A Delicious Roast Hake and Salsa Verde Recipe
On Fridays, a vegetable shop did a sideline with a small supply of frozen cod and plaice which, although we lived only a few miles from the coast, came down from Dublin. It was from this source that my Mother obtained our Friday dinner.
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It was from this source that my Mother obtained our Friday dinner. Plaice fried in breadcrumbs always appeared on days of abstinence. But even then, my grandfather, who originally hailed from rural West Limerick and presumably had never known or eaten fish, was served a fried egg. Not for him, my mother’s humble offerings from the sea! And I must not forget the local fishermen. In the summer months, they provided a ready supply of wild salmon, sometimes caught by nefarious means, and when the mayfly came up on the nearby lakes, the town emptied, as everyone tried their hand at fishing and suddenly there was a glut of fresh trout. Then, and only then, would fish be eaten on days apart from Friday. Those who belonged to other faiths did not feel the same way about fish. My father-in-law, for example, was a Scottish Presbyterian and he certainly did not confine his fish-eating to Fridays! Nor did he see it as a penance to consume large quantities of smokies – small smoked haddock – which he used to order specially from Arbroath in his native Scotland.
This attitude towards fish was not confined to the West of Ireland; it was prevalent throughout the country. Last month, in writing about vegetarian food, I dwelt on how our eating habits had changed so much in the last fifty years.
These changes have also affected our views on fish, the consumption of which has been rising. But historic attitudes are slow to die and I feel that many of us cooks have drawn lines in the sand about cooking fish at home. A modern day deterrent, of course, is the cost and there is no doubt that fish has become expensive, but that is not the only reason why we are deterred from making it part of our regular diet.
We appear to think there is something complicated about cooking it, but nothing could be further from the truth. This misconception is probably due to the failure of past generations to transmit cooking skills in this area, skills which they did not posses because they did not cook fish. Neither do we have role models n the form of a parent buying fish in a fishmonger and taking it home to cook and feed her/his family.
Compare our experiences with that of our near neighbours across the water, where fish and its consumption is an integral part of the national culinary fabric. For example, who has not met that Englishman, who drooled at the thought of fish and chips wrapped in newspaper, a culinary experience that has never gained popularity in this country? I confess that I came to like fish rather late in life and it is only in recent years that I have begun to cook it on a regular basis.
I am fortunate that not only is there a fish counter in my local supermarket, we also have an excellent fishmonger, who is always ready to help his customers with advice about how particular fish should be cooked. I live alone and so it is very easy to bung a bit of plaice on to a pan. I usually just coat it with a bit of flour, but if I feel more energetic, I sometimes do it in egg and breadcrumbs. Lemon sole gets the same treatment. I also sometimes treat myself to a thick slice of sword fish or tuna. These lend themselves to barbequing, but can also be cooked on the pan. All of these should be served with wedges of lemon and/or a piquant sauce of some kind. In my youth, the ubiquitous accompaniment to fish was tartare sauce, which consists of nothing more than a little chopped parsley, capers and gherkins added to mayonnaise.
If cooking for large numbers and I have more time, I resort to kedgeree, a dish inherited from British India, which uses smoked haddock, or a fish pie, into which one can put almost any kind of fish. Perhaps because I was spoilt when young, I do not much like farmed salmon; I find it distastefully oily as compared to its wild counterpart. It does not therefore form part of my diet. Finally, fish can be baked in the oven and this month, I want to share with you such a recipe. In doing so, I hope that I can persuade you that cooking fish is a doddle. I came across this simple recipe in the Sunday Tribune last year and since then it has become a fixture in my repertoire.
Roast hake with salsa verde
4 thick hake steaks or fillets about 250g each
For the salsa verde
3 tbsp roughly chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp roughly chopped fresh mint
3 tbsp capers
6 anchovy fillets
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Juice of Â½ lemon
120m extra virgin olive oil
1/2/ tsp salt
Pre-heat the oven to 230Â°C/gas 8. Brush the fish with olive oil and season with freshly ground black pepper. Roast in an oiled dish for about 10 minutes, bearing in mind that overcooking really does destroy the texture of fish. Blend all the ingredients for the salsa verde together in a food processor or mortar and pestle. This dish of baked hake and salsa verde can be served with puy lentils or, as I prefer, with the more traditional potato chips
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Boat Trips to Experience on a Reykjavik Holiday
The Puffin Express is one of few animal spotting trips that can successfully boast a 100% success rate, but if you take this trip whilst on your city break to Reykjavik you are guaranteed to spot not one but hundreds of colourful sea puffins.
