Tuesday 21 November 2017

Fish supper: take your pick from these fresh catch of ideas

Be careful to remove the bones, says Brenda Costigan, and take your pick from this fresh catch of ideas -- including home-made fish fingers, Thai green curry and stuffed sea bass


I love fish, but there's always the problem of the tiny bones -- pin bones -- and how to extract them politely from your mouth. My parents were very keen that we should have nice table manners, and they were always tutoring us in the various niceties, which are really a copy of English manners.

So you can imagine them observing my younger sister, who had just returned from France after a three-month stint as an au pair, in stunned silence. She had gone native, and ate her first meal at home with such relish that she even mopped up the tasty juices with some bread -- and she had been living in the house of a countess!

It is unlikely that anyone would choke on a pin bone, but eating fish is a much more pleasant experience if the cook has gone to the trouble of removing all of those small little bones before cooking. Carefully rubbing your fingers over the surface of most fillets of fish will reveal a little line of bones which will stick up in an even row, like sharp little pins. These can be pulled out with a strong pair of tweezers or a small pair of pliers (I keep one specifically for this purpose). It is much easier and more hygienic to do this before cooking and it is worth the trouble, especially where young children and elderly people are concerned.



Strictly speaking, I use two frying pans when making this recipe. I find it more convenient to initially fry the vegetable mixture separately before spooning it around the fish to bake in the oven. Though not necessary, you might like to put the cooked fish dish under a hot grill to give the crumbs a blast of colour before serving.

You will need:

3-4 shallots or 1 onion, roughly chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 back rashers, roughly chopped

75g (3oz) mushrooms, roughly chopped

1 leek, sliced and washed

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon herbes de Provence

8 cherry tomatoes, halved

40g (1 1/2oz) breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon fresh Parmesan, finely grated

? teaspoon cajun seasoning (optional)

2 fillets of cod or haddock or any white fish of your choice, about 175-200g (6-7oz) each, skin on

Mayonnaise or sweet chilli sauce, to serve

Preheat the oven to 200 C 400 F, Gas 6, and put the tin on which you will bake the fish into the oven also, to preheat it.

Put the roughly chopped shallots or onion, whichever you are using, into a hot frying pan with two tablespoons of the olive oil and cook for a minute or two. Add in the roughly chopped back rashers and cook them lightly. Then add the roughly chopped mushrooms and the sliced leek and fry to lightly soften them. Season with some salt and freshly ground black pepper and flavour with the herbes de Provence. Add the halved cherry tomatoes and cook everything together for a couple of minutes.

Meanwhile, season the breadcrumbs with some salt and freshly ground black pepper and add the finely grated fresh Parmesan. Add a very light dusting of cajun seasoning, if you are using it, over the flesh side of the fish.

Take the hot tin out of the oven and sprinkle the remaining olive oil over it. Sit the fish fillets skin-side down on the tin and then spread an adequate covering of the breadcrumbs on the fish. Spoon the contents of the pan all around the fish, adding an extra drizzle of olive oil if necessary. Put into the hot oven and bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until the fish is done to your liking. Serve with mayonnaise or some sweet chilli sauce.


It is important to add good flavour to the home-made crusty breadcrumb coating on the pieces of fish, otherwise they will end up tasting rather bland. First, take a little time to remove all the pin bones.

You will need:

450g (1lb) skinless fillets of white fish, such as cod, haddock or whiting

2 tablespoons white flour

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 large egg, beaten

110g (4oz) white breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon fresh Parmesan, finely grated (optional)

A few pinches of dried oregano (optional)

Oil for frying on a frying pan

Knob of butter (optional)

Mayonnaise or tomato sauce, to serve

Cut the skinless fillets of white fish into finger-like pieces. Put the white flour into a bowl, season with a little salt and some freshly ground black pepper and dip the fingers of fish into it, one at a time, then shake well to remove any loose flour. Place the floured fish fingers on a board or a plate. Season the beaten egg lightly with some salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Put the breadcrumbs in another wide dish and mix in the finely grated fresh Parmesan and the dried oregano, if you are using it, again adding a little salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Dip the lightly floured pieces of fish into the beaten egg, one at a time, holding each one up with a fork to allow the excess egg to drain off. Then, dip each fish finger into the breadcrumbs, turning over to make sure each one is coated evenly. Lift up to allow the excess breadcrumbs to drop off, then press the breadcrumbs firmly on to the fish finger's surface. Put the fish fingers side by side on a board or plate; do not stack them on top of each other or they will become soggy.

Method 1 -- To cook on a frying pan:

Heat about 2.5cm (1in) depth of oil on a frying pan and, when it is piping hot, gently put in about four fish fingers at one time and fry them until they are golden and crispy all over -- putting too many in the pan at one time will lower the temperature of the oil, and as a result, the fish fingers will not be crispy. Once you have fried the first batch, put them on to kitchen paper to drain, then put them in the oven until you're ready to serve them. Add more oil if necessary when you're frying the remaining batches. Serve with mayonnaise or tomato sauce.

