Man in the kitchen: Carpe diem: a fishy tale
I have always loved fish. For my family, Friday was fried fish night, a legacy of my grandmother’s Sephardi tradition which was passed down to my dad. Not only did we have fried fish on Friday nights but we tended to have stories of the sea told with dinner. My dad was a Navy pilot in the Second World War and he never seemed to run out of tales of his exploits on the seven seas.
While I have often had pangs of conscience about eating meat, this never happens with fish. When I took the kids to the London Aquarium my only thought as I saw cod, mackerel and sole swimming around the tank was how tasty they would be fried in a little egg and matzah meal.
This passion for fish has not transferred to my children, which is a great shame because I constantly read about the health benefits of fish.
My attempts to get them to eat fish have been disastrous. As a toddler, my daughter Lucy had a habit of launching unwanted items of food over the edge of the high chair. My delicious fish risotto lasted less than 10 seconds on her plate before it mysteriously found its way onto the floor. “Whoops, sorry,” said Lucy, brazenly.
And when we were on holiday in Kent I suggested a visit to the fish market at Whitstable. My son Alex was so grossed out by the smell (which wasn’t even that bad) that he made me promise never to go there again.
I have tried fish goujons, grilled fish, kippers, pickled herring — they have all been rejected by the children. Then one day Lucy revealed that she had been served salmon made by my ex-wife, whose many talents do not include cooking, as she would be the first to admit.
“How did she cook it? I asked. “Badly,” replied Lucy. “Did you eat any?” “Yes, but only because I was really hungry.”
Then I hatched a plan. Both children love meat cooked with barbecue marinades — so how about salmon? Excitedly, I seasoned some salmon fillets, dusted them with Chinese five spice powder, made some indentations in the flesh and rubbed in lots of barbecue sauce. I cooked them under a hot grill for about five minutes each side and served them with a side order of trepidation.
So how’s the salmon, I asked nonchalantly. “Er, it’s OK,” said Lucy.
“Yes, not too bad,” added Alex.
I now know how chefs feel when awarded their first Michelin star.