Heart Health Matters

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Cooking with fish

Fresh Fish

Do you enjoy fish, but maybe not so keen, or even hesitant to cook it at home? Or maybe you’ve never prepared a piece of fresh fish before. Here are some frequently asked questions to understand and make the most of this healthy and delicious ingredient.

1. Is cooking fish complicated?
The best advice: keep things simple – both in terms of seasonings and the cooking methods used. Fish typically cooks quite fast. A fresh piece of fish, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper, grilled and served with lemon wedges, is delicious.

2. How do I know if fresh fish really is fresh?
When buying a whole fish: the gills should be red and the eyes clear and shiny. A tight skin and firm body are other signs of freshness. Make sure that you can trust the fish outlet or retailer. Fish should never smell ‘fishy’, but rather like a fresh ocean breeze.

3. Is fish indeed healthy?
Yes, it’s considered a healthy protein alternative to red meat. It’s a lighter meat and easier to digest, yet packed with many nutrients and healthy fats, even the less fatty kinds of fish, as well as many other nutrients.

4. What do I season fresh fish with?
Never overpower the delicate flavour of fish with too many other ingredients. Seasonings should complement the fish. Great choices are herbs and spices, ginger, chilli and of course lemon. Use it in salads, rice dishes, one-pot-suppers with veggies or in a tomato-based sauce.

5. Which cooking methods are best for fish?
A quick cooking method over a medium to high temperature, like pan-frying or roasting is perfect. Less fatty fish, like hake, will need a bit of oil in the pan, but deep-frying is not necessary and less healthy. Fry the skin side first for best results.
Braai fish over medium coals or grill under a hot element. Alternatively, simmer gently in a liquid over a low heat for a short period of time, for a fish stew or when poaching. Fish requires less heat than red meat, so take this into consideration.

6. Can one overcook fish?
This can happen very easily, due to the lighter texture of the meat. Raw fish turns from an almost translucent colour to a solid colour when cooked. Another tip: fish flakes easily with a fork once cooked. Overcooked fish is dry and loses its flavour. Rather take fish off the heat for the last few minutes, as it continues to cook from the internal heat.

7. Is tinned fish also a good choice?
Yes, it’s convenient and also packed with goodness. Use it for quick fish dishes, fish cakes and even on toast.

The Cooking from the heart kitchen loves to cook with fish, both fresh, frozen and tinned options. Different recipes are available on the website, so do visit www.cookingfromtheheart.co.za for some of these. Follow www.facebook.com/CookingFromTheHeartSA for daily hints and tips on ideas with fish this month.

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