Chef Josh Niland of Sydney restaurant Saint Peter revolutionised fish cookery in 2019 with the publication of his first book The Whole Fish Cookbook. His approach applies Fergus Henderson’s nose-to-tail philosophy to seafood, ‘shifting the focus to valuing diverse species and all parts of their edible components’, allowing professional chefs and very keen home cooks to achieve up to a 90 per cent yield from a wide range of fish rather than the usual 45 per cent that’s represented by the fillets alone.
Niland’s second book shows there’s still much milage in the idea with a collection of strikingly original creations. Fish offal is put to imaginative use in dishes such as Salt and Pepper John Dory Tripe (paned and deep-fried cured stomach) and a John Dory liver terrine that looks just like it’s foie gras equivalent and that’s served with brioche made with rendered fish fat harvested from species such as snapper and kingfish.
Niland often treats fish like meat, aging some species for up to four weeks. He transforms yellowfin tuna loin into ‘nduja by grinding and adding a spice mix of paprika, black pepper, fennel seeds, nutmeg and chilli flakes (and more of that rendered fish fat) while whole flounder is butchered down to French trimmed bone-in chops and prepared gai yang style, a spicy Thai dish usually made with marinated and charcoal grilled chicken.
You’ll need to bone up on your knife skills to reverse butterfly red gurnard that’s flavoured with tikka marinade and served with spiced chickpea yoghurt, or to remove the spine and gut a mackerel from the top down so that it can be stuffed with shallots, pine nuts and currents and served with an agro dolce dressing. But there are less demanding recipes too, like swordfish schnitzel, and salted sardine fillets and globe artichokes on grilled bread.
Not every cook wants a dehydrator (even if they’ve got one) full of snapper’s swim bladders or mason jars of heads, bones and scraps fermenting into garum (which Niland makes into a caramel and uses to top a custard tart), but Take One Fish is so full of delicious, different and, with some care and attention, doable ideas that no serious cook should be without a copy.
Suitable for: Professional chefs/very confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars
Buy this book
Take One Fish: The New School of Scale-to-Tail Cooking and Eating
£26, Hardie Grant Books
A version of this review was originally published in The Caterer magazine.