How To Cook Fish – The Ultimate Guide

It doesn’t matter what the recipe says, or what species of fish you happen to be cooking, whether its whole or cut into fillets, or if your baking, pan-frying, or poaching. When it comes to cooking  fish I’ve got  a  golden rule…..

how to cook fish

Whatever you do….don’t overcook it.

I like to eat my salmon pink and It hasn’t killed me. The japanese have been eating raw fish for centuries and it hasn’t done them any harm. As long as your fish is perfectly fresh then you can eat it when it’s a little underdone, it’s so succulent and delicious with the center translucent and just cooked.

It’s definitely better than if you’d overcooked it and your fish is dry, has an unpleasant texture, and lacks flavour. Any time your cooking fish don’t worry if you took if off early, you can always cook it a little more but once it’s overcooked all you can do is serve it to your cat.

Fish is the ultimate fast food. Cooking times are measured in minutes. There’s no long drawn out cooking to soften tough fibers or a need to rest it like meat. Throw a pan on the heat add a knob of butter and heat it till its foaming, fry your fish for a couple of minutes and finish it with some freshly chopped herbs and a squeeze of lemon and you have a supper fit for a king cooked in minutes.

Before you put your fish anywhere near the heat you’ve got to buy and prepare it. I’ve written a post about the beat way to find the freshest fish possible, you can read it here. I’m also not going to go into detail about how to gut, fillet, and scale fish. Get your fish monger to do this donkey work. He can do a far better job in a lot less time than you can do at home.

To cook the perfect piece of fish it will help to know what heat does to its delicate flesh.

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Lemon And Caraway Farles

Lemon and caraway farles – A version of the classic brown Irish soda bread. Perfumed with roasted aromatic caraway seeds and citrus lemon then cooked in a skillet.

caraway farles

My mother never made bread like this and if I’m honest I’d never even tasted let alone made a farle until I tried the commercial mass-produced version that you can buy down the supermarket. Celebrity chef Paul Rankin has even put his name to a brand. It’s an ideal bread for him to endorse. He comes from the heartland of the farle up in the north of Ireland where they serve it for breakfast as part of the traditional Ulster fry up.

Down here in the south this quick cook skillet bread isn’t all that common. Traditionally cooks here baked the same bread over the hearth or in the oven and I reckon we’ve been missing a trick. There’s something quite  satisfying about cooking bread on a stove top and watching it as it turns golden and puffs up a little right before your eyes. It very similar to cooking pancakes, drop scones, or blinis and I suppose farles are a combined Irish version of all 3.

farles

These bread type farles aren’t to be confused with the potato farle. Which are really just glorified potato cakes with the addition of some flour and baking powder. Their tasty enough but i find their texture a little dense. Theres never enough flour or baking powder in them and if you want one that’s light and fluffy than you need milk in the recipe. It’s crucial  if you want anything with baking powder in it to rise. So if you’re going to all that trouble you might as well leave the potato out all together and make these ones.

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Creamy Ginger Rice Pudding With honeyed Roast Pears And Walnuts

creamy ginger rice pudding

Creamy ginger rice pudding – Pearl rice cooked in an infusion of milk, vanilla, and warming ginger. Than topped with crunchy caramelized pears and walnuts.

Poor rice pudding. It suffers from a bit of an image problem. It’s often thought of as a little old-fashioned, something your mother or grandmother might have cooked up back in the day.

It’s a dessert you never see on a restaurant menu. I’ve tried putting it on a few menus in places I worked over the years and gave up, it’s never been a good seller. I suppose customers expect something a little sexier on a menu when they go out to eat, especially for desert.

With the exception of those dreadful chilled rice pudding pots they sell in the supermarket this humble dessert seems to have been forgotten about. It’s maybe something served in a nursing home or a hospital to the elderly and infirm rather than in a restaurant.

Sexey it’s not but tasty it is. It’s a great pudding for this time of year when the days are short and the weather has turned just a little chillier. Pure comfort food, a bowl of creamy sweet goodness that clings to your insides and warms you from within.

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Sesame Prawn Skewers With Rocket and Roast Garlic Aioli

prawn skewers

Skewered sweet Dublin bay prawns rolled in toasted sesame seed and grilled till golden, served with a sweet and peppery garlic aioli.

When was the last time some Dublin bay prawns ended up in your shopping basket down the fish mongers? If you’re anything like me the chances are they’re an occasional treat. A delicacy only enjoyed every now and again.

The main reason for me is the price. The 20 or so dublin bay prawns in the picture above cost a whopping 17 euro and I’m not ashamed to say I wolfed them down all on my lonesome and was still left feeling a little peckish.

The other issue is availability, which is also the reason they’re so damn expensive. No doubt the best and freshest are snapped up by the high end restaurants around town. Which leaves your average joe like you and me with the frozen variety.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. Dublin bay prawns deteriorate rapidly once caught. These days they’re flash frozen at sea or shortly after being being landed. Most of the time I turn up my nose at frozen fish.

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Cod Véronique

cod veronique

Cod Véronique – crispy skinned fillets of flakey cod with the classic creamy vermouth and grape sauce.

Like a lot of Irish chefs my age I was classically trained. Any chef who’s been to catering college here might remember been thought some of the delicious famous French classics like bouillabaisse, gratin dauphinois, or bœuf bourguignon.

Learning the classics is a great way to teach young chefs how to cook. Not only do you learn how to make some great tasting food, but more importantly you learn the cookery method behind each dish.

If you know how to make a bœuf bourguignon than you know how to make a coq au vin or any type of stew. After you know how to make creme anglaise than you’re only a step away from creme caramel, creme brulee, or indeed any type of ice cream.

The classics are an integral part of a culinary education. They give young chefs a good foundation. Once you’ve learnt the techniques and methods behind them, than you can go on and become more creative with your cooking.

When it comes to fish though it seems I’ve not been a very good student. With the exception of bouillabaisse I seem to have forgotten most of the fish dishes I learnt at culinary school. One dish that does stand out in my memory is the classic sole veronique.

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Smoked Kipper Rarebit

smoked kipper rarebit

Smoked Kipper rarebit – toasted crusty bread topped with a silky bechamel sauce flecked with lightly smoked kippers and mature cheddar cheese. Than grilled till golden.

If you’d never heard the term rarebit before than you could be forgiven for thinking it is some sort of culinary masterpiece, exotic, and difficult to make. It’s a really fancy word for the world’s favourite snack, the humble cheese on toast.

I have no idea where the word rarebit comes from and having done a little research I’ve been left none the wiser. I did learn though that there are a couple of different versions of this pimped out cheese on toast recipe. There’s a Scotch version, two English ones, and even a more modern Irish one. The country most associated with the dish though is definitely Wales.

It’s a bit of a surprise that a country with some of the finest tasting lamb and seas teeming with some of the freshest fish and shellfish is so closely associated with cheese on toast. Apparently the reason for this is that back in the day the poor people of Wales couldn’t even afford the cheapest cuts of meat. We know all about that here in Ireland, it’s why we’re world famous potato eaters.

The classic Welsh rarebit has got to be the best tasting cheese on toast recipe you’ll ever come across and it’s really easy to make too. All you’ve got to do is mix some ale with mustard powder, butter, worcestershire sauce, and a big hand full of mature cheddar cheese. Gently heat it till it’s melted and bubbling then pour the molten mixture over some of your favorite toasted bread and grill till golden. Dead easy…

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