Pan roasted Hapuka, charred corn, fregola & shiitake mushrooms
This is a terrific Winter seafood dish. I love pan roasting a fillet of fish and serving it with a broth full of flavour. Fregola is a Sardinian semolina based pasta which looks like a large cous cous grain, it is easy to cook and adds depth to any broth or soup. Hapuka is sometimes known as Blue eye hapuka, and one of my favourite fish to eat. We are lucky enough to have locally caught hapuka right here in Victoria, the boats go out from Portland, which is on the south west coast of Victoria near the border of South Australia. When buying fish at your local market, ask them to remove the skin from the fillet of fish, this will make it easier for you at home. If you can’t get hold of hapuka this dish is also terrific with snapper or rockling or even farmed barramundi. Fregola can be found at any good European ingredients store – like Essential Ingredient.
Chef Nicky Riemer has created a delicious dish for all of the home cooks to have a go at.
For 4 people
1 large fillet of hapuka with the skin and bones removed (the fillet should weigh at least 800g)
250g dried fregola pasta
3 ears of corn
2 punnets of local shiitake mushrooms, trimmed and quartered or left whole if samll
1 bunch of flat leaf parsley, leaves picked and rough chopped
12 small whole red shallots, peeled
250ml extra virgin olive oil
4 sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
125g unsalted butter cut into cubes
500ml white wine
500ml chicken stock
1. Cook the fregola in a generous amount of salted boiling water as though you are cooking any dried pasta. The fregola will take 12 minutes to cook, then drain and spread on a tray and coat with a small amount of extra virgin olive oil to stop the pasta from sticking together, set aside.
2. Place the shallots, thyme, bay leaf with the 250ml of extra virgin olive oil into a small saucepan and place on a low heat. Bring the shallots up to a simmer then cover with a lid and cook for 25 minutes or until the shallots are just cooked. Keep the heat low, this is a process similar to confiting. When the shallots are cooked, remove from heat and allow to cool in the oil. Once completely cool, remove from the oil. The oil can be kept and used for other cooking as it has a lovely shallot flavour.
3. Clean the corn ears, and make sure there is no stringy pieces left on the corn. Roll the corn ears in a little extra virgin olive oil and if you have a bbq you can cook them on the grill until they are just starting to go a little black. Make sure you turn them every now and then. Alternatively if you don’t have a bbq you can pop the corn on a tray and cook them in a very hot over for about 20 minutes to get the same result. But still turn them every now and then. Allow the corn to cool down, then use a sharp knife and cut all the kernels ff, and keep them for the next steps.
4. Cut the fish fillet into 4 roughly even pieces, coat in extra virgin olive oil and set aside.
5. Put a large non stick pan on a high heat, get the pan really hot. Gently add the oiled fish pieces to the hot pan, turn the heat down to medium and allow the fish to cook till just golden on one side – should take about 4 minutes. Now turn the fish over in the pan, add half of the white wine and about 50g of butter and put the pan in a hot oven (180’C) for 5 minutes. The fish should be just cooked, but not cooked all the way through. Remove the fish from the pan on to a plate and keep warm.
6. Place the pan with the cooking juices on a high heat, add the rest of the wine, chicken stock, cooked fregola, shiitake mushrooms, cooked corn kernels and cooked shallots. Bring up to the boil, reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes, add the rest of the butter and the chopped parsley and season with salt and pepper. This is the finished broth for the fish.
7. Spoon the charred corn and shiitake mushroom broth into 4 deep bowls and add the fish pieces to each bowl. Finish with a generous slurp of extra virgin olive oil and serve immediately. This dish goes superbly with a nice chardonnay!
A degree studying chemical engineering was cut short when Nicky realised it was hospitality that held her full attention. With a hotelier as a father, being around waiters, chefs and bartenders was the norm. "I literally grew up living in hotels," says Nicky, "My Dad, as the manager, would have an apartment in them. The only thing I knew was the hospitality industry."
Nicky sought advice from the chefs around her and was soon attending culinary trade school and pushing through the ranks of an apprenticeship. Her first role, at Stephanie’s in Hawthorn under the guidance of Stephanie Alexander, progressed her career immensely. Nicky went on to open Richmond Hill Café and Larder with Stephanie as Head Chef. She went on to work at mecca, before opening Mecca Bah with Cath Claringbold, where she met friend and now business partner, Adam Cash.
Following the success of Mecca Bah, Nicky went on to be the only female head chef at Langton’s Restaurant. From there she was head-hunted for her role as executive chef at H- One in Hong Kong. Missing Australia, she moved back to Melbourne to take up the head chef role for the launch of CBD Italian diner Trunk and was most recently head chef of Karen Martini’s The Melbourne Wine Room.
Nicky’s skills in the kitchen and knowledge of produce come from over a decade of experience, but she credits her business success to the strong ethics instilled by her mother, Larke Riemer, Director Women’s Markets Westpac.
"I’ve worked with some strong women in my time including Stephanie Alexander and Karen Martini in my professional life, but it’s my Mother’s influence throughout the years that has given me the confidence to take risks and make daunting changes. My mother is a strong businesswoman and has provided me with amazing direction. Her support is hugely important to me and she’s someone I can count on for personal and business advice," says Nicky.
Nicky is now co-owner and chef of Union Dining restaurant, Richmond. Opening its doors in May 2011 to great success, Union Dining was listed as one of the hot new openings of the year in the 2012 Age Good Food Guide and saw Nicky as the only female nominated for Chef of the Year in the same acclaimed guide.