Buying and Cooking Fish and Shellfish

 
 
FISHY THINGS
 
 

This section is devoted to fish and all things fishy! We hope to share tips and techniques, facts and know how, what’s in season, when and where to buy it.

We hope that it is easy to use and will provide you with a good reference point for the future.

 
 
In this section, you’ll find:
 
Classification of Fish and Shellfish – white fish, oily fish, crustaceans and molluscs
 
Season Charts – which fish is in season, when, how to cook it, what to look for
 
What to do with fish – techniques made simple: cleaning and gutting, filleting and boning
 
How to do it with fish – types of cooking: grilling, frying, steaming, poaching, baking and microwaving
 
CLASSIFICATION OF FISH
 
Fish and shellfish classifications fall generally into the following:
 

White Fish

Oily Fish

Crustaceans

Molluscs
 
WHITE FISH
 
Examples of white fish are the popular Cod, Haddock, Seabass, Halibut, Dover Sole and Turbot, to name but a few. They all come from the sea and are characterised by white firm flesh. Fresh white fish has the following characteristics: firm flesh, clear and shiny eyes, red gills and a clean smell.
 
There are two types of white fish: ROUND FISH such as Cod and FLAT FISH, such as Dover Sole.
 
Try out our Cod in Spicy Tomato Sauce Recipe
What about Seabass with an Almond Crust Recipe
 
OILY FISH
 
This is classified as such because of its’ high oil content. This type of fish can be sea caught or, these days, are very often farmed.
 
Some oily fish lends itself to smoking, which can be either:
 
Hot Smoked – where the temperature is hot enough to actually cook the fish as well as smoke it. This type of smoking means that the fish can be eaten as is. Smoked Mackerel is a good example of this type of smoking.
 
Cold Smoked – this, as its’ name implies, is when the fish is smoked only, but it still raw. It will need cooking before eating. Smoked Haddock is a good example of cold smoking.
 
Check out our Smoked Mackerel Fish Cakes Recipe
 
Tip! Try to go for fish that has a pale yellow colour after being smoked. Bright yellow shades usually indicate the presence of additives during the smoking process.
 

Most fish is trawled and caught, gutted, filleted and frozen. Most of the fish we buy is bought in this way. Alternatively, fresh fish is also cleaned, left whole, chilled and transported to fishmongers on a daily basis.

Fresh fish can be bought in the following cuts:
 
Round fish fillet – usually comes from a large round fish, such as cod. It is quite thick and long. The flesh is cut from the length of the fish.  Try out our Salmon with Tomatillo Sauce Recipe
 
Flat fish fillet – usually comes from a large flat fish, such as Dover Sole or Plaice. This tends to be less thick and the fish is leaner than a round fish.
 
Fish Steak – these cuts come from the width of a round fish only. They are usually cut from the middle of the fish body.
 
Fish Cutlet – these are slightly thinner than the steaks and come from between the head and the mid body of the round fish.
 
CRUSTACEANS
 
These types of shellfish differ from molluscs in as much as they have multi- jointed shells. Molluscs on the other hand, don’t. Examples of crustacean shellfish are:
 

Lobsters

Crawfish

Prawns

Crab
 
Crustacean shellfish need a bit of preparation if to be cooked at home or they can be purchased already cooked and ‘dressed’.
 
MOLLUSCS
 
Mollusc shellfish have shells but they are not multi-jointed. Some molluscs are eaten raw, such as oysters, but the remainder need very little in the way of cooking through. Too much cooking will affect their texture and taste.
 

Examples of molluscs are:

Mussels

Scallops

Oysters

Whelks

 
 
CLASSIFICATION OF FISH
 
 

NAME

TYPE

CUTS AVAILABLE

SEASON

COOKING METHOD

DETAILS

Seabass

Round Fish

Whole Fish Fillet

May - August

Bake

Poach

A large popular fish which is readily available in fishmongers.

 

Seabream

Round Fish

Whole Fish

Fillet

June – Dec

Grill

Bake

Seabream is quite a bony fish and needs attention to boning. It has a delicate taste but is a bit of a faff to prepare!

Cod

Round Fish

Whole Fish

Fillet

Steak

Oct – April

Bake

Poach

Grill

Fry

A very large white fish. Over fished in the UK but remains very popular. Some fish are enormous, weighing up to 90lbs!

 

Haddock

Round Fish

Steaks

Fillets

Smoked

Nov- Feb

Grill

Bake

Poach

Fry

Part of the cod family and is very popular in the UK. It’s a little more expensive than cod. Can be bought smoked.

Smoked Haddock

Round Fish

Fillets

Nov – Feb

Grill

Bake

Poach

Fry

Avoid very yellow smoked haddock, as this contains artificial additives. Go for pale yellow smoked haddock – it’s more natural!

