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Fish with No Bones- The Cartilaginous Fish
There is a weird and wonderful collection of fish that don’t have a bone to their bodies. Skeleton yes, but true bone, no, Called Chondrichthyans, they have skeletons of cartilage instead of bone and include sharks, rays and some bizarre, soft-headed fish called a chimera.
They have evolved different solutions to those everyday problems that fish confront: how to survive in seawater, how to float and how to reproduce. While bony sea fish increase the salt content of their bodies by continually drinking seawater, Chindrichthyans retain salts from within.
Among these salts is urea, a natural product of the breakdown of proteins, which is found in high enough levels to counterbalance the osmotic pressure from the sea.
Soon after the fish dies, the area begins to break down and forms ammonia, which makes the whole shebang quite offensive and definitely inedible.
Whatever anyone says in any book, or in any circumstance at all, this smell does not go away. If the fish is handled correctly, there shouldn’t be a problem, and that it must be bled since the area is found in the blood.
Another option, used widely where the shark is dried in the sun, is to bleed the fish and then soak the flesh in brine.
Cartilaginous fish don’t have a swim bladder, which controls buoyancy, so in order to avoid sinking like a stone, they have developed large livers which are rice in oil.
These have a double function: they act as a liver should and also as a sort of internal floatie, with a high level of oil tending to pull the fish to the surface. (See details history of fishing)
Sadly for them, shark and many of their relations are simply not very cuddly. Even though shark stocks are under great pressure, no one seems to get very worked up about them. Demand for sharks’ fins and even shark meat is on the up.
To compound their problems shark takes a long time to reach sexual maturity, laying small numbers of eggs and, in some cases, giving birth to live young.
Even the oil from the liver and rough skin have important specialist markets; there is also a belief that extracts from the cartilage may help fight cancer, a claim as yet unproven. Things will, I suspect, get worse for these troubled fish.
SHARKS AND DOGFISH
Make and porbeagle are considered the best sharks to eat but they are far from being everyone’s favorite fish. Porbeagle, or taupe in French, is eaten in France as veau de Mer, which nicely hints at its meatiness and rosy color.
A long meeting with a marinade makes shark easier to eat. Strong spices and chili are quite permissible. Thinly sliced shark is more palatable than great chunks. (See details coral reefs fish)
- Prionace glauca
- French: Peau bleu
- Italian: Verdesca
- Spanish: Tintorera
- Portuguese: Tintureira
- German: Grosser Blauhai
The blue shark is migratory, appearing off the Cornish coast in summer. A slow-swimming shark that drifts with the ocean currents, it isn’t particularly wonderful to eat but if you’re fond of shark you’ll like the blue shark’s teeth; it has a particularly fine set. The meat from blue is very white. (For more see details flaky fish)
- Season: Summer.
- Yield: Fair, 40%
- Fishing method: Line.
Dogfish, Huss, Rock Salmon
- Scyliorhinus canaliculus
- French: Petite roussette
- Italian: Gattopardo
- Spanish: Pintarroja
- Portuguese: Pata-roxa
- German: Katzenhai
- Scyliorhinus Stellaris
- French: Grande roussette, Saumonette
- Italian: Gattopardo
- Spanish: Alitan
- Portuguese: pata-roxa-gata
- Catalan: Gato
- German: Katzenhai
Dogfish can be many things but, whether it’s a cat, dog or huss, it is a type of small shark, and can be a surprisingly good fish to eat. Since an eaten dog is taboo in this country, the dogfish was cannily renamed rock salmon by some bright spark.
In France, this relatively common fish has been similarly upgraded to sermonette or little salmon.
Wherever you find them, dogfish are sold skinned, devoid of any shakiness, looking curiously unlike anything that lives in the sea. They are used in the most curious places too.
In the UK dogfish go almost entirely to the fish and chip trade, but in Germany, there is an insatiable demand for smoked dogfish stomach flaps. In Catalonia, the gato is often cooked with a heavy emphasis on black pepper.
- Season: All year round
- Yield: 75%, as skinned
- Fishing method: Various.
- Isurus oxyrinchus
- French: Mako, Taupe bleu
- Italian: Squalo mako, Ossirina
- Spanish: Marajo
- Portuguese: Tuberao-anequim
- German: Mako, Makrelenhai
Sharp nosed and beautiful, mako is thought by some to be the best shark available. Widely distributed, they are not fish to go swimming with.
