The Seafood Coast of Eastern Victoria

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy paternal grandparents lived by and from the sea. My grandfather crafted fishing boats, and my grandmother knitted thick Aran sweaters to sell to the fishermen of Bass Strait. They ate fish daily, had one cow for milk in the early days of their married life, and grew a few vegetables in their back yard. They raised seven children in their tiny wooden house facing the sea: they were poor but their life was simple and healthy.  My uncles and great uncles were fishermen in these waters, or spent lonely months operating the lighthouses on the windswept islands of Bass Strait. It is no wonder then, that I am drawn to this coast. I need to smell the sea air, hear the winds and the waves crash, and eat fish straight from the source. The pull is a strong one.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our annual east coast road trip often begins at Lake Tyers, a beautiful village conveniently located near Lakes Entrance, home of the largest commercial fishing fleet in Victoria.  I’m pretty fussy when it comes to seafood. The only way I like it is fresh: I would rather go without, than eat the frozen product. The best source comes from the fleets of fishermen who work upon the deep, clean waters off Bass Strait. But then I am biased!

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Each month brings a new species to the Seafood Co- Op or the trawlers along the wharf. I have been fortunate in the past to score freshly caught calamari, Moreton Bay Bugs and prawns fresh from these trawlers. It all comes down to the month, the weather at night, and the sequence of the moon. No point expecting fresh trawler prawns before December, the ladies at the  fishing Co-Op will tell you. I was more than compensated this week by finding fresh scallops being shucked in one of the trawlers along the wharf.  Most of these briny babies are heading up to the Sydney Seafood Market. I’m eating mine today, fresh from the shell. I purchased a kilo for $30.00 and then filled a bag of discarded shells too.

This simple scallop recipe can be found in Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion. I’m not travelling with this tome, so my proportions are based on instinct and also on my abundant supply of large scallops. If you have a copy, find the recipe in the Scallop chapter.

Scallops Au Gratin

  • 1/2 kilo fresh scallops, cleaned, row retained.
  • 2 cups of 1 day old bread, such as sourdough, crumbed or grated.
  • 2 medium-sized onions, finely chopped
  • 2 or more garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • Olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • around 20 large scallop shells.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Heat oven to 180 c. Lay cleaned scallop shells on flat baking trays.

Clean the scallops by removing the digestive tract or lumpy bit from the side of the scallop. Don’t remove the roe: it has no distinct flavour and is part of the scallop treat. If the scallops are large, halve or quarter them.

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Heat a small frying pan and add a generous slurp of good olive oil. Fry the onions very slowly until they soften and colour slightly, then add the garlic for another minute.

Remove the onion mixture from the heat and add the scallops, half of the bread crumbs and the parsley. Season well, then toss mixture together, Add a little more oil to moisten.

Place a heaped tablespoon or so in each shell. Add more crumbs to the top and another drizzle of oil. Bake until lightly browned, around 10 minutes, or use the griller function. Serve with lemon wedges.1-2015-10-25 19.51.13_resized

Scallops are my favourite treats from the sea,

Lake Tyers Dreaming and Fish Frenzy Recipes.

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The waves pound the coastline, often breaking like thunder, along the Ninety Mile Beach in Eastern Victoria . It’s a rugged and isolated stretch with few settlements along the way. Lake Tyers is one of those magic spots, a small town facing the gentle lakes which protect it via a sand spit, from the wild seas of Bass Straight. The town consists of beach houses, a few camping grounds, one milk bar/general store and delightful pub set right on the lake,the Waterwheel Tavern.Image

It’s the place I choose to visit out of season, usually in early December, and sometimes in winter, away from shopping malls, job lists and the internet, which is generally unreliable. We are here to ponder the view, read, walk and eat fish.Image

On clear nights, the horizon sparkles with fishing boats and trawlers, night’s glittering promise of tomorrow’s fresh fish. The catch is landed at Lakes Entrance, a major commercial fishing port which is a short 10 km drive away. Two outlets stock local fish and a few imports from interstate. The Fishermens Own Omega 3 fish shop. (which is basically the fish Co-Op ) and Ferry Seafoods, which is a little fish shop underneath a restaurant of the same name. It’s a fishy surprise each day!ImageImage

On rough nights I ponder the lives of these commercial fishermen who love and respect the sea and I think of my ancestors who earned their living fishing off the coast in the nearby town of Port Albert, many of whom met ‘their watery graves’.Image

The fish feast began on the first evening with a half kilo of freshly caught wild school prawns. To this we added bread and butter,lemon, and beer. A fitting start to the holiday!Image

The following day the ‘fishermens’ own shop’ had some beautiful slippery grey mauve calamari, a steal at $13.95  a kilo. We dusted them with flour, gave them a quick minute fry, then dressed them with chilli flakes, salt, spring onions and lemon. Say no more!Image

On the third day, the wonderful folk at the same shop had filleted a ton of school sand whiting. I would not normally buy these little fellas as they are so boney, but when filleted, bring them on! I bought a huge pile for $9.00- so delicate and transparent and silvery. These were popped into a Thai green curry, loaded with ginger, garlic, chilli, red onion, kaffir lime leaves, basil, lime juice, fish sauce and coconut milk. I added a few beans and zucchini, to avoid growing fins! The fish were stirred through at the end and cooked in a minute.

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The Fish gods were still smiling on us. On the fourth day some wild caught scallops turned up for a song. In the evening, these little gems were stirred through a simple spaghetti dish with lots of garlic, extra virgin olive oil,basil and a hint of chilli. The halved scallops cooked in the heat of the pasta.ImageImage

Accommodation is available in camping grounds or in apartments and beach houses. These are usually cheaper out of season, which is anytime outside of the Christmas holidays and Easter.

This post is dedicated to my sister Kerrie, who has inherited the same fish gene from Port Albert, and to Bruce, who is always so good natured.