Fishy Business

Kirsty Cruikshank of For the Love of Fish – home of fish and seafood cooking and preparation demos, workshops and recipes – offers some fishy festive fayre

Like my mum in the 1970s and my grandma in the 1950s, I make a beeline for the Grainger Market every time I’m in Newcastle. I love its unique atmosphere, eclectic clientele and its mixture of old and new businesses.

You won’t need to buy expensive fish for this recipe because the batter has a lovely flavour and peps up things like dabs, witches, megrims, whiting fillets and pollock tails; all fish that are overlooked in favour of their more popular and often over-fished cousins like cod and lemon sole. Flat and round white fish are a great choice in the autumn and winter as it’s when they’re at their best and many are caught locally, too.

My favourite fishmonger in the Grainger Market is Lindsay Brothers on the “fish” corner of Alley 1. It’s run by Brett Lindsay who’s been in the fish business for over 40 years. They always have a good display of whole fish on their slab, a sight that’s becoming increasingly scarce in the UK. On the other side of the Grainger Market is mmm… at units 10-13 Grainger Arcade. It’s a deli run by Simone and Ian Clarkin and it has a spectacular range of herbs, spices, flours, oils and store cupboard ingredients. It’s a foodie’s paradise and you’ll find the gram flour and spices for this recipe in their shop.

Don’t be tempted to use plain white flour, the nutty taste of the [gluten-free] gram flour is essential.

pakora-(3)Gluten-Free Fish Pakoras 
Serves 2

100-125g thin white fish fillets, skinned and boned
50g gram flour (chickpea flour)
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp hot chilli powder
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp ground coriander
pinch salt
70ml water
1-2 litres vegetable oil (depending on the size of pan)

Place the oil in a deep-sided pan (I use an ordinary 17cm stainless steel pan that holds 1litre of oil). A wok works really well, but you will need a lot more oil, at least another litre. Heat the oil to 180C (if you don’t have a sugar thermometer then drop a tiny amount of the made up batter into the oil and it should sizzle and bubble rapidly). Slice the fish into thin strips, about 2cm wide.
Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly.
Slowly add the water and beat thoroughly until you have a smooth batter. It should be thick and it must be used straight away to make the most of the bubbles the baking powder creates.
Coat two or three of the fish strips thickly with the batter and gently lower into the hot fat. They will puff up and go golden quite quickly.
Cook for 2 mins, then turn them over and cook for another 2 mins and remove from the oil. Continue to cook in batches until they are all ready. These are lovely served with a tomato, onion and coriander salad with a squeeze of lemon juice.
Tip 1 Allow the oil to cool, filter it through kitchen roll and save it for another time. You should get another two to three frying sessions out of it before it has to be disposed of.
Tip 2 You can add extra ingredients to this basic batter like a teaspoon of grated ginger, chopped coriander, chopped green chilli and mango chutney to liven up the flavour. To calm it down, omit the chilli.

Smoked haddock frittata

I do like a recipe where a little of the main ingredient can be made to go a long way. If you’re feeling frugal or you’re scratching your head about what to do with leftovers, this recipe is ideal.

I’ve used smoked haddock, but you could use smoked cod and hot smoked salmon or trout. If you’re a fan of artisan produce made the old-fashioned way, then Karen and Patrick Wilkin at Swallow Fish in Seahouses produce beautiful oak-smoked fish in their 19th Century smokehouse. They smoke herring (kippers), haddock, cod, prawns, salmon and mussels, all of which can be bought online if you can’t make the journey to the coast. If you fancy a day trip, let them know in advance and they’ll show you their smokehouse for free. This recipe creates a big frittata and it’s incredibly versatile. It will easily serve four people as a generous main course and is lovely with a leafy salad. I’ve also cut it into very small squares and served it as part of a canapé selection. You can also eat it hot or cold.

Claire from Carruthers and Kent in Gosforth suggests trying a sherry with this dish: Heredores de Argueso Las Medalles Manazanilla, £11.99.

frittataSmoked Haddock Frittata
Serves 4-20

250g smoked haddock
200g spinach leaves
560g large waxy potatoes
2 medium sized onions
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley and/or chives
4 tbsp oil
6 large free range eggs
Salt and pepper

Cut the peeled potatoes into 4-5cm chunks, boil for 15 minutes or until tender. Remove from the pan and slice thinly.
Place the smoked haddock in a steamer and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and flake cooked flesh from the skin. Set aside to use later.
Wilt the spinach in a pan and blend in a food processor until finely chopped. Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil on a medium heat in a large pan, add the onions and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Cook them very gently for at least 15 minutes so they become soft.
Beat the eggs in a large bowl, whisk in the parsley and/or chives and season with more salt and pepper. Tip in all the ingredients and coat them thoroughly. Heat the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil in the pan (low heat), add the frittata mixture and cook very gently for 10 minutes. Place the pan on the middle shelf and grill on medium heat for a further 10 minutes until the top is bubbling and brown.

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