It’s summertime, the barbecue’s fired up and the seafood options are plentiful. Fish dishes are a light, fresh and exciting addition to all those salads and sausages. But what should we be eating?
Award-winning celebrity chef and restaurateur Aldo Zilli is a specialist in Italian, vegetarian and seafood cuisine. The founder of five Zilli restaurants, including the legendary Zilli Fish in Soho, he has written 10 books and appeared on TV shows including Ready Steady Cook, Daybreak and Celebrity Fit Club. Who better to school us in the art of preparing the perfect summer fish dish?
What’s the best fish and seafood for summer?
For me, summer is shellfish, crab, lobster, prawns, barbecue… I always sit by the sea in Italy and my lunch is spaghetti with fresh clams and olive oil and parsley. Round fish and flat fish, like sea bass, lemon soles, brill are all more plentiful at this time of year. The water’s warmer, fishermen go out more, so people experiment. The trick is preparation. If you’re got a good fishmonger who can prep fish for you, it’s the healthiest fast food dish in the world.
What dishes are becoming more popular?
Cheaper fish, to be honest. Mackerel, herring. We should be eating oily fish at least once a week. It’s good for your skin, for weight loss, so why wouldn’t you? Also people eat more small plates. At Cicchetti we sell little tapas – the grilled octopus is really popular.
Supermarkets are quite boring when it come to fish – they should stock more fresh fish, give advice and tips. The smell of a fish counter gives it away – if it smells of fish it’s not fresh. That’s the first thing you should learn.
How can we bluff our way with an easy summer fish dish that makes an impact?
Get some cod or salmon fillet, wrap it in foil with ginger, garlic and coriander and wine and water, cook it in the oven for 20 minutes or barbecue it. It’s an impressive centre piece.
How are environmental concerns affecting fish supply and tastes? What should we be eating instead of cod?
You should have plenty of questions when buying: When was it caught? Is it fresh? Is it sustainable? Sustainable means it is not in danger of disappearing. If it’s endangered, like cod was, then you are encouraging the disappearance of the species. You can replace cod with haddock, hake, Australian barramundi…
DO SAY Talk about line-caught sea bass or diver-picked scallops – say the scallops taste amazing, sweet. Say: ‘I bought this fresh from my local fishmonger, he just went out this morning.’
DON’T SAY ‘I cooked this yesterday.’ That’s how to get rid of your guests.
Anything else? No. I’m going to clam up now…
Aldo Zilli is a race ambassador for the Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon which takes place on 12 October. He will also be launching San Carlo Cicchetti in Covent Garden in September www.sancarlo.co.uk.