It is 2 years now since we did the Sea Bream and Sea Bass cook when on holiday in Italy. I remember it as a delightful evening as we sat out overlooking the local valley with a herby smoky aroma wafting towards us as we had an early evening Prosecco! So when we were back in Tuscany it seemed a perfect opportunity to (more…)
Whilst it is often great fun cooking complex meals, there are times when very simple food just can’t be beaten. I think this is one of those recipes. Sautéed herring fillets! We were doing some non food shopping in our local supermarket and the fish counter was closing. They had 2 fresh herring which they were pricing up at half price so that was just £1 per fish. The fish were actually very fresh, with bright eyes and red gills always a good sign! Simply too good to miss.
Herring used to be a staple food of the North East coast of England, but overfishing led to their decline . For a while there was a moratorium on fishing for them in the 1970s. Through good stewardship they are at times becoming plentiful again as a sustainable resource. They are also the basic ingredient of that world class product, the ‘Craster Kipper’, but that is a story for another day!
Herring is a very easy fish to prepare. After gutting and washing, the head, fins and the tail are cut off, this can be done with a pair of kitchen scissors. The belly of the fish is placed onto the work surface, opening up the body cavity so that it supports the fish. Then simply press down hard on the back of the fish where the dorsal fin was and flatten out. Then turn the flattened fish over, grab hold of the loosened back bone and pull it out gently. With it comes the majority of the fish bones. Trim round the 2 fillets and divide them with a single cut down the centre of the back forming 2 individual trimmed fillets. Now that is the preparation completed and all that is left it to sauté the individual fillets. There are hundreds of things one could add to the fillets at this stage, but I would suggest that at least once you try them simply cooked in oil and butter as we have here. Herring also works really well on the EGG as it keeps all those fish cooking smells, that are not universally loved, out of the house!
Set up the Big Green Egg for direct cooking and heat a handleless, heavy bottomed pan. Add some olive or rapeseed oil and when this is hot drop in a knob of butter. This will immediately foam if the pan is hot enough. Let the foam die down, and then add the herring fillets, skin side down, one at a time. As the skin hits the hot pan there is a natural tendency for the fillets to curl. just press them down with your fingers or a wooden spoon until they relax to prevent this. Leave them untouched in the pan until the skin is a nutty brown (3-4 mins) and then flip them over for a further minute or so until the flesh is coloured.
Remove from the pan and serve 2 filets per person on a bed of rocket leaves. Pour over a little of the cooking juices and serve with a squeeze of lemon. I think this makes a great supper dish or a light lunch. Best of all though I think it makes a good alternative to those wonderful Craster Kippers for breakfast, especially when that glorious taste of kippers is not loved by all the members of the household!!
This dish worked out at about £1.00 a serving, and even at full price it would have only been £2.00.
…………………………….. give them a go!!
Herring fillets sautéed in butter
Fresh herring fillets sautéed in butter
- 4 herring fillets
- Olive or Rapeseed oil
- Lemon Juice
- Step 1 Set up the Big Green Egg for direct cooking and heat a handleless, heavy bottomed pan.
- Step 2 Add olive or rapeseed oil to the pan and when this is hot add a knob of butter.
- Step 3 Once the butter has stopped foaming add the herring fillets, skin side down, one at a time. Press each fillet to the pan until the fish relaxes and then leave untouched until the skin is a nutty brown (3-4 mins).
- Step 4 Flip the fillets over to colour the other side for a further minute or so.
- Step 5 Remove from the pan and serve 2 filets per person on a bed of rocket leaves. Pour over a little of the cooking juices and serve with a squeeze of lemon.
This is the first video we have included in our blogs but it seemed the easiest way to show the BGE Wok in action! We have had the BGE Expander system for some time and have warmed to its versatility. It certainly brings some further flexibility to cooking opportunities in our large BGE. One of the possibilities is to (more…)
In the UK if you refer to smoked salmon, then we are usually talking about ‘cold smoked’ salmon. This is very much the traditional way of smoking salmon – and is often referred to as the ‘Scottish or Nordic method’ in countries where ‘hot smoking’ is the norm. We have covered cold smoking salmon elsewhere. Briefly, the salmon is cured for up to 24 hours and then smoked ideally below 20C for around 6 to 12 hours. Cold smoking doesn’t actually cook the fish, so it’s left with an almost raw-like texture. This is the most common form of smoking in Northern Europe and on the East coast of America.
Before going any further I need to say that both methods of smoking salmon are great, but the end products are very different. Hot smoking salmon is a specialty of the Pacific Northwest of the US. The salmon is cured or just brined and then smoked at 50-80C for around 4-8 hours to get the core temperature of the fish to around 70C. The salmon is therefore both smoked and cooked giving it its flaky texture.
We have got into the habit this summer of hot smoking the tail end of sides of salmon – partly as it is a great way to use this less than prime portion of the fish. The night before wanting to cook all you need to do is mix together the sugar, salt, garlic and pepper and cover the salmon with a generous coating on both sides. This should ideally be done in a nonmetallic dish that will allow the salmon to sit flat in the base. The dish is then covered and put in the fridge overnight.
