Why a recipe for sautéed barramundi from the flight galleys of Qantas (Queensland and Northern Territory Services, founded 1920)? Long gone are the days when you'd dial up the travel agent, book your airline trip and anxiously await the tickets in the mail. The subtle excitement of soaring the "Friendly Skies" aboard gleaming jumbo jets in civilized style is but a distant memory. That something "Special in the Air" has morphed from treat to torture. The charming cosseting of air travel is simply no more.

At least in the main cabin. Why not just call it steerage and be done with it? I'm given to understand things are still comfy behind the curtained-off realm of business and first class, but as the hoi polloi are no longer allowed to stroll forward to use "their" lavatories, even glimpses of these luxuries are forbidden.   

Which makes Jerry Honeywell's The Famous Airline Cookbook such a treasure. Evoking the stylishly uniformed, dewy stewardesses carefully serving piping hot Salisbury steaks on clever little plastic plates, Munchkin-sized salads and warm rolls with foil-wrapped butter pats, Honeywell does a terrific of documenting the gustatory glories formerly found at 35,000 feet above Mother Earth.

Perhaps a more obvious return to the heights of haute cuisine might have been through the gates of our own lamented TWA, Pan Am or Eastern. Instead, Spectacularly Delicious salutes our Aussie readers.  After all, you've given us Hugh Jackman, Cate Blanchette, Nicole Kidman, Baz Lurhman and "Prisoner: Cell Block H" so a down-under delicacy is our small way of saying thank you.  

Gosh, I haven't thought of Cell Block H in quite some time…Queen Bea ruling the roost from her menacing laundry press, the ancient alchy Lizzie with her always-gone-missing dentures and the slutty-but-sweet Doreen could only have dreamt of these crunchy, nutty, lemon-drenched filets. Yet surely the evil screw Vera (a.k.a. Vinegar Tits) would have prevented any special dining treat. Even the kind but ever-ineffectual Governoress Erica Davis might not have permitted it, as any deviations of the convicts' standard routine would have been deemed inappropriate if it not properly "ssshed-chu-al-ed." (That's "sked-juld" to us Missouri boys.)

Come to think of it, today's main passenger cabins are the Wentworth Detention Centres of the sky. 

So "Up Up and Away!" with Qantas Barramundi  Macadamia.  And in a nod to Continental Airlines, this evening's entree is paired with Continental's Classic Cous Cous.

One last observation before we start cooking. With Qantas's stylish Kangaroo-emblazoned fins might not Continental's "We Really Move our Tails for You" been more befitting than the mundane  "The Spirit of Australia"?  Just a thought.     

Adapted from The Famous Airline Cookbook
4 4-oz. fish filets (Barramundi first choice of course, but Red Snapper is perfect alternative)
Juice of one lemon
Flour for dredging
2 eggs, whisked
1/2 c. well chopped macadamia nuts
chopped parsley
lemon wedges
kiwi wedges
butter to sauté the fish

Wash and pat dry the fish filets. Toss and let rest in the lemon juice for one minute. Dip the fish in the egg, dredge in the flour, then press the nuts onto both sides of the fish. Add s&p as you go along as you see fit.

Cook the fish in hot butter until the filets start to flake and both sides are nicely browned. Serve with sprinkles of chopped parsley and wedges of lemon and kiwi on the side.

Adapted from The Famous Airline Cookbook
1 c.Israeli cous cous
1 c. clam broth + 1/2 c water
4 scallions, chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 c. corn kernels
chopped parsley
olive oil

In a heavy pot sweat the vegetables in the olive oil for 5 minutes or so, until softened. Add the cous cous and broth and water, bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Give it a stir half-way through to prevent sticking. Remove from heat, fluff it up, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

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Written by on February 15, 2011 under ALL RECIPES, Fish and Seafood, Main Dishes, Side Dish.

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  • Charles G Thompson

    I HAVE to get this book! It just sounds too good not to have in my collection. I remember the days of ‘flying the friendly skies’ — so sad it’s all over. This recipe looks loverly.

    • Sean

      No cook’s library is complete without it. Treasures. More to come…

      • Charles G Thompson

        I just ordered if off Amazon!

        • Sean

          Actually snagged a biz class upgrade NY-SF. Pretty awesome.

  • Anna Johnston

    Well… from this Aussie traveller who doesn’t even remember Prisoner H Block, this looks pretty good I have to say. The cookbook sounds awesome., would love a read of it so will keep my eye out. Nothing brings a lump to an Aussie’s throat more than seeing the flying kangaroo when we’re o/s. :)

    • Sean

      Prisoner Cell Block H was a late-night secret — the folks would have been horrified by show, quite scandalous by 1970’s standards. Last night watched Priscilla Queen of the Desert — so add that film and Guy Pearce to my Australian appreciation list as well. Picnic at Hanging rock — not so much. A Dingo Ate My Baby — yes!

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