Recipes for rich fish

CHARGRILLED TUNA WITH OLIVES, LEMON AND SORREL

This recipe comes from Berowra Waters, a tremendously good restaurant just north of Sydney which can only be reached by boat or seaplane. The steak of tuna fish is seared on the outside but left quite underdone as it is far nicer cooked like this. A cast iron ribbed steak pan is the ideal cooking utensil for this dish, though a real barbecue imparts a superior flavour.

Serves 4 as first course 12 green olives 2oz/60g sorrel leaves

1/4 teaspoon Thai fish sauce (Nam pla)

juice of 1/4 lemon

1fl oz/30ml clear stock (made as below or use commercial product)

4 tuna steaks, 4oz/120g each

salt

black pepper

2fl oz virgin olive oil

First prepare the olives and sorrel. Remove the stones from the olives and cut into slivers. Wash the sorrel, remove stalks and cut into a fine chiffonade. Put a steak pan on the heat to get really hot. Brush the tuna steaks with a little olive oil and season well with salt and black pepper. Fry the steaks for one minute only, on either side. Put the fish sauce, lemon juice, one quarter of the olive oil and stock into a small pan. Bring to the boil and remove from the heat. Keep warm.

Warm three-quarters of the olive oil in a second small pan, add olives and three-quarters of the sorrel and allow the sorrel to wilt. Do not cook any further or it will go brown. Put the sauce on to four warm plates, put the tuna steaks on top, pour the other sauce over the fish, and sprinkle with the remaining sorrel and serve.

ESCALOPES OF SALMON TROISGROS

From the Troisgros brothers, one of the most widely known of nouvelle cuisine recipes, and one of the best. The thin envelopes of salmon are cooked so quickly that they are almost raw inside. I find salmon (or salmon trout, which you can equally well use in this recipe) disappointing when cooked right through, as it becomes dry. Serves 4

11/2lb/775g salmon fillet from a good-sized salmon

groundnut oil

salt

1 pint/300ml fish stock made from fish bones and head, 1 large onion,

1 large carrot, 1 stick of celery, and

3 pints/1.7 litres of water

1fl oz/30ml dry white wine

1fl oz/30ml Noilly Prat

2oz/60g sorrel leaves

3fl oz/90ml double cream

3oz/90g butter

juice of a quarter lemon

Make the fish stock by chopping the onion, carrot and celery into small pieces. Place in a large saucepan, put fish trimmings on top and add water. Bring slowly to the boil and on a low heat simmer for 15 minutes. Concentrate the flavours by reducing the volume with rapid boiling to about one pint. Remove any bones in the fillet of salmon with tweezers, long-nosed pliers or by trapping them between the point of a small vegetable knife and your thumb. With a sharp filleting knife or carving knife cut the salmon into 12 diagonal slices about 1/4in/6mm thick, rather as if you were cutting thick slices of smoked salmon, on the slant down to the skin. Brush a grilling tray with oil and place the 12 escalopes of salmon on it. Brush them lightly with oil and season lightly with salt.

Turn on your grill and put four large plates in the oven to warm. Place the fish stock, wine and vermouth in a small pan and reduce by three-quarters by rapid boiling. Meanwhile, wash and pick the stalks from the sorrel and slice the leaves into a thin chiffonade. When the fish stock has reduced, add the cream, reduce still further, then whisk in the butter. Add the lemon juice and stir in the sorrel. Take off the heat. Put the fillets under the grill. You dont need to turn them; they are done when the flesh changes colour from dark pink to light pink (this will take about 30 seconds). Pour the sauce over the warm plates. Carefully lift the escalopes off the grilling tray with a palette knife and lay them on the plates, slightly overlapping. Sprinkle a little chopped sorrel over them.

