Saturday, August 27, 2011

Mackerel with Pistachio Pesto

I love Spanish Mackerel (Ikan Tenggiri in Malay).  It is probably my favorite Malaysian fish for grilling and frying.  Here on the east coast of the peninsula, it appears that we get the Narrow-barred version of Spanish Mackerel, or Scomberomorus commerson in taxonomic nomenclature.  I have the fish-seller cut the fish cross-wise into 1-2 centimeter thick steaks.  The bones can be left in or removed fairly easily.  I can also quarter the steaks into smaller pieces for frying, leaving the skin on.

Spanish mackerel steaks (see the narrow black bars on the flank?)
While perusing the Wall Street Journal one day, I came across a recipe for Mackerel with Pistachio Pesto.  Since I live close to a fish market and my DW has frozen home-made pesto from when she grew TONS of basil, I decided that it was the perfect recipe to try one Saturday evening.

So, here is my version of the recipe.

1/2 cup pistachio nuts, shelled
Thawed packet of your favorite pesto sauce.  My DW makes pesto in a large freezer bag, which she then squashes flat before freezing.  Chunks can be broken off as the need arises.  Rather than try to estimate portion size, take a look at the photo.  It is, perhaps, 1/2 cup of each., or 1/2 cup pistachios and 2/3 cup pesto.

Thawed pesto from storage (1/2 cup) and pistachios (1/2 cup)
Zest of one lime
Juice of that lime (recipe calls for 2 TBS; I use it all.)
One clove garlic, grated

In a food processor pulse the pistachios until fine.  Add the pesto sauce, lime zest and juice, and anything else you might like to zest it up (say, one or two Jalapeno slices).  Pulse once, and then add 5 TBS olive oil before pulsing again.  The goal is a smooth sauce.

Six oz of hung yoghurt.  I have detailed elsewhere how to hang yoghurt, which is a way of removing the acidic whey and producing a nice, creamy mild yoghurt.  This has to be made ahead of time, of course, by at least 4-6 hours.

Season the fish with salt.  Set a large saute pan over medium-high heat and add 1-2 TBS olive oil.  When hot, lay the fish in, skin side down.  Cook 3-4 minutes or until skin is crips.  Turn gently on each side and cook 1-2 minutes more.  Do not overcook (change the color = protein denaturation).

Frying the mackerel, start with skin-side down
While the fish cooks (one could broil or grill the fish, also), arrange four pitas on a baking sheet and broil in the oven 1-2 minutes, flipping once or until warmed through.  You also use roti naan, instead of pitas, whose baking I have detailed elsewhere.

In a separate bowl, mix the hung yoghurt with the grated garlic and add a pinch of salt.

To serve, spread 2 TBS of pesto over each pita and a dollop (1-2 TBS) of hung yoghurt in the center of each pita.  Top with a mackerel chunk or two, and finish with a dollop of pesto and drizzle of olive oil.  Eat.  Enjoy.  Subscribe to the Wall Street Journal (or this blog) for more great recipes!

Finished product; serve on top of warmed/baked pita bread slices

Another I-Love-Clouds Post

I love clouds.  Big ones, building up over the tropical South China Sea.  Lots of evaporation going on and then they move inland to dump on the mountains to the west of us.  Orographic uplift is the term used to describe what happens.  Cool air cannot hold as much water as hot air, so when the mountains force the clouds to go uphill, they cool and have to dump some of their load.  Rain.  Runoff.  Back to the ocean.  Complete the cycle.  Hydrology.

Cumulous being built by evaporation off the South China Sea

A Walk Along Pelindung Trail

Now that the Hari Raya school break has begun, I will attempt to get caught up on some blogging.

Several weekends ago, some friends visited us from Hong Kong and wanted to do some low-level hiking.  Pelindung Trail, beginning at Teluk Cempedak beach (TC) is one such easy walk and to the trailhead we commenced.  The trail runs along the ridgeline between the Tanjong (rocky cape) just to the north of TC and Bukit Pelindung which is only a kilometer or so inland.  The air photo posted below shows the approximate locaton of the start of the trail.  The Majlis Perbandaran Kuantan has a parking lot behind the McDonald's restaurant for only RM1 and it is a short walk to the trailhead along the boardwalk.

