The nice season has arrived, and that means two things for us pale city dwellers here in Turin: 1) we have to deal with occasional random hailstorms that come out of goddamn nowhere and that destroy everything in their path, and 2) we go to the beach at the weekend. Well, Blenderman and I do, because we pressure our friends with camper vans or seaside apartments into taking us. “Chinese Water Torture”, one of them described it. You just keep insisting until the victim breaks. And this particular victim broke and took us to Imperia, which is a lovely place.
Whilst some people are quite content to lie on the beach for hours on end, our victim was having a good time with a fishing rod he’d brought with him. I’ve always been told that fishing is not so much about catching and more about fishing, which was especially true in our case, because they weren’t necessarily biting. We were zen as fuck about it, until these two pensioners showed up and started pulling out fish as if it were their job. It was incredible, they caught fish after fish, like this guy was the fucking Fish Whisperer or something. Thankfully, though, they were pretty nice pensioners, and they were totally prepared to reveal some of the secrets of the trade and share some of their bait. My friend caught two fish, too, which we imagined we’d leave with the pensioners, seeing that they were barely enough for us to make a dinner out of. The lady of the pair had other plans, though.
“Here, you lovely youngsters, you can take the catch of the day if you want. We’ve been eating fish for three days now, we’re kinda done with it to be honest.” We ceremoniously declined three times before finally accepting the fat bag full of fish. I was ecstatic. Finally I was going to be a real fisherwoman, in touch with nature, cleaning our own fish that, admittedly, we hadn’t caught ourselves (bar those two I mentioned) but that we totally witnessed being caught in real time! Plus, fish doesn’t get much fresher than this, right?
Cleaning fish turned out a bit like the hazelnuts from a few weeks ago. Although it was fun as a new experience, cleaning fish gets old really fast, especially because we didn’t have any proper knives or even some scissors, so we were stuck with a bunch of incomestible back fins. Plus, as it turns out, fish are full of shit. Literally. You pull out their intestines that are still full of the delicious plankton they’ve been digesting, instantly filling your kitchen (and in our case, the entire apartment) with a distinct smell of fish shit. The fish were mostly on the small size, so after we’d cleaned and gutted, floured and fried them all, we had to painstakingly scrape out the fish meat, trying to avoid fins and bones and other such nuisances. Plus, I learned an important lesson: fish fins are actually quite sharp, and out of pure spite over you catching and killing them, the dead fish bodies will do anything that is in their power to slice open your unsuspecting fingers. Additionally, the scales are so fine that they won’t come off with soap, and I kept discovering previously unnoticed scales on my fingers the following day. Ew.
You live, you learn. Next time, we’ll leave the fish to the pensioners and we’ll get a couple of seabass at the market. I suggest you do the same. If not, here’s some ideas on how to prepare your super fresh catch of the day. Because despite everything, it really was sort of fun. In a way.
So, a bunch of fried fish. But first, check out my awesome fish.
Some pretty funky creatures right there, aren’t they?
But now, for some actual cooking! A bunch of fried fish, straight from the sea, or from the market if you prefer.
For three people, use either:
- whatever the catch of the day happened to be,
- OR a pound and a half of little fish you got from the market
- OR 1 whole sea bass per person, push the boat out, why not
- some flour, for flouring
- enough oil, for frying
- a couple of lemons for condimenting
- some salt, for sprinkling
If you’re getting your fish at the market, get your fishmonger to clean it for you and skip this next part! If not: rinse your fish under the running tap to take off the seawater. In order to clean and gut your tiny fish, you start by slicing off the entire head. If it’s a large one, make a deep cut just behind the gills and rip those out carefully.
Now turn the fish around so its belly is exposed. You will see a tiny wee hole around the middle: stick your knife in there and slice it open all the way to the front. Now you can gut it – use a little spoon if you need to, and scoop out all of the smelly organs.
Now you’re ready to clean the outside: from the tail end to the front, scrape off the scales using a spoon or the blunt side of a knife. If you’ve got a sharp knife or a pair of scissors, get rid of all of the fins – the side ones are easy, but the back fin can be quite stubborn.
After you’ve gutted and cleaned your fish, rinse them off under the tap again, then dry them with some paper towels.
Now you are ready to start frying. Put some flour on a plate and coat your fish with a layer of flour. If your fish are really tiny, you can just fry them like that. The fatter ones you might want to cut and fold open all the way, so that they cook a bit quicker. Also, this helps with bones: the tiny ones you can eat no problem, the bigger ones maybe not as much.
Fry the hell out of the fish, put them on some paper towel to get rid of the worst of the grease, then painstakingly scrape away the fish meat with a fork or go die-hard and eat the whole thing. Don’t forget the lemon juice!