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Two light fish dishes to enjoy on longer, brighter evenings

Mark Moriarty: These salmon and monkfish recipes are easy enough to put together despite having restaurant look and feel

As the evenings get longer and the temperature gauge slowly rises, it really feels like summer is around the corner. Better weather calls for lighter cooking, and expect more of it here in the coming weeks. As promised, I’m trying to include more simple fish recipes here. Both recipes this week are designed to be cooked in less than 30 minutes. While they have a little bit of restaurant look and feel, you’ll be surprised how easy they are to put together, without compromising on flavour.

First up is salmon, an ingredient that was the top of the seafood mountain in its heyday. These days wild salmon is virtually impossible to source, apart from a few small suppliers at specific times of the year. A ban on drift-net fishing in Irish waters came into effect in 2006 in a bid to protect stocks, but the impact wasn’t as widely felt as was hoped. Along with bycatching, water temperature changes, pollution and abundance of predatory species, the stocks are fragile and will require vision and leadership to protect them.

In Ireland, the bastion of salmon knowledge lies with Sally Barnes of Woodcock smokery in west Cork. She has been documenting the traditions of salmon sourcing and preparation for years, passing the knowledge on to the next generation of younger chefs such as me. These traditions are extremely valuable and I would recommend anyone with an interest in Irish seafood to look her up.

I love eating crispy salmon skin, even if it is not for everyone

For this recipe, I have sourced the best salmon I could find and served it with a light dressing called sauce vierge, which is the perfect companion for any good quality fish. At its heart, it involves diced ripe tomatoes, capers, good-quality olive oil and herbs. A good dash of lemon is essential. I usually make it in bulk and add it to my midweek meals. Cooking the salmon slowly on the skin side will avoid it curling and result in a crackling like texture. I love eating crispy salmon skin, even if it is not for everyone. This is a beautiful light dinner, with a glass of chilled white wine.


Next up is monkfish, a more sustainable species that has a meaty texture and great flavour. Without wishing to cause offence, it is an ugly fish, so much so that it was traditionally barrel-aged and used as bait for lobster pots, simply because it didn’t look good. Now you will struggle to find it for less than €20 a kilo, the rags to riches story of the sea.

I serve it with a simple fricassee (or fresh stew) of frozen peas and bacon lardons. Feel free to add some boiled potatoes to the mix as well. By brushing the monkfish lightly with honey before browning it in a hot pan, you will get that lovely charred exterior in 10 seconds. After a nice bath in some foaming butter, with a load of sea salt and lemon juice at the end, you will be cooking like a pro.

Recipe: Crispy skinned salmon with sauce vierge

Recipe: Roasted monkfish with fricassee of peas and bacon