MACKEREL ESCABECHEA pleasant way of serving mackerel cold as an hors d'oeuvre. The mackerel is first floured and fried in olive oil, then marinated with olive oil, wine vinegar and herbs. The point of the dish is to feature one fresh herb strongly. I use Greek oregano, a rather fiery herb which is more like thyme in taste than oregano. You can buy the seeds from Suffolk Herbs, Sawyers Farm, Little Conard, Sudbury, Suffolk CO10 OPF. Other herbs I would suggest are coriander leaf, thyme, marjoram, oregano, or fennel with a dash of pastis in the marinade.

Serves 4

2 mackerel, each 8-10oz/240-300g

6fl oz/180ml olive oil

seasoned flour

2oz/60g carrot, peeled and thinly sliced

2oz/60g onion, peeled and thinly sliced

2 cloves of garlic

4 tablespoons/60ml wine vinegar

4 tablespoons/60ml water

1 teaspoon chopped Greek oregano

salt and ground black pepper

Ask your fishmonger to fillet the mackerel, or you can do it yourself. Slit the fish from head to tail. Put the fish on a chopping board belly side down; press the back firmly with the flat of your hand and gradually flatten the fish out on the board. Now lift out the backbone and remove any bones left in the fillet with a pair of tweezers. Pour half the oil into a large frying pan (preferably not a steel pan: aluminium or non-stick are better since simmering liquids like water and vinegar in a steel pan imparts a metallic flavour). Heat the oil in the pan and dust the mackerel fillets with the seasoned flour. Pat off any excess. Fry the fillets on both sides till golden brown then transfer them to a shallow dish, which should be just large enough to take them side by side. Pour the rest of the olive oil into the frying pan and fry the carrot, onion and garlic until they begin to colour. Add the wine vinegar, water, oregano and seasoning. Simmer until the vegetables are cooked; pour the contents of the pan over the fish and leave to go cold.

HERRINGS IN OATMEAL

A fisherman in Padstow advised me on the cooking of salmon. Take a piece of fat, put in in the pan, heat it up and chuck in the salmon, he said. He suggested the same method for cooking rabbit, and indeed almost any other fish, meat or fowl he hooked, netted, shot or trapped. Cooking herrings in bacon fat is quite the most satisfactory way of dealing with them, and I should think a satisfactory way of serving up salmon, too. Serves 4

4 herrings, each 80z/240g

salt and freshly ground black pepper

8oz/240g oatmeal 4 rashers streaky bacon lemon wedges

Ask your fishmonger to fillet and flatten the herrings; or you can do it yourself, following the instructions for Mackerel Esca-beche (on the previous page). Season and press the herrings with oatmeal until well covered.

Place the lard in a frying pan and fry the streaky bacon until crisp. Remove and keep warm. Fry the herrings in the fat, flesh side first, then skin side until golden brown. Serve with the bacon and lemon wedges.

SPICY DEEP-FRIED RED MULLET The fish are slashed three times on each side and the cuts filled with garlic, chilli, lemon grass and coriander. This dish is quite hot. I would recommend an Australian Chardonnay or Alsace Gewurztraminer to go with it, or some chilled lager.

Serves 4 as a main course

1 stalk of lemon grass

3 small red chillies

4 cloves garlic

2in/6cm piece of peeled ginger

1/4oz/1.5g fresh coriander leaves

juice and zest of 1 lime

3 tablespoons Thai fish sauce (Nam pla)

1 teaspoon arrowroot

5fl oz/150ml water

4 red mullet each 10-12oz/300-360g

For the tempura batter:

4oz/120g flour

2oz/60g corn flour

7fl oz/210ml water

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon salt

Remove the outer leaves from the lemon grass, split it in half lengthways and cut it up finely. Remove stalk and seeds from the chillies and finely chop. Finely chop garlic and ginger. Roughly chop the coriander.

