Licensed to grill
I love the summer ritual of barbecues - who doesn't? It is, however, easy to get into a grilling rut, only serving predictable meat such as chicken, beef and pork. These grilled seafood recipes make a refreshing change from the usual barbecue fare, and are just as easy to cook.
Cedar-planked salmon with onion and blueberries (pictured)
This method of grilling fish on a cedar plank has been broadly attributed to native Americans. The plank is soaked in water, which prevents it from burning, and infuses the fish with a pleasant mild cedar aroma and flavour. If you don't have access to food-grade cedar planks, grill the fish on an aluminium-lined metal pan. This recipe was developed by food stylist Nellie Ming Lee.
1 centre-cut, skin-on salmon fillet, about 400 grams and about 2.5cm thick at its thickest point
1 small white onion, sliced about 5mm thick
200 grams fresh blueberries
A few fresh bay leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
If using a cedar plank, soak it in cool water for at least an hour and up to four. If using a charcoal grill, light the fire in advance so the coals are smouldering when it's time to cook the fish. For an electric or gas grill, start heating it about 30 minutes before.
Rub your fingertips gently over the fish to check for pin bones - if you find any, remove them with needle-nose pliers. Coat the entire surface of the fish with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper then use a rasp-type grater to grate the zest of the lemon over the fish in an even layer.
Remove the plank from the water. Put the onion and bay leaves on the plank and the salmon on top of the onion. Put the blueberries in a pan that holds them in one layer. Carefully place the cedar plank on the hot grill, along with the dish of blueberries. Cover the grill and cook for 10 to 12 minutes for salmon that's a little beyond medium-rare (it will be a little translucent in the centre). Remove the salmon and blueberries from the grill. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over the fish and garnish with the roasted blueberries.
Grilled oysters with kimchi butter
I love raw oysters but I'm quite picky about them - they can't be too big (I like shells that are about 6cm), and they're only really good if they come from ice-cold waters (which change from season to season, depending on which hemisphere the bivalves are harvested in). When I have oysters that are larger and/or come from warmer waters, I cook them. They're delicious grilled and, even better, you don't have to bother shucking them because they'll open by themselves in the heat of the grill. While raw oysters can be appreciated with just a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, cooked oysters are better with a more strongly flavoured topping, such as this kimchi butter.
About 40 grams kimchi, drained (weigh after draining)
120 grams unsalted butter, slightly softened
24 unshucked oysters
Use paper towels to squeeze the excess moisture from the kimchi then chop it finely. Beat the butter to soften it then add the kimchi and mix it in thoroughly. Shape it into a 5mm-thick block, wrap with cling-film then refrigerate for at least an hour. Cut the kimchi butter into 24 pieces.
Heat the grill so it's smouldering hot. Put the oysters on the grill over the coals, flat side up. Add a splash of water to the coals then quickly cover the grill. Let the oysters cook for about three minutes, or until the shells open. Twist off and discard the top shell, taking care not to lose any of the juice. Top each oyster with a piece of cold kimchi butter, let it melt slightly and serve.
Grilled eel with tomato, roasted red pepper, olive and lime salsa
Fresh eel is sold by many wet-market fishmongers. The vendor will kill it and gut it, but, for this recipe, don't let him skin it. Have the vendor cut the eel into 2cm-wide cross-sections.
1 eel (or part of an eel), about 40cm long
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the salsa:
1-2 salted anchovy fillets, drained (optional)
1 large red bell pepper
225 grams cherry tomatoes
80 grams kalamata olives
About 30ml fresh lime juice
About 30ml extra-virgin olive oil
A little honey or sugar, if needed
Roast the red pepper over a gas burner or on a grill close to the coals. Use tongs to turn the pepper so the skin blackens evenly. When it's well-charred, cool it and remove and discard the skin, seeds and core. Finely dice the red pepper and the tomatoes. Remove the pits from the olives then chop the flesh. Mash the anchovy into a paste and mix it with the pepper, tomato, olives, lime juice, extra-virgin olive oil and salt to taste. Mix in a little honey or sugar to balance the flavours.
Cut a slit in the thickest part of the eel pieces so they lay flat. Coat each piece thoroughly with olive oil then season with salt and pepper. Cook the eel skin-side down on a covered grill until the skin is lightly charred and the meat is cooked (about five to 10 minutes). Spoon the salsa over the eel and serve. The skin is edible, but the bones should be discarded.
Styling Nellie Ming Lee