Friday, September 17, 2010

Abalone in South Africa

Abalone, this mystical seafood that fetches sky high prices on Asian markets (and other markets) is the theme of this blog. I was very fortunate that some friends had a whole lot of legally caught Abalone or Perlemoen as they are called in South Africa in the freezer. When they cooked some they turned out totally tough and like leather, so they wanted to know how to prepare them.
There is nothing nicer for a chef to “play” around with food, see how one can get the best out of it and that is exactly what I was doing for a whole evening. So I made 3 different dishes with the 6 Abalone I had.
But before that I had to get the Abalone ready. It is quite a bit of work to make sure they are really nice and tender. First they have to be cleaned properly, I washed them for about 10 minutes under cold water.

Then the funny stuff around them has to be cut off, careful that one doesn’t cut off too much, then I had to wash them again before cutting them in about 5 mm (sixth of an inch) slices. Hey have to be more or less gently hammered between 2 plastic bags. Too much and they rip apart, too little and they will still be tough, so take your time and patiently hammer them till you feel that now they must be tender. Only now they are ready to be cooked. Don’t forget, there are different types of Abalone, these ones were rather big, so they needed a bit more treatment than a small one would need.

For any reader in San Diego, not too far away from you there is a huge centre of Abalone and Sea Urchin, they are actually farmed in Ensenada, Mexico. So if anyone get’s there, go out and buy some Urchin and Abalone, a fantastic treat!
The one was just plain marinated with a little lemon juice, salt and pepper, then flash fried for about 10 seconds, yes 10 seconds only, you need to be fast as otherwise the Abalone gets very tough again.

The second way was a little bit Asian, I marinated the Abalone with Soy Sauce, Fish Sauce, Sesame Oil, Garlic and Ginger, and then again, flash fried for 10 seconds, again the meat was lovely and tender
The last, and my favourite way was that I made an egg batter with whole eggs and self raising flour, like a thick crepe batter without milk. I seasoned the Abalone and then put them in the batter. Then I fried them quickly on each side till golden, following the rule that the shorter the cooking the more tender they will, they were stunning as they were cooked very gently.

So the next day we all met at the friend’s house. One person made the starter, a lovely shrimp cocktail, beautifully presented and very tasty, what a great start for the evening. He really outdid himself, it was one of the nicest prawn cocktails I had in a very long time.
Then we had the main course, Abalone two ways, with lemon and Asian, I served it with lemon scented mash potatoes and roasted vegetables.

Dessert was a traditional Roly Poly pudding. It was actually the first time that I had a Roly Poly pudding and I think I need t make it once myself, it was just divine. Unfortunately I have no photo of it, but boy, it was really good. So with the great company, the good food and wine, we had a wonderful evening at the friend’s house. Thank you so much again for the hospitality and the Abalone, a treat one only has very seldom.

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