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fennel smoked fish with fennel, orange and basil salad

Perilously perched on top of three 30kg bags of rice, I extend my right arm, while using my left as a counterbalance as I stretch, go-go-Gadget arm-style for the bamboo steamer on the very top shelf.  This is something I have become quite accustomed to as I don't have the best track records with bamboo steamers who ultimately meet an untimely death in my kitchen, going down in a burning ring of fire on my stovetop.  

I haven't had much luck with indoor steaming.  Confucious says "Man who can't cook use smoke alarm as timer" definitely rings true in our house.  But tonight, I am proud to say, the bamboo steamer lived to tell its tale.  

fennel smoked fish with fennel, orange and basil salad
Serves 2

2 mild, white fish fillets (I used Blue Eye Trevalla), skin removed
2 baby fennel bulbs, fronds reserved, shaved super thin on a mandolin
1 orange, segmented
1/4 cup small basil leaves
1 cup mesquite and alder smoking chips (fellow Aussies - you can get these from Bunnings)
1 tbsp olive oil 

Line a large wok with foil.  Place smoking chips in the bottom of the wok, place lid on wok and heat over a high heat until smoking.  Make sure all of your windows and doors are open and that your exhaust fan is pushed to the max!

Line an 8" bamboo steamer with baking paper.  Make a layer of fennel bulb on the bottom, then place fish fillets on top, then top fish with fennel fronds (reserve some for the salad).  Place the bamboo steamer into the wok, being careful not to pierce the foil.  Drop heat to low, cover with the lid, ensuring it is perfectly fitting so smoke doesn't escape.  Smoke fish for 15 mins.

Meanwhile, to prepare salad combine remaining shaved fennel, 1/4 cup fennel fronds, orange segments and basil in a large bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.  Toss to combine.

When fish has smoked for 15 mins, take the wok outside and remove lid.  Don't be tempted to do this inside - unless you want a visit from your local fire brigade.  Discard smoked fennel.

Heat oil in a frypan over medium-high heat and pan fry fish 6-8 mins or until it reaches 60ºC in the centre and is opaque and flakes apart easily.  Remove from pan, set aside to rest for 5 mins.

To serve, flake fish into large chunks.  Toss gently through salad just before serving.

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