Tag Archives: fish


A few quick notes on gravadlax.

  • 1kg fish will yield 650g finished product as moisture is sucked out by the cure
  • 1kg fish will need 200g cure: 100g salt plus 100g sugar – I used sea salt and caster sugar – Him What Knows uses a spot of muscovado
  • on one occasion, the shelf in the fridge where I placed it was too cold and the necessary reactions did not occur – use a fridge thermometer to ensure it’s around 5°C
  • I chop the dill very finely and layer it on the fish first, so it sticks
  • I put about a quarter of the cure on the outside of the fish, and the rest between
  • on the morning of serving, I give the fish a very light rinse, to remove any solid salt crystals, slice it, and place in a fresh dish, with about a third of the liquid, which is drained before serving
  • I don’t think it needs to be served with anything other than some interesting bread, black pepper and lemon wedges



Fish Stock


Making fish pie today so plenty of grisly remains, in particular, prawn heads, which are The Best Thing Ever for making fish stock. I had twelve “large” prawns which weighed around 350g in total. (Yes, I know, in certain parts of the world, these would be considered tiny, but hey ho.)


So, heads cut off, shells removed, and into a medium saucepan. The meat was butterflied (use a small pair of scissors to do this) to remove the vein (well, the gastrointestinal tract) and reserved for the fish pie.


Meanwhile, the grisly remains were given a good rinse, and I added: half an onion, salt, a few black peppercorns, and a bay leaf. Oh, and since I was skinning a cod fillet, I threw the skin in as well. (I was also skinning a smoked haddock fillet, but didn’t use that skin as the stock would have tasted of nothing but smoked haddock. The salmon skin was too oily, so also discarded.)


Topped up with cold water to 2L, and the whole lot brought to a gentle simmer for twenty minutes, and then strained through a fine sieve.


The resulting liquid was allowed to settle, disgorging quite a large amount of sediment.


The saucepan was given a perfunctory rinse, and the liquid carefully poured back, so the sediment stayed in the bowl. Finally, brought back to the boil briefly, and the small amount of scum skimmed off. Final yield: one litre of fishy goodness.

Upside Down Fish Pie

I love fish pie, but I think baking in white sauce doesn’t show off nice fish to best effect, and it’s better steamed on top of the potato. If you’ve never tried the combination of chilli, garlic, cream and basil, then hold on to your hat.

To feed four greedy people plus leftovers, you will need:

  • 1kg potato (any variety)
  • 1kg fish (see below)
  • 350mL stock (fish, vegetable, or just hot water)
  • 150mL cream
  • one head garlic (peeled and chopped)
  • one bunch fresh basil (30g if you’re feeling precise, but you’ll only need the leaves)
  • 2tsp chilli flakes (more if you dare, or fresh hot chilli)
  • 15mL vegetable oil + 25g butter

For the fish I use a mix of cod, salmon, smoked haddock, and prawns; the fillets skinned and chopped into chunks. Check for bones and remove if necessary. Avoid heavily smoked or cured fish: tuna and mackerel would be out of place. If the prawns are whole, you can make quite nice stock with the shells and heads.

Peel and chop the potato into pieces no more than half an inch thick. If you’re using baby potatoes, don’t bother peeling, and just halve them.

Heat a large shallow casserole, and melt the butter in the oil, and fry the chilli flakes for around a minute, add the garlic, and keep frying until a pale gold colour. Add a generous pinch of salt and a grind of black pepper. Tip in the potatoes and continue to fry until they’re lightly coloured; probably a few more minutes. Pour over the stock and the cream, but don’t fret if there’s no stock to hand, just use water from a freshly boiled kettle. Crucially, try and arrange the potato pieces in a single layer and make sure there’s enough liquid in the pot for them to be mainly submerged but not drowned.

Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pot and let the potato cook, stirring from time to time. Depending on the species of potato they will exude some starch and thicken the liquid. You may also need to top up the liquid from the kettle if it’s getting too low.

Once the potatoes are done – test by piercing a piece with a sharp knife; it should offer no resistance – fold in the basil leaves and layer the fish on top. Reduce the heat and cover. The fish should take around ten minutes to steam, but do keep an eye on it. A sure sign is that the cod is starting to separate into flakes.

Serve the whole thing at the table, with some steamed kale and bread to mop up the highly addictive juices.

You could, I suppose, do this with coconut cream, kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, purple basil, and a blob of red curry paste.

Addendum, May 2015: unsure about the timing of guests’ arrival, so steamed potatoes first until they were done. One guest was on low FODMAP diet, so garlic and chilli fried in separate pan, and the oil reserved for cooking. (Three birds eye chillis verging on too hot.)

Sweet Chilli Salmon

Barely a recipe at all, this just shows off one of my favourite condiments of all time.

