Fish Cook

Last Updated: 16 October 2014
Created: 23 July 2009 cobalt skies and a gentle, caressing Mediterranean breeze set the perfect canvas from which to enjoy Aldo Zilli's book: Fish Cook, from Shrimp to Swordfish. Amid an abundance of plump fruits, colourful vegetables and fresh fish from local shops and markets, temptation is high and meals are relaxed. Lunchtime sees feasts of thickly sliced watermelon accompanied by sticky wedges of fig, spicy chorizo sausage and shavings of salty, local cheeses. But, as twilight approaches thoughts naturally drifts to supper and yet more delicious spoils from the basket... to fish.




Quick to prepare, versatile and insatiably healthy, fish should be a dietary staple. As a young child, growing up in North Eastern England, I have hazy memories of regular visits the fish key in Hartlepool with my grandparents. Purchases included cod, haddock or sometimes the much prized smoked herring delicacy, kippers which would be grilled and served with a trickle of butter. Following years relied on boil-in-the-bag bricks of indistinguishable white fish in a variety of sauces plus of course, the occasional trip to our local fish ‘n chip shop for creamy white flakes of cod enveloped in fine, crisp batter. Nowadays, fresh salmon and prawns make frequent appearances on the dining table but, amid a superfluity of good intention how easy it is to shy away from the unfamiliar when peering at the glistening bounty of a fish counter.



Fish Cook is a superb choice for both initiated and novice fish cooks alike: “The best cooking methods for fish are usually the most simple,“ says Aldo. “One of the easiest yet most effective ways to cook a whole fish is to stuff it with rosemary and garlic and roast it with new potatoes, courgettes, onions, small Italian cherry tomatoes and a whole fresh chilli, then add a bit of water. (You can use basil or thyme instead of rosemary if you prefer.) The result will be delicious! There are, of course, many varied cooking methods for fish: one of my other favourites is barbecuing, but fish that has been poached or baked in foil or a banana leaf* tastes equally good,” he continues.

Aldo Zilli’s love of fish began in childhood when during holidays he worked for a local fishmonger who in return paid Aldo with the surplus catch of the day. A demanding job but, this early apprenticeship is fully appreciated by the now restaurateur and masterclass fish teacher, with classes held in London and the Abruzzo region of Italy. Aldo’s approach is most definitely no nonsense. His finely tuned skills together with the clear, illuminating photography of David Munns separates Fish Cook from other books on the shelf.

Boasting over 100 flavour packed recipes, chapters are simply divided by fish category: round, flat, oily, exotic fish and shell fish. Each recipe is tailored to a particular fish but, several alternatives are included, thus alleviating any potential frustrations about availability. Additionally, the recipes include convenient preparation and cooking times, and as you would expect, most dishes are swiftly prepared.

With so many outstanding recipes and such a wide variety of fish, it is difficult to choose examples to list but, these include John Dory with Tapenade, Mash and Spinach; Cod in Teriyaki and Mango; Mackerel with Mustard and Lemon Butter, Plaice Goujons in Sparkling Wine Batter and a warming potato topped Fish Pie. Discover a plethora of ideas using Salmon, Trout, Swordfish, Sardines, Prawns, Crab and Lobster, not forgetting more ‘exotic’ varieties which are now readily available from the supermarket, including: Shark, Marlin, Barracuda and deliciously tender Dorade.

Chapters open with a general over view, descriptive notes and buying tips for each fish, including unambiguous photographs for easy recognition. There are well-structured step-by-step instructions and photographs for preparation and cooking techniques including cleaning and filleting, how to perfectly fry a whole fish or fillet, how to butterfly prawns and prepare squid. Aldo strongly recommends asking for fish to be cleaned but, depending on the recipe, not necessarily filleted as fish roasted on the bone has a far superior flavour.

The strength of Fish Cook lies is in its inspirational qualities to leave the ordinary behind. To venture with poise, into good quality fish markets, getting to know the fishmongers and asking for their expert help and advice. A small push is all it takes to soon be serving favourites with added panache whilst confidently broadening fish cooking horizons.

Courtesy of publisher Jacqui Small, I have a selection of recipes to share and trust you will enjoy:


*available from Asian supermarkets


Fish Cook, From Shrimp to Swordfish by Aldo Zilli
Published by jacqui small LLP price GBP 14.99
Photography by David munns


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