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Experimental Wednesday #2

October 29, 2010

“At last!” I hear you say. Well, yes; it is finally here! As some of you already know, I had to take some time off since April, so haven’t really had a chance to keep up with writing. Don’t worry, before you ask, I had to take time off for good reasons!

So, with Jim McJim and our lovely ladies, we set about our newest theme: Cheap Catches. Considering our first Experimental Wednesday, it was a sensible choice. It is the world of cheap cuts and catches that creates some of the most inventive – and these days trendy – dishes around. All you need to do is look at somewhere like St John and you can see what amazing things you can do with offal and so-called off cuts. I have yet to eat there, but it is high on my list of must-visits!

This time we were a little more organised; we went to the fish mongers to scope the cheapest produce available and so we could start planning the evening. It is that little bit of preparation that made this Experimental Wednesday that little bit more productive.


  • Coley – a close relation to Pollock
  • Dressed Crab
  • Skate
  • Trout
  • Haddock


We were adamant at the outset to arrive with a much clearer idea of what to do with these fish. The other thing, having never cooked with skate and never even tasted coley, was to compare and contrast the different fish – and that is why we have the less-than cheap haddock in there, as a sort of benchmark.

So the three techniques we decided on were; hot smoked, pan roasted and bear battered fish. We also decided to try a couple of appropriate accompaniments; first off was an earthy beetroot reduction, and the second was a saffron bouillabaisse sauce. The dressed crab became crab cakes with a lime mayonnaise and we used the shell in the sauce. Naturally, when you end up with batter and have just had a stomach full of fish (and you have a large portion of scottish blood in you!) you simply have to deep fry some chocolate. It would have been rude not to!

Results and Conclusion

Coley was the really interesting part of the evening; it’s quite plump and watery. Although it worked brilliantly for deep frying, it was dull and uninspired in the other two tests. I am going to try salting it soon and then perhaps smoking it too, as is done in Germany, apparently.

I have only once had skate that I truly enjoyed. Maybe it’s just me, but I find something weird about the way they’re put together! The meal in question was at a new restaurant that was clearly vying for some stars. It was pan roasted with tempura oysters, crème fraiche and caviar – so it would have been odd had I not enjoyed it.  Unfortunately, our experiments did not produce such fine examples of this fish.

The trout was the overall winner of the night; great smoked and pan roasted – and the bouillabaisse sauce was a real match made in heaven. It wasn’t so bad deep fried, but the line between cooked and dried out at that temperature was too fine for us.

All the recipes, with photos, will get published over the next couple of weeks. I can also reveal that Jim McJim and I are working on the next Experimental Wednesday and I’ll let you know what our theme will be very soon. In the meantime, thanks for reading :)

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