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?
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.
simple fish stew
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
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.
So simple, tasty and beautiful :)
Hi Jules! that is a great idea! I have struggled with reheating fish in the past and the staple was frying the fish in a batter to add to a salad or noodle dish (similar to Thai or vietnamese twice cooked fish dishes). Over here bacalao is very popular, and this reheats fantastically (I would argue that the texture of the fish is better the second time around!).
But sadly, I have normally avoided reheating fish dishes and normally use frozen, canned, salted, dried or smoked fish (we do not have much access to fresh fish here – normally it has been defrosted once already before it is sold as fresh).
When you poach the fish then refrigerate it, do you store it in the water or oil it was poached in??? And does poached fish freeze well???
I love the recipe by the way – of course it looks beautiful (as always)!
I’m really excited about bacalao Alex! Can’t believe I didn’t think of it.
Yes I store it in the poaching liquid and reheat in that as well. I haven’t tried freezing… but thinking it should be fine
Are you unable to purchase a frozen bag of fish in Australia?
Good question Nicole!
Of course we have frozen fish here… I’ve found the quality isn’t great though so have been more interested in exploring fresh options.
I agree with Jules – frozen fish in Australia is not of the same quality as that you get overseas! I am going to reply to this one (sorry Jules for taking over)
When I was studying in the outback fish was not something you ate (who would eat an ocean fish if you had to drive 5 days to see water….). The other problem being freezers in some of the inalnd regions is that they require valuable fuel for the generators that power them. (If you are going to transport fuel that far, you aren’t going to use it to freeze a fish, are you, other priorities…).
On the coast, people eat fresh fish so the range of frozen fish is grim. Inland, the range is poor and fish is not really part of the culture!
Thanks for jumping in… I think you summed up the fish situation in Oz superbly
Fresh fish is very expensive in Europe, so I rely on frozen fish. How would you make your recipe starting with frozen fish. I buy the bags of Nile perch (which is the cheapest and of reasonable quality) as I like the solid “heavy” flesh – you have a fealing that you have actually eaten something ;-). We’re mostly a meat eating family but do enjoy the Nile perch.
Good question Willine
You could just pop the frozen fish in the pan and simmer until cooked through. Or for large chunks of frozen fish like your Nile perch it’s probably best to defrost it first and chop into chunks before cooking like the recipe.
Wow…this looks delicious. I like the variations you have suggested. Probably add some fresh milk or coconut milk will have good flavor and texture too. :)
Thanks! If you’re going to go for coconut milk I’d skip the saffron.. for some reason that feels a little weird to me…
This looks great! Very yummy.
Do you think there’s a way to make this stew onion-free? I’d love to try it, but putting two onions in it would destroy my stomach.
Just skip them Alecta
There will be plenty of flavour from the tomato and fennel… although thinking about it you could add some chives or olives if you felt the need
Brilliant advice! I’m still a bit funny with fish, I’m going to have to get over my issues!
My Irishman had the same fish phobia.. I find dishes with stronger flavours other than the fish work best for him. And having super fresh fish so it tastes less ‘fishy’
This looks so good, I am going to add it to my Mouth Watering Mondays post this Monday. Come on over to see it at http://www.noshingwiththenolands.com Cheers, Tara
Thanks for sharing Tara!
Great tip. I’ll have to try it. Living in Canberra I know how you feel. It’s one of the reasons I miss my home town of Brisbane..
There’s a new fish market opening in Fyshwick soon.. so fingers cross it will be good Heike!
I’ve got the same Q as Willine: what would you adjust in the method if using frozen fish?
Also, anything else you could sub for fennel?
Just adjust the cooking time so the fish is cooked through.. will depend on the side of the fish pieces.
I love fennel here but cauliflower would also work well. Or in Summer try zucchini or eggplant.
I poach white fish in lite coconut cream/milk with a dash of soy and fish sauces, some chilli, garlic, ginger – whatever I have around. It only takes about 4 minutes, then I add a handful of baby spinach and fresh corriander, let it wilt and serve with broccolini and/or rice. Super easy and tasty.
I poach white fish in lite coconut cream/milk with a dash of soy and fish sauces, some curry paste if I have it. Chilli, garlic, ginger – whatever is in the fridge. It only takes about 4 minutes, then I add a handful of baby spinach and fresh corriander, let it wilt and serve with broccolini and/or rice. Super easy and tasty.
love it Lisa!
There is a similar recipe from my small city in Brazil, potatos and green peppers instead of fennel and less tomato sauce and the most important: coconut milk! Makes it creamy and delicious.
Love the sound of your dish Karinny!
Just made this after reading about you on Zen Habits. Delicious – will be make this again and again. Another great fish stew I’ve discovered recently is this one – http://www.healthygreenkitchen.com/brazilian-salmon-and-sweet-potato-stew.html
I’m lucky and live on the seacoast and eat fish 2 -3 times a week. So, I like to buy enough for the week. THIS is REALLY HELPFUL! thank you! Also, I have a similar recipe but being Italian, I’ve a variation to share. Omit the fennel, saffron and tomato sauce. Substitute with celery, carrots, onion, basil leaf(s) and stewed tomato with Italian seasoning. I keep a can of a brand name stewed tomato Italian style on my shelf for just this purpose. I’m looking forward to trying the variations offered in this post. All sound yummy.