Keeping your fish simples


SIMPLE BUT TASTY Hake is a perfect fish for simple but tasty dishes.

Redmond Cabot

What is the most important thing when cooking fish? Is it to fry it correctly, achieve the right temperature, use the correct oil? Is it to learn about roasting fish in the oven with vegetables, is it broiling it, skinning it, filleting it, having the right sized pot?
No. The most important thing is to remember to KISS (Keep It Simple Silly).
Focus on the condition and quality of the fish. Is the fish fresh? Is it flesh firm? Does it smell clean? Once you have a good raw material, fresh fish in this case, any dish becomes doable and achievable. Whereas, if your fish is not fresh, you tend to be on a losing wicket from the get go. Fish with lighter flesh tends to break-up and crumble when cooked with techniques used for cooking firmer fleshed fish. One does not cook Monkfish in the same way one cooks Plaice!
All these points remain common sense yet I know how all of our minds work. We tend to over-fuss and maybe worry too much, ending up making complicated messes. It’s ok, I do it regularly. Stick to the principle of working with a good, natural raw material, and think simply about the taste and flavour combination, along with texture and tactile combinations. Lastly, always imagine how something will look on the finished plate.
Here is a fish recipe I have used regularly and it tends not to let me down. Simple is best.
Hake, Tomato, Caper, Olive style
I first tried this fish dish in Mexico. It is fairly fresh, simple, and effective, so I adopted it!
Veracruz style is anything cooked with a simple tomato sauce with capers and olives -  surprisingly for a Mexican dish there is no chilli.
You fry up some onions with garlic, tomatoes and herbs in a process of stages. Cook one side of the fish fillets, and lay the fish over a bubbling pan to cook together for about ten minutes. It’s about building simple flavours and getting the cooking time right with the textures of each ingredient.

What you need
> 4 x hake/cod fillets
> 4 x medium, ripe tomatoes washed and chopped
> 2 x medium white onions
> 4 x cloves garlic
> 1 tsp each of dried thyme, black pepper, sea salt
> 5 x bay leaf
> 30 x green olives, stones removed and chopped up;
> 12 x capers
> 1 x cup veg stock
> oil for cooking
> knob of butter
> fresh parsley chopped

What you do
Over medium heat, fry up your onions and garlic in oil for 5 mins. Add your tomatoes, pepper and salt. When this starts to bubble turn heat down and simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until the tomatoes have given off much of their water and the flavours are combining. Crush this mix a bit with a potato masher. Add in herbs, Bay leaf, olives, stock, and capers, simmer for 10 mins.
The flavours are really coming together and mingling at this stage. In a separate pan cook the fish fillets in hot oil with a knob of butter skin side, only for 4-5 minutes until browned. Then just lay the fillets skin side down on tomato mix, and cook for ten minutes, while sauce reduces a little and the fish takes on the flavour of the sauce. Serve with white rice and some chopped parsley in a nice arrangement on the plate.

> Red Cabot is interested in food, nature and small things. He sells his food at Westport Country Markets in St Anne’s Boxing Club, James’s Street car park, Westport, every Thursday, from 8am to 1pm.

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