A Delicious Start To The New Year: 3 Perfect Seafood Suppers

Want to kick off the NEW YEAR with at least one (delicious) RESOLUTION you’ll enjoy sticking to? Start 2017 as you mean to go on and simply eat more FISH, says TRISH DESEINE

sea_bass

A new year, a new you? Well, we will all be glad to see the back of 2016, but are you counting on celebrating the end of a terrible year by eating differently in the new one? Fear not, there will be no dietary preaching here, especially at a time when we need hearty, comforting, uncomplicated food, but perhaps instead a little gentle coaxing to reconsider how we buy, cook and eat one of our great national bounties, our fish.

It seems only a flick of a mermaid’s tail since my childhood, when our family fish intake was the odd Friday duo of plain and smoked cod, fried in butter and served with green beans, steamed potatoes and of course, more butter. It was that or fish fingers, or as a treat, fish and chips from the best chippy in the county in Ballynure. Served only on Christmas Day, with wheaten bread and lemon slices, smoked salmon was a true delicacy, and an expensive one. In our house, beef was the thing.

Then, in France in my 20s, I started to discover all sorts of new fish species as I shopped and cooked alongside the older generation in my family-in-law. Of all the produce in a typical market, the abundance, freshness and proximity (no plastic wrapping or Plexiglas screens) of fish-with-heads-on and raw shellfish seemed most remarkable. Weekends spent sailing or beside the sea in Normandy meant that fish arriving directly from Le Havre, Dieppe, Honfleur or Cherbourg was a given. Eyes and gills were always glistening and crabs, lobsters and prawns would still be wriggling. You would order your fish whole, have it weighed and finish your shopping while the fishmonger prepared it, or choose a platter full of oysters, langoustines, whelks and winkles which would be opened for you, then beautifully presented and wrapped. There was always a sense of joy and occasion – of la fête! – as you took away such a plateau, shiny in cellophane and tied with a pink tape bow. As my children were growing up, very often our Sunday roast would be a whole roast sea bass, stuffed with fresh herbs, garlic, lemon and lime, served with a lively green sauce and steamed waxy potatoes.

In Ireland, even in West Cork, there is still a slight reserve and squeamishness when it comes to fish. Counters mostly offer fillets, mussels come in bags, lobster is often ready-cooked and you are left to fend for yourself when opening oysters. When eating out across Ireland, it is not that easy to find somewhere for a dozen decent oysters, or a simple, fresh bowl of mussels and chips, so much of our fish and seafood is exported to the discerning French.

But the gourmets are fighting back! Recently, at beautiful Ballywalter Park in Co Down, Vibse and Brian Dunleath teamed up with promotional agency Seafish and Michelin star-holding chefs Martijn Kajuiter and Stevie Toman at the first “Loaves and Fishes” event, teaching young chefs and visitors about the nutritional and culinary qualities of some of our lesser known seafood. They’ve given me some of their recipes for you to try. And as healthy new year resolutions go, you’d be hard pushed to find a more delicious one than “eat more fish.”

1. Whole Roast Sea Bass with green sauce

This is by far the easiest way to cook fish, and leaving it on the bone is also arguably the most tasty.

For 6 (20 minutes cooking and preparation)

  • A large whole sea bass, cleaned
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • A large handful mixed fresh herbs (basil, coriander, flatleaf parsley), finely chopped
  • A drizzle olive oil
  • Pinch sea salt

For the green sauce

  • 1 lime, juice only
  • A large handful mixed fresh herbs (basil, coriander, flatleaf parsley), finely chopped
  • A drizzle olive oil
  • A pinch sea salt
  • 1 tsp capers, drained (optional)
  • 1 cloves garlic, crushed (optional)

To serve

  • 200g steamed green beans
  • A small handful of hazelnuts, crushed

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Tuck the lime wedges and herbs into the cavity of the fish then drizzle a little olive oil over the skin and sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt. Set the fish in a roasting pan and roast for about 20 minutes. The flesh should come away from the spine easily but still be firm and pearly white.

2. While the fish is cooking, steam the beans and make the sauce.

3. Mix about half the lime juice with the chopped herbs, olive oil and a small pinch of sea salt. Stir in the capers and garlic, if using, then taste the sauce, adding a little more lime juice, olive oil or salt, as desired. You can also blitz all the ingredients in a mini blender for a smoother sauce.

4. To serve, scatter the crushed hazelnuts over the hot green beans and serve alongside the fish and green sauce.

 

2. Charred quid with chilli jam

A 1990s gastropub favourite which should really have migrated to your own kitchen by now.

For 4 (20 minutes preparation and cooking)

  • 450g fresh squid, cleaned
  • 1 red chilli finely diced
  • 2.5cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 shallots finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic peeled and finely diced
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Salad leaves to serve

1. Place the chilli, ginger, shallots, garlic, soy sauce, sugar and coriander in a small blender and blitz until finely chopped. Heat half the oil in a small frying pan and pour in the chilli mix. Cook gently for a few minutes until it becomes sticky, then set aside. This is your chilli jam.

2. Heat a griddle pan over a high heat. Prepare the squid by cutting it in half, slitting it on one side and cutting it into squares. Pat it dry with kitchen paper. Lightly score it on the inside. (score it diagonally in one direction, and then do the same in the other direction, to give little diamond shapes), taking care not to cut right through the flesh.

3. When the griddle pan is hot, lightly brush the squid and the tentacles on both sides with the remaining oil, then season with salt and freshly milled black pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes, turning halfway through, until it’s lightly charred.

4. Serve warm or cold on a bed of salad leaves, with the chilli jam drizzled over.

  

3. Monkfish with mussels, leeks and courgettes

A meaty fish, monkfish stands up to dishes with all sorts of robust ingredients. Here it’s cooked into an aromatic broth flavoured with apple and vegetables.

For 4 (16-20 minutes preparation; 16-20 minutes cooking)

  • 4 180g monkfish tails
  • 60g garlic herb butter, diced and chilled
  • 1 carrot, peeled into ribbons, blanched and refreshed
  • 1 courgette, sliced and cooked until tender
  • 1 leek sliced into rings and boiled until tender
  • 4 potatoes boiled and sliced

For the Mussel Broth

  • 20 mussels
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 125ml apple juice
  • 125ml fish stock
  • 1 tbsp chopped carrot
  • 1 tbsp chopped onion
  • 1 tbsp chopped celery
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp white peppercorns
  • 1/4 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/4 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 sprig parsley
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 1 sprig tarragon
  • 1 bay leaf

Mussel Broth

In a large pan, sweat the vegetables and garlic in a little oil for 5 minutes then add the tomatoes, peppercorns, seeds, herbs, and tomato paste. Cook for 5 minutes, then add the mussels, cover with a lid, and cook until the mussels open. Remove the mussels with a slotted spoon and reserve. Add the fish stock and apple juice to the pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 20 minutes, then strain through a sieve.

Monkfish

Season the monkfish and fry in a hot non-stick pan in a little oil until cooked through, approximately 6 minutes, turning regularly. Warm the mussel broth and add the vegetables and mussels to warm through, whisk in the garlic herb butter a little at a time. Divide some of the vegetables into the serving bowls, top with the fish, then spoon any remaining vegetables and mussels over the fish, along with the mussel broth.

@TrishDeseine

This article appeared in a previous issue, for more features like this, don’t miss our February issue, out Thursday, February 2.

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