17 October 2012

GUEST BLOG: Fish for compliments

By guest blogger HELEN ROADHOUSE

I had really been looking forward to the fish session with Rob and was not disappointed. Rob had bought mackerel, coley and plaice and had three very different recipes for the three types of fish.

First, the fish had to be filleted. This was greeted with varying degrees of enthusiasm from the participants but, once underway, everyone got involved in the 'yucky' part of cooking fish and it broke the ice and the whole group then gelled really well! Filleting plaice is quite an art and sharp knives are essential to remove the meat evenly from the the bones. The mackerel was gutted, topped, tailed and cleaned, and then put into a roasting dish.

Rob insisted in keeping the white fish heads, tails and skin to make a fish stock - but not the oily fish bits as they make a very bitter stock. All the fish bits were pressure cooked, drained and then milk was added to the liquid which was then reduced down to an almost sticky consistency. This was to go in the Veronique sauce for the plaice. Meanwhile, the coley was cut into fingers and the goujons coated with breadcrumbs and a soya yoghurt and garlic dip was mixed to go with them, and spring onions and veggies were chopped and fried with tomato and reduced down with chilli and Szechuan peppercorns for a spicy Szechuan sauce for the mackerel.

The contrasting sauces are well thought out for the very different fish flavours. The plaice has a very delicate flavour, so the sauce has to be subtle and not overwhelming and the Veronique sauce is perfect for delicate white fish of any sort. By contrast the mackerel can take much stronger flavours hence the fiery Szechuan sauce, though Rob quite rightly warned against going overboard with the powerful Szechuan peppercorns. To go with our fish, our volunteer Kate cooked up roast spuds and crispy cabbage (seaweed in Chinese restaurants!). It was quite a banquet and a fabulously delicious one at that, with loads to go round.

This fish session was brilliantly interesting with some great tips and tasty recipes - and everyone said they would definitely try them again at home. I was also taken with what a lovely group the participants were and how well they all got on as a team. It makes these sessions a fantastically fun experience as well as learning great cooking from our most excellent cooking leader Rob. Everyone thought Rob's expertise and knowledge was inspiring, and the session was a resounding success! Here are some comments from participants...
  • The whole thing was excellent – Cameron
  • Very useful, especially learning to fillet and making a crazy spicy Schezuan sauce – Adam
  • Rob was an excellent teacher and has the manner and guidance to enable us all to work as a team – Karen
  • Rob was a legend! I loved his passion, his knowledge and the fact he explained everything so clearly. The results were amazing too. Loved, loved, loved it! – Eve

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