Nick Evans, Head Chef at Rick Stein’s Cookery School, gives FOODLOVER the lowdown on how to cook seafood at home:
How can you tell if a fish is fresh?
It is much easier to tell the freshness of whole fish. Look for nice bright eyes that are not cloudy or sunken into the skull, nice firm flesh and bright red or pink gills (they go brown and sticky when old). Fresh fish should not smell of fish, they should smell of the ocean.
What’s the best way to get a crispy fish skin?
Use a good nonstick pan if possible. Oil the fish and not the pan. Sprinkle with salt and place the fish skin side down in a medium hot pan. Most importantly, do not touch the fish for a good 60 seconds or so, as you need to drive the moisture away from the skin. The moisture will initially turn to steam and actually soften the skin, making it more likely to tear if you try and move it. Add a knob of butter halfway through cooking and baste the fish for added texture and flavour.
What’s a good fish dish for feeding large numbers?
Opt for one pot dishes – be that paella, curry or stew. I really love to cook a French stew called a bouride which is light and thickened with aioli for a lovely garlicky background that isn’t too overpowering. You can make the base of the stew in advance so all you need to do is warm it through and poach the fish when your guests arrive. Your guests will prefer a homely bowl of something super tasty than a fancy dish that has taken you hours to make.
What’s a good go-to sauce?
For white fish, make a beurre blanc. This classic French sauce is the perfect accompaniment for brill, bass, bream, and gurnard. It works really well paired with some seasonal greens which can change with the seasons from kale to asparagus, samphire to spinach.
How do you know when fish is cooked?
Most home cooks have the tendency to overcook fish, as they are not confident in cooking it. Fish is cooked when the colour and texture of the fish changes, this can be as little as 45 degrees on a fillet. If you do not have a temperature probe you can just lift up a corner of the fillet and see if it starts to flake and break apart. If the colour has changed all the way through the fillet it is cooked. Allow it to rest for 1-2 minutes, then serve.
Nick Evans is Head Chef at Rick Stein’s Cookery School in Padstow. To find out more about their courses, visit www.rickstein.com/school