Sunday, 7 October 2012

Breaded Ling Fillets and Homemade Chips - An Alternative Special Fish Supper

Ling fillets shallow fried in fresh breadcrumbs and served with homemade chips

A fish supper in Scotland usually consists of a fillet of haddock, deep fried in a simple flour and water batter and served with chips. A special fish supper is usually where the fish is instead fried in a breadcrumbs substitute. This fish supper sees ling fillets shallow fried in fresh breadcrumbs before being served with some crisp and crunchy homemade chips. A standard breadcrumbs substitute can of course be used if you wish but fresh breadcrumbs really do make a big difference.

Freshly caught ling of just over 5lb in weight and 38 inches in length

The ling pictured above was caught from a boat on Loch Etive and - weighing in at just over 5 pounds - it measured 38 inches from snout to tail. It is easily possible to get around six decent ling meals from a fish of this size, so the next time you go ling fishing, consider keeping one for the pot. It truly is delicious. For more ling recipes and a step by step guide to filleting ling, visit the site linked to immediately below:

How to Cook Ling

Ingredients per Special Ling Supper

2 6" pieces of ling fillet
2 outside slices of bread (ideally a couple of days old)
1 medium egg
Salt and white pepper
Olive oil for frying

Removing the skin from a ling fillet


The ling fillets in this instance had not already been skinned. Skinning them is not difficult, however - provided you have a proper filleting knife! - and only takes seconds.

Lay the fillet skin side down on a chopping board. Pinch the left edge (if you are right handed) and make an angled cut away from but as close to your fingers as you can, down to but not through the skin. Gently pulling the skin away from the knife, twist the knife until it is horizontal and cut through the flesh, over the skin, to remove.

Skin is removed from the first ling fillet

Scatter the breadcrumbs in an even layer on a plate. Break the egg in to a small flat-bottomed bowl, season it with salt and pepper and lightly beat.

Fresh breadcrumbs and beaten egg for coating ling fillets

Bring a little oil up to a moderate heat in a non-stick frying pan. Dip each fillet in the egg and pat it on both sides in the breadcrumbs. Repeat this process in each instance before laying the fillets gently in the pan. Fry for three or four minutes each side until the breadcrumbs are crisp and golden.

Pan frying the ling fillets in breadcrumbs

Lift the fillets to a plate with a spatula or fish slice and arrange the chips alongside. A lemon wedge - and perhaps a sprig of parsley - serve as an optional garnish.

Crispy coated ling fillets are served with homemade chips

The flesh of the ling is meaty, just like cod or haddock, and should be perfectly white if the fish is fresh.

The flesh of cooked ling fillets is pristinely white

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Giant Skate Fishing Out of Oban, Argyll

Giant skate are a very different proposition from doggies, thornbacks or mackerel

Sea fishing for many in the West of Scotland is about catching mackerel, coalies, pollack, doggies or thornbacks. All afford different levels of sport and eating opportunities but if your idea of quality fishing is about a big fight with a mighty fish, you can not do better in the area than take a giant skate trip out of Oban, Argyll. These pictures are the best part of a couple of years old and were taken on Ronnie Campbell's old boat, the original Laura Dawn, but the trips operate to this day in exactly the same way on the Laura Dawn II and may just be what you are looking for in a sea angling experience.
Hooked in to a giant skate and an almighty fight and struggle begins

It's important that you know what you are getting in to - or are hopefully going to be hooking in to! - before going out on a giant skate fishing trip. It may be that the trip will begin with a bit of mackerel bashing for bait but the main action involves dropping such as a whole mackerel and squid bait in to several hundred feet of water and starting the waiting game.

In you come - at last the skate is aboard

If you are used to reeling your fish in with minimal effort in seconds rather than minutes, you will be in for a BIG surprise. The giant skate featured in these pictures took approximately fifty minutes to bring in to the boat after it was hooked. You will require guile, strength and patience - and you are likely to have somewhat sore shoulders for a while afterwards if this is something you're not used to.

The sheer size of giant skate can be enlightening for novices

It should probably go without saying that removing the hooks from these beauties is not done with the bare hand. A giant pair of disgorgers is needed for this job and a mate or two on standby to lend a hand is essential.

No hands or fingers for removing hooks from this mighty mouth!

Friday, 24 August 2012

Pan Fried Pollack Fillet with Simple Salad

Floured pollack fillet is shallow fried in olive oil and served with salad

Pollack really is a delicious eating fish and it's a great shame that many people have yet to realise this fact. A close cousin of the Atlantic cod, pollack is plentiful around the West of Scotland and can provide great sport off the rocks from shore, or over wrecks in deeper water. It's also good to see that many supermarkets are now openly offering pollack for sale, whereas it used to be the case that it was only sneakily included in fish pies and fish fingers, allowing people to mistakenly believe that they were eating cod!
Fresh pollack ready to be filleted

Pollack can essentially be cooked in exactly the same ways as you would be likely to be cook cod. The fish can be filleted as in this instance, or simply baked whole in the oven if they are not too big. This recipe idea is really simple but it allows the natural taste of the fish to shine through.

