Freshness is the key. Fish should be bright, moist and firm.
Remove wrapping, rinse the fish with cold water, then pat it dry with kitchen paper. Put it on a plate, cover with foil or cling film and store in the lower part of the fridge for up to two days. For freezing, seal it in a freezer bag – white fish can be kept for up to four months and smoked, oil-rich fish and shellfish for up to three months.
Available from March until August. It has a firm, muscular texture and better flavour.
All fish with MSC on the label will come from sustainable resources and will be wild.
Take fish out of the refrigerator about 20–30 minutes before cooking to bring it up to room temperature.
Defrost frozen shellfish in the fridge, leaving them there until ready to serve or cook.
Allow 4–6 minutes cooking time per ½ inch of thickness. To test for doneness, place the tines of a fork into the fish and gently twist the fork. If it flakes easily, it is properly cooked. Don’t overcook fish because it will turn tough and dry.
Cod and haddock are cooked in much the same way.
Allow 10 minutes cooking time for each one inch fish thickness. This applies to baking or grilling whole fish or steaks. Otherwise, the best test is gently, at the thickest part, press the flesh which should separate into natural divisions. It will also be white or creamy in colour.
Just about any fish can be steamed. Small fish can be cooked whole, with herbs and seasoning tucked inside to add flavour and the skin slashed to ensure that the fish cooks evenly. Cut large fish into fillets or steaks and set on a bed of herbs within the steamer. To add further flavour, replace the water in the pan with a court bouillon (water infused with wine vinegar, peppercorns, parsley, onion and carrot). Small delicate fillets are best placed on a piece of foil within the steamer for easy removal.
Cooking fish in paper in the oven creates a moist result. Put the fish on baking parchment with herbs or a slice of lemon. Preheat oven to 200°C/ 400°F/gas mark 6. Wrap fish up into a parcel and bake for 10–12 minutes.
Brush with butter, oil or marinade to keep it moist. Grill fish 4 inches from heat until fish tests done with a fork. Turn fish once if it is more than 1 inch thick.
To cook a whole fish, use a large roasting tin and some foil. Season the fish both inside and out with lots of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stuff with a sliced lemon and a handful of roughly chopped fresh herbs (such as basil or tarragon), then wrap the fish loosely in a large piece of greased foil. Seal the edges to keep in the cooking juices and put in the roasting tin, curling the fish round to fit snugly. Cook in a preheated oven 220°C (200°C fan) 425°F/gas mark 7 for 10 minutes per 1lb. To check if the flesh is cooked, use a sharp knife to cut a small slit along the backbone. Carefully lift a little of the fish to see that it is opaque all the way to the bone. Cut away and discard the dorsal fin (the one halfway down the backbone) before serving.