movida mojo

mojo picon with shaved zucchini & mint salad

When talking to people about hobbies and I mention that I’m into cooking, I often get asked what type of things I like to cook. And my response is always, well everything. It all depends on so many things. My mood, the weather, my level of hunger, whether I’m heading out hunting and gathering first or just knocking something up from the fridge. The seasons of course play a big part in it but often I’m inspired by whatever cookbook I happen to be reading at the time.

As sad as this sounds people, I have to come clean. I’ve become one of those types who read cookbooks like they’re novels. Speaking of which, I really can’t remember the last work of fiction that I even started let alone finished.

My latest obsession has been with a Christmas gift from my little sister, Sas, a gorgeous book from the good people of Movida restaurant in Melbourne, easily the best Tapas bar south of the boarder. Let’s just say that lately, things in my kitchen have taken on a decidedly Spanish vibe.

It all started on New Years Eve on my mate Captain Crutts’ boat smack-bang in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge with a six course Spanish tasting menu. And since then, well, I’ve been going through salt cod, tomatoes, white anchovies and smoked paprika faster than a bull at a gate. So this week I’m sharing two of my most favourite recent discoveries.

Just telling your guests that Mojo is on the menu, is enough to get the excitement levels up. There’s no need to go into details like the Movida boys do. I mean no one wants to know that mojo just means ‘wet’ and refers to a multitude of sauces from the Canary Islands. Surely it’s more fun to get into the groove and do a few Austin Powers impersonations, yeah baby.

Ever since discovering the technique of salt baking food in a super salty dough, I’ve been hooked. Lamb, chicken and salmon…I’ve given them all a go. But my latest venture into the world of salt baking has been to do away with the actual dough, which does tend to be a little labour intensive to roll out. Instead I’ve been following Frank Camarrone’s lead and just mixing a heap of salt with a little egg white to form a kind of slurry and then layering it on a baking tray, topping with the fish and then covering with more salt. The results are still deliciously moist fish, well seasoned and fully flavoured from their salty enclosure…..all good things.

salt baked trevally with mojo picon
serves 2
Inspired by Frank Camorra & Richard Cornish’s great little book Movida: Spanish Culinary Adventures.

This is one of those dishes that sounds a little weird but ends up looking dead impressive, and actually tasting divine, all for very little effort. You can pretty much bake any type of fish in the salt crust. I love a whole snapper but smaller fish work well too. Frank recommends sardines which are high on my list of things to try, as are garfish.

For a larger fish you’ll need to adjust the cooking time, allow about 10mins for every 500g. The amount of salt crust here is very generous for 2 small fish. I’ve successfully baked a 3.5kg snapper using one quantity of this salt crust.

Don’t stress too much about the type of salt. I prefer to use chunky rock salt because it looks good and is easier to pick off if you happen to get some on your fish while you’re serving up. Saying that, I accidentally picked up a packet of normal table salt and still had good results.

Mojo picon refers to dressings based on red capsicum or peppers. Frank also does a mojo verde which is based on parsley, something similar to a salsa verde. While this mojo is an excellent pick me up and works a treat with fish, traditionally it’s served in the Canary Islands with papas arrugadas – potatoes cooked in salt. The quantities here should make enough mojo for at least four people so if you’re only serving two there should be leftovers to experiment with.

2 plate sized trevally, approx 500g each
2kg rock salt
4 egg whites
½ bunch flat leaf parsley
2 lemons, finely sliced
for the mojo:
2 red capsicum (peppers)
2 cloves garlic, peeled & crushed
2T sweet smoky paprika
1t hot paprika
1T ground cumin seeds
1/3C extra virgin olive oil
1/4C red wine vinegar
pinch sugar

Preheat oven to 200C. Divide lemon and parsley between fish cavities. Place salt in a large bowl and stir through egg whites. Place a layer of salt mix down on a baking tray and place fish on top so they aren’t touching. Cover with remaining salt sealing each fish into it’s own little shell, leaving the head and tail exposed.

Place in the oven and bake for 15-20mins or until salt crust is just starting to turn lightly golden and the fish eye is opaque. Allow to rest for a few minutes.

While the fish is cooking mix up your mojo. Cut the capsicum into 4 flattish slices discarding the seeds. Place under the grill and cook with the door closed until the skin is blackened and charred and the flesh soft. Approx 15mins. Place capsicum in a heatproof bowl and cover and allow to steam and cool. When cool enough to handle remove skin and place flesh in a food processor. Add remaining ingredients except oil and whiz until smooth. Add oil and pulse until combined. Season with salt & pepper and a little touch of sugar.

I like to serve the fish at the table still cosseted in their salt blanket with the mojo passed separately.

shaved zucchini (courgette) & mint salad
serves 4

I’ve been a big fan of shaved salads for a while now. This is an adaptation of a recipe I published earlier. It works really well as a side dish for fish but also works with bbq meat, especially lamb.
4 medium zucchini
2T lemon juice
5T extra virgin olive oil
½ bunch mint, leaves picked and torn
1/2 thin skinned lemon, scrubbed and finely sliced into rounds, optional

Thinly shave the zucchini lengthwise using a v-slicer, mandoline, vegetable peeler or sharp knife. Combine lemon juice and oil in a bowl and season well. Add zucchini and toss through. Allow to stand for at least 10mins to absorb the dressing.
Take lemon slices and cut into tiny wedge shaped segments leaving the rind on. Toss mint and lemon through zucchini and serve on a platter.

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While I generally like to keep what’s happening next on stonesoup a surprise, this week I need some moral support so thought I’d publically announce that I’m detoxing for one whole week. That means a whole seven days without alchocol, caffeine, meat or animal based products. Wish me luck & tune in next week to see whether I made it or not.

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