The Gourmet Farmer and crew throw us a line »
Sound advice on what to catch and how to cook it
By Kerry Scambler
Matthew Evans, known to many simply as The Gourmet Farmer, is a familiar sight on TV thanks to the SBS series of the same name. He’s also on a mission for seafood label integrity with a TV series called What’s the Catch? and the website Label My Fish.
The Gourmet Farmer Goes Fishing: the fish to eat and how to cook it is a guide to the seafood available in Tasmania and around Australia, whether you catch or buy it. It’s all about respect for the fish and the environment and, naturally, the flavour. Simply put it’s "sustainable fish to eat and delicious ways to cook it".
The book was largely written whilst Matthew Evans and his crew, Nick Haddow and Ross O'Meara, were on a boys'-own adventure sailing around Tasmania for another TV series, Gourmet Farmer Afloat. During this voyage the trio discovered (and in some cases re-discovered) many lesser known species in the cool, clear waters around the island state, and along the way met people who had their own ways of cooking them.
The recipes are inspired both by that salty Tasmanian journey and also by the authors’ own travels around the world. And an eclectic mix of nations it is – Japan, Spain, Mexico, India and many stops in between, plus of course, the home-caught influence.
Inside Gourmet Farmer Goes Fishing
Each seafood comes with recipes and some background information on sustainability, how to catch it and what to look for in freshness as well as alternatives if that particular fish isn’t widespread.
From the shore
A bucket and a fishing rod are the tools of choice for there are native plants to be plucked from the edge of the beach, shellfish to be prised from the sand and fish to be found just beyond the breakers. My pick of the recipes in this section includes Braised Clams with Beer and Chorizo, and Asian Deep-Fried Flounder.
Reefs and rockpools
These areas are brimming with sealife and they're usually easy to get close to or even into! A dream childhood includes many an hour spent crouched on a rock, staring into a pool watching the myriad of creatures going about their business.
Reefs are also home to my ultimate favourite – the rock lobster, locally called crayfish. You might also come across abalone, the prized shellfish that is big business for Tasmania as it has the largest wild abalone habitat in the world.
My 'to try' sticky tabs are on Crayfish Miso Soup and Uni Don – Sea Urchin with Japanese Rice and Pickled Beetroot. Yes, sea urchin – that prickly, hard shelled thing that apparently “is one of the most sublime taste experiences the sea has to offer”. It’s also providing a growing export industry for Tasmania with the added benefit of ridding the waters of this voracious introduced species.
Rivers, estuaries and bays
These are Matthew Evans’ favourite watery places. The only problem with being out at sea, he says, is the sea! Much better, he says, are the miles of coastline and inland waterways with solid shores from which to cast the line (but not the net).
This is the largest chapter in the book, as these places offer a huge variety: prawns, octopus, calamari, cuttlefish, scallops, whiting and garfish, mullet and Australian salmon, leatherjacket, eels and many more.
It’s hard to choose just a couple of feature recipes but I’m keen to try leatherjacket so the Whole Baked Leatherjacket with Wine and Herbs and for simple freshness, Kingfish and Striped Trumpeter Sashimi with Picked Ginger.
The deep blue
“Where the water is dark and the sea is wild and the fish are big”.
The continental shelf is the place for game fishing off Tasmania, and the Tasman Peninsula is the ideal launching place. From the deep you can pull tuna, striped trumpeter, sharks and my personal favourite, blue-eye trevalla.
If you do venture to the briny or your fishmonger on the hunt for tuna, please make sure it’s one of the more sustainable species and not the overfished Southern Bluefin. Skipjack, bonito and albacore all have their places whilst yellowfin should be a special occasion fish only, Evans advises.
Recipes added to my list: Tuna Tataki and Puy Lentil Salad, and Crumbed Sardines with Smoky Relish and Saffron Aioli.
The mantra for sustainability is to only take what you can eat within the next day or so – it’s certainly a strict philosophy on our boat. But, there may be times when the fish are biting and the bag limits are enough to bring home a few extras. If these aren’t shared around, this section has ways to preserve fish as alternatives to simply putting them in the freezer. [Ed: but if you do, they keep much better if you cryovac them].
It covers pickling, a method preferred by Nick Haddow, curing which is a favourite of Matthew’s, whilst Ross O'Meara is an expert with the smoker. With a small smoker lurking away in our shed, I’m going to try the Hot-Smoked Mackerel when I can catch some!
Like Matthew, Nick and Ross, I feel truly blessed to live on this island. On any day I have the option of throwing a line in the water from a beach, a rocky outcrop or a jetty. Our nearest boat ramp is 3 minutes away with around six other options within 15 minutes of home. Over the holiday period we were on the water at 7.30am and home by 10.30 with a lunchtime feed of Australian (cocky) salmon which were lightly crumbed and pan fried with lemon. And that’s how I adore my seafood, simple and fresh without too many added flavours to overpower the natural taste.
But, there are fish species and there are times when those extra flavours can make a magical (and sustainable) meal and having Gourmet Farmer goes fishing on hand certainly makes that easier.
If you want to know more about sustainable seafood and how to enjoy the lesser known species, then his book is highly recommended. With its glorious photographs throughout, it’s also for anyone who loves the heart-shaped island that is Tasmania, and our beautiful coastline.
The Gourmet Farmer Goes Fishing: the fish to eat and how to cook it by Matthew Evans, Nick Haddow and Ross O’Meara is published by Murdoch Books (Sydney, NSW; Mar 2015, HB, 256pp, RRP A$49.99)
Buy direct from the publisher or find it online via booko here »
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