Dulwich Hill local Jason Ray has been teaching people to cook and enjoy seafood for almost a decade at Sydney Seafood School.
What is your favourite fish to cook?
I like to cook freshwater trout because it’s such a versatile fish, you can bake, grill, steam, wrap it in newspaper and throw it over some coals, preserve it through smoking and so much more! It has a higher fat content which makes it really flavoursome, nutritious, and difficult to overcook. It looks spectacular served whole and is a good size for one to two people.
What is a useful tip or little-known fact that you find really helps people preparing seafood?
People seem to really struggle to know how to cook fish properly. If you cook it with the skin on over a medium high heat and leave a lid on it the steam will cook the flesh side without drying it out. Insert a skewer through it to see how much cooking is left to go, based on how much the raw flesh resists the skewer.
What are some overlooked seafood alternatives that are cheaper or more sustainable?
Leatherjacket’s a classic tasty and affordable fish, thought it’s becoming more expensive as more people clue onto it! If you’re looking for affordable seafood you can’t go past mussels, they’re also delicious and very sustainable since they’re filter feeders and lower on the food chain than your classic top order predator fish such as tuna and salmon.
How do you prepare sardines so they actually taste nice?
Haha. I like sardines as they are, I think the pungency that people associate with them tends to happen when they’re not as fresh as they should be. At Sydney Seafood School we cook sardines in seasoned flour in olive oil over a high heat and serve them with a punchy salsa verde with loads of garlic and they’re delicious!
What should you look for in a fish shop?
Looking at how the seafood is stored, check that it’s not sitting in a pool of water, make sure the flesh looks firm (the muscle tissue should not be coming apart) and the fish has full, bright eyes. Use your instincts, use your eyes, use your sense of smell!
Who first taught you to cook?
I’ve always loved cooking. I learnt a few things from my grandmother but a lot of the recipes I used in childhood were plucked from simple recipe books from the library. The first thing I ever made was pizza, I used to use pre-made bases each week, then I started playing around with making fresh dough and the fun really began.
What is the strangest thing that has ever happened in one of your cooking classes?
In a class where we teach people how to prepare squid, a fisherman was affronted to hear we got rid of the eyes. In the hands-on section of the class he went around to all of the groups and collected all of the squid eyes to take home with him!
Smoked Trout, caper and new Potato Salad
• 800 g new potatoes, scrubbed
• 2 tbsp crème fraîche
•1 lemon , zest and juice
• 1 red onion, peeled and very finely sliced
• 1 small bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and roughly chopped
• 100g jar capers, drained
• 1 punnet watercress
• 300g lightly smoked trout
1. Place your potatoes in a pan of cold water, bring to the boil and simmer until cooked. Drain and allow to cool.
2. In a bowl, mix the crème fraîche with the lemon zest and juice. Add the potatoes, onion, parsley and capers, then snip your cress into the bowl. Season with salt and pepper and mix well.
3. Divide between four serving bowls and flake the smoked trout over the top.