James Street South Cookery School: Fabulous fish

Grilled sea bass with tomato, capers and herbs
Niall McKenna

THIS week we are focusing on fish, fabulous fish! At the end of June, the LegenDerry Maritime Festival celebrated the rich history and traditions associated with the sea and the north west, while the Flavours of the Foyle event last week promoted the high quality local seafood and food provenance in the city and its surrounds.

Maybe it's due to the fact we are an island, but fish has always been popular with patrons in all our restaurants, and with dedicated establishments opening across Belfast, such as Mourne Seafood, we really have a lot to celebrate.

I know I have said it before but the health benefits of a well-balanced diet with plenty of fish are many and varied, so this week's recipes, which are both traditional, delicious, easy and quick to make, are perfect for a mid-week meal.


(This dish works really well with salmon or trout)

2 salmon fillets, skin on

Sea salt

Ground black pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp cumin

1 shallot, thinly sliced

1 cucumber, trimmed and sliced lengthways

8 radishes, thinly sliced

1 ½ tblsp caster sugar

1 tblsp white wine vinegar

Small handful of mint leaves, destalked

1 pinch sesame seeds

1 tsp capers

Start by patting the salmon dry with kitchen tissue and season well with the salt and pepper on both sides. Rub the skin of the salmon with a little of the olive oil and then dust with the cumin and paprika.

Next prepare the cucumber by trimming and cutting lengthways. You can use a mandolin to do this for very thin slices. Next, thinly slice the shallot and then the radishes. Place all of these in a bowl and add the caster sugar and vinegar and allow to pickle for up to 15 minutes in the juice, using your hands to mix the ingredients well.

While this is pickling, heat a frying pan with a good splash of rapeseed oil; place the fish skin-side down and cook over a medium heat until you can see the fish is cooked halfway through, then turn over and cook for another minute or two. Remove from heat and the pan.

Now that the fish is ready, place on a plate, drain the liquid from the cucumber, shallot and the radishes and give the contents a squeeze with your hands. Add in a handful of mint leaves (destalked) and place on the salmon. A light sprinkling of sesame seeds with a few capers will complete the dish.


2 large whole sea bass

Olive oil to brush on fish

2 tomatoes, deseeded and finely dice

1 tblsp capers

1 large handful of parsley, finely chopped

1 large handful of dill, finely chopped

1 large handful of chives, finely chopped

Olive oil to mix

Salt and pepper

Lemon to serve

It is usually best to ask your fishmonger to scale your fish but this can be done at home. Start by holding the fish by the head and run a heavy knife along the back of the skin – you will feel and see the scales lifting off.

Once scaled, make an incision around the head (fish filleting knives, which we use in our kitchens, are available to buy). All fish in supermarkets are gutted, even whole fish, so all you want to do is clean the inside of the fish of any residue. Remove any external fins which cannot be eaten, the same with the tail.

Next, pre-heat the grill and place the fish on a tray, brushed with a little olive oil. Grill for 10 minutes on one side until the skin blisters and starts to char. Turn the fish over and grill for another 3-5 minutes, taking care not to overcook. Remove from heat and place on plate.

In a bowl place the deseeded, diced tomatoes with the finely chopped dill, parsley, chive and the capers, add in a good glug of olive oil and mix thoroughly. Serve on top of the sea bass with a thick wedge of lemon.


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