Hake

Round Fish

Whole Fish Cutlets

Fillets

July – March

Bake

This fish is excellent as it’s practically boneless. Although it’s part of the cod family, it hasn’t got the same following, as it’s flavour is quite subtle.

Halibut

Flat Fish

Fillet

Aug – April

Bake

Grill

Fry

This is quite an expensive fish with dry, firm flesh. A rather delicate taste which lends itself to being very simply cooked.

Plaice

Flat Fish

Whole Fish

Fillets

Jan – April

Grill

Poach

Bake

Fry

Another very popular British fish. It has a delicate texture and is best cooked simply to appreciate the flavours.

Dover Sole

Flat Fish

Whole Fish

Fillets

May – Feb

Poach

Grill

Fry

This delicate fleshed fish has a subtle taste and is best cooked simply with a little butter and lemon. It needs care when cooking as it is easy to overcook it and lose it’s flavour. It has many pin bones in it – so needs care when eaten.

Lemon Sole

Flat Fish

Whole Fish

Fillets

Dec- March

Poach

Grill

Fry

This fish is the lesser cousin of the Dover Sole in terms of taste and texture. It’s a little more stringy.

Turbot

Flat Fish

Whole Fish

Steaks

Fillets

April – July

Poach

Bake

Grill

Quite similar to Halibut in texture and taste.

Herring

Saltwater Oily Fish

Whole

June – March

Fry

Grill

Can be pickled or smoked.

Kipper

Herring

Whole

June – March

Eaten cold

These are smoked herrings that have been split and put into brine before smoking.

Bloater

Herring

Whole

June – March

Grilled

Fry

These are dried smoked and salted herrings. They don’t keep very well and should be cooked and eaten on the day of purchase.

Mackerel

Saltwater Oily Fish

Whole

Dec-May

Grill

Fry

Bake

Very popular oily fish.

Mullet

Estuary Oily Fish

Whole

July – Feb

Poach

Grill

Bake

Redish grey in colour with quite a strong taste.

Perch

Freshwater Oily Fish

Whole

June – March

Poach

Grill

Bake

This fish is quite hard to scale. Tip! Try soaking it in hot water for 3 minutes or so – the scales should soften and come off easier. Try a fish scaler 

Salmon

Saltwater Oily Fish

Whole

Fillets

Steaks

Cutlets

Smoked

May – July

Bake

Grill

Poach

Fry

Ah, the king of fish! Very often farmed these days, however, salmon is very versatile and easy to prepare.

 

Trout

Farmed Oily Fish

Whole

Fillets

Smoked

March – Sept

Grill

Bake

Fry

Another popular oily fish which has a slightly less rich taste than salmon. 

Crab

Crustacean

Whole – live or dressed

Claws

‘Crab sticks’

April – Sept

Ready to eat

Look for crabs that are heavier than they look. Shake it lightly – there should be no sound of water. They need a lot of preparation, but you can buy ready to eat dressed crab.

Crawfish

Crustacean

Live

Cooked

April – Sept

Prepared: Ready to Eat

Unprepared: Bake

Fry

Usually heavier and coarser than lobster, and because it has no claws, the meat is in the tail.

Lobster

Crustacean

Live

Cooked

April – Aug

Prepared: Ready to Eat

Unprepared:

Boiled

Baked

These are usually sold live or can be bought already prepared and ‘dressed’. The male is usually smaller but has larger claws than the female, but the females flesh is more tender.

Mussels

Mollusc

Live

Sept – March

Boiled and can be baked

There are various recipes for mussels and they are usually sold by the pint.

Oysters

Mollusc

Live

Sept – April

Raw in shells

Eaten raw but can be cooked. The shells should shut when tapped gently. They should only be opened just before serving.

Prawns

Crustacean

Raw

Cooked

Semi Peeled

Peeled

Year Round

Bake

Fry

Boil

Grill

Poach

Grey shelled crustaceans that turn pink when cooked. Raw unpeeled prawns are much tastier than ready prepared prawns. They don’t need too much cooking as they can go very rubbery if overdone!

Dublin Bay Prawns

Crustacean

Raw

Cooked

May – Nov

Bake

Boil

Grill

Poach

Buy them by the pint when raw and by weight when cooked.

Scallops

Mollusc

Raw

Sept - March

Poach

Bake

Grill

White flesh with an orange roe. They have a very delicate flavour. Overcooking reduces their size and texture dramatically, so they are best treated gently. Often presented on their own shells.

Whelks and Winkles

Molluscs

Cooked

Sept – Feb

Eaten with vinegar and brown bread.

A staple favourite of the great British food menu! They are just eaten as sold.

 
 
 
WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN BUYING FRESH FISH
 

Fresh fish should be firm to the touch.

