This post was made possible by Sainsbury’s, as part of their Switch the Fish campaign. They sent me vouchers to buy the ingredients to make a meal, in exchange for a blog post that might encourage others to try a different kind of fish.
The Switch the Fish campaign focuses on five lesser-known kinds of fish: lemon sole, mussels, sea bass, coley or rainbow trout. Of these, the only one I’d never tried was coley. It seemed in the spirit of the campaign to give it a try for this very reason. I made something very much in the style of this baked fish recipe from Leite’s Culinaria, but with a few substitutions, omissions and additions. In other words, I took a recipe, tore it up into bits, threw it into the air and proceeded on my way.
My recipe, to serve two or three (depending on appetite), is as follows:
- 3 heaped tbsp pistachio nuts
- one slice seeded bread (or other bread of your choice)
- zest of 1/2 lemon
- 2 – 3 tsp olive oil
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 6 small coley fillets – I had two long, skin-on fillets, which I cut into three pieces each
- a few pinches of salt, enough to lightly season all the fillets
- 2 – 4 tsp oil, to crisp up the skin
Now, the first thing to bear in mind is that this was a first run of this recipe, and as such I will be suggesting a few tweaks and changes along the way. Not only did I change the recipe that gave me inspiration in the first place, I even want to change my own recipe. I’m pretty fickle that way.
Put the oven on to heat – we want it at 230C, that’s really hot!
First up, make the breadcrumb topping. Grind or smash the pistachios into a semi-coarse powder. That is one of those infuriating instructions that could mean anything, isn’t it? Luckily, I took pictures. I ground them down so that there were a few small chunks remaining, but most of the nuts were well crushed.
If I was going to do this again, I would toast the nuts first to bring out their flavour. I might also be tempted to try blanching then roasting them, if I had some extra time, to try and bring out both flavour and colour.
Now you can reduce the bread to bona-fide crumbs, either in a food processor or by grating. A food processor will give a finer result, but needs must when you’re food processor-less, right? Mix the bread and nuts together, and finely grate the lemon zest in. I chose not to season further, relying on the bread to do the work in that arena, but in hindsight I think an extra pinch of salt would really bring out the pistachio and lemon. Stir in the oil to bind them a little, and to encourage crisping and browning in the oven.
Top tip: don’t photograph things under poor light if you can avoid it. If you *can’t* avoid it, at least don’t make your photo editing job a bazillion times harder by putting them in a bright red bowl.
Next, prepare the fish for baking. If you have skinless fillets, you can proceed straight to the oven. The fish, that is, not you.
If you’re working with skin-on fillets, season them with a generous sprinkling of salt, then put a frying pan on over a high heat. Sear the fish for 1 – 2 minutes, skin side down, to crisp up. Nobody needs soggy fish skin. Except fish, I suppose. When the skin is browned round the edges (you may need to do two batches), slide it out of the pan and onto a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper. Divide the breadcrumbs between the fillets, and press down firmly so that they stick. I didn’t find that I needed anything extra on the fish to make this happen – no egg wash, brush of oil or thin layer of mustard, they held on just fine on their own.
Bake for ten minutes – it will take longer if you have thick fillets, the rule of thumb suggested by the LC post is ten minutes per inch of thickness. If you are baking for longer, I might suggest turning the heat down a bit so that the crumbs don’t get scorched.
That’s it! Serve the fish with whatever you like – for Sunday dinner, we chose mashed potato and green veg, but you can choose your favourite accompaniment.
They coley was as delicious as any other white fish I’ve tried, but comes with the added bonus of being more sustainable. It was really meaty and firm – it stood up to being sliced into portions, then moved from cutting board to frying pan, to baking sheet, and finally to plate without any problems at all. It was a great choice for this recipe. Thanks Sainsbury’s!