River Cottage Fish
About Me: New edition - In this brilliantly comprehensive volume, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Nick Fisher guide the intrepid fish lover on the path towards proper fish appreciation and enjoyment. Much more than just a cookbook, this volume in three parts promotes a total understanding of British fish, from their natural habitats to what sauce they go best with to how to respect their seasonality, in keeping with the River Cottage ethos.
Most ways of cooking mussels are variations of the classic recipe steaming them open in a flavoured liquor, which becomes their sauce. And, of course, you don’t have to serve them with chips – a hunk of bread, some pasta or rice can all be used to make a meal of them, or they can be served with just their broth, as a starter. This is our own locally inspired take on the classic moules marinière, using leeks, thyme and cider.
Our all-time favourite fish for barbecuing is mackerel. This is partly because its firm, slightly oily flesh responds beautifully to the searing, charring heat. But it’s also because barbecued mackerel has a certain emotional significance. It’s a fish that’s plentiful and easy to catch, and we’ve lost count of the times we’ve cooked up a good haul of it in the open air, surrounded by family and friends. Tucking bay leaves into the cavity of the fish can impart a subtle flavour but, being big fans of bay, we sometimes really go to town and grill the fish on top of whole branches of it. A word of warning: make sure you take them from a strong, established tree. We once had a young bay shrub that fell foul to an enthusiastic pruning prior to a mackerel barbecue ... it never quite recovered.
What makes a good batter? What creates that crisp, savoury, golden coating that seals in all the moisture of the fish it covers? The answer, or at least one answer, is beer. It not only contributes a wonderful lightness to the mixture but adds flavour, too: a nutty, wheaty edge to the crunch. But beer isn’t the only important element. A good batter also needs to have the right consistency: too thick and floury and you’ll end up with a pancakey, chewy result; too thin and it won’t stick to the fish. This recipe is one of the most useful in the book because you can use it when you’re deep frying almost any fish or shellfish. As well as the obvious fillets of white fish, such as plaice, pollack, coley, cod, haddock and whiting, we’ve had great success with beer-battered dogfish goujons, squid rings, even scallops. We’ve included our tried and tested recipe for homemade tomato ketchup here too, as it never fails to please with battered fish. The recipe is based on one by Lindsey Bareham in The Big Red Book of Tomatoes (Michael Joseph, 1999).
There are many ways to cook scallops, but few to beat this. It’s one of the best possible expressions of the salty-spicy-pork meets sweet-succulent-shellfish concept so beloved of the Portuguese. If you’re cooking this dish in the summer when fresh broad beans are available, blanch some and toss them into the pan at the last moment. Sweet little fresh peas are another delicious addition. To make this a more ‘British’ dish, you could substitute black pudding for the chorizo. Add 6 torn sage leaves to the pan with the scallops to bring out the flavour of the sausage.
This is a fabulously fast bit of cookery, which gives you a toothsome, piquant dish in next to no time. Don’t attempt it with very large squid, though, or you’ll end up with a tough result – monster cephalopods tend to respond best to long, slow cooking. Small (not tiny) and medium squid are what you want here, and the key to success is speed. If you can be identified as anything more than a blur with a pair of tongs, you’re moving too slowly. And, whether you’re using a griddle plate, barbecue or frying pan, high heat must be the order of the day. For a change from paprika, try making this with sumac. A Middle Eastern spice of crushed, dried berries, it has a lovely, lemony tang that pairs beautifully with squid. You’ll find it in larger supermarkets and delicatessens.
This is a classic Latin American dish, where fish is marinated in citrus juice. The acid in the juice changes the chemical structure of the fish in a similar way to cooking it, so the texture and flavour cease to be ‘raw’ but there’s still a lovely freshness on the palate. It’s crucial that you start with spankingly fresh fish. Firm, well-muscled varieties such as bream and bass are ideal for ceviche, but we have had good results with gurnard and pollack as well. There are many variations on the theme. Our tried and trusted version uses subtle flavourings that play to the strengths of the very best, freshest fish. Variations that we would sanction include the use of finely sliced fennel bulb instead of celery, and upping the heat a bit with fresh chilli and cayenne, if you like that extra zing. If finding both limes and lemons is a problem, use just one or the other. But don’t miss out on the orange. We think it rather makes the dish.
This is a really impressive way of preparing mackerel. Fresh, vibrant salsa verde works beautifully as a stuffing and really complements the rich flesh of the fish. You can try the same technique with other stuffings, such as pesto or a piquant chilli salsa. The tail-on filleting technique suggested here gives you a very attractive little parcel. Remove the pin bones to create the all-important channel that holds the salsa verde, then simply sandwich two fillets together before tying with string.
This is one of the best savoury tarts we know, and a firm favourite with Tim Maddams on the Fish course at River Cottage https://www.rivercottage.net/shop/product/fish-skills-and-cookery/ The balance of the lightly salty, slightly smoky fish, the sweetness of the onion, the greenness of the spinach and the just-set creaminess of the custard, all on crumbly pastry, is a kind of perfection. Is this the best recipe in the River Cottage fish book? Arguably… Grab your copy of River Cottage Fish here http://astore.amazon.co.uk/rivecott-21/detail/1408814293