Put some salmon fillets or steaks into a bowl, with one tablespoon of sweet chilli sauce per piece of fish. Let them sit at room temperature for about an hour, turning if you can remember. A teensy splodge of neutral vegetable oil in the frypan, and then fry. (I do flesh side down for 2-3 mins, then skin side until a bit of white salmon fat starts to ooze out the sides and the middle is still looking very slightly translucent.)

Job done.

(Don’t serve with anything more complex than a green salad.)

Smoked Mackerel Risotto

Smoked mackerel is one of my public vices. I can happily eat the stuff on its own, roughly shoved onto some toast with a squirt of lemon and some pepper. Never had it as a child (we used to have smoked cod, which was a chemical orange colour and horrid) so no nursery associations, but it strikes me as comfort food.

This, then, is a bit of an experiment. Can I combine the slightly sharp smoky fishiness with the gentle ooze of a risotto? The answer is yes, although the results don’t quite taste like risotto.

I used:

  • 300g Arborio rice (or your preferred risotto rice)
  • a large onion
  • 200g smoked mackerel fillets, skinned and flaked into large pieces (or some other hot smoked fish, if you prefer – note that most “smoked” salmon is cured and cold smoked, so not suitable for this recipe)
  • 150g shelled peas (frozen is fine, you could maybe use mangetout, but definitely some form of crisp legume)
  • about a litre of vegetable stock (fish stock would be too OTT for this)

Make the risotto in the usual way – adding the peas and fish about five minutes before the end.

You probably won’t need any extra salt, but more pepper than usual.

Some people get very sniffy about seafood plus cheese, but I think that stirring in maybe 25g of parmesan is the right thing to do. The sharp salty flavour helps balance the starchy goo.

In hindsight, it really could have done with a bunch of parsley, and maybe some lemon zest. Fresh thyme leaves might be worth a go as well.

Crusty Cod

There was a huge lump of cod in the supermarket this evening.

And some leftover pesto, so I did this.

And it ended up like this.

Mmmm. (Although the crust could have gone a bit browner.)

This is a recipe that will appeal to those of you who fancy a bit of engineering as you need to make a crust, and get it onto the fish, without mangling the fish. The crust is there to stop the fish from drying out, and to become gratifyingly brown and crunchy.

Here’s what I used:

  • a 300g piece of cod fillet, without any skin (serves two)
  • 90g of leftover pesto (because that was how much I had)
  • 70g of breadcrumbs (as it looked about right)
  • 25g of Parmesan (or any kind of Grana)

…and this is what I do…

  1. Place the fish in a small baking dish, with a dab of olive oil or butter to stop it sticking.
  2. Combine the breadcrumbs, pesto and Parmesan in a bowl. At this point it will be a bit fluffy, and impossible to put over the fish, so what I do is push the mixture against the side of the bowl with a spoon (and then my fingers) until it’s quite thin and quite solid. (I had goop all over my hands at this point, so no photo, sorry.) You could probably also do this with a rolling pin, but that would make for more washing up.
  3. I then use a butter knife to lever off the crust from the side of the bowl and lay it on the fish – it should cover not only the top, but the sides – nothing worse than a piece of fish with a crust the size of a small biscuit. (This means the restaurant has made the crust separately and earlier, and has simply popped it on your steamed/microwaved fish.)
  4. I plonk the dish into a pre heated oven at 180ºC – regular readers will know that mine is a fan forced – so you might want to set your gas oven to about 200ºC.
  5. After 15 minutes, it should be done. I stick a palette knife through the centre part of the fish (where I’m going to divide it into two portions) to see if the flesh comes apart easily and it doesn’t. As this piece is about an inch thick, I’m not too bothered, so pop it in for another five minutes.

A squirt of lemon, some new potatoes, and a cold beer are all that are needed to complete the picture.

That’s right. Beer. You’re probably used to being intimidated by the waiter into buying a thirty quid bottle of Chablis, but what white fish needs is some good beer.


You could…

  • use salmon instead of cod
  • add a splash of lemon juice to the crust mixture
  • use salsa verde instead of pesto

Come to think of it, you could (and I haven’t tried this) make a crust based on some kind of spice/curry paste, and maybe couscous instead of breadcrumbs. That might be interesting.


I’ll leave other people to discuss the origins of this sauce, but it’s a good bold in-yer-face dish, for a cold damp evening.

The olives should be whole when you buy them, as they start to lose flavour the minute you stone them. The tomatoes need to be drained of their juice so the whole thing doesn’t taste like ketchup: empty the tin into a sieve and give it a shake or two. As always, used dried oregano, and the poshest anchovy fillets you can find.

