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Peter Kuruvita's tips on cooking fish

Monique Lane
Friday, June 1, 2012
Peter Kuruvita's tips on cooking fish
Fish cutlets
Fish cutlets
Serendip
Serendip

Peter Kuruvita of Sydney's luxe Flying Fish Restaurant and Bar, shares his top tips for buying and preparing fresh fish. From how to choose the freshest, to tips on cooking and storing fish, Peter also shares a recipe for the perfect beer snack – fried fish cutlets. For more information on Peter's book, TV series and culinary projects click here.

What are the three things to look for when buying fillets of fish?
The fillet should be opaque, the skin vibrant, the flesh firm and they should smell like mineral water – not fishy.

What are your tips for cooking fillets of fish?
Hot pan, hot oil — season the pan not the fish. Try to get a piece of fish that has an even thickness so it cooks evenly, if not then move the thinner side off the heat if possible. Ensure the fillet is dry before placing it in the pan laying the fish presentation side first. Do not be impatient, turn it only once on each side and flip it once you can see that there is a white line appearing about one third of the way up the flesh.

How do you get the most from your fishmonger?
Make friends with them, show interest in what they do and ask lots of questions. They work very hard and will remember your interest when at the markets at four am. It should convert into you getting the pick of the seafood in the shop.

Which fish are good to buy whole?
I love reef fish whole, the fillet yield is quite low, but the flesh around the head and fins is fatty and tasty. Fish like bass grouper, coral trout, red emperor, sweet lip and any of the emperor family are beautiful with white flesh and thin skin which makes them ideal. One exception is snapper which is great whole. The smaller spieces, like anchovies, whiting, yakkas and white bait are great fried crisp and whole.

What do you look for when buying whole fish?
The fish should have a natural layer of slime covering it, once this is gone the fish may still be good but it will not be super fresh. They should be in a state of rigor with clear eyes, although it is not always an indicator, as if the fish is caught out at sea and is placed in a slurry of ice and salt the eyes may go cloudy but they should not be sunken. The fish scales should be shiny and firm to touch with no unpleasant odours.

What are three tips to cooking whole fish?
Use slow and even heat. Ensure the thinner parts like the tail are better protected. When checking if it is cooked check the thicker end of the fish just behind the gills. It is the thickest part of the fish and if that is cooked then the rest will be too.

How should we select mussels/ prawns and oysters?
Mussels should be heavy and closed, prawns should have no black in their heads, long tentacles and no head droop. This means they should be firmly connected to the body. If they smells like ammonia do not purchase them. Oysters should be live, or if they are shucked, they should be plump and nearly translucent. A just opened oyster contains a bit of water from the source. If the oysters are live then the fish monger will only be able to buy them from clean waters.

What are most underrated/underused fish?
Many smaller fish are left behind for the larger ones. Bonito is an excellent fish — on the first day it can even be used for sashimi, followed by a beautiful curry the next. Ocean perch is beautiful whole fried crisp and leather jacket trunks are great on the barbecue. Sole or flounder are beautiful, lightly flavoured and easily grilled.

What fish should we go out and try and how should we prepare it?
Bonito. Sri Lankan ambul thial — see my recipe below.

What are the biggest mistakes people make when buying fish?
Not spending the time to discuss it with the fish monger, not keeping it cool on the way home and then blaming the shop or the fish.

What are the biggest mistakes people make when preparing fish?
Over cooking it or making the sauce taste stronger than the fish.

Any other tips?
Keep it chilled, use it on the day of purchase and eat more of it!

Fish cutlets


These are delicious either hot or cold and go really well with a beer. They should be quite spicy.

Makes 16
350g (12oz) skinless bonito or tuna, cut into 4cm pieces
200g (7oz) Pontiac potatoes cut into 4cm pieces,
1 litre vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 sprig curry leaves, leaves picked
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
10g (1/4oz) small green chillies, finely chopped
100g plain flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
200g fine dry breadcrumbs

Sprinkle the fish and potatoes with 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, then place in a steamer and simmer for 12 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

Meanwhile, heat two tablespoons oil in a heavy-based frying pan over low heat and cook the onions, curry leaves and cumin for 6-8 minutes or until the onions are soft but not brown.

Coarsely mash the potato and fish in a bowl, add the chilli, onion mixture and one teaspoon of salt and combine well. Divide the mixture into 16 pieces, shape into balls, then flatten slightly with the palm of your hand to make 5cm-thick discs.

Dust the fish cutlets in flour, then dip in beaten egg and coat with breadcrumbs. Place on a baking-paper lined tray and stand for 10 minutes. Heat the remaining oil in a deep-fryer or large heavy-based saucepan to 180C (350F) or until a cube of bread dropped in the oil browns in 15 seconds. Deep-fry the cutlets, in batches until golden, then drain on absorbent paper and serve hot or cold.

Watch: Curtis Stone make a delicious family dinner roast chicken

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