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Fish Preparation & Cooking Workshop – Recipes

Fish Preparation & Cooking

Fish is the truly inspirational taste of Britain. We, as an island nation, frequently forget that we are surrounded by the sea.  Waters that are so full of fish much of it are sustainable and of great value.  Pollack and Mackerel are great examples of this and taste beautiful.

You cooked: 

Don ceviche

Sea-bass en pappilote, crusty bread, herb veloute

Flat fish (depends on seasonality), risotto

Tips for buying fish:

Find a Fishmonger where the fish can be seen whole.  This enables clear identification of freshness. Try to shop local and build trust with your fishmonger. 

Fish should not smell…

The aroma should be of a slight saltiness. Gills bright and pink or deep purple not dull and dark. It is fine to have a slight slime on the skin (of the fish J).

Always ask your fishmonger to scale and gut the fish.

Eyes should be clear and easily seen not deep and sunken. This can show the fish is old or has been frozen.  Frozen is fine if sold as frozen.

Look at the fishmonger’s shop… is it clean? Are the fish on ice? How much stock is left at the end of the day …These are easy indicators of freshness and quality.  It should never be a problem for the fishmonger to prepare and fillet your fish and even explain how to cook it store etc.

Mackerel, sardines etc. when held up should be firm straight and not bendy.

Types of fish:

Fish are grouped into 2 families:

Flat fish – Sole, Plaice, Turbot…

Round fish – Cod, Bass, Bream…

Fish Stock:

To make fish stock, the best fish bones and skin are from flat fish. They produce clear and fresh-tasting stock.  Another benefit of buying fresh whole fish, we not only get fish to eat we get soup and sauce bases.

Oily fish produce strong pungent misty stocks that are not to everybody’s taste.

Preparing Fish:

When preparing fish have a bowl for scraps – board with paper underneath so it does not slip.

You will also need:

-Sharp knife, ideally with a flexible blade

-De-boning pincers

-kitchen scissors

Preparation and cooking of round fish

-Round fish has 2 fillets (unlike flat fish, which has 4)

-Cut off the head and tail.

-Get rid of any sharp fins with kitchen scissors.

-Hold the fish firmly on a chopping board and run the knife along the backbone from head to tail

-Keeping as close to the bone as possible, remove the fillet with

-Turn the fish and repeat

-If you wish to skin the fillets as well: place the fillet, skin-side down, on the chopping board and slide the knife on the skin while pulling the skin (I would always recommend keeping the skin on unless making something like ceviche or tiradito).

Cooking smaller round fish fillets (such as seabass or mackerel):

Place a large non-stick pan over medium heat and get it thoroughly hot.

Place a non-stick pan over medium heat and wait for a couple of minutes until thoroughly hot (please note that we’re not putting any oil in the pan).

Score the skin side of the fish and rub it with oil.

Sprinkle the pan with a pinch of salt and heat the salt until smoking hot, turn the temperature to medium-low. Press the fish, skin side down into the pan, it will try to curl, don’t let it. You can release it after 20 seconds. Let it cook together until the meat side of the fish looks almost cooked (and has changed its colour). Flip the fish, finish with a knob of butter and squeeze of lemon.

Make sure that the lemon doesn’t hit the crispy skin as that would make it soggy.

Cooking thicker round fish fillets (such as hake or salmon)

Preheat the oven to 185C.

Place a large non-stick pan with an oven-proof handle over medium heat and get it thoroughly hot.

Place a non-stick pan over medium heat and wait for a couple of minutes until thoroughly hot (please note that we’re not putting any oil in the pan).

Score the skin side of the fish and rub it with oil.

Sprinkle the pan with a pinch of salt and heat the salt until smoking hot, turn the temperature to medium-low and place the fish fillet in the pan skin-side down. Add a splash of oil if needed.

Cook for five minutes, place the pan in the oven and cook until the fish is done (this depends on the size of the fillet but should be around five minutes). You will know that the fish is ready when the meat starts to be flaky.

Remove from the pan, flip the fish (it is skin side up now) and add a knob of butter and squeeze of lemon juice.

Make sure that the lemon doesn’t hit the crispy skin as that would make it soggy.

Preparation and cooking of flat fish

Flat fish has 4 fillets (unlike round fish, which have 2).

Always trim the sharp fins with kitchen scissors, some flatfish have extremely sharp fins and tails.

Make an incision with the point of the knife below the head and cut down towards the backbone, then continue cutting down the length of the fish and through the tail

Make a cut below the head diagonally from the backbone to separate the fillet

Separate the flesh from the bones by inserting the point of a knife into the cut below the head and sliding the knife along the bone with a long, gentle stroking motion

Lift the fillet from the middle as you continue the stroking motion, cutting away from you to remove the first fillet – you should be able to hear and feel the knife moving against the bones

Turn the fish around and repeat on the other side of the backbone to remove the second fillet, cutting a diagonal line below the head then inserting the point of the knife from the tail end and gently following along the line of the bones to remove the fillet

Turn the fish over and repeat this process on the other side, cutting along the backbone and under the head

Use stroking motions along each side of the backbone to remove the third and fourth fillets

Trim the edges to neaten the fillets – these can now be skinned and cooked as required.

Cooking flat fish fillets

Scatter a bit of flour on a large plate.

Season with salt and pepper.

Pop the fish fillets on a chopping board and season all over with salt and pepper.

Squeeze over a little lemon juice and finely grate over some zest.

Dip the fish fillets in the flour, turning to lightly coat both sides of the fillets.

