Cooking with fish
Hello team. Apologies as got a little carried away last week, ranting on a sustainable seafood page about traffic issues. It was irritating however and made me boil. Anyway, I did say that I would get back to fish and how to cook it. So here we are a few tips on different styles. But please remember, these are just methods, the type of fish and the flavouring you add is up to you. You are the chef and you know what you and your family like.
Let’s look first at deep-frying, the secret of which is to use plenty of fresh oil. The type of oil to use is a matter of choice. Olive oil is perfect, as the fish is still very tasty and enjoyable when cold. Most people use one of the polyunsaturated oils such as safflower or sunflower oil for deep-frying.
Use a deep, heavy-gauge saucepan. Half-fill your pan with whatever oil you prefer. Heat the oil until very hot but not boiling. Don’t boil. If the oil is boiling the fish will be ruined – cooked on the outside immediately and raw inside, especially thick fish.
Coat your fish with a good batter and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the size, until golden brown. Once finished, you can remove the fillets from the pan. A couple of DON’Ts. Do not try to cook too many fillets at once and Do not pile the cooked fillets on top of one another, or they will become soggy.
Pan-frying is often the best cooking method when you have small fillets of fine-textured fish. For something extra special, we suggest you fry in pure olive oil. You can then enjoy your fish hot or cold, served with freshly ground pepper and salt and lashings of lemon. Then, of course, it is also delicious fried in butter or your favourite frying oil. Try not to use margarine, especially polyunsaturated, as the fish then tends to stick to the pan. An easy preparation is with flour coating. Then cook until golden – about 10 minutes if the fillets are thin, 15 minutes if thick. Please don’t overcook.
Possibly my favourite method of cooking fish is grilling. You need to prep a little, by placing the fish in a shallow pan, with a little water and butter. For whole fish, one needs to make two shallow cuts on each side. You then brush the fish with melted butter, pop it under a hot grill, reducing the heat slightly, and basting again as it is cooking. Cooking time depends on the thickness of the fish – 10 to 15 minutes for thick fillets; for whole fish, 10 to 15 minutes each side.
There are also a number of more ‘healthy’ methods to cook fish, poaching probably being the most popular. Fillets or steak can be placed in a pan with just enough water to cover. Simply add a little chopped onion and celery, a few peppercorns, a bay leaf, a pinch of basil and about 1 tablespoon tarragon vinegar or brown vinegar. This will add enough base flavor.
Cover with lid, bring to the boil, reduce heat to low and simmer slowly for 10 or 15 minutes, depending on thickness of fish. Test with a fork to see if fish is cooked and if it flakes easily, it is done. Here you can even keep the stock, to make sauce if required.
Steaming fish as cooking method is really healthy. Use a steamer and fill it with about 8 cm (3 in) or more (according to size of steamer) of water and bring to the boil. Season fish with salt and pepper and wrap in foil. The fish can then be placed in the steamer and steamed for about 10 minutes or more according to size of fish. Simple.
Finally, baking, a superb way to cook fish, but one where the size of the fish to be baked makes the difference between a “triumph” and a “failure’.
Start off with a fish of at least 2 kg (4 lb) – even better, 3 kg (6 lb) or larger. Preheat the oven first to hot, about 210°C (400°F). Prepare fish, making sure it is well cleaned and scaled. Leave the head on and you can stuff, if you like, with your favourite stuffing or just sprinkle pepper and salt inside the fish. Grease a baking dish with butter or oil and place fish in, “standing up” as if it was swimming. Pepper and salt the fish, rub over with oil, using a brush or your fingers, and cover fish loosely with foil. Decrease oven heat to moderate and bake fish from 40 minutes for a 2 kg (4 lb) fish to 1½ hours for a larger fish.
So there you go. Enjoy. Please give it a crack. Also go try some of our recipes. If there’s nothing there you fancy, drop us a note and Ill get Chef Paul and Neil onto it.
Have a great week and stay safe.
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