Fish Easy

Mitch Tonks runs RockFish Grill & Seafood Market in Clifton, Bristol. He is an award-winning chef, restaurateur and food writer and has two other seafood restaurants in Dartmouth.

Pavilion, £19.99 Photography by Chris Terry

Over 100 Simple 30-minute Seafood Recipes

Food glorious food–or I probably should say–seafood glorious seafood. I really can never get enough of it. We are so very lucky to live on an Island surrounded by water and one of the last really wild foods available for us to enjoy. The South Coast fisheries remain well managed and plentiful of many species, most of which you will find on our counter and on our menu at RockFish. I love being in the kitchen and I love being in the dining room too.

I’m often asked what I do to relax and I’m happy to report that cooking for friends and family comes top of that list, fishing and being on a boat a pretty close second. So writing a new recipe book has been anything but a hardship or challenge. This book is all about recipes inspired by my travels, but ones that we love to eat at home as a family and with friends. They are all nice and easy with ingredients that are regularly available – it’s designed to be a book that anyone can cook from.

The greatest pleasure when writing the book is going through my notebooks where I scribble down my ideas when I’m travelling and eating out. Where I can decipher my writing I can recreate in my own way some of my most wonderful eating experiences. And I can really truthfully say the best ones are the simplest. Buy your fish on the day you are going to eat it if you can, use fresh lemons not ones that have been sitting around, use freshly picked herbs if you can – these things make all the difference. I hope you enjoy trying out something new.

Happy cooking – Mitch Tonks

mixed grill of seafood

It doesn’t get much simpler than this, but the right choice of seafood can ensure that it will be heavenly. If you can, cook the seafood over a fire, but a grill plate will also give you great results. I dress the fish with a little olive oil seasoned with salt and mixed with parsley. My favourite selection of fish is below, but use the best of what you can buy at the fish counter.

Serves 2

  • 1 live lobster, about 600g/1lb 5oz
  • 1 medium squid (calamari), cleaned and prepared
  • 1 John dory (or tilapia), about 350g / 12oz, scaled, gutted, fins and tail trimmed and deheaded
  • A couple of slices of monkfish, cut across the tail through the bone, leaving the bone in
  • A few raw prawns with the shell on
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1–2 tbsp herb mixture for grilling
  • A handful of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped to garnish
  • Lemon wedges and your choice of dressing (see introduction) to serve


  1. Place the lobster on a chopping board. Insert a large, sharp, heavy knife into the cross on the back of the head and cut down towards the tail, cutting it in half. Remove the stomach and the black intestinal tract (if there is one) that may run through the middle of the tail and discard.
  2. Slice the squid from top to bottom, then open it out and make diagonal cuts across it, first one way and then the other, making sure the depth of the cut is halfway through the thickness.
  3. Preheat the barbecue, or the grill (broiler), to hot. (If barbecuing, ensure the flames have died down and the coals are glowing and covered with white ash before cooking.) Brush all the prepared fish and shellfish with olive oil, season and sprinkle with the grill mixture.
  4. Gently grill the squid, cut side down over the hot coals, or cut side up under the grill (the squid will curl up on itself) until golden and evenly charred on the knobbly bits – about five minutes. Gently grill the lobster, flesh side down over the hot coals, or flesh side up under the grill, for five minutes, then turn it over and cook for a further 4–5 minutes – it should be nicely scorched and grilled.
  5. Meanwhile, put the monkfish and John dory on or under the grill and cook until nicely charred – about four minutes on each side. Grill the prawns for 4–5 minutes until pink. Place all the fish on a big platter, sprinkle with parsley and sea salt and serve with a few lemon wedges and your choice of dressing. One of my favourite meals of all time!

Baked spaghetti and clams

Serves 1

Pasta cooked this way is delicious, as it really soaks up all the juices. Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/gas mark 7. half-cook 75g/21⁄2 oz spaghetti and toss with 20 clams (discard any whose shells are broken or open and fail to close when tapped sharply). 1 crumbled dried chilli (chile), 2 garlic cloves and 1 tbsp finely-chopped, fresh, flat- leaf parsley. Place them on parchment and foil and seal securely. Place on a baking tray and cook for 8–10 minutes.

Open the parcels and discard any clams that remain closed. Serve with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of finely- chopped fresh parsley. This also works well with a few skinned tomatoes and some whole roasted garlic cloves thrown in.

Sardine fritters with caper mayonnaise

Serves 4

  1. 2 large eggs, separated
  2. 200g/7oz/1 cup plain (all-purpose) flour
  3. Sea salt and freshly- ground black pepper
  4. Vegetable oil for deep-frying
  5. 8 sardines, scaled, filleted and pinboned (tails left on)
  6. 75g/21⁄2 oz/1⁄2 cup salted capers, drained and roughly chopped
  7. 200ml/7fl oz/scant 1 cup mayonnaise Lemon wedges to serve


  1. Make the batter 1 hour before cooking. Beat the egg yolks and mix with the flour and salt to taste and enough water to make a thick batter (about the consistency of double/heavy cream). Season well with black pepper.
  2. Whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form, then fold into the batter. half fill a deep-fat fryer with vegetable oil and heat to 190oC/375oF, or until a cube of bread browns in 30 seconds.
  3. Dry each sardine fillet well, then dip in the batter. Fry until puffed and crisp – 3–4 minutes. Add the capers to the mayonnaise and serve alongside the fritters, with lemon wedges.

Dartmouth salad

We have so much mackerel in the summer and I am always looking for new ways of using it. I really like the salads from nice and, with the exception of the olives, we have all the same ingredients locally, so this is our dartmouth salad!

Serves 4

  • 4 small mackerel, gutted, heads and tails removed
  • Splash of white wine vinegar
  • Sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper 1 bay leaf
  • 100g/31⁄2 oz green beans, trimmed (I like to use fine runner beans too, but I leave them raw if they are young)
  • 1 lettuce heart, leaves separated
  • 3 very ripe tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 spring onions (scallions), finely sliced
  • 2 small raw artichokes, outer leaves, stem and choke removed and flesh sliced
  • 4 or 5 radishes, finely sliced
  • 6 basil leaves
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered A handful of small black olives

For the dressing

  • 3 tbsp good white wine vinegar
  • 9 tbsp good olive oil
  • 6 salted anchovy fillets, ground to a paste


  1. Place the mackerel in a pan with water to cover, the vinegar, a pinch of salt and the bay leaf. Bring to the boil then take off the heat and leave to cool. Remove the mackerel from the water and flake the fish off the bone into chunks, making sure there are no bones. Blanch the green beans.
  2. To make the dressing, mix the vinegar with the oil and anchovies in a bowl and season well with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper.
  3. Line a bowl with the crisp lettuce leaves, arrange the tomatoes around the edge, then fill the centre with the beans, onions, artichokes, radishes, mackerel and basil. Scatter the eggs and olives over, then dress and toss the salad at the table when everyone is sitting down.

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