Fillet of fresh pollack is defrosted prior to being cooked

Freezing fish is not something I am usually keen on doing, as I believe that in most instances, any type of fish has to be eaten at its freshest to be enjoyed at its best. Firm fleshed white fish like pollack, however, represents a grudging exception to this rule, especially when a catch has been plentiful and there is too much to eat at the time. This fillet had been frozen simply wrapped in a plastic freezer bag and was removed from the freezer and packaging to a plate a few hours before being cooked, covered and left to fully defrost.

Ingredients for simple accompanying salad

You might find it a good idea to prepare and plate your salad before you start cooking the pollack. This simply allows you to devote your full attention to the fish and make sure you don't overcook it. You can create any salad of your choice but this one is a basic combination of little gem lettuce, raw onion, cherry tomatoes and cucumber. The lettuce is roughly shredded, the onion finely sliced, the cherry tomatoes halved and the cucumber roughly chopped. Season with salt and pepper, toss and plate. A few pitted black olives were added here at the last minute but I know they're not to everyone's taste, so add them or not per your preferences.

Salad is prepared and plated before pollack is fried

Bring some olive oil up to a medium heat in a non-stick frying pan. Scatter a couple of tablespoons of flour on a plate and season well with salt and pepper.

Pollack fillet is dusted on both sides in seasoned flour prior to being fried

Pat the defrosted pollack fillet in the flour on both sides, ensuring it receives a good, even coating. Gently shake off the excess and lay it in the frying pan.

Pollack fillet is added to hot olive oil in non-stick frying pan

Fry the pollack on a medium heat. The precise cooking time will obviously depend upon the thickness of the fillet but work to around three to four minutes on each side. You should be able to check the frying progress simply by looking at the fillet from the sides.

Pollack fillet is carefully turned half way through cooking

When you can see the pollack has cooked half way up the side, carefully turn it with a large spatula or fish slice and fry for a similar period of time on the second side.

Pollack fillet is plated alongside the salad

Lay the pollack fillet on the plate beside the salad. Garnish with some freshly chopped basil or parsley, place a wedge of lemon on top of the pollack fillet and serve immediately.

Basil is an optional garnish for the pollack and salad

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Pollack Fishing off the Rocks on the Sound of Islay

Fishing from the rocks on Islay's East Coast in to the waters of the Sound of Islay

Following the three part series I featured on this blog relating to fishing on Islay in July 2012 and before moving on at least for now to pastures new, I thought this postscript would be appropriate. This trip actually took place in the summer of 2011 but these pictures and details are all previously unshared and unpublished. They relate to a different part of the island from any previously spotlighted. The target species was pollack and the venue was a rocky formation on the East Coast of Islay, fishing the treacherous waters that are the Sound of Islay, the narrow channel which separates Islay from its neighbour, the Isle of Jura.

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A decent pollack taken from the rocks

The bait used on the day was mackerel and calamari squid, together with a number of different lures. Beachcasters and spinning rods were used, over a variety of different casting distances. It was actually a miscast - landing close in to shore - which resulted in the dogfish featured below being taken.

Lesser spotted dogfish will also be around when fishing for pollack on Islay

The pollack were generally taken on spinning rods and of course provide good sport on this lighter tackle. As more people are fortunately starting to realise, pollack also make for great eating.

Decent pollack keep coming and make great eating

The scenery in this part of Islay is particularly stunning, with fabulous views available over towards the Paps of Jura on a clear day.

The Paps of Jura as seen from Islay, across the Sound of Islay

Rock fishing can be dangerous at the best of times but it is especially important when fishing the Sound of Islay to be aware of the treacherous currents which run down through this narrow channel of water. These currents even see the Islay to Jura ferry requiring to follow a long, indirect course at stronger stages of the tide. Falling in to the sea here would see you whisked away in no time.

The waters of the Sound of Islay are beautiful but treacherous

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Spicy Mackerel Fillets and Potato Wedges with Salsa

Spicy, pan fried mackerel fillets are served with crisp potato wedges and salsa

It's a great shame that when many sea fishermen think of mackerel, they do so only in terms of bait for bigger and - what they perceive to be - better things. Mackerel is definitely one of my favourite eating fish and because it is so incredibly versatile, there is never an excuse for running out of different ways to cook and serve it. As yet another prime mackerel fishing season in the West of Scotland starts to draw to a close, I for one am intent on eating this fabulous fish as often as possible in the next few weeks, so because I hadn't been fishing this week, I went to my local supermarket to buy a whole, fresh fish.  (Although some people freeze mackerel for food, I only freeze mackerel that I am intending using another day for bait, as I don't believe freezing mackerel for eating works well.)

