This is my (very slight) adaption of a very simple, but delicious recipe from Claudia Roden’s excellent book The Food of Spain, A Celebration (Penguin/Michael Joseph 2012). This book is packed with straight forward achievable recipes for the home cook.
Gurnard fillets with skin on are often available from Tangaroa Seafoods (Tangaroa St, Ahuriri, Napier), but other fish fillets with skin on such as snapper or groper can also be used. Leaving the skin on fish fillets and cooking in this way results in fish with moist flesh and a wonderful crisp skin – the skin can be eaten and is delicious.
If you have a fisherman (or woman) in the family ask them to leave the skin on the filleted fish – just make sure that the fish is well cleaned (scaled) before filleting. Usually fillets with skin on also have bones, so warn those that you are feeding. The bones can easily be removed using tweezers – special fish tweezers are available, are inexpensive and worth investing in if you do a lot of fish preparation.
In New Zealand much of our fish tends to be sold filleted with skin removed, however, this is not the case in many other countries. In many cultures filleted, skinless fish is seen as a way to disguise fish that is past its best – this is not the case here, but I do find it
disappointing that it seems to be what many New Zealanders expect. Having lived in Sydney for 20 years where we shopped regularly at the Sydney Fish Markets it took me a while to readjust to only been occasionally able to buy un-skinned fish fillets and to not having the range of whole fish available that I was used to.
Pan-fried Gurnard with Garlic & Chilli Dressing
While this recipe is for two, it is so simple that it can easily be scaled up to serve whatever number are at your dinner table.
2 gurnard fillets, skin on
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 fresh red chilli, seeded (optional), thinly sliced or pinch dried chilli flakes
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 Season fish on both sides with freshly ground salt. Heat a cast-iron frying pan over a high heat, until very hot. Add 1 tbsp olive oil, then add fish skin side down and cook for 2-3 minutes or until skin is brown and crisp. Turn fish over, cover pan with lid slightly askew and cook for 2-3 minutes longer or until fish just starts to flake. Remove fish from pan and place on a warm plate, cover and let rest for 3-4 minutes.
2 Meanwhile, place 3 tbsp olive oil, garlic and chilli in a small saucepan, place over a low heat and heat until garlic is lightly golden – take care not to let the garlic brown or it will be bitter. Remove pan from heat and stir in vinegar and parsley.
3 Pour dressing over hot fish and serve immediately.
The Food of Spain is still in print and should you wish to find out how to get a copy of it contact Beattie & Forbes Booksellers at 70 Tennyson St, Napier or phone (06) 835 8968.
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