Tips for cooking fish and a simple summer fish curry

So many of the people I work with never cook fish. They are scared of choosing the wrong type, over-cooking it, wasting money and find it hard to come up with simple failproof recipes. Let’s quickly discuss these. 

Which fish should I choose?

This is a big topic that can’t be covered extensively here but there are certainly a few simple tips. 
  • Different varieties of fish taste different, look different and cook differently. Prices are hugely affected by seasons, weather, geography and whether they are farmed or wild. 
  • Not all fish varieties will be available all the time so when you are shopping for fish you can’t always assume you can get what you want. If a recipe calls for a certain type of fish, be open minded that it might not be the one you come home with. 
  • Some fish are quite firm and hold up well to BBQ’ing and grilling (ie tuna, mahi mahi, snapper, swordfish) others poach well (snapper, salmon, trout, ling, cod) while others are great in the fry pan (sole, sardines, ocean perch, whiting. flathead).
  • Buy seafood from places that are busy and turn over stock quickly. (Supermarkets mostly sell imported products that have been frozen for long periods) Speak with the fishmonger – tell what you are making and see what they can recommend. They should look glossy and the eyes and skin should be firm and clear.
How long does it take to cook?

We eat fish raw all the time (sushi?) yet we always overcook it at home. Fish cooks quickly and will continue to cook after you have removed it from heat so leave it slightly underdone and keep it somewhere warm for a few minutes before eating. Some fish such as salmon, tuna and swordfish are much better kept partly or mostly raw as they often dry out when cooked through.
It doesn’t have to be expensive.
  • This is another reason why it’s a good idea not to set your heart on a particular variety fish. It may be out of season or hard to come by which will push the price up. Go to the fishmongers with an open mind and be guided by quality and price. 
  • Some fish and seafood options are much cheaper than others as they are less popular – try varieties such as sardines, boarfish, mussels, silver dory or albacore tuna. 
What do I serve it with?
  • Grilled, BBQ’d, pan-fried, deep-fried, poached, baked, cured, in soup, braised, curried and steamed are just some of the great ways fish can be prepared.  
  • Fish is eaten all over the world and that means there are an endless number of flavours and ingredients that work with it. At its most simple, lemon and parsley is delicious with light flakey fillets while heavier flavours such as those in coconut curries, middle eastern spices, south east Asian fragrant stir-fry’s or Indonesian sambals all work their magic with fish.

This curry is one of those dishes you can put together quickly after a long day. It’s also healthy, fresh and the spice can be easily left out if you are feeding kids. I have used fish in this recipe but it would also be delicious with mussels, prawns or a combination of seafood and fish. 

Fish curry
Recipe – Serves 4 – Simple Summer Fish Curry
  • 500g skinless firm fleshed white fish fillets such as cod, snapper, mackerel, kingfish or swordfish. 
  • 2 tbs grapeseed or vegetable oil 
  • 2 medium brown onions diced
  • 4 cloves garlic peeled and crushed
  • Small piece of ginger peeled and crushed
  • 2 long red chilli finely chopped (adjust or remove if necessary)
  • 2 tbs coriander powder
  • 3 tbs turmeric powder (or fresh if you have available)
  • 1L fish stock or water
  • 6 fresh ripe tomatoes
  • 1-2 lemons 
  • 1 bunch coriander washed and chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Remove fish from packaging and place onto paper towel to remove excess water build up. Leave fillets whole.
  2. Blend the raw tomatoes in a food processor until a chunky puree. 
  3. Heat the oil to a medium temperature in a pot or deep pan. Add the onions and cook until soft.
  4. Add the garlic and ginger (and chilli if using) and cook for 2 minutes then add the turmeric and coriander powders – cook for a further 30 seconds. 
  5. Add the fish stock/water and tomatoes and bring to the boil. 
  6. Reduce the liquid by a quarter then add the fish fillets and turn down the heat until the liquid is just simmering. 
  7. Cook over this gentle heat until the fish is soft and breaking apart easily.
  8. Add the lemon juice and taste for salt and pepper (commercial fish stocks may be already quite salty). 
  9. Remove from heat and stir through fresh coriander.
Serve with brown basmati rice or with shredded zucchini, carrot and cabbage slaw. 
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