This is one of the simplest ways to cook fish that you can have in your cooking repertoire. It’s so quick that the only danger is that you overcook the fish – and even then, it’s fairly tolerant; you can leave the fish waiting for a few minutes in its poaching water if the rest of the meal isn’t quite ready. Do try, though, to be brave and accurate, only cooking the fish for the merest minimum, until it is just set.
Hopefully, you will realise that this is a fresh fish recipe; the fresher the better. Don’t use frozen fish, or something lurking at the back of the supermarket chill cabinet – if you don’t catch it yourself, or have a friend to do that for you, make friends with your local fishmonger. They will do all the nasty bits, like cleaning, scaling, trimming and boning – all the things that put people off.
There are any number of accompaniments you could have with this meal; baby new potatoes and peas, mashed potato and carrots, a salad and crusty bread, rice and stir fried veg. I shall be having mine tonight on a bed of lentils, which is a great combination.
Per person - one fillet of fish, 6-8oz/170-225g, any kind you like (do make sure they are sourced from sustainable stocks – a quick Google for your area will tell you the ones to avoid).
A good pinch or two of salt, and a good pinch or two of crushed black peppercorns
A bay leaf or two (or fresh dill is great for salmon, trout etc)
A slice or two of lemon to add to the poaching water, plus another to squeeze over your fish on the plate if you like
A pan large enough to hold the fish – a frying pan is ideal, as it’s easy to turn the fish.
Enough water to cover the fish in the pan.
A fish slice/egg flipper or palette knife to turn and serve the fish.
Bring the water to the boil with the salt, pepper, bay leaf and lemon. Immediately turn down to the lowest simmer. Put the fish in, skin side down. Let it poach gently for only a minute or two, then turn the fish so it is skin side up. Depending on the thickness or your fillet, it could be ready in as little as another five minutes. Check by lifting a piece of fish out, and see if the flakes are set and will separate, or, if it’s not a flaky fish, that it feels firm but tender to the touch.
Serve at once.
As I said above, the fish is ready so quickly that there can be a tendency to overcook it just to “be sure.” The absolute minimum cooking time gives you the best flavour and texture.