I am off to Australia today and wanted to share this post with you before I go. It’s been a year since I was last there which is probably the longest amount of time I’ve ever had between trips and it’s going to be busy! It all starts with the wedding of one of my closest friends on Saturday, followed by catch ups with family and friends, lots of foodie exploration, a trip to the Seafood Feast-ival on Kangeroo Island, cooking classes and more. Should make for some interesting posts and pictures and I will do my best to be disciplined and share them with you in a timely manner!
I had been meaning to get to the fish market for a long time before I finally made it there last month. It’s an excursion that requires some extra time and effort and yes, there is no denying that it is a bit on the nose, but coming home with a bag full of fresh seafood, not to mention the cultural experience, makes it all worthwhile.
It had been nearly a year since my last visit but not much had changed. Which is nice. It’s a hectic place and with hose pipes running and fish guts and scales flying around, it’s not somewhere you’d go in your Sunday best, but for me, it’s an important part of the Bahrain experience.
You are bound to come across a sight or smell that is a bit hard to stomach (and a trip in summer is a challenge for even the most dedicated enthusiast) but I would certainly encourage visitors to add the fish market to their itinerary if they are seeking an insight into a more traditional side of Bahrain. There is now a very modern side to the island too, but it is nice that some of these older industries and their methods (I love that they still weigh the fish with cast iron scales) have been preserved too. Plans are in place for a large scale redevelopment of the area including the vegetable market nearby, so who knows how long we will be able to enjoy it in its current state.
At first I was unsure of how my big and indiscreet DSLR would be received but within 10 minutes I had fishermen coming at me from all angles posing with their biggest fish! We had hamour (a popular local fish) coming out from under tables, crabs flying out of cool boxes and even an octopus appeared before my lens. Out of courtesy, I still asked if it was ok for me to take photos (especially if I wasn’t buying), but overall everyone was very welcoming.
I left with 3kg of large prawns (not all for me, promise), some kingfish, squid, clams and some beautiful crabs that I hadn’t seen there before – I still haven’t managed to find out what type they were and would love to know. They were much bigger than the Blue Swimmer crabs you can usually find locally, bright orange and really meaty.
It had to be seafood linguine for dinner that night. Few dishes can deter me from ordering seafood linguine if I see it on a menu and as it is extremely popular in Australia, I associate it with my trips back home. Unfortunately it’s one of those dishes that can be great, if the seafood is fresh and plentiful, or terrible if not. I’m usually prepared to take the risk.
I had tried making it at home a few times before but never got it quite right. The tomato sauce was either too overpowering or not tomatoey enough and I was determined to master it this time. Easy to prep and quick to cook, it can be a very impressive dinner party dish if you get it right.
After a bit of Googling I settled on a recipe by Phil Vickery which I adapted to serve two and to include all the seafood I’d bought. Having tried both options a few times now, I would definitely recommend cherry tomatoes over tinned ones, but if you don’t have any or you’re in a rush the tinned ones will do the job. You can use any combination of seafood you like, scallops and mussels are a great addition too.
The parmesan crisps are optional. I did make them but forgot to take photos of them, oops. I would suggest that you leave them in the oven a little longer if you want them to be really crispy as mine were still a little soft. They do add a nice touch to the presentation and don’t take long to make.Seafood Linguine with Parmesan Crisps (Serves 2) (adapted from Phil Vickery’s recipe here)
INGREDIENTS2 tubes of baby squid, cleaned and cut into rings (or about 10 pre cleaned squid rings)
2 meaty crab claws
4 tablespoons grated parmesan 250g linguine 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 small onion or 2 shallots, finely diced
300g cherry tomatoes or 200g tinned chopped tomatoes
1 small red chilli, seeds removed and finely diced
5 tablespoons white wine
Handful chopped parsley or basil (fresh)
salt and pepper to season
If making the parmesan crisps, pre heat the oven to 200°C and place a baking sheet in the oven to heat up. Next, move on to cleaning all your seafood. If you are unsure about how to clean the baby squid this short video will show you how.
Steam the crab claws for about 8 minutes (I just placed a colander over a pot of boiling water). Set aside.
Make the parmesan crisps following the instructions posted here.
Bring a big pot of salted water to the boil and cook your linguine as per the instructions on the packet until it is al dente. Drain and set aside.
While the pasta is cooking, add the oil to the pan and sauté the garlic and onion until soft. Add tomatoes, chilli and wine and turn up to high heat. Use a potato masher to breakdown the tomatoes and thicken the sauce.
After 3-4 mins add the clams, cover and leave for 2 mins. Add the prawns, squid, crab claws and parsley or basil, cover and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Pour pasta in with the sauce and mix. It’s up to you whether you keep the clams in the shells or remove them before serving. Personally I think leaving one or two in their shells adds to the presentation.
Top with the parmesan crisps and cracked pepper and serve with a glass of chilled savingnon blanc. Don’t forget seafood crackers and forks if you use the crab claws!