I get quite excited when I'm faced with fresh fish and seafood in the market. It is by far the most versatile protein around. It lends itself well to be grilled, poached, baked, fried and even served raw like in sushi or cured in ceviche. It is quick to cook and extremely healthy and good for you. And for anyone on a diet, steamed fish is by far, the best and most delicious way to go.
Growing up in Singapore, seafood was highly revered and much loved. Nothing beats the weekly trip down to East Coast Park (a strip of coast line along the island) where we will spent the day cycling along the coast and swimming in the cooling sea. The day will always end with a trip to the nearby seafood restaurant for some stonkingly good grilled stingray, smothered with spicy sambal belacan and a twist of calamasi lime. And food like the Singapore chilli crab and cereal prawns are just some of our national treasures that elevated these humble sea life to another level.
Generally speaking, I don't think seafood is consumed enough here in Britain, considering this is an island surrounded by the sea (much like Singapore but on a bigger scale). Most of the seafood caught appeared to be exported to nearby countries like Spain, France and Italy where they are much celebrated. And most fish consumed here are actually imported from Iceland and Norway. It doesn't quite compute and such a same!
I like to cook with whole fish as I think it this give you a sweeter and juicier fish. It also makes for a much grander presentation if you have dining guests. When picking whole fish in a fishmonger, it's worth making sure the fish smell of the ocean and not fishy. The overall look should be shiny and glossy and the flesh is firm to touch and not mushy. The eyes must be crystal clear and avoid any that looks cloudy.
This recipe make use of a classic pasta sauce, puttanesca a.k.a. lady of the night. But instead of serving this with the traditional pasta, I have smothered the beautiful fish with this feisty and zingy sauce and baked in the oven instead. It might not seem like an obvious choice, but it absolutely works. I am using trout here which has a more robust flavour that will stand up to the flavoursome sauce but take care not to overdo it if you are using more delicate fish like the sea bass. And for a very English twist, I have made some rosemary fried chips to complete that classic ''Fish and Chips combo.
Go on, give this a try and most importantly, eat more fish and support your local fishmonger.
Ingredients (Serves 2)
2 x whole fish of your choice (I used trout here but sea bass , bream will also work)
plain flour, for dusting
For the Puttanesca sauce:
4 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
1 x 400g tin chopped plum tomatoes
1tbsp tomato paste
6 anchovy fillets, chopped
pinch of chilli flakes
100g black olives, stoned and sliced into rings
1 tbsp salted capers, rinsed and chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
a handful of fresh parsley, chopped
For the Rosemary chips:
2 large potatoes, peeled and roughly cut into large chunks
a few sprigs of rosemary, finely chopped
100ml vegetable oil, for frying
sea salt, to taste
Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped garlic and sauté until golden, about 30 seconds before adding the chopped onions. Cook gently for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened.
Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, anchovies and chilli flakes. Season with a little salt (remember that the anchovies are quite salty) and pepper to taste. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the sauce has slightly reduced. Add the olives and capers and cook for another 2 minutes.
Remove from heat and allows to cool.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
Meanwhile, prepare the fish. Wash the fish thoroughly and pat dry with kitchen paper.
Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Lightly dust the fish with some plain flour and brown the fish for about 2-3 minutes on each sides, until the skin are golden brown.
In a baking dish, ladle in half of the sauce, place the fish on top and then spoon in the remaining sauce over the fish and baked for 20 minutes in the oven.
For the rosemary chips, parboil the potatoes for about 5 minuets, then drain.
Heat up the oil in a saucepan when smoking, add the potato chunks and rosemary, fry until crispy and golden brown. Remove, drain and season with salt, to taste.
Garnish the fish with chopped fresh parsley and served with the rosemary chips.