Sometimes photos make the memories. And many of my “memories” from early childhood are held in faded instamatic photographs from a bygone era. In those days when I was very young, in those years that I would never be able to remember now, my parents were snapping our lives together and these snaps became treasured possessions that I would pore over in subsequent years, remembering through them what we had done and who we had loved… bare-foot, playing with brown-eyed friends in red sand.
We lived in a remote community on the edge of the desert, but also on the edge of the Bight. And many a weekend would be spent camping in the bush or on the beach with friends, tenting it and fishing in the breakers. That is, my parents would be fishing. With strong, thick rods metres long, they would pull in mighty salmon, often up to 10lb (4.5kg) in weight. We have this fabulous photo of my then young father with two huge fish, one hanging from each hand, just as much as he could carry, I used to imagine.
But what I can’t remember (there are no photos) is how we ate them. I can’t imagine my mother cooking them up with fresh pasta, as I have done. Pasta, in the mid-70s, would have still be rather foreign and the exclusive property of those swarthy, olive and salami-eating, hard-working, slightly feared entrepreneurial Italian immigrants. Now, many years after its introduction to this dry land, their cuisine has become everyday food, even Australian food, as others have adopted it into their food stories.
This dish is made with all that – with memories, with photographs to capture those memories, and with fresh fish come from the sea (barramundi) and with fresh pasta. A bit of lemon zest, olive oil and chilli, parsley from the garden and we have a meal whose combination of ingredients came with those new arrivals, were finally embraced and now we find in every Australian kitchen. With big thanks for a sunburnt land “girt by sea”, with more than enough to provide home and sustenance for Indigenous and migrant peoples alike.
Papperdelle with Fish, Leek and Chilli
Barely adapted from the Australian Good Taste magazine – September 2009
1 x 375g pkt fresh lasagne sheets, cut into thick strips lengthways
60ml (¼ cup) extra virgin olive oil
2 large leeks, pale section only, thickly sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
¼ tsp dried chilli flakes
¼ cup chopped fresh continental parsley
500g white fish fillets (such as ling or barramundi), coarsely chopped
80ml (1/3 cup) white wine
1 tsp finely grated lemon rind
Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of salted boiling water for 3 minutes or until al dente. Drain. Return to the pan.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large frying pan (I use a wok) over medium-low heat. Add the leek, garlic and chilli and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes or until soft. Stir in the parsley. Increase heat to high. Add the fish. Cook, stirring occasionally for 3 minutes or until almost cooked. Add the wine and simmer for 1 minute or until the liquid has reduced slightly.
Add the fish mixture and lemon rind to the pasta. Toss well to combine. Divide among serving bowls to serve.