Method 2 -- To cook in the oven:

Preheat the oven to 200 C, 400 F, Gas 6. Put a little oil and a knob of butter, if you are using it, on a baking tin and heat in the oven. Arrange the crumbed fish fingers on the hot baking tin, turning them over in the oil, and bake for about 15-20 minutes until the fish fingers are firm to the touch and the crumb coating is golden brown. Break one open to check that it is cooked right through. The opaque flesh should have turned white. Serve with mayonnaise or tomato sauce.


Thai curries pair fresh herbs with hot spices. Ready-made green curry paste is widely available, while little packets of dried kaffir lime leaves can be purchased from good supermarkets. This is a very speedy recipe. Serves 3.

You will need:

1-2 tablespoons groundnut oil or sunflower oil

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1-2 red chillies (see note)

400ml coconut milk

2 tablespoons green curry paste

8 kaffir lime leaves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

450g (1lb) fish fillets of your choice with skin still on, divided in three or four pieces

2-3 tablespoons basil leaves, shredded

Rice, to serve


Increase the number of chillies if you like your food very hot. Chillies should be handled with care, as contact with the eyes or nose can be painful. Wear rubber gloves and, afterwards, wash surfaces that have come into contact with them.

Heat the groundnut oil or sunflower oil, whichever you are using, and fry the chopped onion, the crushed garlic and the red chillies until they become soft. Add the coconut milk, the green curry paste and the kaffir lime leaves, and bring the mixture gently to the boil. Season to taste with some salt and freshly ground black pepper. Put in the pieces of fish, cover them and simmer gently until they are cooked -- about 5-10 minutes. Before serving, scatter the shredded basil leaves over the top and serve with rice.

Jamie Oliver's recipe for stuffed sea bass

Use two steam bags or make tinfoil parcels. Serves 2 as a main course.

You will need:

1 whole fennel

5g fennel seeds

70g butter

50ml olive oil

2 garlic cloves

3g dill

3g flat-leaf parsley

3g fresh basil

3g fresh mint

2 whole sea bass, cleaned, gutted, with head and tail on

1 lemon

10 each baby potatoes, half-cooked

20 each capers

200g thick tomato sauce, see below

200ml white wine

Green salad or steamed vegetables, to serve

Preheat your oven to 190 C, 375 F, Gas 5. Finely slice the whole fennel and lightly crush the fennel seeds. Melt half the butter in a pan with the olive oil, then add in the finely sliced fennel and the fennel seeds. Slowly saute them for five minutes on a medium heat. Finely chop the garlic and add it to the fennel. Cook until the fennel is soft, golden brown and sweet to taste. Set it aside to cool.

To make some herb butter, finely chop the dill, the flat-leaf parsley, the fresh basil and the fresh mint and add them to the remaining butter. Mix everything well, and then set aside.

Take the sea bass and ensure they are clean inside and out. Pat dry with some kitchen paper. Make three diagonal cuts down to the bone in one side of the fish. Stuff these cuts with the herb butter. Fill the cavity of the fish with two slices of lemon, and then with the stewed fennel. Try to use up all of the fennel.

Gently transfer each fish to the inside of a steam bag or on to some tinfoil. Add in the whole half-cooked potatoes, the capers, the thick tomato sauce, and the white wine. Seal the bag at the end -- if you are using tinfoil, fold it up as you would a parcel. Place the steam bags or tinfoil parcels on to a baking tray and pop them into the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove the fish from the oven and allow to sit for 2-3 minutes. Serve immediately after resting.

Place the steam bag or the tinfoil parcel on to a serving plate, open carefully and serve with a green salad or some steamed vegetables.


The ingredients in this sauce give a good rich flavour. Tinned tomatoes are handier to use in the winter; in summer, use fresh tomatoes. Makes about 600ml (1pt). Can be served as a sauce with chicken, or spread on a pizza.

You will need:

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

1 x 400g (14oz) tin chopped tomatoes

1/4-1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon tomato puree

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1-2 teaspoons sugar (or more to taste)

300ml (1/2pt) chicken stock

1/2-1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar (optional)

In a saucepan, fry the finely chopped onion and garlic in the olive oil until soft. Add the tin of chopped tomatoes, the dried oregano, the tomato puree, some salt and freshly ground black pepper, the sugar and the chicken stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes, then add the balsamic vinegar, if you are using it, and draw off the heat until required. Use as required or, when cooled, cover and store in the fridge.


Promoted Links

Life Newsletter

Our digest of the week's juiciest lifestyle titbits.

Promoted Links

Editors Choice

Also in Life