The Sydney Seafood School shows us how to get the most out of your marinade, how to use the barbeque for everything (no washing up) and what to serve at Christmas if you hate peeling prawns.
Don’t multitask. When you are cooking seafood, you need full concentration because from one minute to the next, it can be overcooked and ruined. Don’t think you can whip up a sauce while something is on the barbeque; prep everything first (even the garnish), cook it and serve it. “Seafood continues to cook in the residual heat even after it’s been removed from the pan or grill,” says Roberta Muir, manager of the School. “The trick is to be brave enough to remove it from the heat just before you think it’s ready,” “If you wait until you think it’s cooked, it will be overcooked by the time you eat it.”
Make sure to get the barbeque nice and hot so you sear the seafood and cook it quickly, not stew it. Marinade fish skin-side down so it doesn’t soften the flesh too much and always oil the protein, not the barbeque, to minimise smoke. Let the fish come to room temperature by leaving it out of the fridge for 15 minutes before cooking.
Some seafood you can move around the barbeque, some you flip once and then don’t touch until you take it off. For fillets of fish, cook it two thirds of the way through on one side, flip and cook the remaining third on the other side. You can tell it is cooked when the colour of the flesh changes (from the barbeque side, up).
Squid and crustaceans are the only type you can toss on the barbeque. To cook mussels, once they’ve been debearded (you don’t need to rinse them), put them on a hot barbeque plate and cover them with a bowl or saucepan lid for four to five minutes. Take off any that are open, and leave the closed ones under for another minute or two. It’s often said that if a mussel doesn’t open, it’s gone off – this isn’t true. If the mussel is still closed, gently pry it open with a butter knife – if it’s off, you’ll smell it.
Seafood in Season:
Below are Muir’s suggestions of seafood to try during summer and how to serve it if you’re getting a little bored with your go-to options.
Australian sardine is great pan-fried and served with stronger Asian flavours such as ginger, lemongrass, chilli, kaffir lime and fish sauce.
Bigeye ocean perch is delicious steamed with shredded ginger and green onion, then drizzled with a little sesame oil and soy sauce.
Cuttlefish – I love the texture of it, especially braised with Mediterranean flavours such as olives, capers, garlic and tomato.
Ocean jacket is a hard fish to fillet, but a great one to serve on the bone because the white flesh comes away easily in thick flakes. I like to keep flavours simple, a little extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and some crusty bread and green salad.
If you don’t like peeling prawns, or are having trouble sourcing ones that are sustainably caught, pink fish is Muir’s favourite alternative for Christmas. “I love pink fish – whether it’s cold-smoked salmon and ocean trout, or a small, hot-smoked rainbow trout. Hot-smoked rainbow trout is so easy to prepare – just peel back the skin, flake it off the bone and toss with a few other ingredients to make a delicious seafood salad,” she says.