In My Kitchen by the Sea, April 2019

My annual family holiday, from the end of January through to the end of April, involves maintaining two kitchens. It’s a schizophrenic life involving a disciplined routine. Three days by the sea, four days back at home, or vice versa, is very manageable now that the drive takes only 95 minutes or so along two freeways.

After the trip, we unload a few things from home and then drag our chairs down to the beach. The sea is so calming and hypnotic and instantly relaxing: it’s worth the effort. On warm nights we set up the dinner table on the sand or in front of an old boat shed and watch the ships cruise by. On cooler evenings, we have a quick aperitivo and a snack by the sea, watch the sunset, then return to the warmth of the caravan annex.

The ship of fools

The food is simple: we eat a lot of locally caught fish and Mt Martha mussels, supplemented by my vegetables and preserves from home. I’ve found some lovely fresh fish sold in a seaside van at Safety Beach. The caravan operates from Friday afternoon through to Sunday. I always end up choosing the sweet gars, a fish that is overlooked by many Victorians who are scared of bones. There’s a trick to bone free garfish eating. Once they are cooked, prise open the fish, grab the head and lift it gently towards the tail. The whole bone structure will come away, leaving the sweet fish fillets on your plate. The other trick with gars is to coat the fish in seasoned rice flour and gently fry them for only two minutes on each side. The flesh is so delicate, it only needs a simple sauce. Once cooked, remove fish onto a serving plate, add some butter to the pan, turn up the heat, scraping all the fishy bits into the butter, add lots of lemon juice and parsley, then pour the sauce over the fish. Buon appetito.

Gars ready for gutting and cleaning, a most sustainable fish. Garfish sell for around $12 a kilo at the Safety Beach fisho. I usually by 6-8, at a cost of around $6, a greedy feast for two.
Local garfish, simply sauteed, then sauced with butter, parsley and lemon’

The local mussels are readily available in fish vans as well as at the Dromana supermarket for around $8 a kilo. I love these mussels and limit myself to a kilo a week. The classic French Mouclade is my favourite recipe at present. There’s just a hint of old-fashioned British curry powder- think Keens or Clive of India- and some creme frâiche /sour cream, shallots, butter and all that salty strained juice. Did you know that Mouclade hails from the seaport of La Rochelle? These days when I eat Mouclade, I can’t help thinking of Das Boot! Have you seen the original film and the new series?

My favourite mussel dish, Mouclade from La Rochelle.

My beach kitchen is not entirely basic. I have everything a girl could want in terms of implements, gadgets and serving ware. There’s a small stove top inside a caravan which I never use- cooking and sleeping in the same space doesn’t appeal. There’s a canvas annex with a two burner stove top, and a small Weber BBQ outside. I’ve finally mastered the art of making pizza in the Weber. It’s amazing how good food tastes when you cook and eat in the open air- even when the nights are chilly.

These Garfish were coated with flour, turmeric, salt and pepper before a quick saute in olive oil.

I’m looking forward to the next two weeks down at the beach, with lots of  hungry grandchildren in search of their favourite soups. The cooler weather will be accompanied by spectacular sunsets: the slow cooker will come out of hiding for the Easter season by the bay.

Thanks Sherry once again for hosting this monthly series. Participating bloggers all have a very different take on their approach to life in the kitchen. These can be found at Sherry’s Pickings.

 

40 thoughts on “In My Kitchen by the Sea, April 2019”

    1. It was full on hot till one week ago. When the big cold windy spell set in last week, we sat in the van, rocked by the wind and read books with the heater on- I loved it.
      It is a summer option for you since you’re not far from the sea and still have your Nana van. Just avoid January. We set up from Australia day onwards when all the summer mobs go home. The beach area on Port Phillip Bay has an off season rate from Feb to end of April- they charge just under $1000 for the three months. So the set up is huge. There are enough folk scattered around to keep an eye on things when we’re back at home. It makes the heat spells bearable.

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  1. Sounds idyllic Francesca, I can just feel the cool evening sand between my toes and the taste the delicious briny mussels. We recently watched the series Das Boot, it was very tightly scripted, hard not to binge.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dreamland — that’s what I kept thinking as you described your life beside the sea. I hope you enjoy the last few weeks of peace and calm there.

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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  3. How lovely, to be able to sit on a beach and watch the ship of fools sail by. Those garfish look so good and the mussels most have a wonderful taste of the ocean. Enjoy the remainder of your holiday.

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    1. Thanks Ron. The wifi is glitchy down there at the beach so I haven’t caught up with your recent stories, but as Autumn moves on, shall be back near the screen to catch up.

