A perfect time for fresh fish
There is so much going on this year in terms of local produce and the sprouting greens of spring/summer that it is more a question of what not to write about than what to write about! Fresh leafy local butternut lettuces full of fibre and goodness, radishes ready for the salad bowls, sprouting spinach for soups bursting with iron nutrition. And think of all the delicious asparagus getting ready for market in May… Samphire seaweed to be picked on the shores of Clew Bay… Purple sprouting broccoli heads for salad… Wild garlic to be gathered for soups… Peppery watercress for salads…
However, summer is always a great season for fish, and this week I want to look at a couple of simple fish variations.
We are now moving into the better half of the year weather-wise for fishing. Boats are now landing weekly at Rossaveal and all ports along the coast, and there is no excuse for you not trying amazing offerings from the waters and seas we border here in Mayo. Talk to your local fishmonger, get used to the way they work. When do they get supplies in? Can you order something specific? Can they recommend recipes?
Often companies or local traders will sell fish one day a week in your town – ask around, neighbourhood network, get to know them. Enjoy the produce on our doorstep that the rest of Europe is madly jealous of! Fish is good for you, nutritious, and full of essential oils and components necessary for our bodies and minds to work.
With cooking fish the message is simple. Don’t overcook the bloody stuff! This is the KISS system (taught to me by Owen Jacob while fishing Lough Mask and further developed at regular intervals by my wife, Sandra): Keep It Simple, Stupid.
If you ever want to know if a fish is cooked just insert a knife into it, wiggle it to one side, look, and common sense will tell you if cooked or not.
A selection of KISS cooking methods
> Grill fish with knob of butter on top, add sprinkle of herbs half way through cooking.
> Place a white fish (hake/cod etc) in a simple tin-foil wrap of lemon juice, white wine, butter. (Lay fish on tin foil, squeeze half lemon, season with pepper, dash of wine from your glass, two medium-sized knobs of butter). Leave it in the oven for 15 mins at 180° for medium-sized fish.
> Fry plaice lightly in oil and a touch of butter after first turning it in flour mixed with salt and milled pepper. Squeeze lemon on your finished dish.
> Poach/broil your fish: Drop your fish in water (the water doesn’t have to cover the fish) and boil for five to ten minutes. Use just one accompanying flavour – half lemon, some basil leaves or some lemongrass.
What could be more simple, or delicious? Get to it! Perfecto.
So that’s the message with fish, keep the cooking simple and decide on clean, clear flavours. For the recipe this week, here is one I remember from my mum’s kitchen in Rockfort, the Aga and long table. This dish looks fairly fancy and is impressive for dinner guests, but is easy on the cook. Why not try it, you may impress...
Penny’s failsafe cod
with whipped cream, leeks and wholegrain mustard
Serves four; cooking time – 25 mins
12-inch-long fillet of cod (or hake).
Small tub cream
Flat-leaf parsley for garnish
Lay fish on flat baking tray. Whip the cream until it’s stiff. With a sharp knife, slice the leek (using both green and white ends) into thin strips and wash.
Turn leek strips into the cream, add two tablespoons of wholegrain mustard and fold in with spoon. Cover the fish with the mixture, and place in the oven for 20 minutes at 180°.
For the cheese lovers amongst you, you can grate a LIGHT covering of cheese over the dish at the end of cooking and finish under grill. Squeeze two halves of lemon along the fish.
Garnish with flat-leaf parsley, serve with spuds and new spinach. Eat. Pronto!
Suggested wine match with this dish: Grauzan Sauvignon Blanc (€10.99), available from Cabot’s Source by the case.