Mix all these ingredients with the juice and zest of the lime and the fish sauce in a small bowl. Mix the arrowroot with the 5fl oz of water and bring this to the boil in a small saucepan to thicken and clarify it. Remove from the heat. De-scale the fish; snip off the fins; remove the guts if they haven't already been taken out. Cut three 1in pockets in each side of each fish. Insert half a teaspoon of the lemon grass/ chilli mixture into each pocket. Stir the rest of the lemon grass/ chilli mixture into the water thickened with the arrowroot. To make the tempura batter, chill the water and egg, then whisk together the ingredients. Put the batter in a shallow tray. Dip the red mullet in the tempura batter and deep-fry at 170C/325F for about 5 minutes. Drain on kitchen paper. Take a large serving plate and arrange the fish on it. Pour some of the sauce over the fish and serve the rest separately.

Accompany with some plainly boiled jasmine rice and stir-fried spinach. Take a wok and fry half a teaspoon of chopped garlic and ginger in a little vegetable oil. As soon as it starts to brown throw in 8oz of washed and drained spinach. Turn it over then pour on 1fl oz/30ml of soya sauce, leave it to cook down a little then serve.

CHARGRILLED COLD-SMOKED SEA TROUT

Cold-smoked sea trout is cured in the same way as salmon, brined and then smoke-cured without cooking. Since it is already cured there is no need to cook the fillet through; it should be just seared on the outside but shouldn't be cold in the centre. You can use a ribbed steak pan if you dont have a barbecue grill. You can also use smoked salmon, though I would not use the very best here.

Serves 4

12oz-16oz/360g-480g cold-smoked

sea trout

1 small shallot

1 small bunch chives

3fl oz/90ml good olive oil

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

Ask your fishmonger to skin the sea trout and cut it into four pieces. Finely chop the shallot, finely slice all but four chives, add the shallot and chives to the olive oil, the white wine vinegar and the salt in a small bowl. Light your barbecue or heat up the ribbed pan till it is smoking hot. Brush the fillets with some olive oil and grill on each side for 30 seconds to 1 minute, depending on thickness. The centre should be just lukewarm. Pour the dressing on to four warmed plates and lay the fillet on top. Drape a chive over each.

MATELOTE OF EEL WITH COTES DU RHONE

This recipe calls for a whole bottle of red wine, which may seem a bit extravagant, but it is essential to achieve a deep flavour.

Serves 4

2 lb/900g skinned eels

2 tablespoons brandy 6oz/180g butter

3oz/90g onions, chopped

3oz/90g leek, thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 sprig thyme

1 bay leaf

11/2 tablespoons flour

1 bottle red Cotes du Rhone

2 pinches sugar

12 button onions or small shallots

3 rashers smoked bacon, cut into strips

1/2lb/225g button mushrooms

4fl oz/120ml olive oil

2 slices white bread

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the eels into 2in/5cm sections. Keep the heads and tailsm

Melt 2oz/60g of the butter in a thick-bottomed saucepan. Gently fry the onions, leeks, two-thirds of the garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and the head and tails of the eels until the vegetables are just beginning to colour. Add the flour and continue to cook gently for about half a minute. Add the red wine, bring to the boil, and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the heads and tails of the eels and continue to simmer for 30 minutes. While the sauce is simmering, place the button onions in a shallow pan; add 4fl oz/120ml of water, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, a large pinch of sugar and 1oz/30g of butter. Place a lid on the pan and cook gently for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and let all the liquid evaporate away until the onions glaze. Keep warm. Place 1oz/30g of butter in a frying pan and add the bacon. Fry gently then add mushrooms, some salt and freshly ground black pepper. Keep warm. Take the two slices of bread and cut small, 1in/3cm discs out of them. Fry these in 2fl oz/60ml of the olive oil. Mix one-third of the chopped garlic with the parsley and chop a little more to amalgamate the two. This is called a persillade. Heat 2fl oz/60ml of the olive oil in a large, shallow pan, add the eel pieces and turn over in the oil till light brown. Add the red wine sauce, bring to the boil and simmer for about 8 minutes. Add the onions and mushrooms and sprinkle in the persillade. Transfer the matelote to a large serving dish and arrange the croutons at random over it. An ideal accompaniment would be some mashed potato and a simple green salad.

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