Hunger Management

Crisp fried fish in a soft flour wrap spells summer

The other day I looked out the window and the brilliant blue sky nearly took my breath away.

For a cubicle serf who spends more time indoors than out, it was quite a sight. Usually, when I do look out, the sky is a watery blue, or grey and hazy.

Some days, however, we are getting that intense sort of blue I associate with summer days in California; driving along the winding coast and stopping for a bite by the beach.

I think immediately of fish tacos, delicious summer food that is right up there with barbecue and lobster rolls.

A battered and deep-fried piece of fish in a soft, warm tortilla, shredded cabbage, maybe some sliced avocado, and salsa; everything comes together perfectly in one neat package.

The only problem is that it is usually too hot here to deep fry anything and the thought of cleaning up the kitchen post frying gives me the shivers.

Of course, you can grill the fish, but I like a crunchy casing.

So I coat the fish before cooking it in the oven. With a couple of tricks, it emerges crisp and crunchy but moist inside. It is an easy, three-step process: Dip the fish in flour, then beaten egg and, finally, cover it with toasted panko crumbs.

Because the fish is in the oven for only about 15 minutes, the crumbs will not get much colour. Toasting them dry in a frying pan before using it to coat the fish ensures great colour and a good crunch.

Use firm, white fish. Look in the frozen section of supermarkets for hake, haddock, halibut or generic white fish loins.

Red snapper or tilapia are other alternatives, but these fillets are thinner and will cook a lot more quickly. Slice them crosswise on the diagonal to get log-shaped pieces.

I use black cod, especially if I can get two pieces from the centre part of the filet. They yield thick, even logs which remain moist when cooked. Ask the fishmonger at the wet market or supermarket to remove the skin.

To go with the fish, I have three simple accompaniments: crunchy cabbage, sour cream and pineapple salsa.

Truth be told, the tacos are perfectly good with just the sour cream and cabbage, but I love the sweetness and mild heat of the salsa.

Supermarkets stock skinned pineapples and you will need about half for the recipe. Or double the recipe and scoop out the rest with tortilla chips.

Lime juice is what brings the salsa together and I use large seedless limes from supermarkets. I never use citrus without thinking of something to do with the zest. It seems such a waste to use only the juice, leaving the most intensely flavoured part of the fruit behind.

So for this recipe, the juice goes into the salsa and sour cream and, for good measure, all the lime zest gets stirred into the sour cream, making it so vibrant. You'll know what I mean when you bite into the taco.

Although the dish is called a fish taco, the classic wrap is a soft, flour tortilla. The choices are quite wide these days and you can even find wholemeal ones.

They just need to be wrapped entirely in foil and warmed up in the oven while the fish cooks, or piled in a bamboo basket and steamed until pliable, about 10 minutes.

The best way to serve these tacos is to set everything out in platters and bowls on the dining table and for people to make their own.

If you can stand it, sit outdoors under the blue, blue sky. There is no telling how long it will last.

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