Summer Fish


fish in beer batter photo Marina Oliphant


It’s the perfect time of year to enjoy these simple summer fish recipes. Local mussels are tasty and inexpensive and make the classic French Mussels Mariniere in next to no time. Their sweet and salty briny juices are released as the shells open, with flavours reminiscent of the sea, whether you are holidaying there or not. Remember to file this recipe away, as it’s also good any time of the year.

Spaghetti Marinara is another classic worthy of a revamp. Originally a simple tomato based pasta sauce eaten by Italian sailors, we are more used to it with the addition of a variety of seafood. Use whatever fish is fresh and remember not to overcook it. Gentle poaching until the fish has just changed colour and is opaque will ensure that it is moist and tender. Remember that the heat from the sauce and the pan will continue to cook it, so allow for this. Also, when using a variety of seafood, cooking times will differ, so have everything cut into similar sizes and add the more delicate fish at the end.

And of course everyone really should have a good beer batter recipe. I like it with small flathead fillets. If you can only get large fillets, cut them into smaller pieces. This will also work with other white fish fillets, even prawns. The perfect accompaniment is a homemade tartare sauce. And, possibly, the remaining beer.



flathead in beer batter with homemade tartare


Make this batter to order, as it’s best fresh. Use a full flavoured ale, well chilled from the fridge. The perfect accompaniment is homemade tartare (and perhaps any leftover beer).



1 egg

½ cup plain flour

1 tbsp melted butter

½ cup beer

tartare sauce:

1 cup good quality mayonnaise

2 tbsp chopped gherkins

2 tbsp baby capers

zest 1 lemon

2 tbsp chopped parsley

1tbsp chopped chives


600g small flathead fillets

250ml vegetable oil for frying

lemon wedges to serve


To make the beer batter, in a medium bowl whisk together the egg, flour and butter and slowly add the beer until the batter is smooth and thick. (You may not need to add all the beer). Set aside.

To make the tartare sauce, mix all ingredients together and taste. Adjust seasoning if required.

Place oil in a 22 cm pan over a moderate flame. If your pan is larger, you may need to add more oil to ensure it is about 1cm depth. Test the oil by dropping a little of the batter into the pan; it will sizzle when the oil is hot. Use a fork to dip the fillet into the batter to coat thoroughly, then drain the excess batter back into the bowl. Carefully lay the fish in the pan. Cook a few at a time. Cook for 2 -3 minutes each side until lightly golden. Drain on paper towel. Continue until all the fish are cooked.

Serve with tartare and lemon wedges.


Serves 4.


mussels mariniere


mussels mariniere photo Marina Oliphant


The secret to good mussels is to start with good quality produce and not overcook them. They only take a few minutes and need to be cooked to order, otherwise they can become rubbery.


120g unsalted butter

6 shallots (french eschalots), finely chopped

6 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves

white pepper to season

pinch saffron threads

2 cups dry white wine

½ cup thickened cream (optional)

2 kg black mussels

½ cup chopped parsley

crusty bread to serve


Melt butter in a large pot. Add shallots and cook for a few minutes to soften. Then add garlic, thyme, pepper and saffron. Cook for a few minutes, add white wine and cream. Stir, remove from heat, place lid on and set aside to allow the flavours to develop.

Clean mussels thoroughly and remove beards.

Place mussels in the pot with the sauce, add parsley and cover with lid. Bring to the boil, reduce to  simmer and continue to cook until the mussel shells have opened. Discard any mussels that haven’t opened.

Serve in deep bowls with all the cooking liquid and crusty bread to mop up the juices.


Serves 4.


Spaghetti marinara


spaghetti Marinara photo Marina Oliphant


There are endless versions of this classic dish. No need to buy the premixed marinara though –choose the freshest fish you can get. I like to make the sauce first, with the delicious mussel juices, then lightly cook the seafood until just done. Add the squid at the end for the last 30 seconds, until it is just opaque and it will be so tender.


500g packet artisan spaghetti

1 kg black mussels

2 cloves garlic, smashed plus 2 cloves finely chopped

bay leaf, a few fresh thyme and parsley sprigs

½ cup dry white wine

60 ml olive oil

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

6 roma tomatoes, finely diced

½ cup chopped fresh parsley

8 small raw prawns, cleaned and deveined

4 fresh scallops on the shell (if possible)

500g piece blue eye fillet (or other white fish), cut into small pieces

1 small cleaned squid tube (optional), cut finely on an angle into small pieces

juice and zest 1 lemon

freshly ground black pepper to season.


Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to the boil, add pasta and cook according to packet directions until al dente.

Meanwhile place mussels, 2 cloves smashed garlic, herbs and white wine in a wide frypan with a lid and cook over medium heat until the mussels open and release their liquid.

Remove mussels from pan and set aside. Strain liquid through a fine sieve lined with muslin or clean chux cloth and reserve. Discard solids.

Give the frypan a quick clean and return to the stovetop. Heat oil, add finely chopped garlic and cook for a few minutes to soften. Add chilli, tomatoes, parsley and reserved mussel liquid. Add seafood and cook over medium low heat until translucent and just cooked through. Add the finely sliced squid last, as it will take the least amount of time to cook. Add the mussels back the pan to warm through.

Drain pasta and add to sauce, tossing to combine and coat the pasta strands.

Squeeze over lemon juice and add zest.

Season with ground black pepper.


Serves 4.




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