It is the height of Lampuki season in Malta. Known as Dorado, Mahi Mahi and Dolphin Fish, this remarkable fish starts to migrate along the Mediterranean in the end of August until November when it reaches a nice hefty size ( 1- 2 Kg ) and is quite plentiful.
It is caught in a traditional manner practiced since Roman times using rafts woven out of bamboo and palms known as ” Kannizati”. The fish go to seek the shade of the raft and are surrounded by a net. Because of its abundance at a certain period this tasty fish sells at a very good value and is very sought after. It is cooked in a number of ways, with the most popular being simply frying them dipped in flour or semolina but it can also be roasted, grilled, cooked ‘in bianco’, poached and, when it gets bigger towards the end of the season, baked in a Lampuki Pie. When it is fried it can be served simply with lemon or/and mayonnaise or with a tangy caper tomato sauce.
The other day,a friend dropped by with a sizable Lampuka and a few fresh prawns. I decided to take the simple approach as I believe that the fresher the fish the less you should tamper with the flavour and it looked very fresh.
I fillet the fish so I can use the bones and head for fish stock.
I prefer to use semolina to encrust the fillets as this tends to burn less than flour on high heat and has an irresistible crunchiness. This can be seasoned with salt and pepper.
A huge clove of garlic is squashed and and placed in a frying pan with a generous layer of sunflower oil on a high heat. When it turns brown it is removed and the semolina encased fillets are placed skin side down into the oil. Leave it untouched for a couple of minutes and turn down the heat to medium. When it turns golden brown turn over and leave to fry gently for another few minutes until it reaches a nice golden colour as well. It is difficult to specify a time as there are a number of variables such as thickness of fillet, freshness of fish, oil temperature etc. However the colour seems a good way to judge if it at the right point to eat unless the oil is too hot and it burns the outside before cooking the inside.
The prawns are the local smallish, red variety, very sweet tasting. They are sauteed in two tablespoons of olive oil, a clove of garlic and one chilli, both chopped, and a star aniseed. Two minutes on each side should be enough. The star aniseed gives it a pleasant liquorish sweetness while the chilli gives the dish its bite.
Now approaching midnight and only things in sight in the fridge are a rasher of bacon and a free range egg. Oh! and a frozen baguette in the freezer. Perfect!
Place rasher in frying pan and warm up gently without any oil. The fat will ooze out and when it starts to get a bit too dry add a drop of sunflower oil and turn over. Let it cook slowly until nicely crispy. Add egg and if required a bit more oil (depending on frying pan). Meanwhile the baguette is warming in the oven. Combine with some Mayor Ketchup, or, if unavailable, Heinz.
This hearty winter soup can be prepared in 20-30 minutes yet will warm you up from the inside. Let it rain!
Serves: 2 Duration: 30 minutes
1 Sweet Potato
50g Red Lentils well rinsed
1 small Chili deseeded
1/2 tsp Curry Powder
1/2 tsp Ground Cumin
1 litre Chicken or Vegetable Stock
50g Cappellini Noodles broken in 3cm pieces
Gently fry the chopped onion and carrot in a knob of butter for four minutes until soft. Add the spices and fry for an additional minute to release their fragrance. Stir in potatoes and add the stock. Bring to a boil and add the marrows and the lentils. Allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Add the noodles and cook for three more minutes. Rest for another five minutes to let the flavours mingle. The noodles and lentils will absorb most of the liquid making this a thick soup that goes down very easily on a winter’s night.