They seem to sell quite well in supermarkets, although quite why it is beyond me. I think they are rubbery and tasteless and need a good dose of chili to make them palatable. Sorry, thumbs down from me, but go for it if you’re a rubber fetishist.
- Season: all year round.
- Yield: Sold as loin or fillet, 40%
- Fishing method: Longline, net.
- Lamna nasus
- French: Taupe
- Italian: Smeriglio
- Spanish: Cailon, Marajo
- Portuguese: Tuberao-Sardo
- German: Heringshai
A stocky classic-looking shark, the porbeagle is fished in seas off countries as far apart as Lebanon and Iceland. To shark-fishers off the coast of Cornwall, it has a reputation as a lazy fish, easy to land, but the kit is an impressive catch all the same.
It tends to swim near the surface when the weather is calm and wanders around the oceans following a pattern as yet to be understood by homo sapiens.
- Season: All year-round.
- Yield: Sold as loin or fillet, 40%
- Fishing method: Line, net and trawl.
- Galeorhinus galeus
- French: Requin-ha
- Italian: Cane
- Spanish: Cazon
- Portuguese: Perna-de-moca
- German: Hundshai
Typically what we call tope is not what the French call taupe. They are both sharks, however, and out tope is as widely distributed as the French taupe, our porbeagle. It is a slimmer, browner shark, giving birth to as many as twenty-live young at a time. Not a great shark to eat.
- Season: All year-round.
- Yield: Sold as loin or fillet, 40%
- Fishing method: Line, net and trawl.
SKATES AND RAYS
- Raja batis
- French: Pocheteau gris, Tyre [Boulogne]
- Italian: Moro
- Spanish: Noriega
- Portuguese: Raia-oirega
- German: Glattrochen
Thornback ray, Roker
- Raja clavata
- French: Raie bouclee
- Italian: Razza Spinosa
- Spanish: Raya de clavos
- Portuguese: Raia-lenga
- German: Keulen-Stachel
- Raja brachyura
- French: Raie lisse
- Italian: Razza
- Spanish: Raya boca de rosa
- Portuguese: Raia-pontuada
- German: Rochen
When is a skate not a skate? When it is a ray. There’s a longstanding deception. Since skinned wings of indeterminate type are generally all that one sees of the fish, the intricacies of what is ray/skate are best left to the supplier.
The true skate, Raja batis, has a longer snout and smoother skin than all the other species but blue skates, grey skates, spotted rays, starry skates, etc.
Best Blonde Ray
All look very similar when skinned and cut. The thornback ray (Raja clavata) is considered to be one of the finest rays. It is a confusing world, but since skates and rays all taste fairly similar, thorns and knobbles are largely irrelevant.
They are an unadventurous group of fish and tend to sit camouflaged on the sea bed, waiting for prey to pass by. Migration or long-distance swimming is not one of their favorite pastimes, pastimes, and stocks are so localized that are even species unique to Malta and are Madeira.
They have evolved a clever way of breathing without opening their mouths which, since they are often buried in the sand along with the rest of the fish, seems eminently sensible.
On their top side, they have a vent, and it is through this that the water passes over the gills to provide oxygen for the body.
Reproduction with all the cartilaginous fish is a sexier affair than with most of the bony fish. The male almost always smaller than the female, by the way- grips his mate tightly, often by the teeth as well as by his rather lewd-looking claspers.
The coupling can go on for some time but the fertilized eggs won’t be passed out for a month at least, and do so as neat little packages, an overnight bag with all that a baby ray requires- food, protection and a relatively stable home.
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At each corner, there is a filament that grips on to seaweed, or something solid, and stops the eggs being swept away by the current. When the juvenile fish hatches it can be about 20 cm (8 inches) ling and is quite capable of getting on with life, eating small crustaceans and minding its own business straight away.
The wing is the fish’s pectoral fin, flattened by millions of year’s evolution, and has sweet flesh that’s easy for anyone to eat. One of the nicest skate dishes I have had uses raw skate, a dish we ate in a Korean restaurant in Camden, north London, years ago.
Sophie has been nagged into experimentation and has come up with something that approximates it. Ray is an immensely versatile fish but let me put a world in for skate knobs, which are very good are cut from the tail end, and skate cheeks which give an excellent nugget of flesh.
A wing weighing 225-250g (8-9oz) will feed one but larger wings have a higher meat to bone ratio. Allow about 225g ( 8 oz) per person. The classic dish of Raie au beurre noir, or skate with black butter, works well, and many shark recipes can be quite easily adapted to skate.
