Fish and seafood

Fish and seafood

By
Pam Talimanidis
Contains
11 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781742704869
Photographer
Mark Roper

The Greeks are a fish-eating people. They know the value of eating seafood regularly for both nutritional and monetary reasons, as it has always been affordable in a country made up of thousands of islands, while the scarcity of available grassland for grazing animals has made meat a luxury. Fresh fish is delivered to most villages at least twice a week, and on other days it can be purchased from a market in a village nearby. It is transported in the back of a van or utility truck and displayed in boxes of ice. Gypsy music blares out from loud speakers and sets of old-fashioned scales swing from the back. The fishmonger stops on every corner to call out his wares. ‘Fresca psaria! Sardella! Bakalao! Kolious!’

Seafood has always been a significant component of the menu at both Kostas and A La Grecque, and Kosta goes to any lengths to make sure we have a good selection. He does the rounds of all the local suppliers every day, seeking out the best available fish and procuring it by any means.

During the years that I worked as a solicitor in Geelong, Yiayia and Papou came to Australia in the summer months to mind the children. Kosta would go down to the Geelong port in the morning to buy fish. There was a tiny tin shed on the wharf where a couple of derelict looking old men with stubbly chins, wearing army great coats, watching TV stubby in hand, cigarette stuck to the lip would sell whatever fish they had caught that day. Unnamed, uncleaned, wrapped in newspaper. Their only customers were Europeans. Sadly, these characters were moved on in the name of progress.

In those days nobody wanted the octopus, which was caught as a by-product in the crayfish pots at Lorne. The fishermen gave it away or sold it for fifty cents a kilo. It was not something which Australians were familiar with preparing or eating. But to Greeks, octopus is as valuable as crayfish. The flavour is rich and the meaty texture of the flesh makes it versatile. It is ideal for cooking over charcoals; it can be braised as stifado, pickled with vinegar and made into a salad, or boiled with potatoes, onions and carrots in a casserole.

Kalamari and cuttlefish were unheard of in Australian restaurants until the 1970s. They were used only as bait for catching other fish until the migrants from the Mediterranean introduced them to the dining tables in their restaurants. Fried kalamari has been our most popular dish at both Kostas and A La Grecque. We can never get enough fresh local kalamari to keep up with the demand in the summertime. Quickly fried at a high temperature in good quality oil, it is always tasty and needs only a little tzatziki or aïoli to balance the sweet flavour and fried texture.

Some fish may be suited to cooking in the oven or being made into a soup, but otherwise a fresh piece of fish should be presented as simply as possible to reveal its true flavour. To this end, most fish is pan-fried or cooked over charcoals, drizzled with latholemono (olive oil, lemon juice and seasonings) and served with a simple salad or vegetable dishes and bread.

Featured Recipes in this Chapter

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