I was amazed when I got to the supermarket and saw only what were basically fairly small joey (young and undersized) mackerel on display. I mentioned this to the man at the counter and he told me that most people who buy their mackerel are doing so only to use them as bait for pike, so the size to them doesn't matter. It really never fails to amaze me that people pay a considerably higher price for endangered cod or haddock, when this sustainable delight is available as an alternative. I bought the biggest mackerel they had and came up with this latest idea of preparing and serving it. I hope you'll give it a try the next time you hook in to a mackerel or see it available in your supermarket - or alternatively, check the very end of this post to find links to sites featuring lots more original and tasty mackerel recipes.

Ingredients per Person

1 whole, ungutted mackerel
1 large baking potato
1 medium tomato
2 inch piece of cucumber
1 clove of garlic
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
Extra virgin olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp plain (all purpose) flour
Smoked paprika

Potato wedges are firstly parboiled


Wash the potato but don't peel it. Cut it in half lengthways then cut each half in to three or four wedges. Put them in to a pot of cold water and bring the water to a boil. Simmer for ten minutes.

Principal salsa ingredients

While the potato wedges are simmering, prepare your salsa. Deseed and finely dice the tomato and cucumber and add them to a glass or stone bowl. Peel the garlic clove and grate it in to the bowl. Add the lemon juice, a good glug (technical term!) of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and stir well. Cover with clingfilm and put it in the fridge until it is needed.

Potato wedges are tossed in paprika and stirred in hot oil for baking

Drain the potato wedges and return them to the empty pot. Let them steam away and cool slightly while you preheat your oven. This helps get rid of the excess water. Drizzle some olive oil on a roasting tray and put it in the oven to heat to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6.

Scatter some smoked paprika liberally over the potato wedges and season with salt. Turn them carefully around in the hot oil with a wooden spoon. Cook in the oven for about twenty minutes until they are crisp.

Fillets are removed from the whole mackerel

Fillet the mackerel and carefully wash the fillets in a bowl of cold water. Pat them dry with kitchen paper. Put the flour on a plate and season with about a teaspoon of smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Put a little olive oil in to a non-stick frying pan and bring it up to a medium heat. Pat the mackerel fillets only on their skin sides in the flour and lay them skin sides down in the frying pan. Season the flesh with salt and pepper and a little bit more smoked paprika if desired.

Mackerel fillets are patted in seasoned flour for frying

Allow the mackerel to fry on a fairly high heat for about three minutes, until you can see they are cooked most of the way through. Reduce the heat under the pan to minimum and turn them on to their flesh sides to complete cooking while you give the final attention to the potato wedges.

Mackerel fillets are fried firstly on their floured skin sides

Remove the potato wedges from the oven to a plate covered with kitchen paper to drain. Plate them, lay the mackerel fillets and the salsa alongside and serve immediately.

Spicy potato wedges are plated, ready for the mackerel and salsa

Mackerel Recipes Around the Web

Super Quick and Easy Mackerel Recipes
Mackerel Recipes and Different Ways to Cook and Serve Mackerel
Mackerel Recipes on the BBC
Channel 4 Mackerel Recipes
Mackerel Recipes from All Recipes UK
Mackerel Recipes on Great British Chefs

Monday, 6 August 2012

Shore Fishing on the Isle of Islay: July 2012 (Part Three)

The shoreline around Islay offers endless sea fishing possibilities

This third and final part of the July sea fishing trip to Islay sees the group fishing on a beach in the approximate south-west(ish) part of the island, between Port Ellen and Bowmore. Bait for the day included rag worms, mackerel, calamari squid and sand eels and the catch proved to be extremely varied.

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Rag worm were just one of the bait types used on this trip

The general idea for this day's fishing was to enjoy as much sport with as many different fish species as possible. As you will see from the photos, the group had the beach to themselves as far as the eye could see and they were free to experiment with different baits, end tackle combinations and casting distances to see what they could ultimately hook in to.

Set up and fishing a beach in the south-west of Islay

Flatties - whether they be plaice, flounder, dab or sole - are not every angler's chosen target species. On a beach such as this one, however, the various species are often found and contrary to popular opinion - where you are heading straight home at the end of the day - can often make good eating.

This plaice was just one of the species caught on day two on Islay

Starfish and wrasse of any type are not common catches for most shore fishermen in the West of Scotland and are unfamiliar even to many who fish only from the boat. Taking both on the same trace from the same cast was therefore quite an unusual achievement.

