MasterChef winners Karena and Kasey Bird write a fortnightly food column in Living.

Kasey and Karena: Seafood surprises (+ recipes)

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Nothing beats fresh fish and keeping the cooking to a minimum reaps flavoursome rewards.

Photos / Nick Reed
Photos / Nick Reed

Watching a mussel slowly open in the aromatic steam of a good New Zealand sauvignon blanc, or pressing on the flesh of a fish fillet in the pan and feeling it give slightly to know it will be just opaque and perfectly cooked. These are just a couple of our simple cooking pleasures. Seafood is a constant in our life and our youngest sister, Michaela, is the family fisherwoman. In between running her makeup business, she heads to the beach to surf cast, can often be found diving for huge mussels at Newdicks Beach and is always keen to go searching for pipi in the estuary. We are very fortunate to have a regular supply of fresh seafood and the rule is, she catches, we cook. If you don't have a handy supply or fisherwoman, this salmon dish will satisfy..

Salmon and fennel en papillote

Cooking salmon en papillote (in paper) is an easy way to have dinner on the table quickly with hardly any dishes. The paper envelope allows fish to steam gently and absorb flavours.

Ensure the paper is well sealed, or steam will escape and the fish will take longer to cook. Choose fillets of even thickness to avoid over-cooking. Serve these parcels with a fresh green salad and new potatoes.

Wrapped salmon. Photos / Nick Reed
Wrapped salmon. Photos / Nick Reed

Serves 4
4 x 150g portions salmon, with skin on
1 large fresh fennel bulb, sliced (reserve frond tops)
3 lemons
8 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
8 basil leaves
Olive oil, for brushing and dressing
4 baking paper sheets

1 Heat oven to 160C.

2 Brush one sheet of baking paper with some olive oil. Slice two of the lemons into 16 round slices and lay four lemon slices in the centre. Mix the sliced fennel and onion and lay quarter of the mix on top of the lemons, then place a piece of salmon on top of that.

3 Scatter on or around the salmon four cherry tomato halves and two torn basil leaves. Season with salt and pepper.

4 Fold paper over to enclose filling. Fold or crimp the edges to seal by starting from one end of the folded envelope to the other. Place on a large baking tray.

5 Repeat the process for the three other envelopes and place on the baking tray.

6 Bake for seven or eight minutes or until salmon is just cooked through.

7 While waiting for the salmon to cook, juice and zest the remaining lemon and mix with approximately two tablespoons olive oil and season. This can be used to dress the salmon directly after the envelopes are opened.

8 The best way to serve this dish is to allow diners to rip open the envelope at the table to enjoy the aromas as the steam escapes. Serve topped with fronds and with new-season potatoes and salad leaves.

John Dory with Asian herbs

Our family prefers to cook fish with the skin on, getting it nice and crispy. This dish is super-tasty, fresh and zingy. The only tip we always give people about cooking a nice piece of fish is that you have to go with the feel. Every pan, stove and even the thickness of the fillet will alter the amount of cooking time needed. Touch the fish gently and it should just move under your finger, but not be too firm.

John Dory with greens. Photos / Nick Reed
John Dory with greens. Photos / Nick Reed

Serves 4
1 shallot, peeled and very finely chopped
1 Tbsp mint leaves, finely sliced
½ cup coriander leaves
1 red chilli, thinly sliced
3cm ginger, julienned
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp soft brown sugar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
Juice of 3 limes
4 John Dory fillets, skin on
¼ cup flour
Olive oil, for frying

1 Mix together the shallot, mint, coriander, chilli and ginger and set aside.

2 Mix together the fish sauce, brown sugar, soy sauce and lime juice and set aside.

3 Heat a frying pan on a high heat with some olive oil. Dust the fillets with flour and season well with salt and pepper. Place the fillets in the pan skin-side down and cook for one minute, then flip and cook for a further minute. Remove from the pan.

4 Place a handful of the herb salad on each fillet and spoon over the dressing.

Mussel fritters

Almost every family has their tried-and-true recipe for mussel fritters. We have about 10 different kinds that we use, depending on how we feel. To this classic recipe we have added loads of mussels and fresh herbs and a bit of chilli for a kick.

Mussel fritters. Photos / Nick Reed
Mussel fritters. Photos / Nick Reed

Serves 4
1 egg
¼ cup milk
½ cup flour
½ tsp baking powder
14 fresh mussels, chopped
¼ cup coriander, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2cm piece ginger, minced
Olive oil

1 Mix together the egg, milk, flour, baking powder, mussels, coriander, garlic and ginger to make a batter and season. If the mixture seems too thick, add more milk; if it's too thin, add more flour. Be careful not to overwork the mix.

2 Heat a pan with some olive oil on a medium-to-high heat. Add spoonfuls of the mix to the pan and cook for three minutes on one side, then flip and cook for a further two minutes or until the mix is cooked all the way through. Serve with tartare or aioli.

- Spy.co.nz

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