Fish. It’s topical. There has been a raft of TV programmes highlighting the horrific waste of fish as it’s thrown back dead into the sea – wrong kind of fish or too much for that crew’s quota. So it’s been brought to our attention that fish is a precious resource, but one which we are told we should eat more of. If we are going to do that we need to make informed choices and then we need to make the best of what we buy.
Dorling Kindersley presents us with a one-stop Fish cookbook. It’s a proper cookbook that doesn’t assume the reader knows anything about the subject. Lots of step-by-step pictures to guide the novice through filleting fish, cutting sushi, preparing lobsters and crabs, cleaning and dismembering (I am sure there is a more appropriate fishmongery word than that) octopus, and so on. Every kind of cooking technique is illustrated, and then there are 300 recipes on which to practise.
Fish Cookbook is practical but it’s also attractive. One can leaf through those large pages and be wooed by the pictures of Battered and Fried Prawns; we are tempted by Butterflied Sardines with Tomatoes and Capers; and I can categorically state that Grilled Herring with Mustard Butter will be on the menu chez nous next week.
Yes, marvellous photography and accurate recipes as well. Cookbooks should be used: we have all been enticed by coffee table cookbooks that waft us to distant and sunnier isles; we are intrigued by exotic spices …but the reality is that it’s a Wednesday night, you bought a nice bit of haddock and need a simple and fast recipe. Fish Cookbook will provide that recipe, as well as other posher recipes that will be appropriate for a Saturday night entertaining friends.
Laksa Lemak is a Malaysian dish that is indeed smart enough to serve to those weekend visitors. OK, so the fish and shellfish used here isn’t the cheapest on the fishmonger’s slab, but what a striking dish when one wants to impress.
A classic recipe for that aforementioned haddock is for Omelette Arnold Bennett. This is named after the Victorian novelist who is probably better remembered for this dish than for his literary works. It was first made for him at the Savoy Grill in London. A simple preparation with few ingredients, and the end result is economic but rich and decadent for that Wednesday supper.
My pick of the book is Prawn Gumbo. The recipe uses tiger prawns and indeed a whole kilo of them. That might cause a sharp intake of breath, but this dish will feed up to eight people with the addition of just some rice and perhaps some rustic bread. It’s a good recipe for a party as it can be made one day ahead. I personally think it’s better made in advance as that allows the flavours to develop. This isn’t an overly spicy dish, but one could have a bottle of Tabasco in the condiment rack for those who want a bit more heat.
Fish Cookbook is great value for money. It would make an ideal gift for any fish lover …although I would be reluctant to give away my only copy. Buy two.
Author: CJ Jackson
Published by: Dorling Kindersley
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018