Barbecued fish: We must widen our nets beyond salmon and cod

JP McMahon: We have great fishmongers delivering online so being adventurous has never been easier

Fancy cooking sardines outdoors? All you need is a barbecue and a basket.

Fancy cooking sardines outdoors? All you need is a barbecue and a basket.

 

On rainy May days, I close my eyes and imagine I’m on some Greek island grilling fish outdoors, looking over at distant mountains, sipping a glass of organic Assyrtiko.

While it may be a while before we fly anywhere to barbecue fish, the recent spell of good weather has got us talking again about the barbecue. For most of us in Ireland, a barbecue involves the cooking of meat, mostly steak, burgers and a few sausages. It’s sad, given the fact we are an island, that more fish doesn’t make its way on to the Irish barbecue.

Have you ever been to the Basque country and seen them grill whole fish over smouldering charcoal? It is a sight that I would never tire of and I would happily spend my last days there, grilling fish until I finally fall over.

The difficulty for us is that we like to grill fillets of fish, and when I say fillets of fish, I mean cod or salmon. We really need to try and move beyond these two staples of the Irish diet. We now have great fishmongers delivering online so it has never been easier.

At this time of year I love to barbecue sardines. You will need a little fish basket for this, but these can be easily purchased online or from some hardware shops. A rectangular one is good for grilling four to six sardines, depending on the size of them. If you’re going to the trouble of buying a fish basket, make sure to buy two: one for cooking whole fish and the other for cooking fillets. The Penobon fish grilling basket is a good choice. 

How to grill fish in a fish basket 

Lightly oil the sardines and season with salt. Place some herbs of your choice and a lemon wedge in the belly of the fish and secure in the basket. Grill over a hot barbecue for two minutes each side. For larger fish, such as whole John Dory, season in the same way but score the fish so as to aid the cooking. A whole fish will take around 20 minutes. 

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