A wish for fish

Updated: 2016-03-25 07:59

By Maggie Beale(HK Edition)

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Go for food that's easy to digest when you dine with friends and family this extended weekend. Seafood can make for a sensible alternative to meat. And you don't necessarily have to compromise on taste to have food that's not too taxing on your system.

Halibut, one of the great flat fish of the sea ranking closely to the more expensive turbot, fits the bill. And thanks to today's quick methods of distribution, it can be found in local outlets. While a whole fish is too big for a modest family of two, frozen fillets, sold in packets, are available in the market.

If you buy a pack in which the fish has been cut into 3-4 fillets, such as those imported from Denmark/Greenland, allow the fish to thaw in the fridge for a couple of hours, then rinse it and check for possible faults.

Halibut contains a little oil, so care must be taken while cooking, so as to not let it get too dry. Apply generous amounts of butter or olive oil to the fillets. Grandma's rule of 10 minute per inch applies, so a 1-inch thick fillet or fish steak should take about 10 minutes to grill on medium high heat.

Turn the fish only once - and carefully - to prevent it from falling apart as it is cooking. Thinner halibut steaks or fillets cook in around 6 minutes. And halibut makes great fish and chips. All you need is a beer batter made with seasoned flour and beer opened the day before. It's ideal for deep frying. For best results cut the fish into small chunks, not too thin and neither too thick. Deep fry until golden brown and serve with home-made chips - fat plump potato chips made from real potatoes, not the skinny crackly crispy things sold in sealed packets as snacks.

Haddock is another good choice. Allow one or two fillets per person, thaw if necessary, trim the fish and remove any bones. Use the trimmings simmered in water for 15 minutes to make a stock for fish soup.

Saut fresh haddock steaks in butter, remove from the pan and keep warm in foil. Take the pan off the heat, add a knob of chilled butter and a shake of white pepper and whisk briskly until the sauce is smooth and glistening. Plate the fish on a bed of the sauce; add some peas and boiled potatoes for a perfect dinner dish.

Also very welcome in mid-season is a bowl of fresh mussels cooked in wine such as the ever-delightful moules marinier they do so well in France. You will need 3tablespoons unsalted butter, 1leek chopped, 1 red onion chopped, salt and white pepper, and, if you can find it, 1 large fennel bulb, coarsely chopped, plus fennel fronds for serving, 2kg mussels well rinsed, cup dry white wine, 3tablespoons olive oil.

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the fennel, onion, teaspoon salt, and teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally for 4 to 6 minutes. Add the mussels and wine and simmer covered, until the mussels open. Discard any mussels that remain closed.

Serve with the cooking liquid, a plain salad and lots of bread.

NB: The ideal wine choice would be a simple white both for cooking and to help wash the food down, usually a Muscadet, unoaked Chardonnay or a dry Reisling. A New Zealand Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc may be a little expensive to cook with but is an ideal drink with the dish. Or you could serve beer - and even replace the cooking wine with beer!

The choice is yours - Bon Appetit!

 A wish for fish

Moules mariniere, a French dish, is prepared by cooking fresh mussels in wine.

(HK Edition 03/25/2016 page9)