What's the catch?: Skye Gyngell gets to grips with the freshest fish
Fresh fish and the right blend of herbs and vegetables – nothing could be easier and nothing tastes better right now
Sunday 15 August 2010
I enjoy eating fish during the summer months more than at any other time. Its flesh tends to be lighter than meat, and works beautifully alongside the vegetables and herbs that are in season right now: beetroot, chard, fennel, aubergines, red peppers and the ripest possible tomatoes.
You can make a light and simple butter sauce to serve with pan-fried or grilled fish, but these three recipes call for nothing more than olive oil and a little lemon juice. Throw in any herbs you fancy – they all work well, from tarragon and dill to basil and marjoram.
The only rule of thumb is that the fish should absolutely be as fresh as possible. Look for fish with a sweet smell, bright eyes and firm flesh and scales. And eat it on the day of purchase.
Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627, petershamnurseries.com
Mackerel with beetroot and horseradish
Mackerel, in order to be truly delicious, must be spankingly fresh and served very hot, straight from the oven or barbecue. Beetroot and horseradish are its perfect partners. Here, the beetroot is sliced paper-thin and raw; eaten this way, its flavour is sweet and earthy. The freshly grated horseradish lends heat and is a lovely foil for the mackerel's oily flesh.
You should be able to find fresh horseradish root at good greengrocers. Better still, it is easy to grow or forage – here at Petersham we are lucky enough to have plenty close by.
The fish in this photograph, right, is quite hefty – 290g to be precise – but setting aside the head and bones, what is left is the perfect amount of flesh.
1 medium-sized or 2 smaller mackerels per person
One horseradish root, rinsed, peeled and grated on the finest side of your grater
120ml/4fl oz crème fraîche
1 tsp of Dijon mustard
300g/10oz well-rinsed young spinach leaves
4 beetroot – red, yellow, striped or a combination of all three
1 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar
60ml/2fl oz olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Ask your fishmonger to gut and scale the mackerel. Just before cooking, rinse well to remove any blood that may be lingering in the cavity. Preheat the grill to its highest possible setting.
Place the horseradish, Dijon mustard and crème fraîche into a bowl and stir well to combine. Season with a little salt but no pepper, and set aside. Take the well-rinsed spinach and put into a pan while still damp. Heat gently until just soft.
Wash the beetroot very well, using a scrubbing brush if possible, and slice into fine rounds. Toss together with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and season.
Slash the mackerel three times on both sides – this will help it to cook evenly and season both inside and out. Lay under your grill and cook for 4 minutes on each side. Serve the mackerel straight away with the beetroot and spinach divided between each fish, and the horseradish cream alongside.
Crab salad with fennel
What's nicer than dressed crab on toast?
600g hand-picked white crab meat
60ml/2fl oz mayonnaise, preferably home made
The juice of half a lemon, to be divided between the crab and fennel
1 bulb of fennel, finely sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
It is probably better to pre-order the crab from your fishmonger as they do not always keep it in stock. He will also cook and pick the crab meat for you if the idea seems too daunting.
Gently pick over the crab meat with your fingers, for it is highly likely that there will be one or two little pieces of shell left in. Place in a bowl and add the mayonnaise, squeeze over a few drops of lemon juice and season lightly with the salt and pepper. Fold the mayonnaise in gently so that it is thoroughly incorporated.
Slice the fennel as finely as possible, having first removed the fibrous outer coating. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle over a little olive oil and a little lemon juice, then toss together. Pile the crab on to a plate and place the dressed fennel alongside. Serve with plenty of warm toast.
Carpaccio of wild seabass with marjoram and chilli
This recipe calls for the very freshest seabass – it should taste sweet and gentle. Ask the fishmonger to fillet the fish for you. Slice and dress just before serving, as the lemon juice will quite quickly begin to cook the fish.
The juice of one small lemon
4 tbsp mild-tasting extra-virgin olive oil
1 red chilli, deseeded
1 small bunch of marjoram, leaves only
Place the fish fillet skin-side down on a chopping board. Using a very sharp knife with a flexible blade, slice the flesh of the fish into quarter-centimetre-thick slices, following the grain and working against the skin. Divide among four chilled plates.
Drizzle over the lemon juice and olive oil. Scatter over the marjoram and chilli, and finely season with salt. It is important to season the fish well, for this is what will bring the dish to life – not too little but definitely not too much. Serve at once.
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