set aside and keep warm.
Season the fish fillets with a little salt and pepper. Heat a frypan with a little oil and butter and fry the fish, skin side down for 3 minutes. Turn the fish over with a fish slice, then fry the other side for another 2 minutes.
Remove the fish onto paper towels to drain and quickly chuck in a tablespoon or roughly chopped parsley into the pan juices and butter and toss until it crisps up, then pour the lot over the lentils and toss well.
To Serve: Warm the tomato sauce gently. Spoon lentils into a flat pasta bowl, top with a piece of fish and serve tomato sauce on the side for everyone to pour over.
$18.75 for four people