You could just as well serve shark au beurre noir! If you are ever unfortunate enough to have to deal with an unskinned wing I suggest that you remove the skin after cooking. Otherwise, you’ll need a stout pair of pliers to grip the skin and peel it off.
- Season: Most of the year.
- Yield: Bought as wings, 50%
- Fishing method: Trawl.
Skate with Black Butter
This remains one of the very best ways to cook skate. Prime skate, butter, lemon juice, and capers are the essential, perfect companions.
This is a dish for a homely weekday super a Deux (as long as you are not too cholesterol-conscious) but just as suitable for a smarter dinner party- just double or treble the quantities (though you can cut down a bit on the vinegar in the poaching water) and allow a little extra time for the butter to brown. (See for more details dinner menu ideas)
- 450(1 Ib) skate or ray wings, skinned
- 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice 45g (1 ½ oz) unsalted butter
Place the skate wings in a large pan and pour over the vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Add enough water to cover and bring slowly to a gentle simmer. Turn the heat down and poach for 10-15 minutes or until the skate wings are just cooked through. Drain well, arrange on a serving dish, sprinkle the lemon juice over the fish and keep warm.
Place the butter in a small pan to melt. Turn up the heat and cook until it begins to turn brown. As soon as the color begins to deepen, remove from the heat and add the capers and parsley. Pour quickly over the hot skate and serve.
Coated with a mixture of crushed black peppercorns, coriander, and oregano, these skate wings are fried until crisp on the outside and tender inside. All they need after that is a squeeze of lemon juice and a few new potatoes on the side. Delicious.
- 2 portions of middle skate or ray wing, weighing about 175kg-225kg (6-8 oz) each, or 2 small wings, skinned 1 ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 ½ teaspoon coriander seeds
- 2 tablespoons sunflower oil sat
- lemon wedges, to serve
Season the skate wings with salt. Crush the peppercorns and coriander seeds coarsely and mix with the oregano. Spread out on a plate. Coat the wings lightly with flour, shake off the excess, and then dip into the beaten egg.
Press the spice and herb mixture gently on to the wings, coating them evenly on both sides. Heat the oil in a frying pan large enough to take both portions.
Fry fairly gently, turning once, until they are just cooked through. Serve immediately, with the lemon wedges.
Korean Skate Salad
This is based on a salad we used to eat in a small Korean restaurant in Camden, where it was hidden away in the Korean section of the menu, not translated into English.
They used raw skate but my Korean cookbooks also suggest sea bream, Dover or lemon sole or even place. Whichever you choose, make sure that it is extremely fresh and use it on the day it is bought.
Ask your fishmonger to fillet and skin it for you (take the cartilage home, too, to make stock), and then all you will need to do is slice it very thinly. (See details salad recipes vegetarian)
Kochu Jang is the essential, very powerful, Korean chili paste used widely to season Korean food. It is not easy to find, which is a pity, as it has a very particular, rich, velvety consistency.
Chinese chili paste with garlic is a fairly good substitute if you can’t get the proper thing, or you could even try the fiery Moroccan harissa. Whatever you use, it should be thick rather than runny.
- 500g (1 Ib 2 oz ) fresh skate or ray wings, skinned and filleted
- ½ large cucumber
- 1 large carrot
- 15cm (6 inches) length of white radish (daikon or mooli)
- 1 tablespoon pine nuts, lightly toasted
For the Sauce:
- 2 tablespoons kochu Jang (Korean chili and soybean paste with garlic
- 1 ½ tablespoons caster sugar
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 cm ( ½ inch) piece of fresh root ginger, grated
- 4 spring onions, white part only, chopped
Cut the fish into fine slivers, no more than about 5mm ( ½ inch) wide and around 4-5 cm (2 inches) long.
Cut the cucumber, carrot and white radish into fine matchsticks, about 4-5 cm (inches) long. Mix all the sauce ingredients together. Shortly before serving, mix the sauce with the fish and vegetables.
Pile on to a serving dish scatter with the pine nuts. Serve straight away.
Terrine of Skate with Grilled vegetables
Skate is naturally gelatinous and sticky so, with its distinct, firm texture, it is the perfect material for a cool summer terrine, to be served in slices as a first course. Here the terrine is fleshed out with grilled vegetables, giving it a smoky flavor that emphasizes the sweetness of the fish.
