At home with… Roberta Muir

Cookbook author, food writer and manager of Sydney Seafood School, Roberta Muir, shares her whale-sized passion for travel, wine and delicious fish!

What is the best time of day at Sydney Fish Market?

I love early mornings at the Market with all the hustle and bustle of the buyers and wheelers in the car park – I usually arrive around 7am when the auction is still in full swing – my office overlooks the auction floor and it has a wonderful atmosphere at that hour.

Grilled fish or battered?

I can’t pass up fish in a really light beer-batter!

Who taught you to cook?

I started to teach myself out of wonderful The Women’s Weekly Cookbooks, when I was still at school, I remember my mother encouraging me by going out and buying all the (at the time) exotic ingredients I needed to cook from their first ever cookbook which was the Chinese one. Then, over the years, I’ve learnt so much from all of the wonderful chefs who’ve taught at the Seafood School.

What is your favourite thing to munch on during your days off?

On a rare quiet evening at home, Franz (my husband) always asks me to make a croque monsieur with leg ham, lots of grated Swiss gruyere and Dijon mustard.

When did you eat your most memorable oyster?

I remember it so clearly – we were in Margaret River in November 2000, chef Cheong Liew invited us down there, and one of the other chefs handed me a Sydney Rock Oyster (they grow off Albany in WA as well as on the south-east coast of Australia) that he’d just shucked – it was salty, sweet and creamy all at once … and I’ve never forgotten it!

Working at Sydney Fish Market, do you get any mates rates with the fishmongers?

You’d think I would – wouldn’t you? But the reality is that the margin on fresh seafood is so low that they really can’t do much in terms of ‘mates rates’ – the important thing for me, and the thing I love about working at Sydney Fish Market, is the quality and range of produce available.

What is your relationship with the pelicans that have made Sydney Fish Market their home?

We love our pelicans – they are an iconic part of the site … so much so that we even have one painted on the Sydney Seafood School hands-on kitchen wall along with all the paintings of different fish species … he points the way to the dining room.

Is there any sea creature you particularly identify with?

That’s an interesting question – as we asked the question in our office the other day: “If you were a fish, what fish would you be?” – and I decided I’d like to be a Whitespotted Eagle Ray because they are so elegant and their black skin covered in delicate white spots is such a fashion statement!

Salmon Scotch Eggs

Traditionally, hens’ eggs wrapped in sausage mince and deep-fried, Scotch eggs are popular British picnic fare. I’ve used quail eggs and salmon to create this cocktail-sized seafood version.

24 quail eggs

1 teaspoon caraway seeds, lightly crushed

700g piece salmon fillet, skin off, bones removed, chopped

Salt flakes, to taste

2 cups fresh breadcrumbs

Vegetable oil, for deep-frying

Whole-egg mayonnaise, for serving

Boil eggs for 2 minutes then refresh in iced water and peel them.

Fry caraway in a dry frying pan for a few minutes until aromatic. Place in food processor with salmon and salt and blend into a coarse paste. Divide paste into 24 pieces and wrap each piece around a quail egg. Roll in breadcrumbs.

Heat oil in a wok or deep-fryer to 180°C.

Deep-fry eggs, in batches, for 3-4 minutes, until golden. Drain on paper towel, sprinkle with salt and serve with mayonnaise.