About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008
I've learnt a couple of things this summer, number one being, that when you have lily white legs, sitting under shade cloth is no guarantee that you won't be sunburnt, shade cloth is sun resistant, not sun proof. The other thing I discovered, which was rather a pleasant surprise, when we pulled up our carpet in order to polish the floorboards, there, underneath, were wonderful Tasmanian oak hardwood floorboards, to which we applied a clear coat and they now look absolutely magnificent.

My wife D also knows a bit more about the internet too. Through Michael Blamey's gorgeous photo blog of St Kilda, she discovered in this post, a list of many of the world's city photo blogs, which included one of her home town in Wroclaw, Poland. She also discovered how detailed some of my blog entries are, claiming to have no memory of certain events, happily for me, she did have a laugh.

There were no particular food highlights, though Christmas morning deserves a special mention. One of my wine mates opens up several bottles of French bubbly and I contribute a bottle, as well as some gravlax, cured at home, which becomes part of a Champagne breakfast. This year, due to an increase in numbers attending, as well as being required to bring some to my sister-in-law's, for her Christmas Eve dinner, an all seafood affair, a 2.5kg salmon was filleted and cured, which meant no last minute queueing at Prahran Market, which was just as well; people were three deep at Claringbolds - at 6.00am - not to mention at 6.30am, the line from Vasiliki's, the crayfish supplier, was out the front door in Barkly Street, St Kilda, and all the way, some thirty or forty metres, to Carlisle Street!

It's funny how we rate certain dishes. Everyone raved about the gravlax, but my mate's son, who is a chef, garnered no compliments for his beautifully scrambled eggs. Making gravlax is a snap, but getting scrambled eggs just right requires a bit of technique and attention to detail. I told him how good the eggs were and a look passed between us, we both knew whose dish took the most skill.

But, if you wish to fish for compliments, here is how to make gravlax, the funny thing is, more than half your guests will think you have sprung for smoked salmon. Do you need any other excuse to open up a bottle of Champagne?


1 2.5kg salmon or sea trout*
200g salt
150g sugar
2 small bunches dill, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper

Have your fish monger scale, fillet and remove all bones from the fish. Lay one fillet, skin side down into a glass or ceramic or plastic container into which it will fit comfortably. Mix the salt, sugar, dill and black pepper and lay this mixture on top of the fillet and lay the other fillet on top, flesh side down. Put a piece of plastic wrap over the fish and place a board on top with some sort of weight on it. I've used tins as well as water bottles full of water.

Place the container in the fridge and every twelve hours, turn the fillets over and spoon the brine which has formed over the flesh side of the fish, replace the plastic and the weighted board and put back in the fridge. After 48 hours, the fish should be ready. Drain the brine and scrape the dill and pepper mixture off. Lay a fillet down on a cutting board, trim the belly flap off and with your sharpest and most flexible knife blade, starting a few centimetres or inches from the tail, slice pieces as thinly as possible towards the tail. Don't worry about the first few slices, they are never neat, but you will get the hang of it as you go along. Serve with horseradish and mustard sauce to rave reviews.

Horseradish & Mustard Sauce
(adapted from Rick Stein)

2 teaspoons grated horseradish**
2 teaspoons grated onion, grated on a cheese grater to a pulp
1 teaspoon quality Dijon mustard
25ml white wine vinegar
good pinch of salt
250ml whipping cream

Mix everything together except the cream. Whip the cream to soft peaks and gently fold in all the other ingredients, chill.

*You can use smaller fillets, just make sure you get identical sides of the same fish, preferably from the head end. Adjust the other ingredients accordingly.
**It depends how hot your horseradish is, in my version I used 3 teaspoons
  posted at 8:00 am

At 11:08 am, Blogger Lydia said...

You're so right -- making perfect scrambled eggs takes skill and patience (low and slow cooking). What kind of salt did you use for the gravlax? I've usually made it with kosher salt.

At 8:31 am, Blogger gigi said...

I pulled up my carpet to reveal wonderful 1970's era linoleum. Which I pulled up to reveal ~ fabulous California concrete! Congratulations on finding your treasure. I am green with envy.

Which oddly enough, makes me want to open up a bottle of Champagne...

At 9:25 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi lydia, I use ordinary coarse kitchen salt and it seems to work just fine. Interestingly, I've never used kosher salt, not for any particular reason, it's just not so readily available, unless you look for it. Does it make a difference?

Hi gigi, when we pulled up the old bathroom tiles, there was concrete there, beautiful polished concrete, which we then recovered with new tiles, sigh. I'll have drink with you.

At 12:10 am, Blogger Truffle said...

Neil- I was just searching for a trout gravlax recipe so what a great find this post was! Almost as good a find as those floorboards!

At 9:31 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi truffle, there a quite a few recipes around, the American ones semm to feature more sugar for example and of course there are the alcohol versions too. Sometimes, simple is best. Is it possible to fall in love with floorboards, 'cause I think I am?


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