This year is the year that I’m finally going to train myself to eat, if not outright enjoy, oily fish. For the better part of my life, I’ve steadfastly refused to eat fish – with a few notable exceptions, of course. I will happily wrestle a lobster for the sweet meat hidden in its claws, I can consume tinned tuna when it’s wearing a disguise of mayonnaise, lemon and spring onions without batting an eyelash, and I could be considered a top contender for medals if there were a national Olympic team for eating prawns. Unfortunately for me, however, none of the seafood listed above provides the health benefits that I’ve been reading so much about. No, for those added perks, I would need to invite its oilier relatives around.
For my inaugural foray into the briny depths, Him Indoors prepared me a pasta dish with brie , mediterranean spices, sundried tomatoes and kipper. It was his recipe and he wasn’t completely happy with it, so I was not granted permission to write about it, other than to say that I had experienced it. (For what it’s worth, Him Indy, I thought the sauce was very nice, and the fish, whilst challenging, was not entirely horrible. I could probably eat it again. So there.)
My next attempt involved tuna, but this was no sanitised tin o’ chicken of the sea, my friends; this was proper tuna steak. Don’t roll your eyes in exasperation – I swear this was a very big hurdle for me to leap! A little research into the care and feeding of tuna steak revealed that it didn’t require a great deal of cooking. There were plenty of spices, rubs and marinades recommended, but I thought it was better to experience the flavour of the fish relatively unembellished. Seasoning the steaks very simply with a dusting of freshly ground black pepper and sea salt flakes, I then showed them the hot pan. Each side was seared to a pork-like whiteness which sandwiched an unsettlingly pink centre. I didn’t – couldn’t, in fact – pause to snap a photo of it, as I had to get it to table quickly before I lost my nerve. I set the plate before H.I, and his eyebrows flew up in surprise. “You’re brave,” was his only comment, and he fixed me with a look that was a curious blend of scepticism and sympathy. And you know what? I enjoyed it. It was actually good. So, chuffed and emboldened by my two relative successes, I decided to try my hand and palate at (cue the dramatic music) salmon.
Him Indoors had been to YO! Sushi earlier in the week and claimed that he had discovered another potential candidate for kind and gentle omega 3 delivery: teriyaki salmon. He didn’t go into great detail about how it was made, so I plunged ahead with preparations based solely on assumptions. Bud, my brother, rang me whilst I was in the midst of preparing it.
“Whatcha cooking?” he asked, hearing the rattle and hum of pots and utensils in the background.
“Teriyaki Salmon,” I answered brightly.
Silence. The currents of fish-aversion run deeply and swiftly in the Nin family’s bloodlines.
Undaunted, I made my pitch. “”I just thought it might be a good idea to get more omega three into our diets – you know, in terms of health benefits. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure, as they say…” I trailed off and strained to hear some indication of his reaction. Was he curling his lip in derision? Did he think his scatty sister had finally gone completely and irrevocably doo-lally?
“Jesus, Nin, just take supplements,” he advised, sighing wearily, “and save yourself the agony.” The man’s got a point, but then again, if I hadn’t bitten the mullet, I wouldn’t have discovered that I actually liked fresh tuna. And who knew? Perhaps beneath my stubborn breast might the heart of a salmon aficionado beat.
Later that evening, H.I. looked at the long, burnished fillet I had laid out on his plate and then looked back at me. My Spidey Sense told me that this wasn’t exactly what he had been expecting. “The skin’s still on,” he observed flatly, poking at the fillet. Picking up his cutlery, he surveyed the table expectantly. “Where’s the sauce?” he asked. I shook my head, not comprehending. He demonstrated a little swooping gesture with a chunk of fish on the end of his trident. “For dipping?” I blanched. Ahhh. The sauce – the stuff I used to marinate and then baste the fish – was intended for dipping. This was all going horribly wrong. Apparently, at the YO!, the fish is cut into chopstick-manageable chunks, skinned, lightly cooked, and THEN served with a thick, savoury-sweet teriyaki sauce on the side for dipping. My version – well, so, so much was lost in translation.
Despite the inauspicious start, the salmon was pronounced good – but only by H.I. My status as jaundiced Tenderfin does not yet permit me to pronounce judgment on fish dishes, but one day, sensei, ONE DAY….
Not at ALL in the style of YO!Sushi
(for 2 people)
2 salmon fillets, approx 100g (3½oz) each
1 tbsp vegetable oil
½ tsp salt ( I used sea salt flakes)
4 tbsp teriyaki sauce
1 tbsp honey
a dash of toasted sesame oil
1. In a small bowl, combine the teriyaki sauce, honey, and sesame oil. (This doesn’t make a lot of sauce, but you will need to set a small amount aside for the quick marination and reserve what’s left over for basting the fish while it grills.) Using some of this reserved sauce, marinate the salmon fillets for 1/2 – 1 hour.
2. Preheat the grill to high. Prepare your grill pan by lining it with some foil.
3. Remove the fish from its teriyaki bath and gently pat it dry. (Dispose of the marinade.) Brush the salmon with the oil and season with the salt. Skin-side down, put the fish under the grill and cook it for 4 minutes. Carefully turn the fillets over and cook them skin-side up for another 2 minutes or until the skin starts to char and blister.
4. Reduce the grill’s heat to medium. Skin-side down again, brush the fish with the second lot of reserved teriyaki sauce. Return it to the grill for 1-2 minutes, then brush on more sauce. Repeat this process twice, reserving a small amount of sauce to brush on just before serving.