The Whole Fish Cookbook by Josh Niland

The Whole Fish Josh Niland

What’s the USP?  How to utilise every inch of a fish from top lip to anal fin, with recipes.

Josh who? Only one of the most talked-about, influential chefs on the planet. OK, unless you live in Sydney, you may not have heard of his restaurant Saint Peter, but his revolutionary, sustainable, zero-waste approach to fish cookery has caught the eye of everyone from Nigella Lawson to Rick Stein.

Is it good bedtime reading? There’s a lot of text in the book besides the recipes including a foreword from Australian food writer Pat Nourse, Niland’s own introduction, and articles covering topics such as the reasons why we don’t currently cook more fish at home, sourcing fish, storing and dry-ageing fish, fish butchery and treating fish in the same way as meat (the heart of Niland’s fish philosophy), curing fish, using fish offal and ‘fishues’ i.e. issues with fish.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? The short answer is yes. Unless you live in Australia or elsewhere in the Southern Hemisphere, getting hold of the varieties of fish specified in some of the recipe titles such as blue mackerel and wild kingfish will be impossible. Niland does, however, provide plenty of alternatives (john dory in the case of the kingfish) but you will definitely need an excellent fishmonger if you are going to cook from the book, supermarket quality fish just isn’t going to cut it.

What’s the faff factor?  This is restaurant-style cooking with few concessions made for the home cook. There are 20 ingredients in the base of the bouillabaisse-style Saint Peter’s Fish Soup recipe including 15kg of various seafood, plus about another 2kg of seafood for the ‘finishing garnishes’ (it feeds just six people). There are some more simple dishes such as fried whitebait, crumbled sardine sandwich and fish and chips (although you’ll need to start making the recipe 4 days ahead of when you want to serve it because of the processes required for the triple cooked chips).

How often will I cook from the book? How often do you fancy a fish fat chocolate caramel slice? For many home cooks, much of the book will be of curiosity value only and time, effort and energy will be required to tackle things like fish black pudding or milt mortadella. Professional chefs will doubtlessly find this book invaluable. Niland’s approach dramatically increases the potential yield per fish from 45 per cent (the fillets) to potentially over 90 per cent which can be converted into revenue, making the extra effort worth their while.

Killer recipes? Swordfish bacon and egg English muffin; smoked eel and beetroot jam doughnut; BBQ red mullet, corn and kelp butter; BBQ glazed cod ribs; Yellowfin tuna cheeseburger with salt and vinegar onion rings; grilled (fish) sausage, celeriac, peas and onion sauce; fish sausage roll; fish wellington. 

What will I love? This is an original and unusual approach to a well-worn subject. You won’t have a book on your shelf quite like it. It’s a reflection of a well-thought-through and fully rounded culinary philosophy that gives a new perspective on preparing and cooking seafood.

Should I buy it? If you’re a professional chef, then you really need to add this book to your collection. Even if you don’t plan to dry-age your own fish or start serving fish eye chips (no, really; you blend the eyes, mix them with tapioca flour to make a batter which is then steamed, dried and finally deep-fried), you will gain new knowledge that could help your business. For passionate home cooks that love seafood, this will be at the very least a real eye-opener and will provide some absorbing and challenging weekend culinary projects.

Cuisine: Seafood
Suitable for:
Professional chefs/Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: 
Four stars

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The Whole Fish Cookbook: New ways to cook, eat and think

Ensenada fish tacos by Rick Stein

071_EnsenadaFriedFishTacosI.jpg

For many years the beaches on the north coast of Cornwall were patrolled by Australian lifeguards, originally because they had the surf life-saving skills that were unfamiliar to the locals. For me, this meant many summers of friendship with pleasant Australians, all of whom seemed to be sunny and optimistic. Well, you would be, wouldn’t you, with a summer in Cornwall and lots of locals finding you irresistible? One such lifeguard was Rudi, who used to return year after year. Everyone was extremely fond of him – so much so that we filmed a little sequence about a trip he’d made to Ensenada on the Baja California coast, where they made fabulous fish tacos. We cooked some on the beach in Cornwall by the lifeguard hut, and Rudi took Chalky, my Jack Russell, out for a little surfing lesson. Sadly, when back in Australia five years later, Rudi died of cancer and I always thought that one day I’d get to Ensenada and find the tacos.

Serves six

12 x 15cm Corn tortillas
(page 44 or bought)
600g cod fillet
100g plain flour, seasoned
with pinch of salt and
6 turns black peppermill
1 litre corn or vegetable oil
For the batter
200g plain flour
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
275ml ice-cold beer

For the toppings
¼ small white cabbage,
finely shredded
1 avocado, stoned,
peeled and diced
Pico de gallo salsa
Hot chilli sauce, such as Cholula or Huichol

For the chipotle crema
2 Chipotles en adobo
(page 298 or bought)
3 tbsp mayonnaise
3 tbsp soured cream
Juice of ½ lime

Warm the tortillas in a dry frying pan, in a microwave or in the oven. Get your toppings – shredded cabbage, diced avocado, pico de gallo salsa, and hot chilli sauce – ready. Mix the ingredients for the crema and set aside.

To make the batter, sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a roomy bowl. Using a balloon whisk, incorporate the beer until you have a smooth batter. Set aside.

Cut the fish into fingers about 1cm thick. Heat the oil in a large pan to 190°C. Dip a few pieces of fish into the seasoned flour, shake off the excess, then dip them into the batter. Fry for 2–2½ minutes until crisp and golden. Repeat until you’ve cooked all the fish, draining each batch briefly on kitchen paper to remove excess oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt.

Serve the fish immediately in warm tortillas, with the toppings on the table for guests to help themselves.

Cook more from this book
Turkey breast with pasilla chipotle chilli butter sauce
Mexican rice pudding with honeycomb

Read the review

Buy this book
Rick Stein: The Road to Mexico (TV Tie in)