Why the right fish is the catch of the day

STEW of coley, roasted peppers and small mullet, taken from Fish by Mitch Tonks
STEW of coley, roasted peppers and small mullet, taken from Fish by Mitch Tonks
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Atrue ‘afishionado’, Mitch Tonks has spent his career lovingly cooking fish. The chef and brains behind restaurant chain Fishworks says he is more at home preparing fresh turbot with parsley than rubbing peppercorns into fillet steak.

His latest book, Fish, is a simple guide to cooking a diverse range of dishes, using ingredients you might not have heard of: ‘I say seafood is exciting because there are so many different species available to eat and enjoy,’ explains Mitch.

‘Seafood is naturally the easiest thing to cook because it needs no adornment.’

As well as recipes, Mitch’s book features tips and thoughts on sustainability.

‘Don’t always go for the obvious,’ he suggests.

‘I know we love our white fish, but do try other species like mackerel or cuttlefish.’

Here are Mitch Tonks’s fish-buying tips:

n Check herring, mackerel and sardines are vibrant in colour and have hues of green and purple. The scales should all be intact.

· The eyes should be bright, clear and convex.

· Have a look under the gills. They should be bright red. Any sign of brown means the fish is old.

· Fresh fish smells of the seaside and old fish smells like fish!

· Fresh flatfish should be covered in healthy slime.


2 x 200g de-boned coley fillets, skinned.

200g rock salt.

1 red pepper.

1 green pepper.

2tbsp olive oil.

2 onions, finely sliced.

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped.

1tbsp tomato puree.

125ml dry white wine.

Pinch of saffron strands.

2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 2.5cm/1 inch cubes.

1 fresh thyme sprig.

2 bay leaves.

2 small red mullet, filleted and pin-boned.

1 x 400g can good quality Italian plum tomatoes.

1tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped.

6 or 7 black olives, pitted.

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.


The day before, place the coley on a large plate or in a shallow dish and cover the fish in salt.

Leave to chill in the refrigerator overnight, then wash the salt off and leave to soak in a bowl of cold water for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas Mark 6.

Place the peppers in a roasting pan and cook in the oven for 10-15 minutes until blackened.

Remove and place the peppers in a plastic bag, then seal the top and leave to cool for a few hours.

When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel off the skins, remove the seeds and roughly chop the flesh.

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-based frying pan, add the onions and garlic and fry very gently for 10 minutes, adding a little water just to soften them.

Add the tomato puree and cook for a further minute, then pour in the wine and boil for a minute.

Add the saffron, chopped peppers, potatoes, thyme, bay leaves, mullet fillets and tomatoes and stir together.

Add the coley and add just enough water (about one tablespoon) to cover the fish.

Cover with a lid and leave to simmer for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Taste and season with salt and pepper, then stir in the parsley and olives.

Remove the bay leaves and thyme.