Slow roast turbot – Sweet tasting turbot, slowly roasted in an olive oil infused with zesty lemon, fragrant thyme, and salty anchovies.
It’s been a long time since I’ve eaten let alone cooked a bit of turbot. Last weekend that all changed. I’d made a rare trip out to Howth fish market in search of some black sole but due to bad weather there was none available. The best thing about visiting the bigger fish markets like Howth though is the sheer variety of fish and shellfish on offer, you’re nearly always guaranteed to find something spankingly fresh to tickle your fancy.
On this occasion it was some fresh looking whole turbot sitting on the shaved ice that caught my eye. After a bit of discussion with the French fish monger working behind the counter I discovered it was in fact a farmed turbot all the way from Spain.
Having never eaten farmed turbot I was curious to know how it tasted and was contemplating giving it a go. Before I could even ask what it was like, the french lad told me “is meard, but I have some wild turbo”
Without getting into the whole wild vs farmed fish debate, and leaving other considerations aside like nutrition, sustainability, and the environment, if I’m given a choice I’ll always go for the wild fish. Generally it just tastes better.
The only stumbling block can be the price. Wild turbot can be ridiculously expensive, up to 25 euro a kilo for fillets. Back when I was a young commis chef it was a lot cheaper. l can still remember these massive whole turbot, the size of a small child, arriving into the kitchen sticking out of styrofoam boxes. Weights of 10 to 12 kilo were not uncommon and If there was a couple of big ones in the box than it would take 2 of us to lift it. Maybe I’m been a bit nostalgic but these bigger fish always seemed to taste better. Simply cut into large stakes and charred over a hot grill then served with deep-fried parsley and half a lemon….delish.
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.
Tuna with aubergine hummus – Seared, spice dusted tuna, with a creamy chickpea and aubergine hummus.
I’ve got a bit of a love / hate relationship with tuna. I love cooking it and I love eating it even more. But I don’t like putting it on the menu any where I work.
I’ve a couple of reasons. First off tuna has got to be cooked rare…or not at all if you like sushi. For some reason because it slightly resembles a fillet of beef and can be cooked rare customers seem to think it can’t be cooked medium, pink and every other cuisson you can apply to meat.
This just isn’t the case. It can’t be cooked medium or pink. It’s not beef there’s no blood and it will never take on that beautiful pink hue you get at the center of a perfectly cooked steak.
The best any chef can do is kind of half cook it for you, which is a difficult thing to do and get spot on. Do the chef a favour and eat rare. You’ll love the crusty caramelized exterior and the soft, moist red center and if you want it well done I’ll open a tin of John West’s finest for you.
Monkfish and mango skewers – Cubes of spanking fresh monkfish, skewered with juicy ripe mango, and char-grilled over red-hot coals.
We’re not great at barbecues here in Ireland, are we? Not surprising when you can count on one hand the number of days when the opportunity might arise to fire it up and get cooking al fresco.
Burgers, sausages, chicken, and maybe a cut of steak are the usual suspects when we decide to do a bit of searing over coals. A lot of the time when cooking fish on a bbq is gets relegated to a convenient foil parcel, placed over the searing heat.
It’s a handy way to cook a bit of fish, but kinda defeats the whole purpose of getting out the bbq and going to the hassle of firing up the coals in the first place. Fish well wrapped up in foil will never take on the slightest hint of that beautifully charred, smoky, and caramelized flavour we all love when we bbq. Essentially the fish gets steamed in its own juice, and not barbecued.
Citrus sea bass – Crispy skinned sweet sea bass served with a sauce made from citrus juice and infused with basil
As I was putting this colourful little plate together I got to thinking about local and seasonal ingredients. There’s a chef down in Galway on the west coast of Ireland I was reading about recently. He doesn’t put anything on the menu that he can’t source within a 30-mile radius of his restaurant.
Chef Jp McMahon’s restaurant is called Aniar and he calls this style of cooking cuisine terroir . It’s a noble idea, something we should all aspire to, eco-friendly, with a low-carbon footprint. They must be doing something right because the restaurant won a Michelin star a couple of years back. Generally local and seasonal will always taste better than ingredients flown from thousands of miles away. It’s on my list of restaurants to check out. If I can get a table.
If I was to cook this way all the time there’s a couple of things I’d miss, and citrus fruit would sure be one. This crispy citrus sea bass is anything but local and seasonal. Down the market, I tried to get my hands on the largest array of citrus possible. Oranges, lemons, limes, pink grapefruit, and blood oranges are all included for a dish of contrasting hues and citrus flavours. Read More
Fillets of salmon poached in an earthy beetroot stock with zesty lime infused samphire.
We’re already well into the new year and over the past couple of week I’ve been trying to eat healthy. Not that easy when you work in a kitchen surrounded by food 24/7. I try not to pick at food while I work and to sit down and eat a proper meal at least once a day.
Fish is already big part of my diet and if you’re trying to lose weight, get fit, or just eat a little healthier than getting a bit more fish into your diet is a good idea. Not only is fish the ultimate fast food but it’s also one of the most nutritious.
Packed with protein, vitamins, minerals, and omega 3. The list of its health benefits for fish eaters goes on and on. It’s also low in fat and cholesterol with one big caveat, it all comes down to how you cook it.
Obviously frying or deep-frying are out the window. The best ways to cook fish if you want to be healthy are steaming, baking in the oven, and poaching like this recipe here.
Not only is the fish poached in this recipe. First its marinated and then cooked in an earthy, nutrient rich, beetroot stock that’s been infused with balsamic, garlic, and thyme. The nutritional value of beetroot is well documented. Lots of vitamin c, low-fat, plus plenty of dietary fiber are among its many benefits. Read More