Thursday, 12 September 2019

Thou shalt not mix fish and cheese,nonna says.

 A fish-focused pasta with cheese would have many an Italian nonna rising from their graves to deliver a hefty slap on the wrist.
 If the idea of combining seafood and cheese is such a widely-accepted global phenomenon, why is the concept so distasteful to so many Italian home cooks? And, hey, let’s not just point fingers at Italians here. A lot of people all over the world have adopted this notion, if for no other reason than that they’ve heard it from their mothers.
 Italian culinary doctrine – a constitution held up by Italian home matriarchs where infractions can be punishable by no supper or death – is very clear on the subject.Cheese and seafood shall not be mixed. Ever? Yet, if you stumble around France long enough you’re bound to find someone who prepares mussels in an earthy blue cheese broth spiked with white wine and garlic. In Chile, you’ll find both millennials and retirees ordering plates of Machas à La Parmesana, clams baked in wine, butter, and a mild-tasting Chilean version of Parmesan. And who can forget social gatherings in the nineties where no party was without oyster dip packed with enough cream cheese to send a marathon runner into cardiac arrest?
When it comes to eating seafood, people seem to have a lot of stigmas: they won't eat fish with red wine, they won't eat it raw, or they won't eat it at all. They don't like the texture --- it's too rubbery -- or they don't like the smell -- it's too fishy!
Fish and cheese is a no-no, right? Wrong. Seafood can absolutely be eaten with cheese -- in fact, you might be surprised how often the pairing comes ups.
So how come two great Italian incarnations sneaked  through? Caesar salad brings together anchovies and parmesan cheese, and many many pizzas are topped with anchovies, smoked salmon, sometimes tuna and customary mozzarella.I even unearthed a pizza pescatore which incorporated prawns, squid,and mussels along with mozzarella in the topping.
Parmesan is essential to any risotto regardless of seafood.I also very often stir through mascarpone at the end of cooking.
 A creamy, buttery  seafood mornay would be unthinkable without the inclusion of a cheesy bechamel made with gruyére, emmenthal or any other Swiss cheese.
 There's no official legislation outlawing the presence of fish and cheese on the same plate, but for many Italians — and those of us who would wish to remain in their gastronomic good graces — there is no greater offence. To finish a fish-focused pasta with cheese in the sauce would have many an Italian nonna rising from their graves to deliver a hefty slap on the wrist.Don’t ever disrespect tradition.Nonna knows best. She learned the recipes from her nonna, who learned from her nonna, who learned from her nonna and so on and so forth.
 So where did this commandment originate?
As always,rules are there to be broken. No one is saying that you shouldn’t pair fish and cheese. Rather,we should become enthusiastic advocates for smartly coupling seafood and dairy, and in the hands of a skilled chef, recipes combining the two can raise the roof, elevating both ingredients to new heights. When used correctly, cheese can enhance the flavours of many seafood dishes.It seems old customs like this are falling by the wayside as chefs have become more creative with the blending of flavours.
Don’t believe the stigma- fish and cheese can go together quite well.I for one would like to destroy this stigma once and for all:I feel a Cod and Prawn Lasagne with Ricotta and Mozzarella  coming on.Delicious bubbling layers of fish sauce pasta sheets and creamy spinach filling.
Recipe from Ocado Life magazine
Cod and Prawn Lasagne with Ricotta and Mozzarella

250g lasagne sheets
690g passata 
400g skinless cod fillet, cut into bite-sized chunks
350g large prawns, halved
450g spinach
250g ricotta
200g mozzarella
30g parmesan, finely grated
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped - or 1/2 tbsp dried.

 
Preheat oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6. Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onion and garlic and cook for 10 mins, until soft.
Meanwhile, wash the spinach and wilt in a saucepan – press out excess water in a colander afterwards.
Finely chop the spinach and place in a bowl with the ricotta and nutmeg, mix well and season to taste.
Add the oregano to the softened onions, cooking briefly before pouring in the passata. Simmer for 10 mins, until thickened, season and mix in the fish and prawns.
Place a layer of lasagne sheets in a large baking dish (about 34 x 24cm), and top with half the fish sauce.
Cover with lasagne, then all of the spinach mixture and another layer of lasagne.
Top with the rest of the fish and a final layer of pasta. Tear and scatter the mozzarella over the top with the parmesan.
Bake for 30-35 mins, until the top is golden, and serve with a green side salad.

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