Karen Martini's whitebait fritter

The seafood consumption in my household always increases dramatically as the weather gets warmer. Freshness, of course, is  the key with fish, so don't shop too far in advance. Select bright-looking produce and enjoy it at its best.

Whitebait 'chips' with green Tabasco mayonnaise

http://images.theage.com.au/2012/12/17/3896623/fish-chips.jpg?rand=1355796103138

I served these up to my little ones recently and they instantly called them ''fish-chips'' and couldn't get enough of them. My girls are OK with heat, but you can dial the chilli and Tabasco down, or up, to taste.

Canola or vegetable oil for deep-frying

200ml quality mayonnaise

1 tbsp plain yoghurt

1 tbsp green Tabasco

3 green chillies, finely chopped, seeds in

1 lemon, cut into wedges

Flaked salt

500g whitebait

150g semolina

1. Heat the oil in a small saucepan or deep fryer to 180C.

2. Mix the mayonnaise, yoghurt, Tabasco and chilli with a squeeze of lemon and a little salt.

3. Toss half the whitebait in semolina and fry immediately for 2 to 3 minutes, until lightly golden. Drain and season. Repeat with the remaining whitebait and serve piping hot with mayo and lemon wedges.

Drink Fresh lemon squash.

Serves 4-6 as a snack

Seared tuna steak with pine nuts, currants, sorrel and mint

http://images.theage.com.au/2012/12/17/3896629/tuna-sorrel.jpg?rand=1355796107998

Cooking tuna on one side may seem a little unusual, but by doing so you preserve the beautiful raw flesh while still getting the flavour from a good sear. This method is as much about texture as flavour - use the best tuna you can find. If you prefer, you could use skipjack tuna or kingfish cut into thick escalopes so you can still cook it in the same manner.

2 x 180g premium-quality yellowfin tuna steaks

Flaked salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Extra-virgin olive oil

2 tbsp sherry vinegar

1½ tbsp currants

½ red onion, sliced

½ tsp dried chilli flakes

1 slice rye sourdough bread

1 clove garlic

40g toasted pine nuts

2 tbsp thick plain yoghurt

5 leaves sorrel, torn

2 sprigs mint, picked

2 sprigs parsley, picked

1 lemon, cheeks sliced off

1. Season the tuna on both sides with salt and pepper and a little oil and leave at room temperature for about 10 minutes to remove the chill.

2. In a small saucepan, heat the sherry vinegar and currants over high heat until boiling. Pull off the heat, add the sliced onion, dried chilli and a good splash of oil to make a dressing, season and mix.

3. Preheat a griddle plate over high heat and grill bread until nicely marked and toasted. Remove from heat and rub each side well with garlic. Tear into tiny pieces and mix through the dressing, along with the pine nuts. Add more oil if necessary.

4. Cook the tuna on the same griddle on one side for 3 minutes only, leaving half the steak raw on the other side. Place on a plate, cooked side down, and spoon some yoghurt over a corner of the fish, scatter the herbs over, spoon the

dressing over the top and serve with the lemon cheeks.

Drink Try this with falanghina, a fruity southern Italian white with great acidity. Vermentino or pinot grigio would also be a great match.

Serves 2

Roasted barramundi with hot and sour Thai caramel

http://images.theage.com.au/2012/12/17/3896619/barra-caramel.jpg?rand=1355796112775

This is a simple but sophisticated way to serve roasted fish. I first made it when I was craving Asian flavours after a long day cooking and shooting Mediterranean dishes. Now I keep galangal, lemongrass and chillies in the freezer for just such culinary emergencies.

4 whole plate-size barramundi, fins trimmed

1-2 tbsp fish sauce (or to taste), plus more to season

2 cloves garlic, smashed

2 tbsp dried shrimp

4 slices galangal, about 2mm thick

200g castor sugar

1 stalk lemongrass, sliced

2 green chillies, sliced

2 red bullet chillies, sliced

1 tbsp shrimp paste

1 punnet small cherry tomatoes, cut crosswise into chunky rounds

Juice of 3 limes

Steamed rice to serve

1. Preheat the oven to 200C and prepare and cut all ingredients before cooking.

2. Lie the barramundi on a baking tray lined with baking paper or foil and season inside and out with a splash of fish sauce. Roast for about 15 minutes, turning the grill on high for the last 3 or 4 minutes. The flesh should be able to be easily pulled away from the bone with the tip of a knife.

3. While the fish is cooking, pound the garlic, dried shrimp and galangal roughly in a mortar and pestle. Add this to a medium saucepan with the sugar, a splash of water and the lemongrass and bring to a simmer. Cook over high heat until you have a medium-coloured caramel, 6-8 minutes.

4. Take the caramel off the heat, add the chillies, shrimp paste and cherry tomatoes and stir (this stops the caramel burning). The tomatoes will sizzle as they soften.

5. Put the pan back on the heat and bring quickly to the boil. Take pan off the heat and add the fish sauce and lime juice and stir. Taste for balance: it should be sweet but also a little salty, sour and hot. Divide fish among four plates and spoon the sauce over. Serve with rice on the side.

Drink Off-dry riesling.

Tip This is delicious with fillets as well as whole fish.

Serves 4

Styling: Caroline Velik; merchandise: Minimax, The Works, Izzi & Popo.

The story Karen Martini's whitebait fritter first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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