food with sam man­ner­ing

Adding raisins to din­ner may sound like a scary 1970s flash­back, but this is dif­fer­ent. You’ll take fish to the next level with this Ital­ian favourite.

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - CONTENTS - Pho­to­graph & Styling/ Sam Man­ner­ing

I’ve been mean­ing to write about this kind of thing for some time now. It sounds a lit­tle retro, I know. I think these days we all tend to shy away from us­ing raisins in a savoury con­text, a knee-jerk re­ac­tion to what was fash­ion­able in the 70s and 80s: cel­ery sticks filled with cot­tage cheese and stud­ded with raisins, gar­ish rice sal­ads and so on. I un­der­stand the trep­i­da­tion.

This, I can as­sure you, is quite dif­fer­ent. The Ital­ians know what’s what. Re­cently I was back up in the Veneto re­gion of Italy where I en­joyed per­haps half a dozen vari­a­tions of this recipe; some made with cin­na­mon, mace and nut­meg – a re­minder of the Byzan­tine ori­gins of the dish.

Of­ten smoked trout or salt cod is used – if you can get your hands on some, use it. Sean Con­nolly does a mind-blow­ing salt cod ver­sion at Gusto in Auck­land and I can’t rec­om­mend it enough.

I will of­ten fol­low the sim­ple for­mula of fried fish and rich, soft po­lenta and swap and change flavours as I see fit; a sim­ple mix of chopped toma­toes, ca­pers and basil, per­haps, or a sage but­ter. Bello.

FISH WITH RED ONION, PARS­LEY, RAISINS, PINE NUTS AND SOFT PO­LENTA

Prep time: 10 mins Cook time: 25 mins Serves: 4

FOR THE PO­LENTA

5 cups of good chicken or vegetable stock 1 cup of in­stant po­lenta 60g but­ter 50g parme­san 500g firm white fish – such as snap­per, ter­ak­ihi,

gurnard or bluenose – sliced in 3-4cm chunks but­ter olive oil 2 medium red onions, peeled and thinly sliced 2 tbsp raisins 1½ tbsp pine nuts sea salt and black pep­per zest and juice from 1 lemon a gen­er­ous hand­ful of flat leaf pars­ley, roughly

chopped For the po­lenta, bring the stock up to a sim­mer in a saucepan, then pour in the po­lenta, whisk­ing as you do. Con­tinue to cook, stir­ring vig­or­ously for 1-2 min­utes so that it thick­ens. Add the but­ter and parme­san, re­move from the heat, and con­tinue to stir for an­other minute or so. Add a lit­tle more stock or hot wa­ter if you think it is too thick, or al­ter­na­tively if it is too runny, let it cook down for a lit­tle longer. It should be thick, but still of pour­ing con­sis­tency. Sea­son well with salt and pep­per to taste. Set aside and keep the mix­ture warm as you do the rest.

In a large fry­ing pan over a medium heat, add about a ta­ble­spoon of but­ter and a lit­tle oil, and let it melt and bub­ble up be­fore adding the sliced red onions. Al­low to fry gen­tly for 2-3 min­utes, and then add the raisins. Con­tinue to fry for sev­eral more min­utes un­til the onions are soft and translu­cent and the raisins have soft­ened. Add the pine nuts and fry for an­other 3 or 4 min­utes, un­til they start to brown nicely, then re­move from the heat and trans­fer the mix­ture to a small bowl. Re­heat the po­lenta. Wipe the fry­ing pan down and, over a medium-high heat, add an­other ta­ble­spoon of but­ter, a lit­tle olive oil and a sprin­kling of salt. Gen­tly fry the fish in batches, un­til it is golden brown on both sides. Pour the hot po­lenta onto a warm plat­ter, and ar­range the fish over the top. Com­bine the lemon zest, chopped pars­ley, and enough lemon juice to taste, with the red onion mix­ture, and spoon over the top of the fish. Serve im­me­di­ately.

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