Three recipes to celebrate plaice, monkfish and pollock

Jess Murphy: Creamy coconut curry, crispy fish fingers, and a dusting of garlicky polenta

Sham’s Malay-style fish curry

Sham’s Malay-style fish curry

 

I’ve always thought of plaice as a totally underrated fish. It has beautiful rusty red spots, and it is so sweet and tender, mostly because it dines predominantly on small shrimp.

On the other hand, flat fish also really freak me out, with their weird little faces. My father used to take me out spear-fishing flounder at home in New Zealand. As you can imagine, spending a night on the shallows of the lagoons fishing by torchlight was great fun for a kid.

You can’t beat fish simply fried with butter and a few capers, or in summer with a bit of tomato concasse – which is a posh way of saying peeled, seeded and chopped – and some fresh bronze fennel.

I love fish cooked on the bone, though we hardly see it on restaurant menus anymore. One thing you do see in Kai is our classic fish fingers, which appear at lunchtime. They have something of a cult following here on Sea Road.

It was a dish my husband David made famous with our party guests at late-night gatherings in the Murphy household. Naturally, we have made some upgrades to David’s original dish: from frozen fish fingers on white sliced pan with salad cream and cheese to a homemade fresh ling or pollock fish finger. At this time of year, we serve them with wild garlic ranch dressing, local organic leaves and some lovely brown soda bread with Cuinneog butter.

The catering supremo Eunice Power serves ling goujons and chips at her new fish-and-chip shop, Andchips, in Dungarvan, Co Waterford. But they are slightly posher than us on the Copper Coast. Her spice bag is not to be missed either, and I admit to being slightly envious of her bearnaise mayonnaise.

I’ve also included here a Malaysian monkfish curry, and when I’m looking for top-class Malay-style food, there is only one chef who is my go-to for recipes, Sham Hanifa from The Cottage Restaurant in Co Leitrim.

As a blow-in like myself, we share a love for Ireland, its amazing producers and its people. In Kai we top deep bowls of this creamy curry with quick pickled veg for contrast and toasted seeds for crunch. If you are making it at home, there is really no need for anything more than a scattering of fragrant coriander leaves. And a big bowl of rice on the side.

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SHAM’S MALAY-STYLE FISH CURRY

Serves 2
Ingredients
500g monkfish
Thumb-sized piece of ginger
Thumb-sized piece of galangal
Thumb-sized piece of fresh turmeric
2 cloves of garlic
2 sticks of lemon grass
4 red chillies
A good glug of olive oil
2 shallots
1 sprig of curry leaves
1 tsp cumin seed
Juice of 1 lime
4 tbsp tamarind juice
Pinch of sugar
500ml coconut milk
1 tbsp fish sauce
Salt and pepper
Chopped fresh coriander to garnish 

Method
Cut the monkfish into large chunks. Finely chop the ginger, galangal, turmeric, garlic, lemon grass and chilli, or alternatively grind them to a paste with a pestle and mortar.

Heat up the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Fry the shallots, cumin seeds and curry leaves for two minutes, before adding the spice paste and sweat it all together for two minutes more.

Add the monkfish to the pan, followed by the lime and tamarind juices and a pinch of sugar. Pour in the coconut milk and bring to the boil. Season with the fish sauce, salt and pepper. Let it simmer for a few minutes until the monkfish is cooked through.

Spoon into warmed bowls and garnish with chopped fresh coriander to serve.

The Kai fish fingers
The Kai fish fingers

THE KAI FISH FINGERS

Serves 4
Ingredients
2 pollock fillets, skinned
70g flour, seasoned with a little salt and pepper
100g white breadcrumbs or panko breadcrumbs
2 eggs
Vegetable oil

Method
Cut the fish into strips down the fillet, following the natural lines of the fish. The strips should be approximately 1in wide and 3-4in long. Sprinkle some salt onto the fish.

Put the flour into a shallow bowl and season with salt and pepper. Put the breadcrumbs or panko into another shallow bowl, and beat the eggs in an additional bowl.

Dip each fish finger into the seasoned flour, coating it well, then into the beaten egg, and finally the breadcrumbs. Dip each piece in that order, keeping one hand for the dry and the other for the wet ingredients. At this point, you can freeze them in layers of baking parchment in an airtight container. 

To cook, put the fish fingers on a roasting tray lined with greaseproof paper that has been brushed lightly with vegetable oil. Roast in a hot oven at 180 degrees Celsius for 12-15 minutes, until the fish fingers are crisp and golden. Carefully remove from the pan and serve with tartare sauce or mayonnaise with a good squeeze of lemon.

Polenta and garlic dusted plaice
Polenta and garlic dusted plaice

POLENTA AND GARLIC DUSTED PLAICE 

Serves 4
Ingredients
4 plaice fillets
250g polenta
1tsp garlic powder
A pinch of salt and white pepper
100g butter
Tomatoes and lemons, to serve

Method
Mix the polenta with the garlic powder and season with salt and pepper. Roll the plaice fillets in the polenta and set aside.

Heat a frying pan until very hot, add the butter and melt it to a foamy, bubbly stage. Fry the fish, allowing a good three minutes depending on the size of the fillets. Flip and repeat on the other side.

Grill some halved vine tomatoes and lemons on a griddle pan and serve alongside the fish.

Gooseberry chutney or salsa verde would be good too.

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