Saturday, August 20, 2011

Pollack poached in milk and fennel.

Fennel is a great Italian staple, cooked on its own its wonderful. If you visit an Italian market you're likely to see them in carefully stacked pyramids of fennel, fronds trimmed and the blemished outer layer removed.
 But the great thing about it is that it is delicate, and can be used to enhance a meal without overpowering it, and can be used raw or cooked.
I just got home from Naples to a very overgrown garden, but not all the fennel had bolted.
All homegrown and sustainable
I love fennel when added to pinzimonio (raw vegetables), and in winter salads. The best examples of this that use the sweetness of Fennel against sharper flavours come from southern Italy, like in Sicily where it is served with blood orange and olives, or Finocchi del Sud - a warmed fennel salad with anchovies, olives and nutmeg.

Fennel is great in mixed salads, with other vegetables including celery or tomatoes, cheeses, or finely chopped walnuts. 
As a general rule, the Italians do not use vinegar in fennel salads.
The leafy fronds are a nice addition to any salad and as a veg itself, braised, it has a unique and delicious flavour.

A neighbour of mine, Con, very kindly dropped off a few pollack fillets, pin boned and cleaned caught the day before. He has always done this, but in keeping the garden it's nice that I can finally return his generosity with homegrown veg. I really do have too much, particularly when one has a glut.

We had a very pleasant young French couple, Thomas and Estelle, visiting, so it was a real pleasure to be able to cook a meal like this using all local produce.It's quite a small world - I met Thomas and Estelle at the Pony show, they had no real plans of where to stay so they camped on the croft. 
The meal was put together with available produce, and the fact I have just got back from the Italian Maritime Academy has my cooking brain on one track, so thats where the meal came from.

But as it turned out later, Thomas has worked with Catherine Fulvio - Ireland's leading expert in Italian cuisine - hows that for serendipity!!!!
Whitefish poached with milk and fennel
This dish is very simple, using Irish dairy produce to enrich an Italian style flavour. 
Using milk to cook fish is not something I found in Italy, but in more Northern countries it's quite common.
The poaching in milk process enriches the fish, and gives it a more creamy texture.
Fish poached in milk is actually quite a regular Scottish way of preparing whitefish like haddock, whiting, pollack and on occasion even herring. The Scottish will also cook smoked fish like haddock or kippers in milk. 
In Nordic cuisine, the Finns soak salted or sometimes even fresh herring in milk before cooking.

You will need:
Filleted and pin boned pollack - enough for each person. Another sustainable white fish like whiting is also good.
1 fennel bulb - trimmed and finely sliced
2 small shallots
knob of cuinneog butter
enough milk to barely cover fish
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 180 deg centigrade

Grease the dish with a little butter
Arrange the fish fillets in a single layer
Sprinkle over the finely chopped fennel and shallot
Add salt and pepper
Pour over milk until the fish is barely covered

Cook for 20-25 minutes at 180

When the fish is done, the liquid can be strained off to make the base of a parsley sauce.
I tried to use sorrel instead, but it is tricky because the milk can curdle a little, so I would advise sticking to a parsley sauce only. It was my first time using sorrel, so there is more I need to learn about it.
Spuds, peas, carrots and local fish - a little confused perhaps, but still good.
Served with new potato's (different varieties, Orla, Nicola, Kerr pink and Mr.Littles) and a quick Moroccan carrot mix.
The potato's were buttered and garnished with samphire and salsola, pretty much everything on the plate came from within 5 miles.
The samphire really adds to the meal, that nice crispy, salty bite makes it more than just a decoration.

The poaching process takes about 20 minutes, so timing wise, get the potato's and other veg down first.

In hindsight however, I think in future when doing this, I would cook the fish and potato's - but rather than have cooked carrots, I'd go for a carrot and fennel salad with a lemon based dressing as the veg.

Thanks for reading and please take the time to comment

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  1. You know, I have never tried fish poached with milk. I think that this sound very interesting so might give it a try. I love finding new ways to prepare a piece of fish and there is no shortage around Galway!

  2. Firstly, thanks a ton for the feedback.
    Its not an unusual way of cooking, as I mention in the blog in Scotland it is, or at least was, quite common - particularly with smoked fish

  3. I like your recipes Simon and am a timid sort of cook. Very wary of shellfish for example as always worried about getting it wrong. I like whitefish however and know that its hard to get that wrong- can ask what is meant by 'pin boned'?

    Captain Con

  4. Hi Con, pin boned means you take the fillet, place it skin side down and run your finger along the flesh against the grain.
    With a tweezers (or I prefer a pair of pliars) remove any small bones you feel.
    A good fillet of well prepared fish should have no bones.

  5. Ah ..right. Nice one. I like your recipes because they are constructed around readily available ingredients. Alwasy been put off by elaborate and rare ingredient lists that require a seperate shopping trip. Keep going though as I like the simplicity of the recipes as well- you never seem to get fancy with one off kitchen equipment either so it is interesting!



Thanks for commenting - its cool that you took the time