A lot of my cooking is inspired by what fresh produce is available at the markets. I have gotten too annoyed planning a week's meal, only to find the capsicum/asparagus/etc that week look like roadkill. (¬_¬)
So after seeing a lovely large leek stalk on the kitchen counter at the in-laws, I knew I wanted to experiment with it. The mum-in-law showed me the finer points of preparing it, but limited her use of this vegetable to soup-making... which seemed a bit of a waste. I had an idea of using it in a cream sauce with fish... and ran with it.
The following serves 2. Ingredients:
- 2 leeks
- 2 tablespoons of red miso paste
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 1 cup thickened cream (substitute half with milk if preferred)
- 2 fillets of hoki
- 1 packet of pasta (a flat type is best)
- Olive oil
||The leek is a vegetable from the same family as onions and garlic. However, unlike its cousins, its flavour is milder.
The parts you really want in this dish are the white onion base and light green stalk. The leaves, which are harder, can be used in soup stocks and saved in the fridge a day or two on their own. The younger the leek, the more tender the stalks are. Older leeks have woodier stems and best to avoid.
The number of leeks you use depends on their size. These are about 15cm long (base to leaf end) and I used 1 leek per person, which is slightly more than I needed.
To prepare the leek, chop off the dark green leaves and trim off the root base (1 cm). Cut each stalk down the centre lengthwise. You may find dirt in between the leaves, so wash them out well to remove the grit. Chop them thinly.
At this point, start cooking your pasta according to the packet in salty water.
I used a penne, but this would be better with a spaghetti or linguine instead. The general rule for pasta is chunky shapes go with chunky sauces, cuz the chunks can cling better to odd shapes/holes/curves of a shell, penne, maraconi and spiral. However, I just ran out of flat pastas. (^_^;)
Add some olive oil and finely minced garlic into a pan, frying on high heat until fragrant. When the garlic has just started changing colour, toss in the leek and stir to ensure it doesn't burn or dry out. Put on low heat.
||Add the thickened cream. |
If you are more health conscious, substitute some of the cream with milk instead. I used a skim milk in a half-and-half proportion to the cream. As it simmers, spoon in the miso paste and stir until it 'melts' into the sauce. The cream sauce will take on a slightly browner hue.
Miso can be found in your local Asian foodstore and are commonly sold as a paste in jars or packets, or as granules in instant miso soup. It comes in a variety of flavours, so if you're unfamiliar with it, buy smaller jars/packets to try. Other types of miso can be substituted, but the amount will need to be adjusted: less for dark miso, more for white or yellow miso.
Drain the pasta to add it to the sauce, tossing them well. You will not need to add salt, due to the miso, but do taste and add a little if you prefer.
For the hoki fillets, heat some olive oil in a seperate pan and panfry the on both sides, sprinkling a little salt on each side. If you don't like the fishy smell much, squeeze a little lemon over the fillet. I personally like scorch marks on my fillets, which lend a little bit of crunch.
We had some hoki
, but I've done this recipe with nile perch
as well. Both types of fish are not as firm as flake
, which makes them a little more difficult to handle in the frying pan (or I really suck with the spatula). But in terms of flavour, nile perch is nicer with less of the fish pungency and a richer flavour.
If you have none of these available, try to select a firm white fish with a more subtle flavour. My mother would probably recommend salmon, but with such a rich cream sauce and leek, salmon would probably be overkill.
To serve, simply place the fish fillet on top of the pasta, seasoning lightly with black pepper. Garnish with finely chopped parsley. Eat immediately. (^_^)