Now, before I go any further with this one, let me just say that it was an enormous learning curve - and yes I did completely overcook hubby's piece of fish, rendering it more akin to a piece of cardboard. However, there was a reason for this - which I'll go into in a moment.
So, aside from the mackerel fillets which our neighbour had very kindly gifted us with after a particularly bountiful fishing trip, I had never pan fried a piece of fish before. What have I been doing in my fifty-mumble-years? Avoiding having to pan fry fish, that's what!
However, this week I found myself really attracted to the idea of a plain piece of fish - but didn't much fancy steamed. Well that only left pan frying, so as hubby has been hankering for fish for ages, I put it on the menu list.
On to the next problem, which was to source some fish. Having had a look at the wet fish - which was a parlous selection of River Cobbler or River Cobbler, I decided to go with frozen fish and bought a bag of Haddock fillets. I reckoned that 500g would just about do for us - at a squeak - but hadn't reckoned on the fact that a good 200g of that 500g was water.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), hubby was suffering with a terrible gastric conniption (similar to man flu, except involving the tummy) on fish night. No matter, thought I, son and heir and myself will just have to eat a little bit more fish. Poor deluded fool that I was.
I defrosted the fish and suddenly the bag seemed a lot lighter than it had been. Gulp.
Having opened it, I discover that the "fillets" were - to a fish - tail pieces that were so thin you could easily have read the newspaper through them. Not only that, but they were no bigger than an A5 envelope - and two were considerably smaller. ~rudewords~
Which is where hubby being off his feed, was a good thing. Stretched between two diners, with a little piece for hubby, the fish would just about make it. It certainly wouldn't have, between three hearty diners.
Owing to hubby's ailment, I figured that it wouldn't do to serve him any even remotely undercooked fish. As it was, we were crossing our fingers that the fish was going to stay where it was put. Which, coupled with my novice status as a fish cook, was why hubby's little wafer-thin piece of Haddock was more of a fish flavoured biscuit. Hey ho.
I did manage to over cook the remaining pieces, but not as badly, as they were slightly thicker. The whole process of making sure the pan was hot before placing the fish into the oil, then leaving the fish alone until turning it the once, was a huge learning curve. After all, the pieces of fish you see being cooked on the t.v. are considerably chunkier - and I suspect I should have had the pan a lot hotter and left the fish in it for a lot shorter a time.
However, it got that first go over with - and I'm sure that with a half serious piece of fish, I'd do a lot better. As and when I find some that's affordable, I'll let you know!
The pea and watercress puree was simplicity itself to make. I was conscious of not over-seasoning it - and so wound up under seasoning it - but it wasn't anything that a quick pinch of salt and some pepper couldn't fix. Everyone approved of the puree and even son & heir ate it, although he drew the line at his baked cherry tomatoes - strange boy! I'll definitely be using this recipe for pea puree in other, future dishes.
As you can see from the photographs, I also cooked some oven chips to go with it as I figured some fish and pea puree really wouldn't keep a teenager from the crisp packets all evening.
Having broken my duck over pan frying fish, I'd very definitely do it again. So if you've been avoiding it all these years like I had, take your courage in both hands and do it! You'll be glad you did.
PAN FRIED HADDOCK WITH PEA & WATERCRESS PUREE (feeds 3)
150g cherry tomatoes, preferably on the vine
250g frozen peas
3 tbsp vegetable stock
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
3 x chunky haddock fillets
1-2 tbsp cornflour
1. Heat oven to 180degC/350degF/gas 4 and line a roasting tray with silver foil. Place the tomatoes on board and lightly salt and pepper. Then roast for 10-15 minutes until slightly split. Remove from the oven and keep warm.
2. Cook the peas in boiling water for 2-3 minutes to retain their fresh green colour. Add the watercress for just a second, then drain.
3. Return both peas and watercress to the pan and add the stock and spring onions. Season well.
4. Using a hand blender, puree until the mix attains the desired consistency and set aside to keep warm.
5. Dust the fish with a little cornflour, bat off any excess and season well.
6. Heat a non-stick frying pan and add the olive oil. Add the fish carefully so as not to splash the oil and leave to sear for 2-3 minutes (or longer if you're lucky enough to have a particularly thick piece) on each side.
7. Serve immediately on a bed of the pea puree, with the cherry tomatoes by the side.