For those blessed few of you following along, you may remember the mention of my wonderful, astrologer bubble buddy in the relentless whine that was ‘The no-kinder blues‘ (kinder did resume a few weeks’ later, by the way, but now we have covid matters like everyone else in this city … a whole ‘nother story).
Well, my fabulous bubble buddy, the lovely Tanya of Inner Astrology (yes, I am unashamedly promoting her business because this woman is gifted, I tell you), upped and moved to Geelong just before Christmas. Like many who have family in fairer regional cities and towns and with Melbourne becoming something of sad reminder of what was, Tanya decided it was time to make a change. Little G and I were sad to lose our leading lady, not only because she was our person during some tough lockdown weekends, but she made our Italo disco nights (early nights, I’ll add. The curfew and all that …) come to life for all and sundry to witness in the neighbouring apartments.
A couple of weeks’ ago we went to visit Auntie Tanya in her new abode, a gorgeous weatherboard in beautiful condition and lovingly decorated with pops of colour that honour the original retro features; a happy, warm home for our dear friend. Most impressive are the gardens, the backyard containing what is practically a farm, and the front garden full of roses in bloom. This is the same backyard from which I was gifted vegetables that I turned into an incredibly simple tortellini dish, so it was great to finally see Tanya’s dad’s farm in person. To be honest, anything in-person is exciting these days! Tanya gave us a tub of treasures on our way out: juicy apricots, purple and green flat beans that I could have eaten raw, and odd-sized potatoes that smelt freshly of earth and that I knew would make for crispy-on-the-outside, creamy-on-the-inside bites of heaven.
When you are gifted such beauties, there’s then the pressure of creating something worthy of their use. With supermarket shelves fairly bare at the moment (yes, we’re back to toilet paper squabbling times here in Melbourne, ashamed to say), particularly in the meat section, I have taken to buying whatever odd piece of fish is available seeing as Little G and I are mostly pescatarian these days. On one such trip to the supermarket, a lonely piece of ocean trout was all that remained in the fish section, so I purchased it and decided on an epic Niçoise. This salad is traditionally made with tuna, but I love mixing it up with grilled fish or adding anchovies. Just give me all the salt, really. To Tanya (and Tanya’s dad), thank you! Your potatoes especially were out-of-this-world greatness on a plate!
10-12 best small potatoes you can find
good handful string or flat beans
1 piece of ocean trout or salmon, skin on for maximum flavour
handful cherry tomatoes
100 g mixed salad or spinach and/or rocket leaves
half cup black olives (I used pitted)
1 tablespoon capers (or 2 if you’re like Little G and love them)
quarter red onion, finely sliced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
fresh or dried thyme
fresh or dried oregano
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
juice of half a lemon or 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
generous teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
pinch of sugar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Serves 4 as an entree or 2-3 as a main meal
Step 1: Preheat your oven to 180°C. Scrub the potatoes to clean well, leaving the skin on. Cut any large potatoes into halves or quarters, ensuring they are all roughly the same size. Place in a pot of cold, salted water and bring to the boil, then remove when just tender, after about 10 minutes. Add pre-washed beans in the last two minutes to quickly blanch, removing when just cooked. You can place the beans into cold water immediately or leave on a wooden board to dry out so as not to be waterlogged. Drain the potatoes well.
Step 2: While the potatoes are cooking, line a baking tray and place the fish on the tray, skin-side up. Drizzle with olive oil and season the skin, rubbing the other side of the fish with seasoning and a little oil. Cook in the hot oven for approximately 20 minutes, depending on the size and cut of the fish. The skin should be crispy and the fish a soft pink, if you like it just cooked. Remove once cooked and set aside.
Step 3: Place a large frying-pan on a medium heat and add a good drizzle of olive oil (about 2 tablespoons). Add the hot and dry potatoes and pan fry for about 5-10 minutes, depending on your patience and how crispy you want them. Season well and add thyme and oregano, to your liking. I tried not to stir mine too often to allow for crisping on all sides.
Step 4: Place the eggs in cold water and bring to the boil, cooking them for 4-5 minutes. Place in cold water immediately, once cooked. When cooled, peel and quarter the eggs lengthways.
Step 5: Prepare the dressing by combining the ingredients and whisking well. I added a little thyme to mine also, which you may like to do. Using a fork, flake the trout off the skin into bite-sized chunks.
Step 6: Arrange the salad by layering the leaves, beans, tomatoes and then adding the potatoes, fish pieces and topping with the eggs pieces. Scatter with capers, olives and the dressing, then the parsley. And then eat, imagining you’re on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice overlooking the Mediterranean, or in the equally exotic Geelong in a fabulous farm garden with your personal astrologer!