So, how much fish do you think you could scarf down in one day?
If I had been asked that question before attending the fish cookery course in Clodagh McKenna’s cookery school last month, I would probably have underestimated by a long shot.
While I was there, I managed several helpings of gorgeous Thai fish curry, sneaky pieces of fabulous Irish crab from the crab cakes, a glorious pesto-crusted fillet of sole, a more-ish pile of clam-filled spaghetti vongole, not to mention the fact that we were all sent home with the finished crab cakes, some creamy smoked haddock chowder and mackerel fillets with a lovely beetroot and horseradish relish. I feel full all over again just thinking about it.
Clodagh’s cookery school is located at the Village at Lyons, which (alas for the Francophiles among you) does not refer to Lyons in France, but to the terribly-pretty-all-the-same country estate surroundings of the Lyons Demesne in Co. Kildare, about 20km from the heart of Dublin.
Needless to remark, I was pleased as punch to be invited to attend a course at the cookery school. The fish course seemed, to me, a natural choice – what with Clodagh having both the Fresh from the Sea television series and book of the same name under her belt, it’s safe to say that the lady knows her fish. The course, presented by Clodagh herself, was a pleasure from beginning to end.
We talked about skinning fish, making fish stock and we would have tackled filleting if a somewhat over-eager fish supplier hadn’t done the job for us. Throughout the day, a range of simple, tasty fish dishes made their way from burner to plate to tummy. We also whipped up homemade mayonnaise and tartare sauce, and amassed plenty of practical fishy tips along the way.
Mostly, though, there was charm and enthusiasm, the inspiration to cook fish more often and the desire to cook all of the dishes from the course again. With that in mind, let’s have some more of that pesto-crusted sole, shall we?
Pistachio Pesto Crusted Sole
This dish was the hit of the day – a simple pesto-crusted piece of sole, quickly made and devoured by the attendees at the course, despite having already eaten our way though several other seafood dishes.
Clodagh’s original recipe replaces the pine nuts that you would find in a traditional pesto with pistachio nuts. I, in turn, have replaced the basil with flat leaf parsley (though the basil version gets my vote too). I have also added some lemon zest to the mix, as we all agreed on the day that (like so many fishy creations), it benefitted muchly from a bit of lemony zing.
Clodagh suggests the amount below as being enough for about 4 fillets of fish, though it does really depend on the size of your fillets and how generously you coat them. Perhaps because I like to pile on the pesto, I found that this was enough for something more like 2 medium-sized fillets (say around 150g each). Though the fish is fried here, you could also use this pesto to coat some fish before baking it.
- 50g shelled pistachio nuts, unsalted
- large handful (around 20g) of flat leaf parsley leaves (or substitute basil)
- 0.5 tsp lemon zest
- 50g parmesan cheese, finely grated
- approx. 50-75ml good quality olive oil
- 2-4 fillets of sole (or other white fish, such as whiting)
- lemon wedges to serve (optional)
You’ll also need:
- A mortar and pestle for making the pesto, or you can use a food processor.
- Place the pistachio nuts, parsley or basil and lemon zest together in a mortar and pestle or food processor and grind together. Alternatively chop the ingredients very finely and mix together.
- Stir in the grated parmesan and olive oil, enough to give the consistency of an easily spreadable paste.
- Heat a frying pan over a medium-high heat. Coat the sole with the pesto and fry for around 2 minutes on each side or until the fish is no longer translucent. Serve along with a wedge of lemon and a green salad. This would also be lovely with some steamed baby potatoes (and, yes, I would say that).
- You could certainly add garlic to the mix above, as you would with a classic pesto.
- Serves 2-4, depending on the number of fillets used.