Steamed

Steamed

By
Nathan Outlaw
Contains
6 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
ISBN
9781849493727
Photographer
David Loftus

In recent years I’ve come to appreciate how a fish that has been steamed has the purest flavour of all. If you want to know what a particular fish or shellfish really tastes like then the answer is to steam it. You’ll have a wonderful clean flavour and succulent flesh – as long as it has been cooked correctly.

For steaming, it is imperative to use super-fresh fish. Techniques like roasting and pan-frying can hide slightly older fish, as the caramelised flavours produced can mask the pure taste of the fish. Steaming, however, is one technique that will tell you if your fish is old – not only in taste, but also in appearance. If, once steamed, your fish is off-white, even slightly yellow, rather than pearly white, it is not spanking fresh.

Such a gentle heat works like magic, especially with delicately textured fish, like brill and plaice. Steaming is also the healthiest way to cook fish and shellfish, as it locks in the nutrients as well as the flavour – and you can avoid adding any oil or butter if you wish.

You will, of course, need a steamer of some sort to cook your fish. I’ve found that using a Chinese bamboo steamer works a treat. But then the Chinese have been steaming fish successfully for a very long time so they should know how to do it. They originally used stoneware steamers before inventing the familiar bamboo steamers with their slatted bases. They use them for everything, not just fish.

Alternatively, you can use a metal steamer that fits over a saucepan – you’ll need about 5–7 cm boiling water in the pan. Either way, make sure the steamer basket is not touching the water and cover with a tight-fitting lid to seal in the steam.

You can steam small to medium whole fish, such as bream or bass, but I usually steam fillets as they cook more evenly. Often I’ll wrap these in baking parchment to protect them, or in wild garlic or spinach leaves to lend flavour too. The cooking time depends on the size and thickness of the fish. As a rough guide, a medium-thick 200 g piece of fish takes about 8 minutes.

Steaming is also the technique used to open bivalves – mainly mussels, cockles and clams. Typically, a little wine or cider is heated in a large pan, then the shellfish are added and the lid fitted tightly. The shells open up in the steam created by the liquor in minutes – ready to be picked or eaten straight from the shell.

Best seafood for steaming

Plaice, lemon sole, brill, turbot, bass, bream, salmon, mussels, cockles, clams.

Best accompaniments

Braised fennel with a lime dressing, lemon sauce, watercress sauce, mushroom ketchup, saffron and roasted garlic potato purée.

Recipes in this Chapter

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