The idea that fish is difficult to cook is, of course, nonsense. But it’s the kind of nonsense that might just work to the home cook’s advantage. You get significantly more bang for your buck if any fellow diners think you have accomplished what amounts to culinary witchcraft. We’re not claiming that fish is the easiest ingredient to turn to for low effort, high reward mealtimes, but it’s certainly right up there.
There is a vast array of seafood options just waiting for you to discover at home, whether you buy them frozen, tinned or fresh, and all have the potential to feature in dishes packed with nutrition as well as flavour. Here are our favourite ways to approach a bit of low-level showing off, when you want to try something new.
It’s always good to know you’ve got a few key ingredients on had if you’re trying to do hassle free cooking. Smoked mackerel is the ultimate easy food, as it’s pre-cooked, with lots of smoky flavour, and often peppered too. It can go into a super-fast pâté, whizzed and potted the day before you want to eat it. Alternatively it can be the major flavour in fishcakes, which can be added to shallot or chopped capers and shaped in advance, then baked or shallow-fried and teamed with minted peas.
If you’re going to be busy in the daytime but want something a little bit special later on, get some ready-made relishes and sauces that partner with seafood; monkfish and fresh mackerel can both take something punchy like smoked chilli sauce or a simple pesto.
The fishmonger’s friend
One brilliant way to keep things simple is to make the most of the expertise of whoever is selling you the good stuff. If you’ve got used to sourcing your food from new places recently, check the websites of suppliers for tips when buying. Lots of food suppliers are really keen to share their knowledge right now. This applies especially to fishmongers, who’ll know what’s fresh, what’s inexpensive and what’s in season.
Given the sheer variety and availability of seafood caught in UK waters, you’ll always be offered a good choice. Your local fishmonger can also give you advice on where to find the best suppliers online and how to prepare your seafood, whether you’re cooking and dressing a brown crab or filleting mackerel so it can be grilled.
Make an impact
An impressive table doesn’t have to mean lengthy recipes, keeping it simple works just as well, especially with fish or shellfish. So if you’re doing mussels grilled with garlic butter – make them a main course rather than a starter and go big on the extras – crusty bread and crisp fries and a gorgeous salad – served to share family-style for a relaxed evening.
In summer, a fast-flowing production line of spanking-fresh mackerel fillets can be spiced, barbecued and wrapped in soft flatbreads as the centrepiece of a north African-inspired summer grill with a bucket of iced beers.
The whole story
Cooking and serving fish whole can make a great dish to put in the centre of the table. A roast monkfish tail is a neat centrepiece for a get-together dinner wrapped in parma ham or served with roasted fennel.
Whole fish are often stuffed with lemon slices and cooked in a flavour-saving foil parcel, but you could also bake in or on salt, or add a herb crust. And for an easy feast, a pile of fresh coley goujons could be served with homemade tartare sauce and salad.
Cook it your way
There’s more than one way to cook a mussel – or a monkfish, crab or mackerel. Pick your choice of cooking method to suit the time, kitchen and kit at your disposal, and you’ll be coasting all the way to teatime. Mackerel fillets can be done in minutes with just a sharp knife, but if you love getting all the gear out to grind toasted spices or make curry pastes, you’ll want some monkfish to take on all those flavours.
Pan-frying fillets of fish is super-simple; chefs often recommend taking them out of the fridge to come to room temperature first, and oiling the flesh rather than the pan. Don’t add butter if you’re cooking oily fish like mackerel, but monkfish will love it.
And there you have it – with fish, low effort, quick and easy cooking can produce high reward results.
Why not try this at home, tonight?
Did you find this article interesting?