Conran summer food: Fish

If the depths of winter call for calorie-rich comfort food, summer demands lightness, speed and convenience. This is when seafood comes into its own. Consider the range, from lobster and Dover sole to more modestly priced salmon and mussels. In the first of a two-part series, we publish some of the best fish recipes chosen by

Conran's leading cooks, ranging from a magnificent Mediterranean fish soup to a subtly flavoured skate salad - and a guide to making your own seasonal aromatic oils

Sea feasts On this page are two light but sumptuous meals from the chef at Bluebird. The recipes overleaf, from other Conran restaurants, include crepes and fish soup from Pont de la Tour, lobster tagine from Orrery, grilled Dover sole from Coq d'Argent, skate salad from Sartoria and braised salmon from Quaglino's CRISP SEA BREAM WITH CHILLI

Serves 4

800g sea bream fillets, skin on

salt and pepper

100ml nam jim (Thai fish sauce)

50ml light soy sauce

juice 2 limes

2 large red chillies

100g cornflour

coriander, to serve

Cut the bream into 4cm pieces, and season. Mix the nam jim, soy and lime juice and warm through. Slice the chillies and discard the seeds, then add to the sauce. Coat the fish in the cornflour and deep fry in hot oil until golden

Place the fish in a bowl, spoon over the chilli sauce, and finish with sprigs of coriander. Serve with jasmine rice in small side bowls (see recipe below)

JASMINE RICE

Serves 4

200g jasmine rice

400ml water

salt

Wash the rice in cold water and place in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cover with about 400ml of water, add a little salt, cover with a lid and cook over a low heat for about 14 minutes until the rice has absorbed the water

RARE TUNA, CUCUMBER AND GINGER

Serves 4

240g blue fin tuna loin, trimmed to 3cm diameter

salt and pepper

olive oil

12 cucumber

40g pickled (Japanese) ginger

To serve

1 banana leaf

wasabi paste

15ml light soy sauce

15ml mirin

Season the tuna with salt and pepper. Heat some olive oil in a heavy frying pan. When the oil is smoking, place the tuna loin in the pan and sear on each side for a few seconds, taking care to keep the tuna rare. Remove tuna, plunge into cold water to arrest cooking and pat dry on kitchen roll. Leave to cool, then wrap tightly in clingfilm, and reserve in the fridge. Peel the cucumber into wafer-thin slices lengthways, discarding the seed core, and mix with the ginger. Cut four strips of banana leaf to fit your serving dish. Slice the tuna into thin slices, remove the clingfilm and place on the leaf. Place the cucumber and ginger on the dish with a dot of wasabi, and drizzle the tuna with soy and mirin to finish

BRAISED SALMON WITH MUSSELS & THAI GREEN CURRY

Serves 4

500g mussels

3-4 shallots, chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 glass white wine

250ml double cream

1 teaspoon Thai green curry paste

4 portions skinless salmon, each 160-170g

salt and pepper

1 teaspoon coriander oil (optional)

To serve

1 red onion, thinly sliced 10g coriander

20g pickled red chilli, sliced

Preheat oven to 400F/200C/Gas 6. Rinse and scrub the mussels, discarding any open ones. Sweat the shallots and garlic in a little olive oil until soft. Add the mussels and dry white wine, cover with a lid and cook for two to three minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the mussels and discard any that failed to open. Add the cream, bring to the boil, season, then thoroughly stir in the green curry paste. Add the salmon to the pan, bring to the boil, cover and cook for six to eight minutes. Remove the salmon from the pan and keep warm. Reduce the sauce to required consistency, add the mussels and season. Stir in coriander oil, return salmon to the pan until hot. Divide into four portions and serve with the onion, coriander and chilli mix

CREPES PARMENTIER WITH SMOKED SALMON, CAVIAR AND CREME FRAICHE

Serves 4

For the crepes

450g potatoes, peeled and diced

3 teaspoons plain flour

3 whole free-range eggs

4 free-range egg whites

50ml double cream

50ml milk

salt and freshly ground black pepper

vegetable oil

For the topping

100g smoked salmon

4 teaspoons creme fraiche

4 teaspoons Sevruga caviar

1 tablespoon chives, chopped

1 lemon, cut into quarters To make the crepes

Pre-heat the oven to 275F/140C/ Gas 1. Put the potatoes in the top of a steamer or double-boiler over simmering water and cook until soft, then mash with the flour. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the oil. Heat a blini pan (or small frying pan) with a film of vegetable oil. When smoking, pour a quarter of the potato mixture into the hot pan. When nicely brown, flip and cook the other side. Place in the oven to keep warm until all four are cooked

