Pollack with a curried mussel sauce

Fish is good for us. We know this because people on TV say that it is. It’s also quick and easy to cook. Again, that’s TV science-fact. But for all the persuasive qualities of the many, many cookery shows around, I’m pretty certain most of us avoid eating fish at home. At best I suspect people just over-cook a bit of salmon and have that with a salad, or some basic vegetables. I’d say shame on you, but, to date, I’ve not been a particularly prolific or varied pescachef either.

However I am buying and cooking fish more often these days. And this recipe is something I cooked a while ago that I’ll certainly be doing again. Easy and tasty: curry spices + cream + fish = win.

I would say “do give it a go – it’s a meal that works just as well for a cosy evening in, as it does as a deceptively flashy dinner party dish (because you can do most of it in advance)“, but I know full well that you’re going to ignore me and stick to spag bol, microwave curries and those supermarket own brand 2 packets for £4.50 tortellini. Tsk.

Fried pollack with a curried mussel sauce

Serves 4

  • 1 large shallot, finely diced
  • 1 red chilli, finely diced
  • About 24-30 washed and debearded mussels
  • 75ml white wine
  • 1 carrot, sliced into very thin strips (about 5cm long, 2-3mm wide)
  • 1 leek, thinly sliced
  • 1 courgette (as per the carrots)
  • 1 turnip (as per the carrots)
  • 100ml double cream
  • 1 tspn ground cumin
  • 1/2 tspn turmeric
  • 1/2 tspn ground coriander
  • 1/2 tspn ground ginger
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 pollack steaks, between 120-150g each, skin on
  • Tbspn plain flour
  • Vegetable oil
  • Half a lemon
  • Chopped coriander or coriander cress to garnish

Over a medium flame, heat a bit of butter in a large saucepan and sweat the shallots and half the diced chilli for a few minutes without colouring them. Add the mussels and the wine and cover the pan with a lid or some foil. Check the pan after about 3 minutes and remove from the heat when the mussels are open. Pick the mussels from their shells (save for 8 of them) and set aside. Keep the juices left in the saucepan.

Melt some more butter in a separate pan and sweat the sliced vegetables, again without colour, until they soften. 4 or 5 minutes should do it.

Put the mussel juice back on the heat and reduce by a third. Add the cream, curry spices and, again, reduce by a third. Taste. Season with a touch of salt and pepper. If you were being all fancy you’d pass the sauce through a fine sieve at this point. You would also put on a French accent and call the mussel sauce a “mouclade“. Up to you.

Lightly flour the skin side of the pollack, pat off any excess and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat a little vegetable oil in a frying pan over a medium to high flame and, once the oil is hot, place the pollack in the pan, skin side down. Drop the mussels and vegetables in to the curried sauce and keep this ticking over on very low heat whilst the pollack is cooking. Watch the sides of the pollack – when it’s cooked two thirds up the height of the fish (timing depends on the thickness of the fish), carefully turn each piece over and remove the pan from the heat. Let the fish sit in the pan for 2 more minutes.

Squeeze the lemon over the pollack. Spoon the vegetable strips and mussels into the middle of a bowl, place the pollack on top, nice and crispy skin side up, along with 2 mussels in their shell per dish. Spoon loads of creamy sauce over the top and garnish with a sprinkle of coriander and the remaining chilli. Have some little new potatoes on the side (Jersey Royals and Anya are great right now). Nice.