Wearing a pair of oversized Karen Walker shades to hide my sunburnt eyelids, a pair of draw string combat shorts and a loose fitted black vest top, braless, I feigned confidence around the bays of dead fish at the Auckland Fish Market. The dreads of my sea dried red frizzy hair were protruding out like twigs really rounding off that post-28th-birthday hangover look.
I was feeling pretty flustered, too, shaky almost, as a burly woman had shouted at me from behind the windscreen of her black Ford Ranger in the car park for mistakingly thinking I had gone down a one way street. I, in return, presented her with my middle finger. Confrontation always gives me the shakes for some reason and so I practically wobbled into the market.
Upon finding a nice fishmonger, I said, with an air of nervous hyperactivity, “I got my first ever recipe book for my birthday and I’m so excited. Can I have two sea bass please?” I sounded, and looked, like a patient who had escaped from the asylum and had just discovered fresh fish and freedom.
The fishmonger feigned interest, smiled, and looked quizzically, almost embarrassed for me, and said, “no, we don’t see sea bass swimming in the seas of New Zealand”. To make matters worse, I just said OK and asked for two haddocks. I asked with such conviction, too, because I wanted to sound like I actually knew what I was talking about. The fishmonger needn’t have said anything at all. The smile on her face at my haddock request was enough to imply “just leave. Leave now while you can”.
This experience reminded me of the time that my step-dad Paul sent a 13 year old me into the local butchers to pick up haggis. He said to make sure that I asked for one without legs. So I asked the butcher, but he just laughed and told me that someone was having me on because haggis didn’t have legs. Massive LOL.
Feeling slightly embarrassed in front of the fishmonger, I said “thank you” and offered a Princess Diana smile; eyes down, almost flirtatious, “yes I’m so dumb”. I retreated to the bays of dead fish sensing even their eyes rolling with profound disappointment at not just my lack of knowledge, but my dignity now too.
Within the hour, the air conditioning in the Holden was blowing on four flounders, a seemingly dirty fish, two fillets of blue cod, and trevally. None of the fish looked like the fish in the book.
Nonetheless, at the supermarket back in my suburb, I was hunting for the red curry paste and spring onions and suddenly felt a disconcerting rumble in my stomach. Surely this uncomfortable rumble is just a tiny fart, I thought to myself. Alas, this was no fart. It was an evacuation situation. With no time to evacuate, however, I had to ask a nice lady if I could use the shop toilets because I was about to imminently shit myself.
That will teach me for having some birthday cheese.
I had to have a word with myself when I returned to the car with my head down in shame. “What’s the point in doing this challenge to cook all of Jamie Oliver’s recipes in 5 Ingredients half-assed, Chloe? You didn’t just shit yourself for nothing. Get some fish that actually looks like the fish in the book”.
So I drove the 10kms back to the fish market for some snapper, which I remembered was the fish that the Thai chefs used at Kiss Kiss in a dish that looked just like Jamie’s.
The snapper was too big to pan fry, according to the fishmonger, so I stuffed it with lemons, garlic, and coriander stalks where the fish’s gut used to be, just as the recipe directed, smothered red paste in and on the fish, and then popped it in the oven wrapped in foil for 45 minutes.
It didn’t crisp up as I had hoped, and that’s because I wrapped it in foil, like a real non-chef. So I unwrapped it, whacked the oven up to 220 for 15 minutes, and watched the fishes eyes disintegrate with the heat and the skin turn a perfect colour of brown.
I have learnt a lot from this experience – no seabass, haddock or limes (unseasonal) are in the North Island, and the windscreen won’t always protect you and your middle finger.
Effort: 2/5 (5 being the hardest)
Taste: 3 / 5 (5 being delicious)
Overall satisfaction: 3/5
We have since had this dish twice now, because if you’ve got a busy schedule and are in need of a recipe that’s quick and easy to make, almost effortless, this one is perfect!