To serve

Place each pancake in the middle of a dinner plate. Place the smoked salmon on top, add a spoonful of creme fraiche, followed by a generous spoonful of caviar. Sprinkle with chives and serve with the lemon quarters

LOBSTER TAGINE

Per person

1 native lobster, approx 500g

1 litre lobster bouillon

140ml red wine sauce (see below)

10g couscous, cooked

60g butter

salt and pepper

30g mixed solferino of carrot, cucumber, celery, raisins and small onions, cooked

280ml olive oil

For the red wine sauce

50ml red wine

50ml port

250ml good chicken stock

Blanch the lobster in the bouillon for two minutes. Cool and remove from the shell, then clean and wash the head for garnish. Portion the lobster.

Bring the red wine and port to the boil and reduce to about 30ml, then add the chicken stock and reduce by half.

To serve, slowly heat the lobster in the red wine sauce for two to three minutes. Meanwhile, reheat the couscous in the butter and season with salt and pepper. Heat the cooked vegetables in olive oil and butter, season, and serve in a tagine

FISH SOUP

Serves 8-10

500ml olive oil

500ml red wine

500ml white wine

500ml passata pomi (tomato sauce)

200g tomato paste

3kg fish (including rascasse, gurnard, weaver, red mullet and eel)

100ml Pernod

1kg mirepoix - chopped carrot, onion, celery, leek and fennel

1 head garlic, split in two

6 star anise

2 pieces orange rind

pinch saffron

In a large pot, heat up the olive oil, wine, passata and tomato paste, and simmer for five minutes. Gut the fish, roughly chop them and add to the pan, cooking for five minutes. Add the Pernod and flame. Add the mirepoix, garlic, star anise and orange rind, then add enough water to completely immerse the fish, leaving a small gap at the top for skimming the impurities. Bring to the boil, skim, and simmer for one hour.

Pass through a conical strainer into a clean pan, making sure you extract all the juices from the fish. Discard the contents of the sieve. Return the soup to the stove, add the saffron and reduce to the desired consistency and strength. Adjust the seasoning, then serve with grated Gruyere cheese, croutons and rouille

INSALATA OF SKATE, POTATOES, OLIVES & PARSLEY

Serves 4

900g skate wing on the bone

splash of white wine vinegar

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 onion, roughly chopped

fresh parsley, fennel, bay leaves

sprig of celery

10 small potatoes,

1 tablespoon red onion, finely chopped, soaked in Volpaia herb vinegar

Taggiasche olives

splash extra virgin olive oil (Capezzana is best)

lemon zest

sea salt and ground black pepper

Place enough water in pan to cover skate wing, but don't add the skate yet. Add a little white wine vinegar, a clove of crushed garlic, the onion, herbs and celery. Bring to the boil, add the skate and bring back to the boil. Remove from heat. When the skate is cold, remove it: the meat should fall from the bone. Boil potatoes with a clove of garlic. When soft enough to pierce with a knife, remove from heat and let them cool in the water. Peel when cold and chop into chunks. Chop red onions and soak in herb vinegar. Combine all the ingredients (the olives, parsley, onions, fish and potatoes). Add a splash of olive oil, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and some of the liquid from the fish. Serve with a wedge of lemon

GRILLED DOVER SOLE WITH MAiTRE D'HoTEL BUTTER

Serves 2

For the parsley (Maitre d'Hotel) Butter

75g unsalted butter, at room temperature

juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped

1 teaspoon chervil, finely chopped

salt and pepper

Combine all the ingredients thoroughly. Shape into a 2cm diameter roll. Place on wet greaseproof paper and place in the fridge. When required, cut into 0.5cm slices

For the sole

2 Dover sole, each 450-500g, trimmed and cleaned with head removed

1 tablespoon plain flour

salt and pepper

60ml olive oil

small bunch picked watercress

parsley butter (see above)

1 lemon

Lightly flour and season the sole, then brush with the olive oil. Grill the fish for a few minutes on each side. Place on a large dinner plate, arrange the parsley butter on top of the fish, and serve with watercress, half a lemon and a twist of black pepper

Essential oils

The flavoured oils on delicatessen shelves always look so enticing, with sprigs of fresh herbs steeping in them, and they are a simple, effective addition to summer fish or vegetables. But frankly, none of these can match those you produce at home. They are very simple to make but they do demand good ingredients - the best cold-pressed extra virgin oil, the freshest herbs and the highest-quality olives. It defeats your purpose to use anything less.

