In his recently published cookbook Take One FIsh, Josh Niland aims to give home cooks more confidence in cooking with fish. He covers tips on selecting, preparing and cooking with fish before sharing a wide range of recipes for many different kinds of fish. At the back of the book are several basics such as this Brown Fish Stock, used in several of the recipes throughout the book, including the John Dory Tagine.
Our reviewer Nicky describes it as ‘a softly nutty, delicate and fragrant basic‘ and she’s made extra to store in her freezer for future use. Find out more about the book in our full review of Take One Fish by Josh Niland.
Brown Fish Stock
To produce a great brown fish stock, try to work with the same species of fish rather than a mixture. It’s important not to wash your fish bones; soaking a fish frame in water to ‘purge off the blood’ or wash away impurities is backward logic as it only dilutes the qualities of the fish frame. Frames that have been allowed to dry slightly in the fridge overnight will take on colour better and give you greater flavour, as well as being less likely to stick to the pan, so try to take this step where possible.
The ingredients list should only be viewed as a rough guide; the main thing is to follow the proportions indicated by the percentage points. The stocks I make are derived from whatever ingredients I have to hand, so feel free to scale it up or down and substitute flavours as you like. That said, it is important to note that a stock should not be seen as a compost bin that you can throw any scrap into. Be considerate with the quality of ingredients you use as this will be the difference between a good stock and an amazing one.
- ghee or neutral-flavoured oil, for pan-frying
- fish frame pieces (85%)
- evenly chopped vegetables, such as onion, garlic, leek, fennel and celery (10%)
- hard herbs (thyme, rosemary) and toasted savoury aromatics (star anise, fennel seeds, coriander seeds) (up to 5%, depending on the requirements of the stock)
Heat enough ghee or oil in a wide, heavy-based saucepan or stockpot over a high heat to a light haze. Carefully distribute the fish frame pieces around the base, taking care not to overlap them or overcrowd the pan. (Work in batches if necessary.) Cook for about 5 minutes until browned, then remove and set aside.
Keeping the heat high, add the vegetables and coat well with the fish fat and caramelised scratchings from the base of the pan. Cook for 5–6 minutes, then remove the vegetables and reserve, and discard any oil from the pan. Return the fish frames to the pan, then pour in enough cold water to just cover the ingredients.
Cook over a medium–high heat, without skimming the surface, for 15–20 minutes. Return the par-cooked vegetables to the pan, along with any aromatics you are using, and cook for a further 10 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by half and developed a beautiful tan colour.
This lack of skimming may go against the grain, but the impurities that rise to the surface have a lot of flavour and I prefer a richer, more viscous stock to one with less intensity. Adding the vegetables and aromatics to the stock in the later stages of cooking results in a cleaner profile, allowing the individual ingredients to be articulated rather than tasting one-dimensional.
Pass through a fine mesh sieve, discarding the solids. This stock is now ready to be used as a base for making sauces. Store the strained stock in airtight containers in the fridge for up to 4 days or freeze in portions for up to 2 months.
This stock is a great one to make in bulk (to the extent you can) and freeze in portions for future use, as shown here.
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Kavey Eats received a review copy of Take One Fish by Josh Niland from publisher Hardie Grant. Book photography by Rob Palmer. Kavey Eats photography by Nicky Bramley.