This guest blog comes from Sarah at Food for Think
Over the last few years, mine and I’m sure a lot of others attention has been brought to the sensitive issue of overfishing, which is happening in seas all over the world. This in turn has lead to a huge shortage of certain species. Celebrated chefs have done their part in educating the masses about which species should and shouldn’t be consumed. Restaurants also had to sit up and realise the problem. And if they continued to serve endangered species, they would be frowned upon. Probably the most well known example is when Nobu continued to serve Blue Fin Tuna, but recommended that their diners either don’t eat it, or ask for an alternative. Odd.
You see, if we carry on eating these endangered species, they’ll quickly fade out and we’ll have to kiss goodbye to them forever. What the likes of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver have been telling us is to substitute certain species for ones that do exactly the same job. For example, Coley is a great substitute for Cod and will provide a firm and meaty addition to your dish!
But all of this talk about fish has made me want to eat it more. I picked up a little booklet from Selfridges during their month long Project Ocean when I dined at Hix Restaurant, Champagne and Caviar Bar for a sustainable fish supper, hosted by Mark himself, Valentine Warner and Mitch Tonks. Many of the dishes consisted of sea food that I had never tried before, the cuttlefish dish being one of them. It was served grilled in a broad been and edamame broth and was totally delicious. That alone opened my eyes - then I glanced through the little booklet, which detailed all of the fish that we should and shouldn’t be eating. It really is very handy. Whenever I’m planning a fish dish now I’ll glance at the book just to make sure that I’m doing the right thing.
Since I’m cooking more fish at home, I have recently looked to two books for inspiration. Mark Hix’s Fish etc and Jake Tilson’s In at the Deep End. The former is Marks range of classic fish recipes, taking inspiration from his Fish House restaurant down in his home town of Dorset.
The second is from Jake Tilson, a fine artist and designer who overcame his absolute fear of fish, strange I know, by traveling the world and subjecting himself to a wide range of fishy dishes. I haven’t had a chance to try any of the recipes in Jake’s book yet but the seaweed rock cakes are high on my to do list. Not technically a fish dish as such but they look delightful.
I glanced through Mark’s book and immediately stopped on the Thai Baked fish recipe. I’m lucky enough to have dined at The Ivy a few times and each time I opt for this dish. The Ivy chefs use sea bass but to make it at home I chose cod (North East Arctic). The paste that is smothered of the top of the fish is undeniably better than the ready bought stuff in a jar, while the simple dipping sauce of soy sauce, chilli, ginger and (garlic) is unbeatable. I didn’t have a banana leaf and I couldn’t get my hands on one in time so I baked the fish in a bit of tin foil, which worked just as well.
Thai Baked Fish Recipe
Ingredients - Serves 4
1 tbsp light (not toasted) sesame oil
1 small milk chilli, deseeded and roughly chopped
1 lemon grass stalk, peeled and the bulbous end roughly chopped
20g galangal or root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 lime leaves, roughly chopped
½ tsp ground cumin
10g coriander leaves
20g Thai basil
4 cod fillets, each about 200g, with skin, scaled and any residual bones removed
1 banana leaf , about 1 meter in size (I used tin foil)
For the dipping sauce:
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 tbsp finely chopped galangal or root ginger
1 tbsp finely chopped lemon grass\2 lime leaves
1 garlic clove, crushed
3 tbsp soy sauce
For the fragrant rice:
2 lemon grass stalks, bulbous ends crushed
8 lime leaves
225g basmati rice, rinsed well in cold water
1. pre heat the oven to 200 degrees / gas 6. First, make the dipping sauce: heat the sesame oil in a pan and dry the chilli, galangal, lemon grass, lime leaves and garlic gently for 1 minute to soften them and release their flavours. Add the soy sauce, bring to the boil, the allow to cool and pour into a bowl or, ideally, individual dipping sauce dishes.
2. Now make the fragrant rice: cook the lemon frass with the lime leaves in about 1 litre of simmering salted water for 10 minutes. Add the rice and simer for 10-12 minutes more until it is just cooked. Drain in a colander, then return the rice to the pan, cover it with a lid and tne let it stand for 10 minutes before serving. This will help it become nice and fluffy.
3. While the rice is cooking, prepare the fish: heat the sesame oil in a pan and gently cook the chopped chilli, lemon grass, galangal, garlic, lime leaves and ground cumin in it for a couple of minutes until the aromatics are soft. Then tip the pan’s contents into a food processor with the coriander and Thai basil, together with a couple of tablespoons of water, and blend to a paste. Spread the paste on the fish fillets and wrap each one in a piece of banana leaf like a parcel, folding the leaf so that the edges join underneath the fillet. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the tip of a skewer inserted into the centre of a parcel comes out hot.
4. Place a fish parcel on each plate with a little pot of the dipping sauce. Serve the rice either in individual bowls or in a large bowl to be passed around.
If you’re unsure, here are a few suggestions of what species to avoid and what to replace them with:
Farmed Turbot instead of Brill
Pollack instead of Hake
Coley or Pollack instead of Ling
Skipjack Tuna instead of Marlin
Lemon Sole instead of Plaice
Lemon Sole instead of Dover Sole
To read more from Sarah, visit her blog Food For Think