The oils on this page are the aromatic aids used by chef Jonathan Nicholson to enhance the modern Mediterranean-style menu in his restaurant, Cantina del Ponte, near Tower Bridge. They can be used as dressings for fish before and after cooking. Salmon smeared with a tapenade before grilling will impart a delicious aroma and taste.

Nicholson trained with three-star chef Marco Pierre White at Harvey's before polishing his skills at the Chelsea restaurant, the Canteen, but the inspiration for using herb-based oils was a spell in his native county, at Congham Hall, Norfolk, which has one of the largest, most comprehensive herb gardens in Britain.

Some of the oils, like the basil oil, need to be used quickly because the green colour fades to brown. Most of them will only keep for a few days at room temperature. But, transferred to small jars, they will keep for months in the fridge without deteriorating.

AGED BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE

This is a recipe that can hardly fail. Jonathan describes balsamic vinegar as "sweet without being sweet" and uses it with fish when you might otherwise use lemon juice, sometimes mixed with chopped chives. He also uses it with chargrilled tuna and a salad of sliced red onion and haricots verts

500ml extra virgin olive oil

100ml eight year-old balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

Whisk the ingredients together, decant into a bottle and refrigerate until use

PEPPER OIL

This oil will add flavour and colour to almost any dish. Jonathan uses it to dress slow-cooked Piedmontese peppers (stuffed with tomato and garlic, finished with mozzarella cheese and an anchovy), which he serves with Greek aubergines (cubed, deep-fried and mixed with chopped tomatoes, onions and Greek yoghurt). Also delicious drizzled over crisply grilled mullet

3 red peppers

1 red chilli

2 cloves garlic

10g tomato puree

200ml extra virgin olive oil

5 sprigs thyme

salt and pepper

Deseed the peppers and chilli and roughly chop. Put everything into a stew pan and simmer on a low heat for two hours. Liquidise, decant into a bottle. Refrigerate until use

BASIL OIL

Jonathan uses this basic oil (shown left) on mozzarella salads and as a finish to the Italian cold soup, panzanella. Use as an alternative to pesto, smeared over cod or hake

100g basil leaves

250ml extra virgin olive oil

few extra basil leaves

Blanch the basil leaves in boiling water for five seconds, then drain and refresh with cold water. Squeeze dry, then liquidise with the olive oil. Decant, add the few extra basil leaves and refrigerate until use

ROSEMARY & GARLIC OIL

Jonathan uses this, one of the simplest oils, as a cooking medium to fry firm-fleshed fish such as red or grey mullet, John Dory, sea-bass and even fresh mackerel. The fish should be cooked quickly on a medium to high heat. Stored in a lidded jar, the oil keeps well in the fridge and will, in fact, improve

75g rosemary

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

250ml extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

Place the rosemary leaves in a bowl, add the garlic slices and pour over the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, whisk together, decant into a bottle and refrigerate after use

TAPENADE

This thick oil can be smeared on warm hunks of ciabatta, dribbled over salad Nicoise, or eaten with crudites. Jonathan smears it on to salmon skin before briefly frying and then transferring to a hot oven. A boneless salmon steak will cook in five minutes at 450F/250C/Gas 8. Keeps very well in the fridge, but not outside

200g black olives, pitted (Thrombes are best)

20g anchovies

30g capers

2 cloves garlic

100ml extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon tarragon, chopped

pepper to taste

Puree all the ingredients, decant into a jar, then refrigerate until use

Recipes taken from 'Eat it', the new Conran food magazine, available in Conran shops and restaurants at pounds 2.95. Photographs by Alastair Hendy, David Loftus and James Merrell. Recipes by David Burke, Pont de la Tour; Chris Galvin, Orrery; Stephen Goodlad, Coq d'Argent; Henrik Iversen, Quaglino's; Jonathan Nicholson, Cantina del Ponte; Andrew Sargent, Bluebird; Darren Simpson, Sartoria. Additional text by Michael Bateman

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