The Sydney Fish Market is one of my favourite places. There’s a wonderful energy about the whole place; from the cheerful greetings of the sales assistants, the banter between the staff as they fillet fish next to each other with their super sharp knives and brisk expert finesse, the gaggle of Asian tourists pooling the leftovers of their Australian dollars to buy as much sashimi as they can, and the laidback Sydney locals enjoying the day with a fisherman’s platter or a tray of freshly shucked oysters simply dressed with lemon juice.
Usually when I’m there doing a bulk shop I do a round of each of the shops without buying anything to have a squiz on prices and quality. It’s also fascinating to see the different varieties of seafood I’ve never heard of, and to see what a whole fish actually looks like rather than as a fillet. Salmon are extraordinarily beautiful, while John Dory is quite confronting to look at despite its wonderful fillets. It’s a very flat, disc-shaped fish with a very spiny dorsal fin and a curious-looking “coin” in the centre of its body. Doesn’t stop me from buying a few fillets of it though!
The taste of John Dory is quite buttery and creamy, and it’s quite a firm-textured fish. When I received a bottle of Riversdale Estate Crater Tasmania Chardonnay 2011 thanks to the guys at Cellarmasters, I knew that it would be an excellent complement with a lunch plate featuring a fresh piece of the beautiful fish. Riversdale Estate in Tasmania’s Coal River Valley (est 1991) is known as one of the finest cool-climate vineyards in Australia, and their ‘Crater’ single vineyard Chardonnay has won no less than eight trophies, ten gold, six silver and nine bronze medals.
I accompanied the Parmesan & Thyme Crusted Dory with some mash I quickly whipped up and kale coleslaw, which was – I’m a little embarrassed to say – from a supermarket packet. But it is a mighty fine kale coleslaw; from Coles, if you were wondering.
The batter crumb also makes an excellent chicken schnitzel too.
You will need (Serves 2):
- Two medium fillets John Dory or other firm, white-fleshed fish i.e. leatherjacket;
- 2 tablespoons plain flour;
- 1 egg, whisked;
- 6 tablespoons Japanese panko breadcrumbs (Asian section of your supermarket);
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves;
- 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese;
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil;
- One medium creme gold potato;
- 3 tablespoons of milk;
- 10g butter;
- Salt and pepper to taste;
- Salad and lemon wedges, to serve.
Peel your potato and cut into 2cm cubes. Put into a small saucepan and cover with cold water before putting it on the stove over a high heat to come to the boil. Work on your fish while you wait for it to cook.
Scatter the plain flour on a plate, whisk the egg in a medium bowl, and combine the thyme, Parmesan and panko with salt and pepper on a plate.
I find it most helpful to make a little production line; order of plate of plain flour, bowl of whisked egg, and plate of breadcrumbs leading up to the frying pan.
Add the vegetable oil to a medium frying pan over a medium-high heat. While it heats, pat one fillet dry with a paper towel and dust in the plain flour before dipping it in the egg wash and then putting it into the panko crumb. Make sure the fish is evenly coated in each round. Repeat with the other fillet.
Drop a breadcrumb experimentally into the oil and it’s sufficiently hot when it sizzles merrily. Add the crumbed fish and shallow fry until a beautiful golden brown before flipping and repeating on the reverse.
Test the potato with a skewer; the cube should slide off it easily. Drain the potato cubes, then pass them through a potato ricer. If you don’t have one, I’d highly recommend it; it makes the finest, silkiest mash I’ve ever had at home.
While hot, add the milk and butter and whisk until combined and creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Plate up the crisp fish over a spoon of the mash with the salad and a wedge of lemon. It’s fresh, simple, and perfect.
The Chardonnay is not very sharp in flavour, but still crisp and fresh and with a lovely clean palate and a lingering finish. It’s unobtrusive with the natural delicate aromas of the fish and its light acidity washes away any oiliness you may get from the batter crumb.
A beautiful fish with a beautiful wine.