People can be a bit wary of cooking fish, worrying that it'll be overcooked in the oven, burnt or underdone in the pan, but there really is no need to be daunted. Often people forget that fish doesn't take long to cook at all and if you stick with the recipe cooking times and temperature, you should be fine. As with all cooking, the more you choose fish as an option, the more confident you'll become. We've picked four failsafe ways to cook fish that take some of the mystery out of seasoning and timing.
Fish en Papillote
Baking fish in greaseproof paper is a a simple way to get lots of flavour into your meal. It also looks good presented and shared at the table. There are lots of variations of fish en papillote (fish in parchment) and you can introduce lots of different herbs and spices to give an Asian or Mediterranean take on the dish. While white fish such as haddock or cod are often used, the dish works well with any fish, including salmon.
All you need to do is place fish in some greaseproof paper, resting on some shallots, sliced fennel or courgette strips. Add in some fresh herbs on top, like dill or parsley, throw in some butter and a slice or two of lemon. Seal the parcel by folding it. Here's a really simple video from Good Housekeeping, showing you how to fold the parcel. Put the fish into a pre-heated oven (200°C or 180°C for a fan oven) for approximately 15-18 minutes and the dish is done. You can check the fish at 15 and leave in for a minute or two longer if needs be. Don't be afraid to ask the fishmonger how long to bake the fish for, if you're not sure. You can mix things up a little by using peppers, capers and olives or you could try some ginger, garlic and chilli.
The secret to pan frying fish is a hot pan. If you're concerned about fish sticking, just make sure that your pan is hot and that the butter or oil you use is bubbling. Fish fried quickly on a very hot pan is less likely to stick. All you need to do is fry a fish fillet, skin side down and leave for 3-4 minutes before checking it. Turn it over gently, using a fish slice and fry on the other side. You can spoon over some of the hot butter to speed up the process and give a nice colour to the fish.
You can't go wrong with this Clodagh McKenna fried fish recipe; it's a step by step guide and it only takes ten minutes from start to finish.
Grilled Fish Fillets
Mackerel is one of the nicest fish to grill, but it's easy to grill most fillets. Make sure the grill is on a medium to high setting, that you score the fish skin to stop it curling and that you've a non-stick surface under the fillets. Here's a really simple grilled mackerel recipe from James Martin, with its classic goosberry sauce accompaniment.
This might be one of the easiest ways to cook fish. Like with lots of sauce based fish dishes, the trick is to add the fish near the end and only for a few minutes and without stirring too much. This way the fish keeps its form and still has a good texture. This is a very tasty Indain fish curry recipe from Gordon Ramsay, but you could also try a Thai curry and just pop the fish in 4-5 minutes before serving.
Cooking fish needn't be daunting at all. The key is understanding that fish doesn't need very long to cook, especially if you're cooking individual fillets or pieces within a sauce. If you stick to the cooking times recommended, you should be fine. Always remember to make sure that your pan is hot enough, if frying and don't be scared to try new fish. Your fishmonger will let you know what's on special and will also give you good advice on getting the cooking just right.
About Nicky's Plaice
We're a family run business on the West Pier in the Dublin fishing village of Howth. Opened in 1961 by fisherman Nicky McLoughlin, we've now three generations of the family working together to bring you the best in fresh fish and seafood, the best home smoked salmon and seafood snacks to go at weekends.