Shake off any excess flour.

Put a large pan on high heat and warm it till it’s smoking hot.

Add a splash of oil to the pan – enough to create a thin film on the bottom of the pan.

Add the fish fillets, skin-side-down, and fry for 1-2 mins till the skin is crisp underneath.

Carefully turn over and fry for a further 1 min.

If your frying pan is too small to cook all the fish fillets together, cook them in batches, adding extra oil as needed and making sure to keep the pan hot.

Serve the fish straight away with your choice of sides.

Cooking whole flat fish

Rinse fish and cavity thoroughly, removing any remaining guts, until water runs clear. Pat dry with paper towels.

Pat the fish completely dry with paper towels.

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Arrange whole rosemary sprigs over the base of a roasting pan large enough to lie the fish flat, then drizzle with 1tbsp of oil. Place fish on rosemary. Make scores in the skin of the fish, and tuck garlic and halved rosemary sprigs into scores.

Drizzle fish with another 1 tbs oil, then layer lemon slices on top.

Cover tray with foil and roast fish, removing foil after 20 minutes, for 30-40 minutes or until cooked through. Transfer to a serving dish or serve straight from the pan.

Don Ceviche

Ingredients – Serves 4:

  • – 1 red onion thinly sliced
  • – 500g seabass fillets, skinned
  • – Handful of chopped coriander
  • – 1 red chilli sliced
  • – 1 sweet potato, cooked, cubed
  • – Pomegranate seeds for garnish

Tiger’s Milk:

  • – 5cm ginger
  • – 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • – 4x lime juice
  • – 1 tbsp orange juice
  • – 5 tsp mirin
  • – 0.5 tsp sesame oil
  • – 1 tsp soy sauce


  1. Start preparing the tiger’s milk dressing/curing liquid first. Place chopped ginger, crushed garlic and lime juice in a suitable bowl and leave to infuse for 15minutes. Pass the juice and whisk through all the other ingredients, set aside for now.
  3. Soak super thinly sliced red onion in iced water for 10 minutes, pass and drain on a kitchen towel, place in the fridge. This will keep the onion really crispy while reducing its strength.
  5. Cut the fish into little cubes 2x2cm or similar. Place into a mixing bowl, sprinkle with salt. Leave for 3 minutes. Salt will help to open the pores of the sliced fish and it will absorb the tiger’s milk better.
  7. Add the dressing now, leave it for about 3 minutes to ‘cook’. Add coriander, chilli, sweet potatoes and sliced onions and mix gently.
  9. Garnish with pomegranate seeds.

Seabass en Papillote

Ingredients – Serves 4:

  • – 4x skinless seabass fillets
  • – 1x red onion, sliced
  • – 4x clove of garlic, crushed
  • – 2x carrot, cut into ribbons
  • – 1 large fennel bulb, halved, cored and thinly sliced
  • – 12x cherry tomatoes
  • – 1 can of white beans, rinsed
  • – 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • – ½ cup Italian flat-leafed parsley
  • – seasoning


  1. Cut 4 large squares of parchment paper.
  3. Preheat oven to 200C.
  5. Pat seabass fillets dry.
  7. In a bowl, gently toss the fennel, tomatoes, beans, carrot, onion, garlic, parsley, olive oil, salt and pepper to coat.
  9. Form a pile of the vegetable mixture in the canter of each of sheets.
  11. Place a piece of seasoned fish on top of each mound.
  13. Fold parchment in half, over top of the fish and veg, and fold the edges over 2-3 times to seal.
  15. Bake packets for 15 minutes.
  17. Transfer parchment packets with a spatula onto plates and open with a knife – be careful of the steam.
  19. Serve with crusty bread or sourdough and butter, with squeeze of lemon.


Ingredients – Serves 4:

  • – 1 tbsp oil
  • – 50g butter
  • – 50g parmesan, grated
  • – 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • – 1 onion, finely chopped
  • – 300g risotto rice
  • – 150ml white wine
  • – 1-2 liter vegetable stock, hot (amount of liquid depends on how fast you cook your rice/gas hob vs induction hob etc)
  • – sprig of thyme
  • – 1 tbsp of mascarpone (optional)


  1. Add oil in a saucepan and cook the onion and garlic with some seasoning for 5 minutes until soft. Add thyme, tip in the rice and stir until every grain is coated, then pour in the wine and bubble for 5 minutes. Add the stock a ladle at a time, while stirring, only adding more once the previous batch has been absorbed.
  3. Once the rice is cooked, stir through the butter and parmesan, and mascarpone (if using).

Saffron & Herb Veloute

Ingredients – Serves 4:

  • – 2tbsp olive oil
  • – 1 onion (finely chopped)
  • – 1 clove garlic (crushed)
  • – Salt
  • – 100ml dry white wine
  • – Pinch of saffron
  • – ½ bunch of chives
  • – ½ bunch of parsley
  • – ¼ bunch of basil
  • – 3 cups vegetable stock (hot)
  • – ⅓ cup of double cream 
  • – freshly ground peppers


  1. Heat the oil in a large pan set over a medium heat until hot.
  3. Add the onion, garlic and a pinch of salt and cook gently for 5 minutes until softened.
  5. Add the wine and saffron,  boil for 2 minutes to evaporate the alcohol.
  8. Add the cream, stir well, and cook for 2 minutes Do not boil. Add all the herbs at this point. Blend with a stick blender until smooth. You can pass the sauce through a fine strainer for extra smooth results.
  10. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

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