Purchasing and Filleting a Round Fish

When purchasing fish there are a few small pointers to follow:

– Use a reputable supplier. We use Phil Bowditch in Taunton who’s known for his superb, fresh fish and has been trading with the hotel for years. He buys in person direct from Brixham market.

– Use all your senses when buying fish.

– Smell it. The fish should not be strong it should be fresh like the sea. You know what smells good and bad, so if in doubt don’t entertain the thought of buying it.

– Eyes and gills – The eyes should look bright and clear not dull / misty and sunken. The gills should look a fresh red, not dark and sticky.

– Touch it. Some suppliers might be a bit iffy about this, but if the other 2 are good generally you shouldn’t have to do this. The fish should be slippery, firm at the tail and shiny as opposed to slimy and sticky.

– The guts should be generally taken out as they discolour and taint the flesh within 1 – 2 days.

We buy most of our fish on the bone as you can look and judge the freshness more easily. When buying fillets from a supermarket you never really know how old or fresh they are. A fishmonger will generally fillet your fish in front of you if asked. Fish will last up to 12 days when looked after and kept on Ice. It is best fresh for me and that is for 3 days after being caught.

Fish preparation and cooking for me is an art. The filleting takes precision, delicate hands, skill, speed and accuracy. One small tweak of a knife and you can ruin a fillet of fish. At markets today fish can attract much bigger prices than meat and is much more sought after. Fish is healthy to eat, fresh and natural.

Meat is much tougher and can be handled, where as fish releases ammonia the more you touch / handle it, causing it to spoil; hence the reason for speed – you can always wear disposable gloves to eliminate this. The cooking of fish requires a lot of skill; each fish generally requires a different method. Over cooked fish is not good and it only takes one minute too long in the oven or pan and it is ruined.

Below I have pictures of a whole Pollock breakdown and salting process. We apply the salting process to Hake, Cod and Pollock – fish that is generally flaky when being cooked. The salt tightens the protein ever so slightly which means it’s much less temperamental during cooking. Traditionally salting was a means of preserving meat and fish, drawing out the moisture over a period of days; we do this for 20 minutes only.

The fish is Pollock and is around 6kg. Start by removing all fins and gills, run the knife along the back spinal cord from head to tail in 3 strokes.

We always use the scissors to cut off the rib bones above the cut to get the entire fillet free.

Follow the same procedure on the other side of the fish. Remove pins and rib cage.

Remove the skin always angling the blade to the board and away from you as in picture

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