Friday, September 17, 2010

Whitebait birthday

I missed my usual Thursday post because I'd managed to leave my camera at Martha's Kitchen (of which more later) and hadn't yet got it back, so I didn't have the photos I needed. So here, a bit belatedly, is the story of Harvey's birthday whitebait. He has them every year - luckily for him, they come into season just in time for his birthday on the 13th (a number that's always been lucky for us). Every year he'd get enough to make himself one really large patty, and I would have scallops. (I like whitebait, but I like scallops better, and as they're about a third the price it always makes more sense for us to have what we each prefer.) I made my first patty for him last year and it went really well. This year we were having a dear friend to dinner, so he asked me to buy twice as much as usual.
              Buying it, from the very nice lady at Wellington Trawling Sea Market, 220 Cuba St, was the easy part (they have parking, the whitebait came in that day, and Harvey had given me his card). When it came to cooking it, I tried to get instructions.
               My mistake. I must have asked last year too, but it all worked fine for one person. For 200 grams I think the batter must have taken only one egg, milk, a little self-raising flour and a generous bit of salt. (Because whitebait come from fresh water, they aren't salty, so they need it. But Harvey reckons pepper is a no-no, it's too strong and changes the flavour.)

This year I made two lots of batter, according to Harvey's directions, thinking it would be easier than doubling the quantities. But I think Harvey got his arithmetic wrong, because we ended up with too much. I cooked the first large patty and could see it had more batter than it should. Well, probably it would have been about the right amount for most people, but Harvey likes wall-to-wall whitebait, and so does our friend - who had brought this wonderful wine to go with it. (I'm no good at describing wine, you'll jsut have to imagine it - it was sort of very slightly oily, almost like a brilliant riesling.)

The idea was to make one large patty, divide it, and give it to them to eat while I made the second one. It was lovely and light and golden, but it wouldn't flip over properly, instead it broke apart. So what they got was a roughly fair share each of unevenly sized pieces. They were polite and ate it happily enough, but I could see it wasn't right. So the next time I took out around a third of the batter before I added the whitebait. That looked much better - but it still broke apart. Never mind, it went down well - how could it not?  and I enjoyed my scallops. But next year I'll just make it up as I go along, and I reckon I'll do much better.

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