There are a number of television ads at the moment trying to kid you that fish is difficult to cook and takes ages to prepare. Hah! Try our simple and highly adaptable recipe – that works for all sorts of fish and with a range of tasty sauce options. And make those advertisers eat their words
There are only 2 rules worth remembering when it comes to cooking fish.
- Make sure it’s fresh (and that can include freshly defrosted).
- Don’t over cook it!
Some people are spooked by the bones, but there are a whole range of fillets to choose from, so you can park the whole bone business. Fresh fish is shiny, feels plump and moist and doesn’t smell particularly fishy. If you haven’t got a reliable source of fresh fish – buy frozen.
And experiment with different varieties. Cod is being over fished. But Pollock is a great alternative. I’m a personal fan of Coley, which isn’t as white as Cod but is extremely tasty. Salmon is a good standby and you can find both wild and farmed salmon in most supermarkets.
Ideally, fish is cooked enough to eat when the flesh has turned from translucent to semi-opaque at the centre and the flakes easily separate all the way through. You need to keep an eye on fish when you’re cooking it, so it doesn’t dry out.
One of the easiest ways to cook fish is to wrap it in a parcel made from greaseproof paper or baking parchment. I like the basic recipe below for a number of reasons, not least the minimum amount of waste. A lot of pre-prepared fish recipes come in a massive amount of very undegradable packing. With this recipe you just have a little paper to throw away. Are you thinking outside the bin?
I’m working with fillets but you can wrap and bake whole fish, such as trout. I’ve even done a massive whole salmon this way. The larger the piece of fish – the longer the cooking time.
Step 1 – wash and dress your fillets
While you’re doing this bit, preheat the over to 200c (Gas Mk 6). Rinse the fish well, pat dry and then place in the centre of your greaseproof paper with a littke oil to stop it sticking and your choice of flavourings. I’ve chosen slices of lemon and sprigs of oregano and olive oil, but you can also try:
- Finely chopped ginger and red chilli with a dash of soy and some toasted sesame oil.
- Minced garlic, a slice of tomato and a sprinkle of cumin, with a little vegetable oil.
- Lime and dill – plus a tiny dash of white wine.
- Lemon and tarragon – and a teaspoon of good quality mayonnaise.
- Oil the underside of the fish and smear the top with pesto – red or green.
Step 2 – wrap and cook
Wrap the fish and place in an oven proof dish or on a baking tray. Don’t allow the paper to come in contact with the upper side of the fish. You can use string to tie it but I tend to put a double pleat in the paper where I bring it together and then tuck the two open ends under the fish, as if wrapping a present. The weight of the fish then keeps the parcel from opening. Place the parcel in the centre of the oven.
Cooking time depends on the thickness of the fillet but assume about 10 to 15 minutes per inch, depending on how well cooked you want it. I like mine a little underdone. Better to check and pop it back rather than risk overcooking it.
Step 3 – take it out of the oven and serve
That’s it. You can re-dress the fish with a little more oil and lemon. It works really well with a nice green vegetable and perhaps a new boiled new potatoes. Oh and a glass or two of wine.