Pelindung Trail Starting Just North of Teluk Cempedak (Hotel Hilton at bottom of photo)
The boardwalk out along the edge of the Tanjung north of TC has been boarded up due to (1) a large tree falling and destroying a section of the boardwalk, and (2) a failure to maintain the wooden structure evidenced by missing treads and railings.  That does not stop people from by-passing the boarded-up entrance and climbing up onto the boardwalk further down the line.

Boardwalk currently boarded up (note missing railing)

Downed tree damage to boardwalk

After walking 50 meters or so along the boardwalk (and stopping to entertain the monkeys), it is time to find a short set of concrete steps which begin the hike up the hill.  This is, technically, the beginning of the Pelindung Trail but really the trail starts at the top of the ridge.  There are numerous paths up to the trailhead and I struggle this day to find the best one since there has been signficant changes since the last time I was here.  (Obvious storm damage brought down a bunch of trees in the area.)

Before heading uphill, we stop and take a look at the South China Sea crashing into the rocks of the Tanjung and look back towards TC for the derivative postcard view.

South China Sea meets Granite
TC, the place to be
The hike uphill is a hard, 5-10 minute slog on a slippery-when-wet trail.  But once on top of the ridge, the rest of the trail is quite easy, as it follows the gentle up-and-downs along the ridge.  Granite is the bedrock and there are quite frequent outcrops along the way.

Yes, we can take this for granite!

An epiphyte clinging to life on a granite boulder
One of my favorite things to see along the trail are the epiphytes, of which I have documented previously.  These feisty plants cling to life on the sides of granite boulders, and on the branches of trees, and in crevices, where they create their own soil and obtain water from mist and rain running along the boulder faces.  Epiphytes benefit from having adventitious roots, which have suction-cup-like devices that help hold them to surfaces and provide structural support.

Adventitius root pryed off a rock for your viewing pleasure!
And, of course, there are trees, lots of trees to see.  The tropical rain-forest has a greater variety of tree species than any other type of forest on earth, and is famous for its triple-canopy.  Along the Pelindung Trail, the Forestry Department has even sign-boarded some of the major tree species.

Looking up a Shorea trunk

Balau Laut Merah produces "mahogany" lumber

Strangler figs are another tropical speciality.  This genus (Ficus, yes, YOUR friendly indoor plant) climbs up trees in a spiral fashion, creates a scaffold-like structure around its host's trunk and then hangs on for life while the underlying tree eventually dies.  Long, adventitious roots are sent down from above to help in the search for further victims, or else to mine water from the soil.  It is these vines that provide the transportation system for monkeys and Tarzans.

Strangler fig (Ficus) climbing its host tree

Hong Kong friends hanging playing Jane and Tarzan
Of course, most non-scientists are more interested in critters than in rocks or plants, so we keep a lookout for the occasional snake, and the ubiquitous marching ant army.

Green snake

Ants marching (not the DMBand)
Termites are also quite numerous, being found in rotting tree trunks.  Their nests and trails are found all over the forest.

Termite colony
Halfway down the trail, we stop to sit and chat in the cool, quiet of the forest.  Well, not THAT quiet as the jungle insects chirp up a storm.  The Forestry Deparment has provided several sites where stone benches are placed and they are great for just sitting and cooling down.  If you are going to hike the Malaysian jungle, be sure to bring plenty of water, and a towel for wiping the sweat off the face and back of the neck.  Unlike other trails that I have taken, the Pelindung Trail does not seem to have any leeches as I have not come across them in my multiple trips.  The trail does end at a trailhead near Bukit Pelindung, which is reached by a road uphill near the JPJ office on Jalan Dato Bahaman.  I never make it that far.  For me, a walk is a walk, not a triathlon!  I am always aware that I need to TURN AROUND and walk back the same distance that I came, so I limit how far OUT I go.

After a half hour of chatting, we head back to TC, where a Tae Kwon Do group is doing sessions on the beach.  Iced Coca-Cola at one of the beach stalls refreshes us and we head back home feeling a bit more self-satisfied for having taken a hike.

Tae Kwon Do at TC