One Fish, Two Fish, Whole Fish, Cooked Fish

Here at Casa Toaldo we love fish and seafood. Nothing excites me more than a bowl of steaming mussels cooked with tomatoes and plenty of heat from chillies or squeezing lemon over freshly peeled prawns. It is also hard to go past a piece of well cooked fish. It is a source of pride for me to cook lovely fish that is neither under done nor dry and horrible. How do you achieve this? I hear you ask. Despair not I will reveal some chef secrets:

1. Have your pan hot – not guns blazing hot but medium to high heat so you can give the fish some nice colour without burning it or cooking it too fast. Place it in the pan on the presentation side – this is the side you can see has come off the skeleton – it is rounder than the flat side where the skin has come off – and allow it to colour lightly and cook half way through, then flip and lower the heat to finish the process

2. Skin on? Not a problem – again pan hot but not too much and a bit of oil in the pan – let it cook and it should come away from the pan easily – don’t be tempted to flip too soon – it will stick and rip

3. Fish cooks quick – make sure everything else is ready – fish is a fast and easy meal so ten minutes max is all that is required – make sure your salad or vegetables are ready to go at the same time

4. Fish can be steamed – steaming fish allows for delicate cooking and flavour infusions – steam on a bed of ginger, garlic, shallots and chilli for a fragrant dinner

5. Parcel it up – wrap fish in foil with butter, lemon juice and herbs and grill for about 8 minutes – it will almost poach in the juices and butter and create a lovely flaky finish

IMOK_fish with stuffing

The fish I chose for our weekend dinner was whole Snapper – there were slim pickings in the seafood section for fillets as a matter of personal preference I look for Australian fresh fish not frozen imports and preferably from sustainable sources – this time a little 1 kg snapper caught my eye – enough for 2-3 and not too big that it is hard to handle – perfect

You could easily fillet the whole fish yourself but for me why bother? Snapper has large bones that are easy to spot when taking the cooked flesh from the frame.

To make it yummy I marinated the fish for about an hour with a mixture of the following:

– lemon juice

– lemon grass paste

– coriander/basil

– chilli

– ginger

– garlic

– salt and pepper

The addition of the lemon juice can start the ‘cooking’ of the flesh due to the acidity – fish marinades usually only require an hour or two due to their delicate flesh as opposed to longer for beef or chicken – don’t use lemon juice if you need to leave it overnight – it will cook the flesh; use lemon rind instead for a citrus kick

IMOK_whole fish

Whizz these together until well combined. To prepare the fish I sliced some lemons and placed them in the cavity so they can steam and add fragrance and moisture to the fish during cooking. I put some baking paper on top of the alfoil before wrapping to ensure the fish didn’t stick to the foil and as extra insulation keeping the juices in whilst cooking

IMOK_fish with marinade

With the fish on the foil wrap, pour over the marinade and wrap the fish tightly. Place on hot bbq and cook about 10 minutes on each side until cooked through or in a hot (200 degree) oven for 8-10 minutes each side.

IMOK_wrapped fish

Allow the fish to sit for a minute or two before unwrapping to ensure no steam escapes and burns you. Carefully unwrap the fish and either serve at the table as is or remove the fillets as shown the demo below:


It was a very fragrant fish so we served with salad and vegetables on the side.

Match Made in Heaven – Salmon, Orange and Fennel

As a chef you learn food matches that are just meant to be – and some that are not. These flavours compliment in their contrast or their compatibility. There is of course science behind this and the plant families etc etc which you can look into if you are so inclined but this is more about the classics that we just learn and know. The trick is to take flavours you know work and make the styling or preparation your own. That’s where your personality comes into your cooking and makes it fun and enjoyable for you. As always, rules are meant to be broken so if you’re a fan of salami and pickle sandwhiches like I am, ignore the naysayers and crack open that jar in the fridge…

Now, to some classic combos:

– orange and fennel

– chocolate and pear (or chocolate and me!)

– garlic and onion

– basil and tomato

– oregano and lemon

– chilli and lime

– lamb and rosemary

– mint and peas

– salt and pepper (jokes)

There are of course a myriad of different combinations that are pleasing these are just an indication. I used fennel and orange as both are in season, the tartness of the orange is great with fatty fish like salmon and watercress has a peppery taste that lifts it all. The sauce was a thin tzatziki for a garlicy creamy punch. Let’s just say Monday night dinner got a little bit fancy.

There’s not a lot to explain with this dish as it was simple and straightforward. Just how we like dinner to be!

IMOK_salmon dinner


– 6 kipfler potatoes

– 1 baby fennel

– bunch of large watercress

– 2 oranges

– 1/2 cucumber

– 1 clove garlic

– 1/2 cup natural yoghurt

– juice of half a lemon


Bring the potatoes to the boil whole in a pan with salted water, cook until tender


Slice the fennel on a mandolin (v slicer for some – available in most kitchen stores or shaving with a knife if you’re able will also do) and place in bowl on top of cut and washed watercress

Segment orange and sprinkle over


To make tzatziki grate the cucumber and garlic, add to bowl with yoghurt and mix. Season with salt and pepper and lemon juice. The lemon juice will thin the mixture along with the cucumber juice. If you’d like a thicker dip, squeeze the cucumber in a clean chux or muslin cloth and add to yoghurt adding juice until desired consistency.


Slice the kipler into rounds and pan-fry until golden,  pan fry your salmon skin side down (if you like skin on) until skin is crispy, flip to finish and seal flesh side and serve.

I tossed the salad with some olive oil, placed the potatoes down first, then piled the salad up, salmon on top with the tzatziki spooned over as sauce. Yum yum!

A few hints for cooking salmon or any fish really

– cook it flesh side down first if there is no skin on – how do you tell which is the flesh side? the fillet will have a side with almost a silver marking on it, this was the skin side. The flesh side tends to have a plumper appearance – this is the presentation side as such so pan fry this side first for a nice golden colour then flip to the skin side to finish.

– if the skin is on, have a moderate heat to stop the skin sticking and make sure the oil is hot – this applies to cooking in general but it will help stop the skin sticking  – remember it colours quickly so if you blast it with a high heat it may burn, moderate even heat creates the best results