This month’s seasonal recipe is all about the fish…
Perhaps I am spoilt coming from the UK, where the seafood is diverse and excellent, but I find fresh fish is sadly lacking in Berlin.
It would be understandable if Berlin were further from the sea, but at only a few hours drive from Altona in Hamburg, one of the biggest fish markets in Europe, one would expect the choice here to be better. As it is, it can be a bit of a mission to find good, fresh seafood.
Frische Paradies probably has the best selection. I met one of their fishmongers a few weeks ago at a party where I got to chat to him a bit more. As well as being enthusiastic about his job he was also – as one would hope – highly knowledgable about sustainability issues.
Mitte Meer is also a popular choice. Smaller fishmongers include Der Fischladen, Fisch Schmidt and Fischfabrik, though at the smaller places, you may need to order in advance to get anything much more exciting than the ubiquitous salmon fillet.
But wherever you buy your fish, do be sure to think about the ethical provenance of what you are eating. There is a good interactive guide to sustainable fish on the Guardian website, so you can equip yourself with a little knowledge beforehand, and ask in the shop for more details. Any decent fishmonger should be able to advise you on the sustainability of individual fisheries and species, or the animal welfare standards regarding farmed fish.
Once you’ve got your fish, cooking it tends to be the simple bit. Fish and seafood usually benefit from having as little done to them as possible.
I’ve offered a slightly more complex pasta dish below, but if you get your hands on some clams, you can rustle up a pasta dinner for kings in a matter of minutes. Just warm some olive oil, lightly fry some garlic and perhaps a bit of chilli, put the shellfish in the pan for just a few minutes, and you’re pretty much done. Toss with cooked pasta, squeeze over a bit of lemon and perhaps a bit of chopped parsley. Prawns are also good cooked in the same way.
Whole fish similarly benefit from simple techniques. The recipe below uses sea bream, but any medium-sized fish can be baked in the same way. Feel free to experiment a bit with the details; you could try using a different herb for example, or roasted vegetables rather than potatoes.
My final recipe takes its inspiration from a grand northern European tradition, of preserving fish in vinegar solutions. Virtually every northern European country has its own version of pickled or soused herring (e.g. rollmops, matjes). The results are often bracingly sour, but no less pleasing for that. I’ve used mackerel in my recipe and softened the sharp vinegary kick by serving it with sweet seasonal oranges and crunchy fennel.
If you’re looking for fish restaurants, I’m told Fischers Fritz is very good, if old-fashioned. But as it also comes with a hefty price tag and the solemn service one often finds at a Michelin-starred restaurant, I haven’t yet made it there myself. I can personally recommend 3 Minuten zur Meer, sister restaurant of the more formal Bandol sur Meer, both of which specialise in French Mediterranean cuisine, particularly fish.
And for fish and chips – well, we Brits are almost duty-bound to be disappointed by any offering other than the local chippy where we grew up. But the imbiss attached to Der Fischladen offers an extremely decent version that is likely to put a smile on the face of even the most homesick and difficult-to-please British immigrant.
Salmon Ravioli with Ginger and Herbs
Makes about 36 ravioli (serves 4-6 as a starter or 2-3 as a main)
If you have a ravioli-mould, by all means skip the instructions in the fourth paragraph and use the mould in your usual way instead.
For the pasta
100g pasta flour
1 egg, beaten
For the ravioli filling
200g salmon fillet, skin removed and diced into little cubes
a handful of dill, finely chopped
a few basil leaves, finely chopped
a sprig of coriander, finely chopped
For the sauce
a knob of fresh ginger
2 tbsps sesame oil
2 tbsps balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
Some torn herbs (dill, basil, coriander)
Mix together the flour and egg until they form a dough. Knead until pliant and silky, for about ten minutes. Cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge for at least half an hour.
Meanwhile, mix the salmon together with the cream and herbs.
Roll out the pasta with a pasta machine to the thinnest setting and cut into two equal sized and shaped halves.
Put teaspoons of the filling at intervals on one pasta sheet, leaving at least 2cm between on all sides. Lay the other pasta sheet over the top and press down around the blobs of filling to seal. Use a sharp knife or pizza wheel to cut between the ravioli and separate them. Leave, not touching each other, on a floured board or clean kitchen cloth until ready to cook.
Peel the ginger and chop into matchsticks. Mix with the soy sauce, vinegar and sesame oil and a generous grinding of black pepper.
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Drop the ravioli into the water and cook for 2-3 minutes.
Fish the ravioli out of the water with a slotted spoon and add straight to the serving bowls. Spoon over the sauce, including the bits of ginger and scatter over the torn herbs.
Baked Sea Beam with Potatoes
Serves 2 as a main
1 sea bream (Dorade), cleaned, but left whole
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut into slices
a sprig of thyme
1 lemon, quartered
400g smallish waxy potatoes, scrubbed, but not peeled
100ml white wine
2 tbsp olive oil
Set the oven to 200°C/395°F/gas 6.
Bring a pan of water to the boil. Cut the potatoes into quarters and cook in the boiling water for 8 minutes. Drain, return to the pan and leave to steam for a few minutes.
In a roasting tin, warm the olive oil over a medium heat. Shake the potato pan a little to roughen the edges of the potatoes, and tip them into the hot oil. Season and fry for a few minutes each side until they are just starting to take on some colour, then put them, uncovered, into the oven for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, season the fish on both sides, make a few slits in the skin of the fish with a sharp knife and push a few slivers of garlic into those slits. Put the rest of the garlic and the thyme into the body cavity.
Remove the roasting tin from the oven and turn the potatoes over, gently. Squeeze 2 lemon quarters over (holding back any seeds) before adding them to the pan as well.
Lay the fish on top of the potatoes. Pour the white wine over the fish and return the tin to the oven for 25 minutes until the flesh of the fish is opaque and pulls away easily from the backbone. Serve immediately with a green salad; the remaining two lemon quarters can be squeezed over at the table, to taste.
Soused Mackerel with Orange Salad
Serves 4 as a starter, or 2 as a main, with dark ryebread
For the salad
2 small mackerel
1 bulb of fennel
a bunch of flat-leaf parsley
For the marinade
50ml sherry vinegar
50ml red wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
a few bay leaves
1 tsp salt
a few parsley stalks
a few black peppercorns
1 red onion
Put all the marinade ingredients except the onion into a saucepan, bring to the boil and immediately remove from the heat. Leave to steep for 10 minutes while you fillet and pin-bone the mackerel and thinly slice the red onion.
Over high heat, heat a little olive oil in a frying pan until hot then fry the mackerel fillets, skin-side up, for about 20-30 seconds until sealed. Put the fillets, still skin-side up into a shallow dish and scatter over the onion. Pour the warm marinade over, cover and refrigerate for at least a few hours (overnight is fine).
Take the fish out of the fridge a half hour or so before serving. Trim and thinly slice the fennel and radishes (with a mandolin, if you have one). Remove all skin and pith from the oranges with a sharp knife, halve and cut into slender half-moon slices.
Roughly chop the parsley and any fennel fronds that were attached to the bulb and add those to the oranges, fennel and radishes. Drizzle over some extra virgin olive oil, season, toss and divide between four plates.
Break the mackerel into large pieces with your fingers, holding back as much of the skin as you can (though it doesn’t matter if there’s some skin still attached) and scatter the flakes of fish over the salad.
About The Photographer
Kristi Korotash is an amateur food photographer, professional food lover, and one half of Berlin’s Zuhause Supperclub.