The best and easiest way to cook fish? Bake it whole. Here's how to do it.

The secret is to making any fish dish more beautiful: add some anchovies

Salted anchovies make so many fish dishes more beautiful. Photograph: iStock

Salted anchovies make so many fish dishes more beautiful. Photograph: iStock

 

Buttered, devilled, dressed, potted: when it comes to crab we have a number of traditional methods of preparation on this island. But what about the contemporary? Only last week, we made a tempura of crab in the restaurant, which owes more to Japan than it does to Ireland. But did the older recipes not owe just as much to the outside world?

November is Food Month in The Irish Times. irishtimes.com/foodmonth
November is Food Month in The Irish Times. irishtimes.com/foodmonth

A recipe from the end of the 19th century adds salted Italian anchovies to the crab meat, before folding in a mixture of white wine, nutmeg and cayenne pepper: so much for Irish crab.

This recipe has an odd mix of ingredients (for me anyway) mixing the Italian fish with the exotic spices (nutmeg in particular had to travel a long way to get to Ireland) to create a sort of international cuisine. In this particular recipe, the crab was served warm over buttered toast. I’m sure it would be just as delicious today if you made it.

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I think salted anchovies make so many fish dishes more beautiful: think of turbot on the bone covered in a paste of salted anchovies and olives and baked until tender. I couldn’t imagine a better dinner. Saturday is the best day to buy fish at market, particularly in Galway. Though I’m sure Dublin, and the rest of the country is similar. It’s the day when everyone is out looking for food after a weeks’ work. 

How to bake whole turbot

Buy a whole turbot and remove the fins with a scissors. Oil the fish. Blend a handful of salted anchovies and pitted black olives with a clove of garlic and enough oil to make a paste. Spread over the top of the fish.

Place the fish in an oven dish and pour 350ml of white wine over it. Bake at 180 degrees for 20 minutes or until the fish reaches a core temperature of 55 degrees.

Rest the fish for five minutes and then enjoy it with a nice fennel salad and the rest of the wine. 

Baking fish whole is very simple and is probably the best way to keep the fish tender and moist. 

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