A starfish and a ballan wrasse makes for an unusual catch combination

Crabs are a common scourge of fishermen, usually for stealing and making off with the bait. Occasionally, however, the more stubborn specimens are just not going to give up their free meal without a fight.
This hungry crab was not for letting go of his prize

Turbot are usually caught or seen in fishmongers as larger fish, capable of providing a decent meal for a number of people. Occasionally, however, one pops up that doesn't quite fall in to that category...

Turbot are generally recognised as being just that little bit bigger...

The Islay trip proved a definite success and the group enjoyed not only quality and varied sea fishing but the well renowned, fabulous hospitality of the local people. If you are considering a weekend's sea fishing, in a beautiful, unspoiled location where peace and tranquility can reign all day, you don't have to look further than this beautiful island. Be sure only to organise your trip properly in advance - particularly in terms of transport and accommodation - and you may just find a destination that will afford you everything you are looking for in a fishing trip for many years to come.

Who says fishing is not a relaxing, chill out pursuit?

Pan Fried Plaice with Feta Cheese and Olive, Greek Style Salad

Plaice fillets are removed from the cooked fish and laid on the salad bed before being garnished with fresh basil

Plaice is a type of fish which is often considered to be full of bones, difficult to clean and bland at best in terms of flavour. Unfortunately - and all too often - it has to stand guilty as charged on all counts. That does not mean to say this has to be the case, however, and like any type of fish, it is how we clean it, how we cook it and how we serve it that makes the ultimate determination. The way I have prepared the fish in this instance is pretty much the way I would always prepare plaice but it is possible to cook it in a number of ways and the serving suggestion was very much an experiment. It would normally be trout or salmon, mackerel or tuna, I would include in a dish of this type; fish which are oily and robust in flavour. I was happy the way this turned out, however, and hopefully the next time you catch a decent plaice - or even a flounder or dab - you might consider giving this idea a go, rather than simply deep frying it and serving it with chips.

Ingredients per Person

1 freshly caught plaice
3 or 4 large lettuce leaves
2 medium tomatoes
4 inch piece of cucumber
6 to 8 pitted black olives
6 to 8 pitted green olives
2oz Greek feta cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp plain (all purpose) flour
Fresh basil leaves for garnish

Basic greek style salad


It's not essential but what I did here was get the salad fully prepared and ready to go before I even started on the plaice. This is simply because when you are cooking fish, you often don't have a lot of hands off time to do other prepping.

Wash and roughly chop the lettuce leaves. Chop the tomatoes and the cucumber in to segments. Mix the three together and season with salt and pepper before laying in your serving dish. The olives came already pitted in jars of brine, so I rinsed them in water before scattering them over the salad. The feta is naturally crumbly (is there such a word?) so I roughly diced it and scattered it also over the salad. A drizzle of olive oil is then optional.
Cleaned whole plaice

The plaice above has been cleaned in the sense that it has been headed, tailed and gutted. When you buy whole prepared plaice from a fishmonger's or supermarket ready to cook, this is very often the way it will be supplied. You may find it easier, however, to also remove the fins prior to cooking - I find it a lot easier than doing so after cooking. Rather than cutting them off with a knife, use instead a pair of kitchen scissors and quite literally just snip them off.

Removing the fins from the plaice prior to cooking makes the overall job much easier

Scatter the flour on a plate and season with salt and pepper. Pat the plaice in it on both sides and shake off the excess. Heat some more olive oil in a pan and put the plaice in top side (dark coloured skin) down. Fry for around three minutes (you will see from looking side on at the head end) until it is cooked half way through. Turn with a spatula and fry for a similar period on the second side.

Plaice is dusted in seasoned flour and pan fried

Lift the plaice on to a plate. Using a sharp knife, cut down what you can see to be the natural lateral line in the centre of the fish. Peel the skin off to the side from the first half then carefully slide the fillet off in the same direction.

Skin is removed to reveal the first fillet on the cooked plaice

Repeat this process on the second side of the top of the plaice. Lay the fillets on the salad.

First fillet has been removed from the cooked plaice

You should now be able to carefully lift the skeleton of the fish free. If need be, use the tip of your knife to gently help ease it free.

Main fillets have both been removed from the plaice

The underside of the plaice technically has two similar fillets but of much smaller size. Lift them off the skin as best you can and lay again on the salad. They will not necessarily lift away quite as easily as the two main fillets.

Skin and bone of the plaice is ready to be discarded

Season the dish with more salt and pepper. Take three or four large basil leaves and lay them one on top of another. Roll like a cigar and slice. Scatter over your dish for service.

Plaice fillets and remaining flesh are laid on the salad bed