Fish and tips on how to cook catch of the day

FISH is on everyone's mind at the moment.

Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall has launched his "Fish Fight" to campaign for more environmetnally friendly ways of catching the fish we eat.

He has also joined forces with other chefs to encourage people to eat lesser-known types of fish.

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. As well as offering up a bucketful of delicious looking recipes, Tonks delivers some basic cooking tips, wisdom about buying seafood 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, gurnard, whiting, cuttlefish or plaice."

STEW OF COLEY, ROASTED PEPPERS AND SMALL MULLET

Serves 2

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, Crusty bread to serve

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 mins until blackened. Remove and place in a plastic bag, then seal the top and leave to cool for a few hours. When 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. It doesn't matter if the mullet fillets break up, this is what you want.

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 and serve with crusty bread.

SEAFOOD STEW

Serves 2

4tbsp olive oil, 1 shallot, finely chopped, 2 garlic cloves, chopped, 2 tomatoes, roasted, Pinch of saffron strands, 3-4 fresh thyme sprigs, Splash of Pernod, 200ml/1 cup white wine, Selection of fish (see recipe), 200ml fish stock, sea salt, fresh parsley or basil, chopped, for sprinkling Fresh bread to serve

When it comes to choosing your fish and seafood, ask your fishmonger what's in season. You need enough to fill a large pan fitted tightly into a single layer. Mussels, skate, hake, gurnard and pollack all work well.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan, add the shallot and garlic and sweat gently until softened. Add the tomatoes, saffron and thyme sprigs and stir together.

Pour in the Pernod and tip the pan away from you, allowing the liquid it to catch alight. Pour in the wine and simmer gently for two minutes.

Add your chosen fish and enough fish stock to just cover,

then leave to simmer for up to 10 minutes. Remove the thyme and season with salt. Sprinkle over the chopped herbs and serve with plenty of bread.

GRILLED MEGRIM WITH GARLIC, PARSLEY AND MINT BUTTER

Serves 2

50g/4tbsp butter, 2 megrim, about 500g each (ask fishmonger to trim the fins, scale the fish and remove the heads), sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped, small handful of fresh parsley, small handful of fresh mint, squeeze of lemon

Preheat the grill to high.

Melt half the butter in a pan large enough to hold the fish and suitable for cooking under the grill. Add the fish, white side down, to the pan and cook gently for four to five minutes. Baste the fish with the butter then place the pan under the hot grill for five to six minutes until the thicker top side is starting to crisp and bubble.

If you don't have a suitable pan, carefully transfer the fish to a roasting pan and cook under the grill. Season the fish with salt and pepper and place in a serving dish.

Add the remaining butter to the pan and heat. When the butter is foaming, add the garlic and fry for one minute or until it's just turning golden.

Add the parsley and mint and finish with a squeeze of lemon, then spoon over the fish and serve.

Boiled potatoes sprinkled with just a little parsley are a perfect accompaniment and can mop up some of the wonderful garlicky butter on the plate.

FISH-BUYING TIPS

Check herring, mackerel and sardines are vibrant in colour.The scales should all be intact.

The eyes should be bright, clear and convex. Sunken, cloudy eyes belong to fish a few days the wrong side of fresh.

Have a look under the gills. They should be bright red.

Smell your fish! Fresh fish smells of the seaside and old fish smells like fish.

Fresh flatfish should be covered in healthy slime.

To order a copy of Fish by Mitch Tonks (Pavilion 20) from the Yorkshire Post Bookshop, call free on 0800 0153232 or go online at www.yorkshirepostbookshop.co.uk. Postage and packing is 2.40.