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    1. Yes, MMM, I know what you mean- Das boot brought back nightmares of all those submarine movies I saw as a child. No wonder I am claustrophobic. A submarine is my worst nightmare. Oh yes, VONGOLE- please.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I generally dont like fish with bones, but love the way you describe just twisting the bones out of the flesh. that looks like such a lovely place, and I love the sound of those mussels. enjoy – those days at the beach sound heavenly.

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    1. Thanks Gillian. We camp as an extended family so the weekends are busy while the weekdays are calm and peaceful. Most people dislike dealing with fish bones. I learnt this trick from my grandfather,

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  5. Well, serves me right! Late into the fray and Ron has actually said what I was going to scrolling down and reading . . . Love the ‘ship of fools’ comment . . . Yes, mussels for me also . . . and garfish were the first local fish my Mom bought way back when we arrived in Australia sans money, language or any local knowledge. Methinks her recipe omitted turmeric of which we would have been totally unaware. . . have a wonderful fortnight and do hope the weather is in a smiley mood. I have had my bedroom heater on for the last two nights . . . only the purse hurts . . .

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    1. Gars are so delicate and prolific by the bay in shallow seagrass water. I’m pleased that Australians don’t like the fiddle of bones- keeps the price down for people like me. My grandfather was a boat builder at Port Albert ( the most southerly town on mainland Australia) and I think I get my love of the sea and fish from him, plus the knowledge of how to unzip them. Turmeric is my new modern touch- a touch of colour to the crunch. cheers Eha.

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  6. hi Francesca
    how lovely to be by the seaside. i am envious:) love your gar fish dish. yes I’m afraid i am guilty of not liking bony fish either. i have had a bone stuck in the my throat and it scared the heck out of me! i had to shovel down lots of bread to try to get it down my throat – eek. I loved Das Boot the original film. And who wouldn’t love Jurgen Prochnow? so cute… have a great hol. cheers sherry

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    1. Thanks Sherry. I once had a bone stuck in my throat ( a snapper bone, thanks to a rather up market place in Healesville). The usual home remedies failed to work so off to the eye and ear hospital for an operation. They found the bone skewered around some part of my throat- shish kabob style. I am now shit scared of snapper fillets. Fortunately if you do catch a small cooked garfish bone, they are so soft and feathery, they melt on the way down. I am really pleased about those who are fishbone phobic as this keeps the price low on fish that is too much bother to fillet.
      Did you also watch the the Das Boot series on SBS? It fills on the gaps on shore and is rather gripping also,

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      1. Now just to have fun: must ask Ron about his ‘ship o fools’ comment : methinks he may have been talking of Stanley Kramer’s 1965 Oscar nominated film if that name based on the ancient ‘Narrenschiff’ saga . . . ? Sebastian Brent ? Vivien Leigh’s last with Simone Signoret and a stellar cast . . . ? I found it quite disturbing at the time . . .

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        1. Yes, do ask him. I will too. I have other connotations in mind- the distaste I have for large cruise ships, and the words and songs written by the Grateful Dead, World Party, and the Doors. I haven’t read Plato’s Republic, only excerpts, where the allegory, ship of fools, features.

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          1. Back before work elsewhere : Yes, I have managed two cruises on those monsters in my life and neither has been a thrilling experience 🙂 ! Actually you may have managed to hit it on the nose there knowing how much he loathes such matters . . . interesting . . . Have not read ‘the Republic’ either but find it energizing to travel down different threads thru’ what we all discuss . . .

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  7. After reading everyone’s comments, it doesn’t leave much to say except I am in agreement with it all. The wet tropics hav finall delivered a few days of seasonal rain and much cooler temps. Meals are now leaning towards slow cook recipes. I’ve been introduced to casarva, tropical yams and wild sweet potatoes. Great earthy flavours for the crock pot.

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  8. Enjoy the beach – sounds lovely – esp after the main summer influx has settled. I like the sound of pizza on the webber. Hope the weather is kind to you so you can enjoy lots of walks along the beach. If we have some days like yesterday when the school holidays start I might try and go to the beach near my folks!

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  9. Mussels are an absolute fave but not to Mr Tiffin’s liking. Garfish always look so curious and to be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever tasted them. Love the title for the cruise ship. Enjoy the change in season and the school holidays.

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  10. Oh oops, lost my entire comment. (Hopefully it shows up somewhere in cyberland!) I was mesmerized by your photos of the sea, dinner on the beach, and thoughts re: simple repasts, Francesca, xo. Cruises don’t appeal to me either…

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    1. I do too because your comments are always so thoughtful Kim. We’re still here, the kidlets have arrived and now into card matches at night inside cosy Vans. It’s a lovely season.

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      1. What a great post. This makes me want to get the passport out and head to that beach. It’s lovely. Couldn’t pay me to board a cruise ship but I sure like your vacation. Yummy seafood!

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