The boat leaves Reykjavik four times a day and journeys to the rocky Atlantic islands of Akurey and Lundey, which are well known for their vibrant birdlife. There are estimated to be around 10 million puffins in Iceland, making them the country’s most common bird.
Because of the rocky nature of Akurey and Lundey you will not be able to dock on these islands on your Reykjavik holiday, but the specially adapted vessel is built with bird watching in mind and as well as puffins you are likely to spot Arctic Terns, Black Guillemots and even the occasional seal.
If you haven’t fallen in love with the puffins on your day trip from Reykjavik, then you might be tempted by one of the local dishes. Although they are a protected species in the United Kingdom and North America, this protection doesn’t extend to Iceland, and you will find puffin heart eaten raw is the local delicacy.
Many people take holidays to Reykjavik in Iceland with whale watching in mind and who can blame them. Reykjavik is one of the best places in the world to spot whales and you are likely to spot a number of different species of whale on your Reykjavik holiday. From humpbacks and blue whales to sperm whales and orcas, over 20 different species of cetaceans can be spotted of the Icelandic coast where krill and plankton are plentiful.
If you want to take a whale watching trip whilst on your city break to Reykjavik then make your way to the harbour where you’ll find a number of different operators offering excursions boasting high success rates. Included in the cost of your whale watching experience is a ticket to the Whale Watching Centre, a floating exhibition centre located on Reykjavik harbour. This exciting centre provides visitors with fascinating facts about the mammals they are likely to spot on their boat trip and also boasts a souvenir shop, where you can stock up on toys of your favourite cetacean.
On your city break to Reykjavik why not do something completely different and try your hand at sea angling. Fish in Reykjavik harbour are plentiful and on a trip aboard the 44-foot pleasure boat ‘Gestur’ you can try your hand at catching cod, haddock, pollock and catfish. The luckier of you may even manage to catch an elusive halibut. The Gestur is fully stocked with a grill so after you’ve caught your fish you can try your hand at cooking it. The fully stocked bar on board will not only provide the perfect accompaniment to your fish supper but will also help in protecting you from the cold Icelandic elements on your Reykjavik holiday.
All About Pollock, the World’s Most Plentiful Fish
Pacific Alaska Pollock is one of the world’s most abundant fish. In fact, some have said that it is the last plentiful commercial fish in the world’s oceans. Although populations of the fish in the Pacific are quite healthy and thriving, there are concerns that overfishing may indeed take place; there are furthermore, concerns about whether the heavy fishing of pacific Alaska Pollock will deplete a main food source for Steller sea lions. On the whole, however, Pollock is one of the most sustainable species of commercially caught fish in the seas. They are usually caught using midwater trawling techniques which do not damage the fragile sea floor. Pollock travel in shoals in midlevel waters, which makes them easier to catch with non-damaging nets.
Pollock are known to be incredibly versatile fish. They make up the main ingredient in everything from fish and chips to sushi. They are the key component of surimi or fake crab meat; they are used in fish sticks and to make fish paste. Because of their wide adaptability to a variety of preparation methods and flavors, pacific Alaska Pollock makes up the largest whitefish fishery in the world. In previous years, the total amount of fish caught number around 3.5 billion pounds.
Pollock is an ideal alternative choice to less sustainable fish species. It makes a great substitute for any recipe that calls for cod or haddock (or actually, it can be used as a substitute for any white firm-fleshed fish); and its white, flaky texture makes it an excellent choice for pies, quiches, soups and croquettes or fish cakes. Pacific Alaska Pollock tastes great in rich curries and sauces. It is easily deep fried with a light coating of beer batter. Baking Pollock is simple as well-simply season your fillets with lemon and salt and pepper; drizzle with olive oil and wrap in foil; bake in the oven for some 10-15 minutes. Grilled Pollock is not only low in calories, it’s also a refreshing alternative to battered and fried recipes. Pollock contains around 80 calories per 100 grams, which makes it one of the leanest and healthiest fish out there.
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