Hero of distant age

Ocean trout and roe with apple coleslaw and riesling jelly.
Ocean trout and roe with apple coleslaw and riesling jelly. Photo: David Reist

I'm still finding it hard to contain my excitement, sitting in a cinema, waiting for the movie to start. All the ways you can view a movie these days still can't stack up against that wait as the lights are turned down, with popcorn, choc tops and a vat of soft drink. My youngest son shares my love of this, and the superhero genre. In fact, if there were a gifted and talented class for watching superhero movies at the cinema, he'd be top of the class.

The new Superman movie, Man of Steel, is what we are waiting on the edge of our seats to see. It's funny how this superhero, probably more than any other, has framed my life. George Reeves - yes, unfortunately I go back to this one - was the man of steel for me. And sure, he seemed more at home as his mild-mannered alter-ego, Clark Kent. This being the era before Spandex, his Superman costume was fairly loose, like he could have a snack secreted away without arousing too much suspicion. Still, he was, and is, the primary image of Superman for me and my generation.

Now, well, there is definitely no room in Henry Cavill's jumpsuit for anything other than Henry Cavill. Nope, he doesn't appear to be carrying an extra lunch box. As I take in the vision splendid of the new Superman, my wife comments that she doesn't get the ''chiselled'' look. Is that a backhander at me? I certainly can't find any angles to speak of. In carpentry or architecture terms, you could say I'm more radialised than bevelled, art deco as opposed to brutalist.

Anyway, I'm still not quite sure what she's saying, but the good news is that this new chiselled actor, along with Hugh Jackman, has brought back the hairy look, so all of us guys are saying, ''Thank god, can we put away the wax now?''

My point is that everything old is new again. The storyline in the new Superman is the same as Christopher Reeve's version in the late '70s. Sure, the beards on the bad guys look more convincing now, and Russell Crowe doesn't quite fill Marlon Brando's shoes, but when they wreck Metropolis this time, it is definitely wrecked. You feel worn out from the explosions.

So, on to cooking with this in mind. Yes, stay with me here, it is a long bow I'm about to draw.

Gels have been around for a long time, since back in the late '70s, during the nouvelle cuisine period, when chefs were turning away from heavily reduced and starch-thickened sauces in favour of pectin and other setting agents that allowed the food to retain its freshness and vitality.

In modern cookbooks you find thickening agents such as kuzu, gellan F, gelatin and agar-agar, to name a few. But which is the best to use?

Gellan F is a pretty cool gel. It can be used only where the liquid has a fairly high calcium content - dairy and fruits such as apples set well with it - and it's a permanent gel, so it's heat stable. Rene Redzepi of Noma uses gellan F to make very thin gels to place over a dish like a cloak.


Kuzu, or arrowroot, is a good all-purpose setting agent and it is crystal-clear and flavourless. Andoni Aduriz, of Mugaritz, uses kuzu to make jam-like condiments from stocks to serve with fish. His red snapper loin and saffron gel is a good example.

But I'm going old-school and using gelatin. This dish is based on one of Mark Best's cold seafood dishes from his brilliant and challenging Marque cookbook.

Best is like a chef's chef, quietly working away at his restaurant in Surry Hills in Sydney and, before you realise it, he has the top restaurant in the land. This dish, while being a little tricky, is one of the best ways I've seen fish cooked.

He uses ocean trout, salts it briefly, then slow-cooks it and serves it cold.

You've probably seen cold trout and salmon before with a pale, cooked-out look to it. Not here. The fish still looks bright red and sparkling with flavour.

And, thinking back to things being revitalised, the fish is served with a lovely, delicate coleslaw that is worth making just on its own.

The gel is used to cover the fish as it is served, so you get a translucent, herb-filled jelly framing the dish. Try it, take the time.

>>Bryan Martin is winemaker at Ravensworth and Clonakilla, bryanmartin.com.au