Chef Aaron Stott, born and raised in New Zealand, has cooked in swanky restaurants around the world and is now back home. He and his partner Katy Noyle have recently taken over Wellington’s Tinakori Bistro.
Stott especially loves his seafood (he grew up in Mahia enjoying rock lobsters, kina and his all-time favourite – paua) and is particular about its freshness.
Above: Chef Aaron Stott. Photo: Supplied
All of his bistro’s seafood comes from Moana New Zealand.
“We end up serving two-three fish varieties a week.
“I want the freshest seafood possible and make the best of the day’s catch.” He enjoys cooking a wide variety of seafood but is partial to delicious but often underrated fish species, such as kahawai, as long as they are fresh.
“People often just smoke kahawai and it tends to go a bit dry, but there is so much more you can do with it.
“It’s a strong flavoured, fatty fish that tastes great deep or pan fried, and served with pickled peppers and onions.
“And I always leave the skin on, there’s that nice residual layer of fat just below the skin that makes it go so crispy!”
Pan-fried kahawai with pickled heirloom peppers & red onions
150-200 gm Kahawai fillet (skin on) per
½ tsp salt per fillet
1 tsp sugar per fillet
Shallot oil, for frying
Pickled Sushi-Zu Base:
250 ml rice vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
10 gm Kombu (Japanese kelp)
3 heirloom peppers, finely sliced in rings
1 red onion, finely sliced in rings
1 red chilli, finely sliced
Smoked mussels, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
Black sesame seeds
1. Rub the kahawai with the dry brine - half a teaspoon of salt and one teaspoon of sugar per fillet. Cover and refrigerate the fish for a few hours, preferably overnight.
2. Bring the rice vinegar, sugar, salt and Kombu to a boil and let cool. Add the sliced peppers, onion and chilli to this pickling base and refrigerate.
3. Score the kahawai skin in a criss-cross pattern. Dredge the fillets in tapioca flour. Heat shallot oil in a pan and fry the fillets, skin side down on medium heat. Flip over and cook until done.
4. Arrange the fillet on a plate, top with pickled peppers and onion, microgreens, and a couple of chopped, smoked mussels. Drizzle the lot with good extra virgin olive oil and serve.
5. Note: You can make your own shallot oil by frying shallots in any bland, flavourless oil (like soybean oil). Remove the shallots after frying and reserve the oil, which can be used to add a smoky onion flavour to many preparations.