Fish would never be something I would have ordered at a restaurant. Steak would have been top of the list, followed by chicken and I would never even browse what was available on the seafood menu. That is until I met Lukas Mlynarcik, Chef at La Bastille Restaurant on the Lisburn Road. I think it maybe helps seeing fish being cooked and prepared.
Here is another example of delicious seafood cooking. Stone bass and monkfish cheeks, butternut squash, cherry tomatoes, basil butter and roast beetroot.
Fishermen never know what is going to turn up in their nets. Sometimes they catch fish that are so unusual, even experienced fishermen are not too sure of what they are. Stone Bass or Wreck fish is such a species. An occasional visitor which is so nice to eat.
Despite a very different shape, Stone Bass is a close relative of the Sea Bass. They can grow up to a weight of 100kg in warmer waters. But Irish caught specimens are usually only 5kg. You can get the fish from fishmongers and St Georges Market is perfect place to source seafood.
Monkfish cheeks are of course the flesh from the cheeks of monkfish, in the past disgarded but now on the menu at the best restaurants! The cheeks weigh about 50g each with a taste similar to scallops. Before cooking remove the membrane enclosing them or this will contract in cooking making the flesh tough.
Roast Beetroot: Forget limp slices of beetroot swimming in a bath of vinegar, to get the full sweetness and nutritional goodness then simply roast beetroot. It is simple and easy, with the result being beets with an intensified sweet flavour. Beetroot is best roasted with the skin on, which is easily removed once the beetroot is cooked. Take care not to break the skin when washing the beetroot. Season with sea salt, wrap in tin foil and roast in an oven at 160 for 1 hour.
Slice the cooked beetroot, season with white pepper, butter and return to oven for only a few minutes.
Butternut Squash: Butternut squash brings loads of colour to so many recipes. The hard rind, dense flesh and awkward shape mean that butternut squash require careful cutting. Use a large knife or cleaver to make a shallow cut down the length of the squash (curves permitting). Place the blade in the cut and knock the back of the blade (using your hand, a wooden mallet or rolling pin) until the squash is cut in half lengthways. Scoop out the seeds and any fibrous-strings (the seeds are edible – raw or toasted – but the fibrous coat can be fiddly to remove). If you require chunks of squash, cut a small piece of each end, enabling you to stand it vertically and trim off the rind before slicing and dicing.
Corriander: One of the most common spices in Indian cuisine. To bring out the fragrance in coriander, toast the seeds. Put them in a dry heavy skillet and set over medium heat for a few minutes until they become fragrant.
Heat the diced butternut squash with the corriander seeds and butter.
Courgettes : The courgette is a variety of cucurtbit, which means it’s from the same family as cucumber, squash and melon. It is the most popular vegetable of the squash family, being extremely versatile, tender and easy to cook. In this recipe we simply slice and cook in butter, white pepper until soft and golden brown.
Basil butter: Start by picking and washing your basil leaves. The amount depends on your taste buds. Remove butter from refrigerator to soften. Cut your leaves into small bits or use a grater to get the leaves even smaller. Thinly chop 8 shallots. Use your garlic press to process 2 or 3 garlic cloves, again this is about personal taste. If you like more, press more. Mix butter in a bowl with hand mixer. Once mixed, add the shallots, basil and garlic, and grated skin of 1/4 lemon. Season with white pepper. If you find the mixture suits your palette, stop mixing and scoop the mixture into a mold of your choosing. Once done, refrigerate. The butter keeps about the same as regular butter.
Fish: Season the fish on both sides with white pepper and salt. Cook skin side down on low heat and gradually raise to medium.
After five minutes the skin will be brown. Squeeze lemon over the fish and add butter. Continue to cook until fish is soft. Do not overcook.
The rule of thumb is to cook the fish for 10 minutes for every inch of thickness, no matter what method of cooking you use. When you flake it with a fork, it will have lost the translucent look in the centre and be an opaque white. If the edges are hard and dry, it is overcooked. Fish has very little connective tissue, so it cooks very fast.
Ready to serve…
and tasted lovely….
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