Hooked on fish
PUBLISHED: 10:21 07 July 2015 | UPDATED: 10:21 07 July 2015
There’s more to outdoor cooking than burgers and bangers, says Charlotte Smith-Jarvis
By the beginning of July I’ve had enough of barbecue food.
With two May bank holidays, birthday parties and the annual Wimbledon grill-ups behind me, just the sight of a plate of slightly burnt burgers and dried out hotdog buns gives me heartburn. But there is a solution – fish.
Here are three tasty seafood dishes you can cook on the barbecue in hardly any time at all. Just prepare a few things in advance and you can enjoy any of these up at home, on a picnic or even at the beach.
Sourcing your fish
There are plenty of fishmongers in Suffolk – many of them close to the coast. If you’re barbecuing on the beach you should be able to pick up your fish on the way, unless it’s a Sunday. There’s a fishmonger in Felixstowe, at Southwold harbour, and even on Saxmundham high street. And, of course, there are a few fish huts on Aldeburgh beach to take advantage of too. You won’t get it any fresher.
Mackerel is a bold fish which stands up to robust accompaniments. It’s best paired with fruity, sharp sauces and sides. For this dish I’ve made a Scandi-inspired beet salad and a simple mustard dressing. With some green stuff and a pretty charred lemon, it’s a great beach feast. You can boil your own beetroot or buy the ready packed version.
4 mackerel fillets
1 bag green salad
2tbsp English mustard
4 large beetroot, boiled until cooked through and peeled or 1 pack cooked beetroot in natural juices
4 small apples, peeled and cored
1tsp creamed horseradish
150ml sour cream
1tbsp fresh dill, chopped
Couple of pinches of caster sugar
Before you go . . . make the beetroot salad and mustard dressing. Chop the beetroot and apple into chunks, roughly 1cm square. Mix with the sour cream, horseradish and dill, then add seasoning to taste. Put in a container until you’re ready to go.
For the dressing, place the mustard in a tub and add just enough rapeseed oil to loosen it, then add a couple of pinches of caster sugar.
When you’re there . . . rub the mackerel in plenty of oil and place it flesh side first on the grill until the sides begin to curl up. I find the skin stays intact better if you cook the non-skin side first. Cut the lemons in half and place on the grill at the same time, flesh side down. When the sides of the fish curl, turn it over, taking care not to break it. Cook for a couple of minutes more then plate up with a few spoonfuls of beet salad, some mustard dressing and green salad.
Bass in a bag
This is one of the best ways to treat fish on the barbecue. Within a little parcel of foil and paper, it can steam to soft flaky perfection. All the flavours you place with it will be absorbed too. I’ve used asparagus because at the time of writing it was in abundance. If you can find samphire it’s delightful cooked with fish this way. A few clams wouldn’t go amiss either. You can parcel the fish up before you head off to the beach. Just keep it in the fridge until you’re ready.
1 sea bass fillet (or any other white fish)
A few pieces of samphire or asparagus
Splash of white wine
1tbsp rapeseed oil
Fennel tops, or a couple of slices of fennel
½ clove garlic chopped very finely
Before you go . . . cut a rectangle each of cooking foil and greaseproof paper. It should be double the length and width of your fish fillets. Place the greaseproof on top of the foil and put your piece of fish in the middle. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle over the oil and the wine. Place the garlic, fennel and asparagus or samphire on top then draw up the sides of the foil and scrunch all the way around to seal.
When you’re there . . . place the parcels on your prepared barbecue and cook for around eight to 10 minutes.
Serve with boiled new potatoes and all the juices from the bag.
Grilled prawns with crispy ham and cyder, honey and chilli dressing
A real crowd-pleaser with a sweet, rounded flavour and a kick of heat. Prawns cook in just a couple of minutes on the barbecue. The acidity of a good cider in the dressing (made in advance at home) works superbly with the honey. You will need a small frying pan to cook the ham.
12 large raw prawns, deveined and seasoned – or use scallops
A slice of carved ham, shredded
For the dressing: 1tbsp set honey, 2tbsps rapeseed oil, ½ red chilli, seeded and chopped, 3tbsps Aspall Cyder, seasoning
Watercress or rocket
Before you go . . . whisk together the dressing ingredients and decant to a jam jar or tub.
When you’re there . . . place your pan on the barbecue and get it nice and hot. Add a dash of oil and then the shredded ham. Cook until it catches and goes lovely and crispy. Spoon it out and set aside. Remove the pan from the barbecue. Place the prawns on the barbecue and cook until pink all over. Assemble the dish by placing some salad on each plate, top with the prawns, ham and as much dressing as you like.
Where to cook
My favourite places for a waterside barbecue are on the shore at Nacton, just outside Ipswich, where the kids love to play football on the grass while I get everything ready, Bawdsey, watching kayaks and boats zip about, and in the sand dunes at Walberswick. I always feel relaxed when I’m there.