Thursday, May 29, 2008

Heart Of The Matter: Herbal Essence

I think I've only participated once in HotM. And as much as I always try to get my entries up before then and be super organized and email all the relevant people with the relevant information, I usually fail. Either that or I just miss the event altogether. This month's HotM is all about the glory of herbs hosted by the lovely Michelle at Accidental Scientist.

I have always associated herbs with medicine. I suppose being Chinese, the only time i heard the word herb was when it had to do with some form of medicine or another. Then came along the cooking shows and all these Western chefs had their fancy "a pinch of dried parsley" and "roughly torn basil leaves" and they were all "fresh from my [their] backyard". Now, I lived in an apartment all my life so who had a backyard? and basil... who? But things have changed now and while I still don't have a backyard, I've become accustomed to using herbs in my cooking. The question that remains often (since I rarely have a bunch of basil leaves lying around)?

In April 08's Delicious magazine, Rick Stein did an awesome feature for the magazine by introducing some new breakfast dishes. I am a breakfast freak. I wake up with only one thing on my mind-WHATS FOR BREAKFAST?! If it's going to be a dread, I'd rather stay in bed thanks. But if there's a bag of cherries lying in the fridge with a tall glass of cold soy milk-I'm out of bed before you can say sunshine. My weird obsession aside, I made Rick Stein's "Hugo's Breakfast Fishcakes" and if you ask me, Hugo made darn good fishcakes. =) The recipe called for ONE bay leaf. But I decided that I had no use for the rest of the bay leaves, so I buy it. Instead, I added lots of coriander and chives and "a pinch of dried basil". heh. And made it gluten free-obviously.

Hugo's Breakfast Fishcakes (makes 4, serves 2)
200g floury potato, cut into small cubes (should equate to one BIG potato)
150g skinless, boneless white fish fillet, cut into 2 cm cubes*
1/2 cup milk (use soy milk with a good pinch of salt)
pinch of dried basil
1 strip pared lemon rind, plus 1 tbsp juice and wedges to serve
1/2 onion, diced
1/4 cup chopped coriander
1 tbsp chopped chives
2 tbsp rice flour
1 large egg, beaten
2 slices of gluten-free bread, made into fresh breadcrumbs**
snipped chives and sour cream to serve

1) Cook potatoes in salted boiling water until tender. Drain and mash.
2) Place fish, soy milk, lemon rind and dried basil in a pot. Cover, bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 1-2 mins, until fish is cooked. Drain and reserve poaching liquid. Discard lemon rind. Set fish aside to cool.
3) Add 1 tbsp of olive oil to a pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft but not browned. Add in potato, fish, coriander, chives, good pinch of salt and lemon juice. Mix well, adding 1-2 tbsp of poaching liquid until mix holds together but isn't too sticky or wet*. Let cool.
4) Place flour, egg and breadcrumbs in separate shallow dishes. Using damp hand, form the fish mixture into 4 patties. Dip each patty into the flour then egg then breadcrumbs and set on a lined baking tray. Chill for at least an hour or better still, overnight.
5) Splash a good bit of olive oil over the patties and bake at 200 degrees celcius for about 10 minutes, or until golden.

*I used blue grenadier and while skinning it, the fish began to flake, but I proceeded as per the recipe instructed, came out perfect.
** I took 2 slices of stale gluten free bread and chopped it into very tiny crumbly bits. Since GF bread is naturally drier, it didn't pose as a problem to chop it instead of using a food processor.
***The photo I used is from the April 2008 issue of Delicious. I gobbled up the fishcakes before I could take a photo of them. =(

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