One whole fish, four ideas

The Guardian - Cook - - Front Page - from Tom Hunt

It’s true that a whole fish can be rather daunt­ing: guts, scales, fins and eye­balls to stare back at you. But the fact is, fish cooked on the bone – just like meat – is more suc­cu­lent, moist and flavourful, and pro­vides a bril­liant cen­tre­piece for any meal. Gurnard, pout­ing, pol­lock, hake ( pic­tured) or co­ley are all good sus­tain­able choices with a nice quan­tity of meat and round frame. Any fish left on the bone af­ter the main event can be kept to use in any (or all) of the fol­low­ing three recipes. Af­ter your meal, clean all the flakes of meat off the car­cass. It will store in a sealed con­tainer for up to five days in the re­frig­er­a­tor.

1 The main event

Fish en pa­pil­lote with fen­nel and lemon: on the cover

A sim­ple way to cook a whole fish is sealed and wrapped in­side parch­ment, or “en pa­pil­lote”. The par­cel acts as a mini oven, steam­ing the fish and help­ing to keep it very moist. All the flavours trapped in the bag in­fuse with the meat. This method will work with all whole fish, although cooking times will vary depend­ing on the size.

Serves 5-7

1.5-2kg whole round fish, gills re­moved, gut­ted and scaled

1 un­waxed lemon, sliced into rounds

4 gar­lic cloves, crushed, with skin on

1 bulb fen­nel, cut in half and thinly sliced

Ex­tra vir­gin olive oil, to taste

Salt and black pep­per

Pota­toes, salsa verde and or aioli to serve (op­tional)

1 Pre­heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Tear off a piece of parch­ment that’s roughly 2½ times the length your fish. Cre­ate a bed of lemon, gar­lic and fen­nel slices along the mid­dle the parch­ment. Lay the fish on top this bed, then stuff the cav­ity with some of the fen­nel and gar­lic.

2 Driz­zle some olive oil over the fi and sea­son with plenty of salt and black pep­per. Fold in the ends of parch­ment, then pull it up around fish. Fold the edges to­gether to form sealed bag.

3 Put the fish par­cel into the oven for 25 min­utes for the first 1kg, then 5 min­utes for each ex­tra 500g. A 2kg fish, for ex­am­ple, should take about min­utes to cook, but all fish are slightly dif­fer­ent in shape, so some may take lit­tle longer. To check the fish is cooked prop­erly, re­move it from the oven, un­wrap the parch­ment – be­ing care­ful of the steam – and prise the flesh from the bone at the thick end of neck. If it pulls away, it is ready to Serve as a cen­tre­piece with the fen­nel, some pota­toes and salsa verde or

2 The tasty tapa

Fish and potato cro­quettes

We serve th­ese cro­quettes by the dozen in my restau­rant, Poco. They quick to make and sat­is­fy­ing to eat. highly rec­om­mend serv­ing them aioli but they are great just as they

Makes 12-15

300g floury pota­toes, such as a de­sire or king ed­ward, skins on

½ small onion, grated, strained

2 sprigs pars­ley, leaves roughly chopped, stalks finely chopped

A small pinch of chilli flakes

200g left­over fish flakes or cooked white fish

1 small egg

1½ tbsp whole­meal or plain flour

500ml oil, for fry­ing

Sea salt

Lemon wedges, to serve

1 Boil the pota­toes for around 20 min­utes, or un­til ten­der. Drain, al­low to cool a lit­tle, then peel off the skins.

2 Mash the peeled pota­toes with the grated onion, pars­ley leaves and stalks, chilli flakes and flour, then stir in the fish and egg with a gen­er­ous amount of sea­son­ing. You can pre­pare the cro­quettes up to this stage in ad­vance.

3 When you are ready to eat, put the oil into a saucepan, mak­ing sure the oil doesn’t reach higher than ⅓ of the way up the sides. Put on a medium-high heat and bring up to 160-170C/320-340F. Test to see if the oil is hot enough by drop­ping a tiny piece of the mix­ture into the oil. If it bub­bles and rises to the top, it’s ready. Care­fully place large tea­spoons of the mix­ture into the oil. Fry for 3-5 min­utes, turn­ing them if nec­es­sary. When the cro­quettes are golden brown re­move them from the oil and rest on a piece of kitchen roll. Sea­son with sea salt and serve with wedges of lemon.

3 The light lunch

Pot­ted fish pâté topped with tar­ragon but­ter

This is a snappy way to pre­serve fish left­overs and make them into some­thing per­haps even more tasty than the orig­i­nal dish. This method pre­serves the fish for a good week, sealed by a cap of but­ter on top. Eat on brown toast as a sim­ple snack.

Serves 2

100g but­ter

1 sprig tar­ragon, picked, chopped

200g flaked fish

Juice of ¼ lemon or splash of vine­gar

Sea salt and black pep­per

1 Melt the but­ter with the tar­ragon leaves in a fry­ing pan over a very low heat. Pour half of it over the flaked fish, along with the lemon juice or vine­gar, if us­ing, as well as a good pinch of salt and pep­per, then mix well.

2 Find a small ce­ramic pot or jar big enough to con­tain the fish. Press the fish into the jar and smooth the top with the back of a spoon. Pour the re­main­ing but­ter on top to seal the fish in­side.

4 The sub­stan­tial brunch


This is my per­fect brunch; healthy, sus­tain­ing and deeply full with flavour. Kedgeree is usu­ally made with smoked had­dock, but adapts well and can be made us­ing any flaked white fish. I’ve added some smoked pa­prika to the recipe to give it the smok­i­ness it needs.

Serves 2

A gen­er­ous splash of light olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 gar­lic cloves, roughly chopped

3 sprigs pars­ley, leaves roughly chopped, stalks finely chopped

1 tsp curry pow­der

1 tsp smoked pa­prika

1 tsp turmeric

Sea salt and black pep­per

150g brown bas­mati rice

450-500ml fish stock or wa­ter

200g left­over flaked fish or cooked smoked had­dock

50g peas

A squeeze of lemon juice, plus ½ lemon, cut into two wedges, to serve

1 hard boiled egg

Yo­ghurt, to serve

1 Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat, then add the onion and fry gen­tly for 5 min­utes, stir­ring.

2 Add the gar­lic, pars­ley stalks, spices and 1 tsp salt. Fry for 2 min­utes.

3 Add the rice and stir to coat the grains in the spiced oil and onions.

4 Add the fish stock, place a lid on top and bring to the boil. Re­duce to a gen­tle sim­mer for 25-30 min­utes. Check to see if the rice is cooked ev­ery now and again to make sure it doesn’t boil dry – add a touch more stock or wa­ter, if nec­es­sary.

5 When the rice is cooked re­move from the heat, stir in the fish, peas, pars­ley leaves and a gen­er­ous squeeze of lemon. Ad­just the sea­son­ing, adding plenty of black pep­per. Serve with half a boiled egg and lemon wedges.




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