You will need to allow plenty of time for preparing this terrine, though it can be done in stages, so tackle it the day before you intend serving it, and enjoy yourself.
- 1.35kg (3 Ib) skate wings, skinned juice of 1 lemon
- 1 large aubergine, sliced thinly lengthways olive oil
- 2 large tomatoes, peeled and quartered
- 2 red peppers, grilled and skinned
- 1 yellow pepper, grilled and skinned salt, and pepper
For the court-bouillon:
- a big glass of white wine ( about 150ml/ ¼ pint) 4 black peppercorns
- ½ teaspoon coriander seeds, bruised
- 1 fresh parsley sprig
- 2 shallots, sliced
- 1 carrot, sliced
- ¼ fennel bulb, sliced
- 2 stripe of lemon zest
- best extra virgin olive oil, Pesto Dressing or lemon Mayonnaise lemon wedges chopped fresh parsley or chervil or whole fresh basil leaves
To make the court-bouillon, put all the ingredients into a pan with 450ml (16 fl oz) of water and bring up to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, then leave to cool. Strain. Place the skate, cut up if necessary, into a shallow, close-fitting pan and pour over the court-bouillon.
Bring gently up to the boil, reduce the heat and poach for 5-10 minutes (depending on the thickness of the wings), until the skate is just done and pulls easily away from the inner cartilage.
Lift the skate out and strip off the bones. Add the bones to the poaching liquid, return to the heat and boil until reduced by half. Strain, taste and season, adding a little lemon juice to invigorate.
Meanwhile, salt the aubergine lightly and, leave for at least half an hour. Rinse and dry. Brush the pieces with olive oil and grill until browned and tender.
Remove the inner core of the tomatoes completely, along with the seeds, and cut the flesh into strips that can be comfortably flattened down. Season lightly with salt and leave to drain for at least 30 minutes.
Now the fun part. Find a loaf tin or terrine with about 1 liter 1 ¾ pint) capacity. Long and thin is better than short and wide- the one I use is about 25cm (10 inches) long.
Line it with cling film and then brush with olive oil and start building up layers of aubergine. skate, peppers, and tomato, seasoning well between layers with salt, pepper, and squeeze of lemon juice.
Spoon a little of the reduced, cooled poaching liquid over each layer.
The order doesn’t matter much but thinks about the effect when you slice it. Cover with cling film and then foil, and weight down with tins or other weights. Leave overnight in the fridge to set. (Buy now on amazon fridge)
To serve, unmould and slice with a very sharp knife. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, puddles of pesto dressing or a dollop of home-made lemony mayonnaise. Add a wedge or two of lemon and a little parsley, chervil or basil to each plate.
Skate Fingers, Sauce Ravigote
These are kind of upmarket fish fingers, sure to delight adults and, more than likely, children as well. The skate is poached first to release it from the bone and then deep-fried briskly in a coating of breadcrumbs.
Sauce ravigote, when it is a cold one like this, is really a mustardy vinaigrette seasoned vigorously with shallots, capers and lots of hears. It’s good with all kinds of fish dishes as well as with many cold types of meat. (See for more details meat mixer)
- about 800g-1kg ( 1 ¾ -2 ¼ Ib) skate wings
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 fresh parsley sprigs
- ½ teaspoon coriander seeds
- 6 peppercorns
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- fine dry breadcrumbs, for coating sunflower or vegetable oil, for deep-frying salt
- lemon wedges, to serve
For the Sauce Ravigote:
- 1 ½ tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard good pinch of sugar
- 8 tablespoons grapeseed or safflower oil
- ½ tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon salt and pepper
Put the skate wings into a shallow pan with just enough water to cover. Add the vinegar, bay leaf, parsley sprigs, coriander seeds, peppercorns and a pinch of salt.
Bring gently up to the boil, reduce the heat and poach very gently for about 8-10 minutes, until the skate is barely cooked. Lift out of the poaching liquid and lift the flesh from the cartilage, trimming off the tiny bones around the edges.
Cut into fingers about 2.5cm (1 inch) across and as long as you care to make them.
While the fish is cooking, put the eggs into a shallow bowl and spread out the breadcrumbs on a plate.
Once prepared, and preferably while still warm, dip the skate into the egg and then coat in breadcrumbs, making sure that the fingers are covered completely.
Leave to cool and, if possible, chill in the fridge for an hour or two before finishing.
