Coming from the UK, which of course is an Island surrounded by water I am accustomed to good fresh fish.
One of my closest school friends grandfather owned a fishmongers, we would often drop in on the way home from school, dressed in our green school uniform, where this jolly man who’s white coat, butchers striped apron and wellington boots served to protect him from surroundings , would bend down to us, and point out the different fish; “Do you know what that is” “Can you tell how a fish is fresh” “This is a fresh water fish, this is a sea fish” he would whisper in our ears. We would watch the skilled filleting in awe.
So by the age of seven, I knew my cod from haddock, how to souse a herring, and how to pick the freshest of fish.
Choosing your fish.
Firstly when possible find a good fishmonger, build up a relationship with them. In Brighton we would often go down to buy the fish fresh from the boats.
Look for bright, clear eyes. The eyes are indication to a truly fresh fish, as they fade quickly into gray dullness, although it is safe to eat fish with dull grey eyes it’s not pleasant its past its best.
Look at the fish. Does it shine? Does its skin look metallic and clean? Then it is fresh if it is going dull and has patches so is its flavor dull!
Look at the gills. They should be a rich red. If the fish is old, they will turn the color of faded brick.
Smell the Fish
A fresh fish should smell like clean water, or a touch like the sea. If a fish smells bad, it is bad!
It’s always best to buy whole fish and have it filled if needed. However if this is not an option
Look for vibrant flesh. All fish fade as they age.
Smell it. The smell test as above is especially important with fillets. They should have no strong smells
Is there liquid on the fish if so, that liquid should be clear, not milky. Milky color liquid on a fillet is the first stage of the fish rotting.
Personally, I am not that fond of frozen fish, unless I am making fish balls, fish pie or soup, especially in Israel where the majority of frozen fish is pumped with water then frozen.
However when frozen fish is the only option follow the steps below.
Buy good quality frozen fish cheap fish is not good quality.
Totally Defrost the fish before cooking
Wash off all the ice under cold water.
For the last 10-15 minutes of defrosting sprinkle on salt and the juice of half a lemon to remove the “freezer” flavor.
Dry the fish with paper towel before preparation.
Fish is delicate, good fresh fish needs very little cooking, we all have a tendency to overcook fish then it becomes that horrendous rubbery texture that would give plastic a bad name.
Quick cooking of fillets.
The perfect fast food !
Wash the fillets in cold water and pat dry.
Season with salt, pepper, a little garlic, and paprika.
And rub a teaspoon of good quality oil on to the fish .
Heat a pan on the fire,
Add a teaspoon of oil to the pan no more
Place the fish fillet skin side down into the hot pan pressing it down slightly with your fingers to get the skin crisp.
Cook for 1-2 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillet
Flip the fillet over and repeat.
Turn off the pan.
Serve the fish with a green salad, baby new potatoes and a glass off crisp white wine.
There you have a perfect summer meal.
Cooking a Whole Fish in the oven
If not it’s a simple process.
You will need a pair of latex gloves, a board preferably not wooden as the smell stays. A sharp knife, running water!
Place the fish on a clean surface on its side
2. Insert your knife near the tail of the fish and cut towards the head.
3. Spread the fish's abdominal cavity open with your fingers, gently cut away at the insides.
4. Scrape the insides out and rinse the fish under cold running water.
Now the fish is ready to be cooked.
Preheat the oven to between 350°F and 450°F depending on the size of the fish( smaller fish lower temperature)
After rinsing the fish pat dry with kitchen towel.
1 lemon sliced
1-2 bunches fresh herbs, like parsley, coriander dill. Take your pick
Freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves peeled and sliced.
1 spoon extra virgin olive oil
3 carrots peeled and sliced
2 onion’s peeled and sliced
2 bay leaves
2 table spoons white wine or water
Place the carrots and one of the onions half the lemon and bay leaves and the liquid in the bottom of a baking tray.
Season the cavity of the fish, add the garlic lemon slices, slices of onion and as many of the herbs that you can stuff into the fish.
Rub the oil into the fish, then lay it on top of the carrots and onions in the baking tray.
Season the top of the fish.
Place any leftover herbs on the top of the fish.
Cover the fish with parchment paper.
Bake between 15-30 minutes depending on the size of the fish 1-2 pounds takes 15-20 minutes 3 to 5 pounds for approximately 30 minutes and over 5 pounds takes between 35-40 minutes.
Remove from the oven.
Serve straight away.
I cannot stress enough that
- The fresher the fish the better the flavor,
- Never be tempted to overcook fish....less is more
- Do not overcomplicate the flavors, let the fish talk for its self
- Eat fish as near to cooking as possible.
Watch this blog for some more summer fish recipes of Classic British Fish and Chips, Stuffed place a classic 1960 dish, Fish curry, and Fish soup coming next week!