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Home Cook: Shane McNeil, filmmaker

Eat | Drink | Explore

Writer and director Shane McNeil is well-known for his short films and documentaries – including the poetic ‘Girt By Sea’ being shown as part of the Adelaide Guitar Festival which starts today. In the kitchen, he takes his cues from celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Bernard King.

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Adelaide-based McNeil is a champion of SA’s film industry. As well as writing and directing children’s TV series, music videos and short films, and working on documentaries and feature films including The Tracker, Boxing Day and Lucky Country, he specialises in project and script development for both the South Australian Film Corporation and Screen Australia.

Most recently, McNeil was a director of  Olympic TV series Race to London and, through his new production company Twitch Films, he directed ABC feature documentary Girt By Sea, which uses archive footage and crowd-sourced home movies to present a celebration of Australia’s cultural connection with the sea and features West Australian band The Panics’ enigmatic soundtrack (see trailer below).

Girt By Sea will be shown at Her Majesty’s Theatre this Saturday, with The Panics performing the soundtrack live, as well as other songs and new work. As part of the show, McNeil will be joined by The Panics’ Joe Laffer for a Q&A describing how historical images and musical composition came together.

Here, he shares with InDaily some insight into his life outside the studio, how he learned to cook and a favourite recipe.

In the kitchen I am …
Functional, but would easily be eliminated in the first round of Junior MasterChef for using too much chilli.

The fridge is nearly empty – what do you cook for dinner?
Tuna and capers toasties with Dijonnaise, accompanied by a strong pot of Orange Pekoe tea.

Most useful cooking tool?
Jamie Oliver’s cookbooks. I can’t wait until he gets his 15-minute meals down to five minutes.

Three essential grocery items?
1. Halloumi cheese. It’s an addiction. I still find the “squeak” when you bite into it hilariously funny.
2. Tofu. Because I’m a vego and you can do a hundred things with it if you have the right spices and sauces.
3. Fresh chilli. Because a good “zingy” burn can compensate for a lack of other flavours.

How did you learn to cook?
Watching King’s Kitchen with Bernard King (when he wasn’t being bitchy on Pot of Gold.) And by collecting Women’s Weekly recipe cards from Woolies. I still have the card for the very first family meal I ever cooked when I was 16 – Veal Paprika (it was a disaster). As my dad once said: “Anyone who can read, can cook.”

Favourite restaurant?
La Trattoria. Traditional, authentic Italian with old-school waiters and charm. Never disappoints. I have been going there for 30 years and have never had a bad meal. I’ve introduced it to my family and now it’s my 12-year-old son’s favourite restaurant, too.

Favourite recipe?
Fettuccine Puttanesca al Tonno. Anyone who knows me will tell you that this is my “signature” dish (which is not saying much). It was the first recipe I learnt to cook through taste alone and I always used to make it on first dates (anchovies optional) to try to impress guests with my limited culinary skills. It’s quick, simple comfort food for the whole family, bursting with heat and flavour, perfect for a cold winter’s night in.

Fettuccine Puttanesca al Tonno

Ingredients

500g fettuccine
425g can chunk-style tuna in olive oil
Small tin (approx 30g) anchovies in olive oil, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 handful capers, drained
1-2 fresh red chillies, sliced (seeds in)
2 handfuls pitted, black olives
2 tins chopped tomatoes, drained
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 pinch ground cinnamon
Salt and ground black pepper
1 handful fresh parsley
1 lemon (optional)
Parmesan cheese, shaved (to serve)

Method

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil, then add the fettuccine and cook according to packet instructions (or until al dente.)

Meanwhile, place a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Pour the oil from the tuna into the frying pan and then add the garlic, along with the capers, anchovies and their oil (don’t be alarmed if it looks like there is a lot of oil).

Chop the chillies (including seeds) and the parsley stalks and add them into the frying pan along with the oregano. Chop the parsley leaves and put them to one side.

Roughly tear in the olives and stir for 2 minutes, or until the garlic starts to turn golden and the anchovies melt into the base.

Next add the tuna, breaking it up a little, then pour in the tinned tomatoes, a pinch of cinnamon and some ground black pepper. Stir until evenly mixed.

Cover with a lid and simmer on a low heat for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the tomatoes start to cook down slightly.

Once the pasta has cooked, drain and reserve a cup of the cooking water. Then add the pasta to the frying pan, squeezing over the juice of a lemon and most of the parsley leaves, mixing well.

Taste and season if needed. If the sauce feels too thick add some of the reserved fettuccine water to loosen it up.

Transfer to a serving platter and top with a good shaving of fresh parmesan and garnish with the remaining parsley.

Serves 4

The full Adelaide Guitar Festival program, including more information about The Panics’ Girt By Sea performance, can be found here.

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