My first experiences eating fish as a child were dining on the delicate white fleshed fish of flathead, bream and blackfish – all expertly filleted, skinned and deboned by either my grandfather or my dad to ensure the fish was just how us kids liked it – skinless and bone free.
It was always served with big wads of fresh white bread and butter which Dad continuously reminded us to chew on and swallow to help dislodge any bones stuck in our throat!! (i am surprised we enjoyed fish at all with this warning bandied about every time we took a bite) But, we survived with our gullets intact and our windpipes clear.
In fact the first fish i ever landed myself was the above mentioned ugly little fella – a big flathead.
Here I am, on family holidays on the Australian NSW North Coast hamlet of Crescent Head with my first catch.
Now viewing this photo today as an adult some 25 years on, a couple of things stick me as disturbing
1. This photo was taken outside the caravan. I caught the fish up the creek – a fair walk away. I must of dragged that poor poor fish all the way back to the van OR Dad rehooked it for the photo opportunity ( both equally disturbing and distressing – not something I condone). Today’s fish caught by a young children thankfully live in the era of iPhones so this form of torture can remain unique to the 1980’s.
2. I have no sun protection at all – shock horror!
3. My hair style has not changed a great deal – maybe its time for an update.
But this is the type of fish I grew up eating and for kids, I think it is one of the most perfect fish to eat. Its moist, it does not taste ‘fishy’ and is easy to chew.
In the past, I have usually crumbed the flathead fillets and pan fried them or given it a simple dusting with flour and pan fried them in butter. Of course it must be served with salad, hot chips and you bet ya – a big wad of fresh white bread and butter (scarred for life I am, but I do stop myself from parroting dad’s warning to my kids – even though I am screaming it in my head!)
But this new recipe I discovered is quickly becoming my new favourite way off cooking flathead. It is so incredibly easy, takes ONE baking tray to cook and requires no effort after all the ingredients are assembled on the baking tray.
It comes out of a Greek cookbook called a la grecque – our greek table by Pam Talimanidis (another cookbook snuck out of mum’s bookshelf). The recipes in this book continue to shock and astound me with the minimal number of ingredients yet the massive yumminess of flavour they impart.
For this recipe, you will need 4 skinned and boned flathead fillets
Chop an onion and some potatoes into rough wedges and layer onto a baking tray with the onions underneath the potatoes.
This is going to form your ‘chips’ and the onion imparts such a glorious caramelised savoury flavour that coats the chips.
Drizzle generously with olive oil – don’t be shy with it – then add some thinly sliced garlic and cherry tomatoes. Drizzle with more oil, give a good sprinkle of salt and pepper and into the oven it goes for 45 minutes.
At this time, your life is yours to do with as you please. However, if the children are getting the afternoon cranky pants on, pretend you are busy in the kitchen and leave them for someone else to deal with.
I do not even toss the potatoes as they cook. With the generous smothering of olive oil and the tomatoes that break down and release their juices, it seems to half bake and half simmer in yummy moist juices. It makes it more interesting to have crunchy golden bits and moist floury potatoes bits all fighting for your attention.
After 45 minutes, remove and place the fish on top of the potatoes, tucking them snugly in.
Drizzle with more oil (yes more!) and sprinkle with more salt and pepper. Back to the oven it goes for another 20 minutes until the fish is flakey and moist.
You’re done! I just scatter it with parsley and feta cheese and you can pick it right of the tray if you like.
If you want to be more refined or if the kids want to unceremoniously discard the parsley just dish it up onto plates
Here is the big souls serve
And here is the little souls serve
So, the all important verdict,
Miss 18 month was good with this meal. Of course she did not eat the tomatoes (no surprises there) but she ate all her fish and potatoes (and there were no tears or fuss)
Master 5 years loved the tomatoes and fish but was not so keen on the potatoes. This is usual for him – the only child I know who is not so keen on hot chips unless Ronald Macdonald cooks them.
Oh, and his backhanded compliment? –
“This is yum!…..you know who makes the best fish and chips mum?”
“Who” I ask, excited that it just might be me.
“The Club – they do the BEST fish and chips” …..
Oh well, can not win them all.
Oven-baked flathead with potatoes, tomato and onion
4 large or 8 medium flathead fillets
2 onions, sliced
4 large baking potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
Punnet of cherry tomatoes or 3 large tomatoes chopped
125ml extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup flat leaved parsley
Pre heat oven to 200 degree Celsius . Lightly oil a baking tray with a little olive oil.
Layer the onions on the bottom of the baking tray. Arrange the potatoes on top and scatter the garlic over the top.
Place the tomatoes on top of this and drizzle with half the oil. Season well with salt and pepper and place in the oven for 45 – 50 minutes until the potatoes are starting to crisp up around the edges.
Season the fish fillets lightly with salt and pepper . Tuck the fish in among the vegetables. Drizzle with the rest of the oil. Return to the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until the fish is just cooked through.
Remove from the oven and scatter with parsley and feta cheese.