The eyes should be clear, full and shiny – almost glistening.

The gills should be red.

It should not, under any circumstances, smell ‘fishy’, but should have a clean, fresh smell.

When buying crab, tap it gently to make sure it doesn’t contain water.

Mussels should not be bought if their shells don’t close when tapped. Discard any broken shells when cleaning.
 
HOW TO CLEAN FISH
 
Lay the fish on it’s back and open it’s gills. The flaps should come out gently. These need to be removed with a pair of scissors. Remove the fins from the fish, again, with a pair of scissors. Slice into the body of the fish at the bottom of its belly. Scoop out the middle – rather messy, but necessary!
Finally, run under cold water until the water runs clear and the body cavity and outer is clean.
 
HOW TO FILLET FISH
 
Cut down the length of the fish at the backbone from the head to the tail, keeping the knife as close to the backbone as possible. Cut down the width of the fish, starting from just behind the gills. Slice underneath the flesh lengthwise towards the tail, keeping as close to the bones as possible. Remove the fillet just before the tail.
Turn the fish over and repeat on the other side.
 
HOW TO BONE FISH
 
Make a cut just behind the gills, but don’t cut its’ head off completely. Drop its’ head down, away from the body and scoop out its’ guts. Wash the fish to clean out the body cavity. Cut along the back bone keeping the knife as tight to the bone as possible. Spread the fish open like opening a book, flesh side down so that you can see the supporting bone structure.
Remove the backbone. Most of the adjoining bones will come away at the same time if it is done carefully, however a pair of tweezers and small knife will help to pull away any small ‘pin’ bones.
 
COOKING FISH
 
Grilling – White fish should be brushed lightly with a little oil before grilling, but oily fish needs nothing added. Make sure the grill is hot before the fish is inserted. A squeeze of lemon and seasoning is all that’s needed! Very simple and fresh way to cook fish. Turn the fish over once only.
 
Shallow Frying – Shallow frying is the best way to fry fish. The fish should be dried with kitchen paper, coated with beaten egg and dusted with flour. A little oil in the frying pan should be hot enough to sizzle the fish immediately it is added. This will seal the fish. If the oil isn’t hot enough, the fish will taste oily and the coating will be mushy – yuck!
 
Deep Frying - is usually done with battered fish. The batter is made from flour, milk, water and/or beer. The oil has to be hot enough for the fish to sizzle immediately it is added, or the same thing will occur as with shallow frying.
 
Steaming – a very healthy option which uses a steamer [link to 80051] that sits on top of a saucepan of boiling water. The resultant taste is fresh and clean. Spices and herbs can be used in the steamer to infuse into the fish.
 
Poaching – a great way to gently cook tender and delicate fish. Many liquid flavours are used, the most popular one being white wine. Herbs and spices are often added, but care needs to be taken not to mask the taste of the fish with overpowering flavours.
 
Baking – a good way to cook fish as much of the flavour is retained. When cooked in parcels with herbs and a little wine, the flavours develop and enhance the taste of the fish. This type of baking fish is perfect for barbecuing.
 
Microwaving – Easy and very quick, this method is usually done when the fish is poached in liquid. Milk works very well with salmon, as does white wine, cider or lemon juice. Be careful not to overdo the cooking time though, as the fish can quite easily become dry and overcooked.
 
ESSENTIAL UTENSILS FOR COOKING FISH
 
 
A fish scaler is very useful for removing scales from the body of the fish.
A fish slice is perfect for transferring whole fish from the pan to the plate.
An oven tray is good for baking fish, particularly when surrounded by fresh vegetables or wine. A seafood set is just the job for dealing with crustaceous shellfish. The lobster crackers are perfect for opening up the claw shells and the picks are used to help get the flesh out of the difficult to get at parts of the lobster. A Zester will help remove the rind from lemons and a reamer will help remove the juice. Both are used frequently in the preparation and cooking of fish. A fish kettle is useful for cooking large whole fish, such as Salmon.
The right presentation plates bring food alive.

 

Take a look at some of our fish recipes:
 
Sauteed Prawn and Crab Cakes
Kumara, Coconut and Prawn Soup
Simple Sushi

Prawn Creole

Seared Tuna with Chipotle Cream Sauce

Prawns with a Remoulade Sauce

Crab Corn Chowder

Trout Braised with Onion and Tomatoes

Salmon with Green Peppercorns and Orange

Moules Marinere

Baked Seabass with Tahini and Herbs

Fish Plaki

En Papillote Fish Parcels

Cod in Spicy Tomato Sauce

 
 
www.theeveninginn.com is operated by G.E.T. Internet Services. All products advertised on this website are sourced and supplied by third parties including Amazon and Google. Any purchases you make will be directly through these third party websites.