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    Monday, November 16, 2009

    New Zealand West Coast Whitebait – If you haven’t experienced it put it on your Bucket List. Thank you Des Britten

    Anyone who lived in Wellington in the 70’s would be familiar with “The Coachman”…
    an Amazing Restaurant run and owned by
    Des Britten, a onetime Disk Jockey,
    one of NZ’s first TV Chefs and now
    The Wellington City Missioner.
    Out of this place came Tony Astle, owner of another
    amazing Restaurant “Antoines” in Auckland.
    The Sommelier was Don Hewitson who went to the UK and opened
    another famous establishment… The Cork and Bottle Wine Bar.
    Des and his team introduced us (budding gourmets) to such delights as Zabaglione,
    Hot Chocolate soufflé…real aioli, delights from the offal department and many more.
    It was such a treat to eat there.

    One of my favourites, was the way they cooked whitebait.
    Prior to this we ate our whitebait in a fritter
    Excellent it was as well. BUT at 'The Coachman', it was served as little separate tiny fish lightly flavoured with butter, garlic and a little lemon juice.
    Not enough to overpower this delicacy, but an absolutely divine taste treat.
    It was tossed in flour and cooked quickly.

    Easy peasy, I thought
    My first attempt worked well, not quite right, but I was fairly pleased with my attempt.

    My second attempt ended up as a big sludgy mess.
    I abandoned cooking whitebait in this fashion.
    Particularly as the price rose astronomically,
    ending up now, at around $110 a kilo.

    A couple of weeks ago, my friend Julia had acquired
    some Thames Whitebait.
    It’s not from the West Coast and the price reflects that.
    Nevertheless it sounded great and I bought 2 packets.

    There is a difference.
    It is a bigger than the other variety and consequently is a little stronger in taste,
    a bit oilier I think.
    Anyway, took one look at it and Eureka, this will be fabulous cooked 'a la The Coachman'.
    Thanks to the Internet, I managed to find the recipe along with the recipe for the Hot Chocolate Soufflé but that’s another blog.

    I have found out now, where I went wrong and also the little added extras which made it special.
    So here we go.

    I did clarify the butter I think it lends the maximum flavour.
    If you are really worried about your health use oil.

    Clarified butter (or oil)
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    Chicken stock - 425mls

    Juice of 1 lemon
    Crushed garlic
    Chopped parsley

    Drain the whitebait, then dry as best you can with paper towels.
    Put a large heavy fry pan on to heat and add the clarified butter.
    Heat the pan until smoking point.
    Dust the whitebait with flour and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
    Toss the whitebait into the pan and stir quickly until the whitebait is cooked.
    A minute or two is all that is required.
    With a slotted spoon remove from the pan into a serving dish, mounding it up high.
    Tip most of the butter from the pan leaving about a teaspoonful.
    Add to this half a teaspoon of flour and stir in.
    Now add enough chicken stock to make a light sauce.
    Squeeze in the lemon juice, the garlic and lots of chopped parsley.
    Pour over the whitebait and serve.

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