To make the sauce ravigote, whisk the vinegar with the mustard, sugar and some salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in the oil, then stir in all the remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
To cook the fingers heat the oil to 190C.375F and deep-fry a few at a time, until golden brown. Drain briefly on kitchen paper and serve immediately with the sauce ravigote.
Shark Koftas with Yoghurt and Garlic Sauce
Shark is an oddity amongst fish, as it has an unfortunate tendency to be tough. Marinating it in a mildly acidic mixture can counteract this to some extent, though you still have to take enormous care not to overcook the fish.
Treating the steaks like veal escalopes-cutting them thinly ( 1 cm ½ inch or so), sandwiching them between greaseproof paper sheets and bashing them with a meat mallet or rolling pin until they flatten right down- is fairly effective but parts of them remain tough even so.
By far the most effective method I’ve come up with is mincing the flesh up finely to make koftas or, in other words, Turkish-style flesh balls, which can either be grilled or fried and served with a yogurt and garlic sauce.
One small note- don’t use commercial white sliced bread for this. It turns slimy when wet. You need some decent, sturdy bread- one of the pains de Campagne that many supermarkets now sell will do nicely.
- 2 slices of white bread, weighing about 60g (2 oz), crusts removed the milk
- 450g (1 Ib) skinned shark fillet finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 shallot, very, very finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons very finely chopped fresh parsley
- 1 level teaspoons ground cumin extra virgin olive oil for cooking salt and paper
For the Yoghurt Sauce:
- 300ml ( ½ pint) Greek0style yogurt
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
- 2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 1 teaspoon sugar salt and pepper
To make the yogurt sauce, mix all the ingredients together and then taste and adjust the seasoning. Cover and chill until needed.
To make the koftas, tear the bread up roughly and then soak in milk for 10 minutes. Squeeze dry and discard the milk. Chop the shark up into large cubes, discarding any obvious tough threads ( don’t go overboard on this or you’ll end with precious little to eat).
If you have a mincer, use that to mince the shark finely. Otherwise, pulse-process, scraping down the sides frequently, until very finely chopped. Add to the bread, with all the other ingredients apart from the oil.
Mix thoroughly with your hands and knead and squeeze the mixture until it becomes cohesive.
If grilling, divide the mixture o=into four portions and roll each one into a sausage shape about 10cm (4 inches) long. Place in the palm of your hand, flatten slightly and lay a skewer down the center. Mold the mixture around the skewer to form a fat sausage.
Chill until ready to cook but bring back to room temperature before cooking. Just before cooking, brush with oil and then grill fairly close to the heat, turning two or three times, until patched with brown. Allow about 506 minutes in all.
If you prefer to fry the koftas, divide the mixture into eight and roll each one into a ball. Cover and chill until needed. Bring back to room temperature before cooking.
Heat a little olive oil over a brisk heat and then fry the balls, flattening them down a little in the pan to look like overstuffed cushions, until patched with brown on both sides, about 4-6 minutes in all.
Don’t be tempted to move the balls at all for the first 2 minutes on each side or you will find that they stick. Serve with the yogurt sauce. (See details for more information dessert sauce)
Blackened Shark Steaks
Blackened fish came to us from Louisiana, back in the Eighties. It was pioneered by that eminent New Orleans chef, Paul Prudhomme, and quickly embraced by his colleagues, then by many chefs over on this side of the Atlantic.
The principle is simple- the fish is coated with a mixture of spices and dried herbs and then seared in an outrageously hot pan so that the smoky scent of the flavorings penetrates right into the fish. It looks dramatic, too, with the blackened crust.
Whether or not you eat the crust itself depends on the degree of blackening achieved and your personal taste for charred food, but the fish inside should stay moist and beautifully flavored.
All kinds of fairly firm, stackable fish benefit from this treatment but it does seem to be particularly kind to the shark, which is as tough as old boots when overcooked.
I like to marinate the shark with lemon and oil before cooking to soften some of the tough fibers (unless minced, it is rarely completely tender) before they meet the heat.
With other fish, such as cod or even salmon, you can skip the marinating without enormous loss to the finished dish.
- juice of ½ lemon
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 4 tablespoons oil, plus extra for cooking
- 4 porbeagle or blue shark steaks, about 2cm ( ¾ inch) thick
For the Blackening Spices:
- 1 ½ teaspoons whole black peppercorns
- 1 ½ teaspoon dried green peppercorns
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Mix the lemon juice, garlic, onion, and 4 tablespoons oil. Coat the fish steaks evenly with this mixture, cover and leave in the fridge, turning occasionally, for 1-6 hours.
