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Friday, 15 April 2011

Preparing and Filleting Flat Fish

Flat fish like Lemon sole, Turbot, Place and Halibut are all part of a sub order of fish called “Perciformes” The name is Greek for side swimmers. In many species both eyes are on one side of the head. There are over 400 species of flat fish.
These types of fish can range from the smaller fish like Sole and Lemon Sole to larger Turbot around 500cm in length.

These types of fish are a favorite in the British kitchen, My personal favorite is the Turbot, although it isn't a good looking fish it sure is a great ingredient to work with. Often cooks tend to get their fishmonger to fillet these fish for them or buy from a supermarket shelf, I prefer to go to market to pick the best of the bunch.

Here is a few tips on picking the best fish from the market

  • Eyes- Look at the eyes of the fish and Clear bright eyes are a clear sign of freshness
  • Touch the fish- a fresh fish will be firm to the touch and will resist a prod or two, the flesh should spring back once pressed.
  • Gills- a good sign of freshness is the colour of the gills, they should be a vibrant and bright colour not a dull grey.
  • Smell the fish- Don t be afraid to smell before you buy it , its an instant give away if it smells rotten, a good fish will smell of clean water maybe a little briny for sea water fish . A bad smelling fish will most defiantly not improve with cooking.
  • Slime on the fish- if the fish has a little slime its fine as long as the liquid isn't milky, a clear slime indicates a healthy fish.
  • Fins- the fins should not be dried out and withered this generally means the fish has not been kept, refrigerated or covered properly.
Preparing your fish

    Slice down the spine
    Step 1. Rinse the fish under cold water inside and out. Pat the fish dry and lay face up on the chopping board, To stop the chopping board slipping around place wet tissue or a damp cloth under it. With a clean, very sharp knife you should cut down the line of the spine, running from the back of the head down to the tip of the tail. Many flat fish will have a dark line running the length of the spine, this is where you need to cut. You will be able to feel the spine , try and keep to one side of the spine.Using the tip of your knife slowly follow the edge of the spine under the flesh of the fish against the ribs starting at the tail end.
    Keep your knife flat to the ribs of the fish
    Step 2. Use the rib bones as a guide with your knife against them so less flesh is left on the bone. It is helpful to put your fingers under the flesh and lift as you slice the flesh away from the bone. Try and use the full length of the knife and use long strokes with the knife. Once the flesh is away from the ribs slice through the skin near the fins at the same angle, this should leave a flap like an open book. Now slice down the back of the gills to remove the fillet.

    Slice through the skin near the fins

    fillet the underside of the fi
    Step 3. Repeat the same on the opposite fillet.

    Step 4. Turn over and repeat by starting with cutting down the spine, this time the fish may slide around a little, putting it on a clean towel will minimize this. The bottom fillets of a flat fish are often much thinner than the top fillets so try to leave as little flesh on the bone as possible. Your last fillet will be your best! The fillets can be cooked immediately or wrapped in cling film and kept in the fridge or freezer.
      Four Turbot Fillets
      The bones of the fish can be used to make a fish stock so keep hold of them, they can be frozen to be used at a later date.

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