Alive or not, fish are hard to handle. They’re slippery, scaly and difficult to cook. Overdone, it becomes chewy and dry. Underdone, while a delicacy, is still a slip up if it’s not what was intended. What you want is that perfect, melt-in-your-mouth succulence.
And since it’s tradition to eat seafood on Good Friday, we thought we’d help you out by asking the experts. We spoke to Grey Dent, head chef at celebrity-favourite, The Fish House, in Burleigh Heads and Massimo Mele, chef and Huon Salmon ambassador, to find out how to source and cook the perfect piece of fish.
“The first step when cooking fish—or any kind of seafood—is to make sure it’s fresh. The flesh should be firm and smell like the sea,” says Grey Dent.
Massimo Mele agrees, “Sniffing the fish sounds silly but never underestimate your senses. That fresh sea salt smell is one of the tell tales of fresh fish. A fish that has come from the ocean not too long ago should still smell like the place it was farmed.”
He also recommends looking for bright scales, pink gills and firm flesh. “The slimier the skin, the better. If it is dry, discoloured, bruised or gaping, avoid it. This means that the fish was either handled poorly or has been on the shelf for too long, so keep looking for another fillet.”
If you’re choosing salmon, Mele suggests finding one with natural marbling. “This is an indicator of good omega 3 levels in the fish. Good marbling is an indicator of high omega 3 levels in the fish and it suggests the fish is full of protein, which will keep you fuller for longer.”
As for where to purchase, Mele always buys from a reputable fishmonger to ensure freshness and variety. Fishmongers are also very knowledgeable about their produce so they’re able to offer great advice if you’re new to seafood.
If you do choose from the supermarkets, Mele suggests choosing fish that has been on the shelf for no longer than three days. “There is no general rule for how long supermarkets should keep fish before throwing it out, but the most general period is about 2-3 days. There is a general misunderstanding that fish must be sold on the same day they are caught to guarantee freshness. As long as it is handled with care and the cold chain has been properly maintained, freshness can be maintained for a few days before landing on shelf for customers.
And when it comes to cooking, Dent suggests going seasonal with the sides. “As we are now in autumn, potatoes, pumpkins and cabbages are all coming into season. Mushrooms, onions, fennel and celery also start their peak season along with carrots, parsnips, spinach and fennel. Autumn also welcomes the arrival of apples, pears, figs, grapes, peaches and pears, which are great to incorporate into your cooking.”
Feeling like a chef now? Put your skills to the test with The Fish House’s own oven baked trout recipe and Catalina’s crispy skin barramundi.
100g of tahini
lemon juice to taste
salt and pepper to taste
1tsp of garlic
50mls of warm water
pinch of mint
pinch of coriander
1⁄2 a chilli
1tsp of lemon juice
1tsp of olive oil
macadamia nuts, crushed
salt and pepper to taste
1 snapper or 1 barramundi carcass (for fish stock)
40g of salted butter
40g of plain flour
300ml of boiled milk
180g a mid fillet portion of Cone Bay Barramundi
30ml olive oil
2 clams/ 2 pipis/ 2 vongole
50ml of white wine
400ml of velouté
A couple sprigs of lemon thyme
3 pencil leeks
20g lemon balm micro herbs