Mix the peppercorns and coriander seeds, crush them coarsely and mix with the remaining spices and herbs. Spread on a plate. Take the fish out of its marinade, brush off the pieces of onion and the fish evenly on both sides with the spice mixture.
Place a lightly oiled heavy cast-iron frying pan over high heat until very, very hot.
Place the steaks in it, drizzle a teaspoon of oil over the upper side of each one and cook, ignoring the smoke bravely, until the underneath is brown-black, about 2-3 minutes depending on the heat.
Turn and cook for a further 2-3 minutes, until the other side is also blackened.
Check that the steaks are just cooked through (no more than that, though, or they will begin to toughen up) and serve immediately.
Baked Huss with Coriander and Garlic
This was the first dish I ever made with huss or dogfish, and I remember how delighted I was with it at the time. Memories of school biology labs dispersed at the first mouthful and, if you didn’t tell anyone, they’d never guess that wasn’t eating rather a fine fish.
Marinating with lemon or lime juice for a short while before cooking really improves the flavor, while the salt helps to firm the naturally rather soft texture.
- 700g (1 ½ Ib) skinned huss fillet, cut into 8 pieces juice of ½ large lemon or 1 lime
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander salt and pepper lemon wedges, to serve
Season the huss with salt and pepper and then pour over the lemon or lime juice. Turn to coat and then set aside for 20 minutes. Cook the garlic, onion and chili gently, without browning, in the olive oil. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.
Oil an ovenproof dish large enough to take the fish in a close-fitting layer. Arrange the fish in it, with the marinating juices. Sprinkle evenly with the coriander and spoon over the garlic, onions and chili and their oil.
Bake, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes, until the fish is just done. Serve immediately, with lemon wedges.
Yucatan-Style Fish Tortillas
In the Yucatan province of Mexico a paste of yellow achiote seeds (another name for annatto, which is what gives red Leicester and other orange cheeses their classic color), diluted with sour orange juice and sometimes grapefruit juice, is used as a marinade for grilled fish.
You can get achiote here if you’ve persevering nature, but it is not that easy to find. It has a mildly resinous flavor but it’s the color that really startles, so I’ve adapted the basic principle and made a marinade that echoes the original.
Serve the fish straight from the barbecue or grill, with a mound of rice and lime wedges if you wish, but it’s even nicer wrapped in a warm tortilla with tomato salsa and a big spoonful of soured cream.
- 700G ( 1 ½ lb) dogfish fillet
For the Marinade:
- ¼ teaspoon black peppercorns
- ½ teaspoon each of cumin seeds, coriander seeds, dried oregano, ground turmeric, and paprika
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- ½ teaspoon salt
- juice of 1 lime
- juice of 1 Seville orange or ½ grapefruit
For the Tomato Salsa:
- 450g (1 lb) ripe tomatoes, de-seeded and finely diced
- ½ red onion, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, very finely chopped
- 2 green chilies, de-seeded and finely chopped juice of ½ Seville orange or ½ grapefruit
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 4 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander salt and pepper
- To Serve:
- 8 soft flour tortillas
- 150ml (1/4 pint) soured cream lime wedges
Cut the fish into eight portions. To make the marinade, dry-fry the peppercorns and the cumin and coriander seeds over moderate heat until they turn a shade darker and give off a waft of incense. Tip into a bowl and cool slightly.
Grind with the oregano, turmeric, paprika, and cayenne. In a mortar mash the garlic to a paste with the salt, then gradually work in the spices and the citrus juices. Smear this mixture over the fish and leave to marinate for at least an hour and up to 4.
To make the salsa, mix all the ingredients together, then taste and adjust the seasonings. Chill in the fridge until needed.
Preheat the grill or, better still, the barbecue. Wrap the tortillas in foil and warm through in the oven or on the edge of the barbecue. Grill the fish, turning carefully once until just cooked through.
If you’re feeling loving and generous, lay each piece of fish on a warm tortilla, top with a good dollop of salsa and a spoonful of soured cream, fold the tortilla around the filling and then hand out to your guests.
Alternatively (and your friends or family may well prefer the DIY approach) pass the fish, tortillas, salsa, cream and lime wedges around so that everyone can put together their own Yucatan fish tortilla.