Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Filleting a fish

I figured that although it's great you hearing about all the fun things we get to cook it might be a great idea to let you in on some of the basic techniques we get taught.

Filleting a fish is one of those things. Let's face it, it's easier for your fish monger to do but you should really know how.
On the 15th Feb we have a 'half term exam' here at Ballymaloe Cookery School and filleting a fish, amongst other things, could be one of our tests.

So, this is Fred the fish, he is a Sea Bass, so known by the silver shiny body and the 'look' of a fast fish. He will be ever so kind as to help me show you how to fillet. Please say 'Thank you Fred'.

I had to gut Fred myself but you can ask the lovely fishmonger to do that for you as well as de-scaling. If you didn't get that done have a look on the belly. Near to the tail there should be a fin and a small 'toilet' hole. Insert your knife in this hole and slice upwards towards the head. 

Once this has been done, there is the pleasant task of taking all the guts etc out. Moving quickly on...
Next, take the knife at a diagonal and cut from beneath the gill area up to the spine. Cut all the way until you meet the back bone.

Repeat on the other side and then break the head away from the body. 

The gills should come away with the head so that's all the stuff you can't eat out the way. If you want to use the head for stock, you will need to remove them as they will make the stock bitter.
Ok, so next step is slicing as close to the back bone as possible starting with the 'head' end and down to the tail. It doesn't have to be a big cut, just to open the flesh.

Next with the tip of your very sharp knife, slowly in little cuts and using your fingers to gently separate the flesh from the bones. Go slow as the less barbaric you can be will make a difference to how your fillet appears and also how much flesh you actually have.

Next thing, if you want to, is to remove the flesh from the skin. Hold the tail end of the fillet and cut down, not all the way through the skin, and then flatten to push it head wards. Gently rather than pushing with your knife, pull the skin towards you and wiggle your knife. The flesh should come away from the skin quite easily.

And then da-dah! Congrats. You did it.

It was great to see Rory O'Connell filleting several fish for us today and seeing how fast we should be able to do filleting with time.

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