Per person:

  • half an onion
  • four anchovy fillets (more if you dare)
  • two cloves garlic
  • a pinch of dried chilli
  • half a dozen Kalamata olives, stoned and chopped roughly
  • half a 450g tin of chopped tomatoes, drained
  • salt, pepper, oregano, olive oil

Dice and fry the onion and chilli (with a pinch of salt) in the olive oil until the onion is pale gold.

Meanwhile, slice up the garlic finely, and when the onion is done, push the onion mix to the edge of the pan and fry the garlic ’til it’s translucent in the middle and gold on the edges.

Add the olive, anchovies, tomato and oregano, grind over some black pepper, and simmer on a very low heat for about ten minutes; as long as it takes you to do the pasta.

Serve on pasta with plenty of grana and more pepper.


Whilst frying the onion, garlic and chilli, you could also add some finely chopped chicken breast. I’d suggest not draining the tomatoes in this case.

Alternatively, you could slice up a fresh tuna steak (don’t bother with tinned) and slip it on top for the simmering phase.

Some people like to add capers, if you do, add them at the last minute, as cooked capers are even more horrid.

Spuds and Mackerel

I bought a pink silicone egg flip today. It looks, well, a trifle girly. Which makes it all the more odd, as when it was run up on the register, the lady says to me, “sorry, I’ve got to confirm you’re over eighteen”, before bursting into giggles. I says, “no problem, I know that even now, the estates are being stalked by gangs of hoody wearing teens, armed with egg whisks and slotted spoons, and it’s only right you should ask.” It’s almost not worth mentioning that the slightest smidgeon of a possibility that I looked under eighteen left me immeasurably chuffed.

Anyway, I’d like to point out that I am not a Nigel Slater Junkie, but he does write good recipes. Here is something else I like.

As usual, he’s infuriatingly imprecise, as Mr Barnes has pointed out, so here are my notes:

  • allow 200g of fish and 300g of potatoes per person
  • as long as the potatoes are medium sized (Mr Barnes: you’ll want them to be 105mm along the long axis, and 207mm in circumference) and not too thick skinned, the variety doesn’t seem to matter; tonight’s supper was done with some King Edwards
  • after 30 mins of roasting the potatoes, get in with some barbecue tongs and rearrange them to allow maximum opportunities for crisping

I’m afraid sheer unmitigated greed prevented me from taking photos until everything had been consumed.



It all started with half a punnet of uneaten and slightly squishy cherry tomatoes. Had I just chucked them out, none of this would have happened and my kitchen would not be in its current state of devastation. To cut a long story short, the tomatoes became a small quantity of very intense tomato sauce, and I thought, “yes! fishcakes!” – oops.

For the fish I just used some frozen blocks of “cod portions” – basically all the ugly bits that can’t be sold as fillets are squished together, frozen, and then sawn up. Given that most of the “fresh” cod you see at the fish counter in a supermarket has already been frozen and thawed, there’s no need to get precious about this sort of thing.

The frozen blocks of fish got poached in a saucepan of milk with a bay leaf, whilst an equivalent amount of spuds (peeled and chopped into chunks) were being simmered next door. (Washing up count = 2.)

When the fish was done, it was turned out onto a rimmed chopping board, flaked, and picked through for any bones and bits of skin, and after, combined with the mashed potato in a bowl. (Washing up count = 4.)

After a bit of squishing with a spoon and then by hand to get to the right texture, the resulting mass was rolled into ball about two inches across and half an inch thick, floured and popped on a plate to await their fate. (Washing up count = 6.)

Finally the fishcakes were fried…

Action Shot!

…until crisp on the outside, before being gratefully gobbled up with the aforementioned tomato sauce. (Washing up count = 7.)

Grilled Sardines

The first mouthful of cold beer on a hot summer night is always the best. The rest of the pint is pretty damn good, too. There’s a mellow warmth in the twilight on the way home, cyclists are zipping back and forth, lovers are holding hands, and it doesn’t quite feel like September. Enjoy it while it lasts.

I’m in the mood for fish, but by mid afternoon, the fishmonger has nothing left, except an entire box of fat juicy sardines, so I get four of ’em; scaled and gutted. She does give me the option of getting the heads lopped off, but I don’t see the point.

A quick salsa: one red onion fried with a thinly sliced clove of garlic in olive oil, salt, pepper, and a handful of chopped up tomatoes in a small pan for about ten minutes. Had I olives or capers, or even some parsley, they’d have gone in as well, but not to worry. Oh, damn. There is parsley in the fridge, and I forgot. Double damn.

The sardines go under the grill wearing nothing more than a splash of olive oil – mine’s fairly pathetic – so they need five minutes a side. Those, plus some salsa, and some steamed spinach, are all that’s required.

End Result

Except, of course, for another ice cold beer.