Roasted, poached or pan-fried: four easy fish suppers
Carmel Somers: Roasted prawns,monkfish, cod and potatoes, and hake with capers
Cooking fish is simple, convenient and can be done in minutes. Photograph: Istock
Fish is the best convenience food there is – cooked in minutes with little preparation and no mess. It’s simple yet elegant, without much effort. It sells itself.
It’s an ingredient that has so much going for it, never failing to impress both in its raw and cooked state. Yet, it is the one ingredient that causes the most fear in both the novice cook and trained chef. Even to the extent that some avoid it. How many restaurant menus have no freshly cooked fish on them? Too many.
Most methods of cooking, from pan frying, grilling, poaching, steaming, en papillote to baking, work with fish. This makes it the ideal ingredient for a simple, last-minute lunch or dinner, a one-pot dish for a family and above all it is ideal when cooking for one.
Cooking fish isn’t hard. So, in the interest of getting fish on your table here are my main pieces of advice.
“Buy well and cook simple” is my mantra when it comes to all food, especially fish. When shopping for fish use your nose and eyes . Fresh fish is visibly firmer and it doesn’t smell “fishy”. Don’t be shy about asking its origin (which will give you an idea of its age – the further it has travelled, the less fresh) and for a close-up smell. Skinning, boning and scaling it can seem daunting when you’re caught for time or don’t have the right tools, so ask your fishmonger to do the job for you. Don’t be drawn to a certain type of fish if it means compromising on freshness. In time, you’ll develop a good relationship with your fishmonger and they’ll point you in the right direction. I can safely say that a friendship with your butcher and fishmonger will always be an asset.
Overcooking is the most prevalent error in the kitchen. This can be easily corrected when one remembers that fish is done when the flesh just starts to turn from translucent to opaque while still firm and moist. Keep in mind that it will continue to cook in its own heat as it makes its way to the table. Fish, unlike meat, softens as you cook it. Undercooked fish can always be returned to the pan whereas over-cooked fish is just a pity!
Ideal as a starter or main course. The secret of this dish is to use superbly fresh prawns and a very hot oven. Gather the shells at the end to make a stock that will work perfectly for the monkfish dish below.
Serves four as a starter
24 large prawns, shells and heads on
150ml olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 red chilli, roughly chopped
Small bunch parsley
Salt and pepper
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
Place an oven tray in the middle of the oven and turn it to 220 degrees or to it’s hottest.
Make the dressing by whizzing the oil, garlic, chilli, lemon zest and parsley together. Season well with salt and pepper and pour over the prawns in a large bowl and mix well.
Remove the hot tray from the oven and pour on the prawns, spreading them out to make sure they are not overlapping. Return to the hot oven as quickly as possible and roast for roughly 10 minutes, depending on the size. Set a timer for 7 minutes, take a prawn from the oven and gently remove the head a little. If the flesh is opaque it’s ready and if it’s still translucent return to the oven for another few minutes.
Remove the prawns and pour over the lemon juice and mix well. Serve from the tray with plenty of napkins.
GOOD THINGS MONKFISH
This has been a family, staff and customer favourite for years at Good Things.
I came up with this dish when we had an abundance of the latest health foods; turmeric, kale and seaweed. A shellfish stock adds a depth of flavour and works beautifully with the richness of the monkfish.
4 x 175g monkfish tails
Salt and pepper
1tbsp dried and ground seaweed
Small piece of fresh turmeric, grated finely
8 shallots, peeled and halved and roasted
1 fennel bulb, sliced very thinly and marinaded in the juice of a lemon for an hour
12 cherry tomatoes
1 preserved lemon, cut into strips
200ml fish or shellfish stock
Big bunch of kale with stalks removed and roughly chopped
Start by putting a shallow oven tray or a frying pan in a preheated oven at 220 degrees for 15 minutes or until it’s searing hot.
In the meantime, take a large mixing bowl and add in the fish, oil it well and season well with salt and pepper. Next, add in the seaweed and grated turmeric coating the seasoned fish with it.
Add the prepared shallots, fennel, tomatoes and preserved lemon to the fish. Add more oil and seasoning if needed. Mix well, making sure everything is oiled evenly. Take the very hot tray from the oven and tip the contents of the bowl on to it, spreading it out evenly. Give it 3-4 minutes in the oven, until the tomatoes are nearly ready to burst and the fish is nearly cooked. In the meantime, into the same bowl add in the kale and oil and season it lightly with salt and pepper.
Remove the tray from the oven and pour in the stock and place the kale on top making sure to cover the tray evenly. You want to protect the fish from too much heat at this stage.
Return to the oven until the kale start to crisp and soak up the juices. Place the hot tray on the middle of the table so everyone can help themselves
COD AND POTATOES
Pure comfort, simple and quick. This is a fish dish you will do over and over again. Ideal when cooking for one, want something quick and feel like an evening on the couch!
700g cod, skinned and cut into 4 pieces
8 medium potatoes, peeled and halved
Salt and pepper
Put the potatoes in salted water. Once they come to the boil set a timer for 5 minutes, test the potatoes and once you can get a knife easily through the centre add in the fish. Turn off the heat and allow the fish to cook through in the liquid for 5 minutes or so.
In a frying pan melt the butter and allow it to turn a nice golden colour.
Drain the fish and potatoes.
Add the cod and potatoes along with a little more salt and pepper to the butter, and fry for a few minutes. Finally add the cream on top followed by the parsley and serve.
HAKE WITH MAYONNAISE AND CAPERS
This dish is simple once you have the mayonnaise made in advance.
For the mayonnaise
2 egg yolks
2tsp cider vinegar
1tsp Dijon mustard
300ml olive oil
2 sprigs of tarragon or 4 leaves basil, chopped
100ml light fish stock
For the fish
450g tin flageolet beans, drained and rinsed
100ml light fish stock
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 large tomatoes, chopped small
Salt and pepper
4 x 200g fillets hake, scaled
First, make the mayonnaise by whisking the egg yolks with the vinegar and mustard until well blended. Then slowly drizzle in the oil while you continue whisking until all the oil is incorporated. Season with salt and fold in the chopped herbs.
In a saucepan add the beans, stock, garlic, tomatoes and capers. Heat gently making sure the beans are heated through. Season well with salt and pepper and taste.
Heat a frying pan. Oil and season the fish. When the pan is very hot add the fillets skin side down and cook until the underside is nicely brown and the fish is nearly cooked through. Turn the fillets over, turn off the heat and allow the fish to finish cooking with the heat of the pan.
Finally, thin the mayonnaise with the fish stock. Place the bean mixture in a serving dish and drizzle some mayonnaise on top followed by the fish fillets. Serve with the remaining mayonnaise on the side.