Whiting with a saffron tomato sauce

February 8, 2010

I was back at my new favourite fish stall, Devon Fish, at Borough Market on Saturday. What I like about the produce there is that it’s complete pot luck as to what you’re going to find. Which, when you think about it, is as it should be, if you want locally caught fish. I’m a bit suspicious when I go to a fish shop and see almost every fish that exists on the planet out on display. I begin to wonder just how far it came and how long ago it was caught.

Anyway, this week’s goodies at Devon Fish included some lovely shiny big whiting. Cheap, fresh and local – what more could you want? When I got it home and looked it up in Sophie Grigson and William Black’s cookery book, Fish, I was amused to see it described as, “old bespectacled fish that sit under woolly shawls… being the archetypal invalid food, together with warm tea and Rich Tea biscuits.”

Yes, whiting may be a very mild, soft, white-fleshed fish, but to me that just makes it eminently suitable for eating with nice strong flavours. In the same book, I found a recipe for a fish stew, the elements of which I already had in my cupboards. And that was as far as I followed the recipe, instead making a very quick, simple sauce in which to poach the fish.

Into a deep frying pan with a lid went half a tin of tomatoes, a pinch of saffron that had been steeped for a few minutes in hot water, about a teaspoon of crushed cumin seeds, a sprig of thyme, a chopped clove of garlic, and some salt and pepper. I simmered this for a few minutes, until the garlic was soft, then added the fish.

A fish like whiting would cook very well whole in a sauce like this, but I sliced it into what I guess are technically called steaks. Whiting has a nice thick spine, with relatively few bones, so it is very easy to pull off the meat once cooked. And thanks to the smallish chunks, it only took about 5 minutes of simmering in the tomato sauce to cook it through.

On the side I had some Savoy cabbage, which I’d actually bought the week before but hadn’t had a chance to use yet. I braised it in some olive oil, adding a few crushed fennel seeds and a little salt and pepper.

The result was a flavourful, substantial fish supper, made in a matter of minutes.

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2 Responses to “Whiting with a saffron tomato sauce”

  1. Christina Says:

    Sounds Yummy! I’m allergic to fresh fish, but would love to be able to eat it. That’s always the way though. I wanted to tell you about a dish I found in a recipe book that’s so easy but so tasty. You take a zuchinni (courgette)and slice it in half, put shredded cheese (I used sharp cheddar) on top and then take a pat of butter, split it in half and put it on each piece (one pat per piece), butter a baking dish, bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes and eat up. It was absolutely yummy and the best part is it’s a single girls best friend because you can make as little or as much as you’d like. You should try it.


  2. What a shame you’re allergic to fish. But thanks for your courgette recipe – it does sound delicious. There really is something about melted cheese, isn’t there? Coincidentally, I’m making a gratin of sorts tonight to take to my friend Nicky’s for dinner. Come back tomorrow to see the results.


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