the secret to eating more fish even when you live far from the sea

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It’s been about 18 months since I moved from Sydney to the Snowy Mountains full time.

I love life in the country, especially now that it’s ski season and everything has come alive. I’m loving the crisp frosty mornings and the frozen puddles I see when I’m out on my morning run. And of course I love my little veggie patch.

To be honest, there aren’t many things I miss about city life.

There are friends and favourite restaurants, of course. Apart from that, I really miss being close to the Sydney Fish Markets.

I love cooking and eating fish. But with the closest fish shop over an hours drive away, I’ve found that we’re not eating as much fish as I’d like.

In the past we would bring fish home whenever we’d go somewhere with a good fishmonger. That would mean we’d have fish for dinner that night, and then nothing apart from canned tuna or smoked fish until the next trip.

But over the last few months, I’ve discovered the secret to extending my fish ‘freshness’ for as long as possible.

So what’s my secret?

Two things.

1. Make sure you keep your fish as cold as possible.
I always ask for a bag of ice to put in with the fish when I buy it. Fish loses freshness rapidly unless kept close to freezing. Even when I get it home, I pop it in the fridge with the bag of ice.

2. Partially cook the fish in some sort of liquid, then refrigerate until you’re ready to eat it.
For example, I poach the fish in olive oil or water until it’s about half cooked. It will then keep in the fridge for a few days, so we can have fish again later in the week. The fish finishes cooking during the reheating process, avoiding the common problem of mushy, overcooked fish.

I’ve found the liquid is important for ease of reheating. So we’re talking things like my simple fish stew (below) or curries or soups. The partial cooking stops the fish from going bad and also means it doesn’t get completely overcooked when you go to reheat it.

This way we still have fish cooked on the BBQ or pan fried on the day we get home, like we used to. Then later in the week we can pull out the fish cooked in liquid for a second fresh fish dinner.

Too easy.

simple fish stew

simple fish stew
serves 3-4

I like to serve this stew in deep bowls with a fresh green salad on the side. But feel free to serve with crusty bread if you prefer.

I’ve written the method for those that want to make this in advance and reheat. Of course if you’re ready to eat it straight away just simmer until the fish is just cooked. Then serve.

2 onions, peeled & chopped
1 large bulb fennel,trimmed & finely sliced crosswise, green fronds reserved
1 jar commercial tomato pasta sauce or tomato puree (about 1 1/2cups)
large pinch saffron threads
500g (1lb) white fish fillets such as flathead, chopped

1. Heat a generous glug of oil in a large pot. Add onions and cook over a medium low heat, covered for about 5 minutes.

2. Add the fennel and continue to cook, covered and stirring occasionally for 10-15 minutes or until the onion and fennel are soft but not browned.

3. Add the tomato puree, 1 1/2 cups water and saffron. Bring to a simmer.

4. Add fish and cook for about 1 minute. Then remove from the heat. Cool and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve (will keep for 3-4 days, possibly longer).

5. To reheat, bring back to a gentle simmer and cook until fish is cooked through. Taste & season. Top with reserved fennel fronds if you have them.

short on time? – skip the veg and just simmer the fish in the tomato / water / saffron mixture.

vegetarian / vegan – replace the fish with firm tofu. It will just need to simmer until hot.

keeping the Irish happy – add steamed, sliced potatoes in with the fish.

mixed seafood – feel free to add in some prawns (shrimp), clams or mussels. Adjust the cooking time accordingly.


video version of the recipe


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Jules x

ps. Do you have a favourite way of preparing fish? Or tips for getting fish to stay fresh? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

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