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This post refers to fresh, round whole fish that haven’t previously been prepared by a fishmonger. Examples include trout, mackerel, bass and salmon… they all use the same stages, although the fish vary in size. Three great recipes with whole fish are linked in below...
Signs of fresh fish?
When buying fresh fish watch for:-
1) Smell – there shouldn’t be any distinctive smell of fish. Fresh fish are fairly odourless.
2) Shininess – fish should have a small amount of natural slime (not too much) and should be slightly moist and slippery.
3) Firmness – the flesh of the fish should be relatively firm. If you gently poke it then you shouldn’t see an indent left. Scales should still be attached and not dropping off.
4) Bright colour – the gills of the fish should be vibrant and bright.
5) Clear bright eyes – not cloudy or sunken.
Fish naturally have scales that run in the same direction that they swim and it is best to remove these before cooking as they aren’t pleasant to eat and prevent you from achieving a crispy skin.
1) Inside of a bin liner or plastic bag to avoid excess mess, scrape the back of a knife along the flesh of the fish from tail to head.
2) Make sure you use long scraping movements without pushing down too hard on the fish.
3) Scrape all sections of the skin in this way, then pass under cold running water to remove any loose scales and wipe with a clean cloth.
You are aiming to remove the inside stomach cavity and digestive track from the fish and wash away any blood leaving you with a clean whole fish.
1) Lay the fish down on a non-slip cutting surface close to a bowl or bin and cold running water.
2) Insert a sharp knife or blades of a pair of scissors into the small hole just above the anal fin in the bottom of the fish and cut along the natural line towards the head, stopping just short of the join (what is essentially the chin).
3) To leave the head on the fish… use your thumb to slide into the cavity and loosen the guts. These can be slid out of the fish into the bin.
4) Hold the fish under gentle cold running water and run your thumb up and down the inside cavity to remove any blood.
Use a sharp pair of scissors to snip off the fins:-
• anal fin - at the bottom towards the tail,
• adipose fin – on the top level with the anal fin,
• pectoral fin - Either side of the fish below its head,
• dorsal fin - on the back of the fish.
Fresh fish should be kept refrigerated, preferably over ice… but not submerged in water. Keep it in an air-tight container or bag so that nothing else in the fridge is tainted by the fish.
When it comes to cleaning down your working area only use cold water to begin with. Hot water will start to cook the fish and any stray scales, turning them to glue and making them almost impossible to remove. Then sanities with hot water soapy water afterwards.