In the morning a lot of the salt and sugar will have gone into solution as it has drawn out liquid from the salmon. This is now simply washed off well (or will retain too much salt) and the salmon dried and placed on a trivet and put back into the fridge for a few hours to let the surface dry further and produce an outer pellicle. It is this pellicle that takes up the smoke when cooking. At his stage the salmon will feel stiffer and have a richer and darker colour. Some suggest wrapping the salmon in a clean cloth for the first hour (e.g. the BGE UK website) but this is not something we have seen the need for.
It is now a good time to soak your cedar plank, and if using wood chips as opposed to chunks, to soak them too. From now on everything is really easy, especially if you have a digital controller to manage the temperature of the Egg and monitor the core temperature of the fish. You can of course cook this dish without a digital controller – simply set the BGE up for indirect cooking at 80C with the beech chunks in place. Place the salmon on a cedar plank in the EGG and away you go. Keep the EGG temperature at 80C and after around 4 hours you will have hot smoked salmon.
It is even easier if you have a digital controller like the DigiQ DX2 BBQ Guru or the CyberQ Cloud or similar. If cooking in a Large BGE it is also well worth cooking more than one piece of salmon. It is really only necessary to put the food temperature probe in one of the pieces. But if you have something like a CyberQ Cloud with multiple probes, take the opportunity to use multiple probes. Which ever you use set up the Pit Fan and plug the wire with the crocodile clip into the ‘Pit Temperature’ port and the wire with the probe into the ‘Food Temperature’ port. Insert the temperature probe into the thickest part of the salmon, and attach the clip to the stainless steel grid. Set the controller to a pit temperature of 80C and a food temperature of 70C. Run the wires over the the legs of the plate setter to protect from any flare-up. Close the lid of the EGG and leave for around 4 hours until the controller tells you the core temperature is 70C. And that is all that needs to be done!
Serve hot in portions or flaked into a salad. There are so many things that you can do with it cold too – more of these later – but in the meantime “give it a Google”.
What ever you use it for, I am sure you will love the salmon cooked this way!
Hot Smoked Salmon - Cedar and Beech Smoked
Cured Salmon side or part side smoked on a cedar plank over beech smoke
- 1 side of salmon (scale quantities up or down dependent on the amount of salmon used)
- 200g dark muscovado sugar
- 100g salt
- 4 cloves of garlic, crushed and finely chopped
- 1 tsp cracked black pepper
- 2 chunks of beech wood for smoking (or smoking chips)
- 1 Cedar smoking plank
- Step 1 Mix together the sugar, salt garlic and pepper and cover the salmon with a generous coating on both sides in a nonmetallic container. Place in the fridge overnight.
- Step 2 In the morning, wash the curing mix off the salmon and pat dry. Place on a trivet and put back into the fridge for a few hours to let the surface dry further and produce an outer pellicle.
- Step 3 Soak the cedar plank, and if using wood chips as opposed to chunks, soak them too.
- Step 4 Set the BGE up for indirect cooking at 80C with the beech chunks in place. Place the salmon on a cedar plank in the EGG (and if using a temperature controller set the Pit temperature to 80C and the Cook core temperature to 70C.
- Step 5 Close the lid of the EGG and leave for around 4 hours until the controller tells you the core temperature is 70C.
- Step 6 Serve hot or cold
When is a sardine not a sardine………..?
Out shopping I saw what I thought were some lovely looking fresh sardines – only later when I checked the spelling of Acciughe (also often called Alici) did I realise that the sardines were in fact anchovy!! I think you have to go a long way to beat simply grilling sardines and adding a little lemon and salt to compliment the oil rich “silver darlings” – so in my ignorance these anchovy were handled in the same way (which is just what the Italians do too!)
The BGE was set up for direct cooking with the cast iron grill in with the wider sided bars uppermost and heated to around 180C. As we are a little limited for space on the Mini BGE the anchovy had the heads removed to allow a little more space. They were then simply gutted and then rubbed with salt and olive oil and then tossed on the grill.
The anchovy were grilled for around 4-5 minutes a side until the skins started to blister and the fish took on some colour. I find it easier to do this without overcooking the fish at around a temperature of 180C combining grilling and oven cooking that the BGE does so well rather than being tempted to cook at over 200C. After a few minutes we added a couple of slices of bread to toast to have with the fish.
Once ready the anchovy were plated on top of a green salad with herby crouton and finished with a simple drizzle of fresh lemon.
These are very “moreish” – hope you enjoy!
(it works just as well with sardines!)
Not quite Grilled Sardines!
- Fresh sardines or anchovy
- Olive oil
- Step 1 Set up direct cooking – with the BGE the cast iron grill is best used with the wider bars uppermost – heat to around 180C
- Step 2 If limited for space remove the heads from the fish then simply gut them and rubbed with salt and olive oil
- Step 3 Place on the Grill for around 4-5 minutes a side until the skin starts to blister and the fish took on some colour.
