In the Kitchen with Cass Amundsen
Can you tell me a little about yourself and what you do?
At present I am a full-time mum caring for my 16 month old son, Finn. I’m also in my final year of uni studying a bachelor of food and nutrition. Most of my spare time is spent in our vegetable garden or little kitchen; planting, playing, harvesting, cooking, preserving and eating.
Where you grew up and how did you come to live in this part of the world?
I grew up in the seaside suburb of Clovelly, Sydney. I took a couple of years off in my mid twenties to pursue my growing interests in agriculture (excuse the pun). I spent time volunteering on organic farms in Europe and also completed a regenerative livestock apprenticeship on a farm in New York State. I returned from the US and got a full-time job on a farm in Byron and I've been here for almost 7 years now, working mostly on organic farms.
Who or what is your main source of inspiration?
I’m mostly inspired by the seasons and the abundance of fresh produce that we are so fortunate to have access to in the Northern Rivers. Seasonal eating not only benefits the environment and local farming community, it's much tastier as it's picked at its prime in terms of both flavour and nutrients. There is also the anticipation it brings, thinking about the first pears of the season or creamy cauliflower and what comforting meal you’ll make with it as the weather begins to cool. That’s the most inspiring part.
What is it that love most about cooking and creating in the kitchen?
I’d have to say it’s the whole process (besides the dishes!). I’ve always found cooking to be incredibly grounding and therapeutic. The kitchen is my happy place, it’s where I feel most comfortable and where I take my stresses out. Growing, cooking, eating and sharing nourishing meals with others is so rewarding and just so enjoyable to me.
Can you tell us a little about this recipe and what you love about it most?
This recipe is the ultimate dish to celebrate the end of summer and is inspired by the current abundance of tomatoes, fennel and basil in my garden. It’s simple, nourishing and the addition of rice makes it hearty enough to serve as a main. You can use any sustainably sourced seafood that you wish, just adjust the cooking time accordingly. Omit the fennel if you can’t get your hands on any.
Mediterranean Seafood Soup
Recipe - serves 4 - Ingredients: 1kg ripe tomatoes
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 small fennel, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup/125ml white wine
1L fish stock
1/2 cup medium grain white rice
400g skinless white fish (such as mahi, snapper, mackerel or cod) cut into 3cm pieces
300g cleaned squid cut into 4cm-5cm pieces
300g whole green prawns
1/2 cup whole kalamata olives
2 Tbsp salted capers, rinsed
2-3 tsp white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
Large handful of fresh basil and flat-leaf parsley
Lemon wedges to serve
Score a cross in the bottom of each tomato, blanch in boiling water for 30 seconds and when cool enough to handle remove the skins. Place tomatoes in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.
Place a large, heavy based saucepan over medium heat. Add the olive oil, onion, fennel and a pinch of sea salt, and sauté for 6-8 minutes or until they just begin to caramelise.
Add the garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes, then add the wine and let it boil for 1 minute before adding the passata and fish stock. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer, add the rice and cook for 8-10 minutes or until just al dente.
Add the olives, capers and seafood, cooking for 3-5 minutes or until everything is cooked through.
Season to taste with the vinegar, salt and pepper. Serve with lots of freshly torn basil, parsley and lemon wedges
The vinegar offsets the sweetness of the tomatoes and fennel, which will vary greatly depending on the variety you use, so add 1 tsp at a time and taste as you go
A large jar of store bought passata can be used instead of fresh tomatoes
This works wonderfully with any seafood, just be sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly.
Homemade fish stock is very easy to make and in my opinion, far tastier. Have a go if you feel you have time.
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