|Beautiful orchids and lavender from Madame Zen's garden; celebrating in style with a glass of Moët; Mr K's grilled octopus|
In A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf wrote, "One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” Making sure one has dined well is something that Madame and Monsieur Zen excel at. Especially when it comes to Sunday lunch with family and friends.
|Dishes from "the Zen's" travels around the world; a double orchid from the garden; one of Madame Zen's stunning canvases|
One of the things I love most about "the Zen's" kitchen is that it is always open to whoever wants to be involved. Today, Mr K provided a delicious start to our Sunday lunch with his divine char-grilled octopus. The recipe for Mr K's octopus can be found here.
Monsieur Zen followed the smokey-sweet octopus with two incredibly fresh snappers, which were also grilled on the barbecue. Before grilling, Monsieur Zen had filled the fish with generous bunches of chives (fresh from the garden) and big slices of garlic and juicy, fresh ginger.
Monsieur Zen loves preparing fish for Sunday lunch as it brings back fond memories of fishing trips and impromptu seafood lunches he shared with his father and family, while he was growing up. Both my grandparents loved ginger - as does Monsieur Zen - and the sweet flesh of these beautiful snappers had a subtle aroma and taste of ginger.
My grandparents love of ginger was also present at lunch in the form of the vase on the dining table, which Madame Zen had used to arrange the orchids and lavender from her garden. The vase belonged to my grandfather and in its former life he used it to hide away pieces of sweet crystallised ginger. I can remember him sneaking pieces from the jar while my grandmother was not looking, as a sweet afternoon treat.
Monsieur Zen's Ginger, Chive & Garlic Snapper
2 medium whole snapper
1 large piece of ginger, trimmed and cut into matchsticks
4 garlic cloves, bruised and sliced
2 large bunches of fresh chives, roughly chopped
Lemon wedges, to serve
Step 1. Preheat a barbecue to medium-high with hood closed. Rinse fish inside and out under cold running water. Pat dry with paper towel. Make 3 shallow cuts, 1cm-deep, in thickest part of each side of fish.
Step 2. Place fish in centre of a wire basket. Rub cavity of fish with olive oil, pepper and salt. Fill cavity with ginger, garlic and chives. Season outside of the fish with olive oil, salt and pepper - and a little ginger & garlic.
Step 3. Barbecue the snapper, with the hood open, for 30 to 35 minutes, turning halfway, or until cooked through.
Step 4. Remove fish from basket and carefully transfer to a serving plate. Drizzle with olive oil and fresh lemon juice. Top with chive sprigs. Serve with lemon wedges.
To accompany the snapper Madame Zen made a simple tomato and onion salad, with a nod to the Greek tradition, and her perfect roast potatoes. Perhaps it is her Irish ancestry and the cultural respect for the potato shining through, but Madame Zen's potatoes really are perfect. Madame Zen learnt how to make this family classic from her mother - but back in the day, my grandmother would not have used olive oil, it would have been some kind of dripping or shortening. Madame Zen remembers her mother's roast potatoes being a highlight on the Christmas (and really any celebration) table. Today, nothing has changed - I can't get enough of these lovely crisp potatoes!
Madame Zen's Perfect Roast Potatoes
1kg of potatoes
2 tbs olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
1 tbs butter
Step 1. Par boil: place the peeled and cut potatoes in a saucepan of cold, salted water with the juice of 1 lemon. Bring to the boil, and cook for roughly 15 minutes. Only partially cook the potatoes - do not have them falling apart.
Step 2. Drain the potatoes well and give them a shake to fluff up the outsides a little.
Step 3. Coat the potatoes: Add 1tbs of olive oil and 1 tbs butter to a frying pan. Allow the butter to melt and gently add the potatoes. On a low heat, coat the potatoes in the mixture.
Step 4: Preheat your oil: Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to a large roasting pan and place in a preheated 200°C oven for five minutes, or until hot. Being very careful, add your potatoes to the hot oil, turning to ensure they are completely coated.
Step 5: Roast: Leave the potatoes to roast for 30 minutes. Turn them and continue roasting for another 30 minutes or until they're golden and crisp. Season with sea salt and serve immediately.
|Madame Zen's lavender garden; the sun setting on a post lunch afternoon bush walk|