- Step 4 Once ready serve with a green salad and freshly squeezed lemon
Grilled Octopus is not something commonly found in the restaurants of Northumberland! As yet I have only come across it on one occasion in restaurants in Tuscany but perhaps we need to get out more!! Anyway, octopus has the reputation of being tough and chewy unless it is treated correctly.
Tradition has it that Greek fishermen “thrash” the octopus over the rocks 40 times before cooking it to tenderise it – I have certainly seen them doing that, though I didn’t count the number of times. I have also read of a women in the United States who “double bagged” an octopus and put it in the tumble dryer to tenderise it – but the less said of that the better! The most usual way however appears to be to simmer in a pan for an hour – and then get down to the grilling!!
Being on holiday we took the easy route as soon as we found a ready “simmered” Octopus in the supermarket (not something you regularly “fall across” in the Co-op, or Waitrose for that matter, in the UK!! So no simmering for us – merely open the pack and prepare for the grill!!
- Fresh or precooked prepared octopus
- Olive oil
- Step 1 If using freshly prepared octopus this will need to be precooked by simmering in salted water for about 1 hour and allowed to cool. This recipe used precooked octopus
- Step 2 Divide the cooled octopus into individual tentacles and slices the head into bitesized pieces
- Step 3 Drizzle with love oil and salt
- Step 4 Put onto a hot grill (dome temp around 180-200C) for around 10 minutes until they started to char a little.
- Step 5 Remove and allow to rest for 5 mins
- Step 6 Serve simply with lemon, more salt and a little more olive oil on a green salad
Wandering around the village on Friday we found that Friday here too was fish day – at the end of the car park there was a man selling fresh fish from his van. Well this was too good to miss! So amongst other things we bought a lovely Sea Bass and a Sea Bream – only when on the way home did we suddenly think they might be just a bit too big for the Mini BGE!! Now this is where the MiniMax. would have been perfect! – But on this occasion necessity is this mother of invention and so a little” fishy modification” was finally undertaken before cooking – it reduced the aesthetic impact a little – but the taste was still wonderful! – but more of that later!
So how to cook – lets keep it simple. We were going to cook indirectly – so the BGE was set up with the platesetter in the feet up position with the Cast iron grill on top but inverted so the widest part of the bars were uppermost. We brought the temperature up to about 140C and then a handful of soaked Oak wood chips were added as a circle just outside the burning charcoal area before putting the platesetter and grill back in place.
Both fish were gutted and lightly descaled, washed and then patted dry. The head was removed from the Sea Bass and the body cavities of both fish were salted and then stuffed with sliced tomatoes, a little thinly sliced fennel and sliced lemon. The skin was salted and peppered and dusted with a mixture of dried herbs and allowed to rest as the BGE came up to temperature.
But then we needed to modify the fish a little bit more! Some trimming was needed for both fish to allow the top of the BGE to be closed properly! I have to say it did impact on the aesthetics a little – but when needs must!. As there was fresh rosemary to hand a stem was added for the cooking period – wetting it before hand allowed it to smoulder for that little bit longer enhancing the slightly smoky aroma!
We decided not to tempt fate and so we did not turn the fish over whilst cooking – but that is the great thing about the BGE – it is so forgiving!! The fish were served simply with a little wild rice, lemon and olive oil and just a little bread to mop the plate at the end.
The tomatoes and the fennel added a delightful sweetnes to the fish and the gentle smokiness set the whole plate off beautifully. The only difficulty was deciding who had which plate – if only all of life’s problems were so easilly resolved!!
Footnote. We revisited this recipe 2 years later in the same part of Tuscany and yes it was every bit as good – but we had crispy fish skin too!! – see here
Sea Bass and Sea Bream Duo
Oven Grilled Fish stuffed with tomatoes, fennel and lemon
- Sea Bass
- Sea Bream
- Mixed dried herbs
- Salt and Pepper
- Rosemary (optional)
- Step 1 Set up the BGE for indirect cooking
- Step 2 Bring temperature to about 140C and then add a handful of “soaked Oak wood chips
- Step 3 Put the plate setter back with the Cast iron grill on top but inverted so the widest part of the bars were uppermost.
- Step 4 Whilst the BGE comes up to temperature gut the fish and lightly descale, washed and then pat dry.
- Step 5 Salt the body cavities of both fish and then stuff with sliced tomatoes, a little thinly sliced fennel and sliced lemon.
- Step 6 Salt and pepper the skinned dust with a mixture of dried herbs
- Step 7 Soak the rosemary to encourage it to smoulder
- Step 8 Place the fish and the rosemary on the grill – do not turn!
- Step 9 When the fish is cooked (internal temperature reached 52C) remove from the grill [the USDA recommends 62.8C]
- Step 10 Serve the fish with a little wild rice lemon and olive oil and just a little bread to mop the plate at the end.