You’ve been cooking fish wrong – chefs’ tips for crispy skin and punchy flavour

Plenty of us are looking to improve our diets now that spring and summer are just around the corner.

That means less stodgy meals and more fresh foods – and if you're observing Lent, much more fish than you're used to.

But, if you don’t commonly cook fish – which is good for the heart and brain then you might feel a little lost.

So, here at the Daily Star we asked several top chefs for their tips on making fish dinners that go down a charm.

And, as usual they’ve pulled out all the stops to help us improve on our cooking skills.

Executive Chef Sameer Taneja, of Michelin-starred Benares in Mayfair is a specialist when it comes to seafood. His favourite dishes to rustle up include Baked Malabar Scallop, Macchi Ceviche Chaat and Tawa Masala Wild Halibut.

He offered some advice on making sure you cook your fish to perfection.

Don’t overcook or underseason

Sameer said: “For me, if you cook a fish 100% you’ve already overdone it. It should be cooked through about 60-80% and then once served, it will be perfectly flaky and tender instead of dry.

“I always season my fish with salt, and then depending on how you’re cooking it add other spices. If you’re pan frying, add these at the end so that they don’t burn, but if you’re roasting adding a marinade is perfect.

“I always aim to use herbs and spices that are delicate – so if you’re using thyme try lemon thyme as it is less strong, a bit of cumin, coriander and fennel also work well.”

The perfect pan fry

Sameer said: “If you’re pan-frying fish, be sure to score the skin and press when it first enters the pan – this will ensure the fish stays flat and does not lose its shape.

“If you’re cooking your fish in oil, make sure you use one with a high coking point like avocado – and always avoid extra virgin olive oil as this is best at room temperature.”

Use your fishmonger’s skills

The chef noted: “I always get my fishmonger to prepare my fish as they do an excellent job!

"You can choose to have it filleted without bones or on the bone – which is a good choice for using as much of the fish as you can and adding flavour.”

Fill fish with flavour

And, Mitch Tonks, an expert in all things fishing and sustainability as well as author of seven cook books, added: “When cooking a whole fish, like a sea bass or bream, in the oven, tuck some herbs into the belly; make a few slashes into the flesh, drizzle with sale and olive oil and cook in a roasting pan in a hot oven.”

Try a papillote

“For an impressive but easy dish you can’t go wrong with baking en papillote (in paper) in the oven.

“Parcel the fish fillet in a layer of baking paper and outer layer of foil, make the parcel lose so there is space to steam. Before sealing it add a dried chilli, some herbs like rosemary or thyme, olive oil and sea salt.

"Seal the ‘bag/paper’ and cook in a hot oven – for a regular sized fish fillet, usually 10 minutes is enough.

“You can tomatoes or lemon too, or ginger, spring onion and soy or a splash of white wine and herbs. Don’t add too much – less is more here. Open the steaming parcel at the table.”

He also suggests showing some peri peri sauce onto fish before roasting to give a white fillet a fiery flavour punch!

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Cook until opaque

Mitch added: “To tell when your fish is cooked a) it should be opaque in colour and not translucent b) it will flake easily with a fork (insert the fork into the fish and gently twist) c) when you gently press the fish with the back of a fork you will see a lot of moisture.

“It’s much easier to overcook than undercook fish in my opinion!”

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