Everything you need to know about buying and eating good fish…

They’re cold-blooded, covered with scales and smell appalling. But learn which slippery beasts taste great, and more importantly how to cook them to perfection, and you’re in for a treat. Because despite his awesome hat and sexy beard, there’s a plethora of scaly snacks utterly neglected by Captain Birdseye; an entire nautical world yet to be coated in breadcrumbs. So roll up your waders and join us in the briny to learn how to spot the difference between a tuna and a turbot, other than by the little flag that the fishmonger’s stuck in it.

Plaice
This speckled flat fish’s flavour deteriorates rapidly over time so look for ones with bright orange spots. The taste? Weird though it sounds, think toasted pitta bread. Cook by coating in egg and breadcrumbs, then frying for no longer than five minutes. Also a staple of the chippy menu alongside cod and haddock.
Expect to pay: Around £11.80 per kg

 

Tuna
Forget the tinned stuff, go for the steaks. These days they’re most likely to be yellowfin tuna as the most prized stuff – Atlantic bluefin – is subject to strict fishing quotas. The flesh is firm and red and tastes like you’re eating an athlete’s calf muscle. Sear it for two minutes either side over a high heat, ensuring it remains pink and tender inside. Brush with soy, lemon grass, lime, chillies and coriander.
Expect to pay: Around £15.50 per kg

 

Monkfish
This Peter Beardsley of the sea lives in the muddy depths of the Med and Atlantic, but rewardingly its firm meat tastes sweet, a bit like eating lobster. Goes best on kebabs or in a mild curry.
Expect to pay: Around £18 per kg

 

Sea bass
A merciless predator – if you’re tiny, can’t run and don’t have a pole with a hook on the end – this fish has a ‘milky’ flavour and moist flesh. Chargrill with flavours such as fennel, ginger, mint and parsley – or stuff it with the seasoning, wrap in foil and bake it whole.
Expect to pay: Around £19 per kg (of fillets)

 

Mackerel
Full of omega-3 (aka the good fat that helps the body to eat bad fat), this fish has bright silvery eyes and shiny skin. Rich and sweet, it’s best eaten during summer and tastes great thrown on a grill with lemon juice squeezed over it.
Expect to pay: Around £6.95 per kg

 

Salmon

 

Best grilled, baked, poached or fried, as a whole fish or in sections. Before cooking it should be pale pink, afterwards it should be opaque. Tastes like you’d expect a fish-flavoured jellybean to.
Expect to pay: Around £12 per kg

 

 

Sardines
Sardinia’s baby pilchards are at their best between April and June. Eat whole, barbecued or fried in olive oil and salt. Taste-wise, imagine mopping up the sea with a crust of bread.
Expect to pay: Around £6 per kg

 

Turbot
Why: Pronounced ‘ter-bot’, this slow paddling fish tastes incredible covered in stock, wine and fresh herbs then baked in foil. The flesh is firm, creamy white and has a unique, ‘stewy’ flavour as well.
Expect to pay: Around £12 per kg

 

Swordfish
Why: Between two and five metres in length and meaty in flavour, its flesh is dense and, like tuna, it’s also sold in steak form. Marinate in olive oil, then top with parsley, garlic and lemon before grilling.
Expect to pay: Around £15.50 per kg

 

Cod
Why: Bake, poach or fry this fish, but don’t grill it or you’ll zap it of its mild flavour. Also, the moment white stuff starts seeping out of it, stop cooking. It’s done. Best to keep it for special occasions only, though, as stocks are getting dangerously low due to overfishing.
Expect to pay: Around £11.50 per kg

 

Sole
Why: Ask your local supermarket’s fishmonger for a cut that’s been dead for three days as that’s when the fish’s buttery flavour is at its peak. Also ask the silly-hat-wearing gentleman to skin it, then once home cook it whole on the bone with butter, parsley and lemon juice.
Expect to pay: Around £11.80 per kg

 

King of the ocean: Impress dinner party guests with our inspired guide on how to…

Buy a fish
The eyes should be bright, the gills reddish-pink and the flesh firm and luminous. If it’s started to get rigor mortis and smell like daddy’s fingers after working late, don’t buy it.

Defrost a fish
Put it in the fridge overnight bathed in milk for a fresh taste. Don’t use a microwave. Breadcrumbed or battered fish can be cooked from frozen.

Fillet a round fish (eg sea bass)
Cut off the fins then slice from head to tail down the backbone. Insert a sharp, thin knife between the flesh on the side and the bones and work from the head, slicing the fillet away from the skeleton. Keep the knife flat against the bones. Slice through the belly flesh to detach the fillet.

Fillet a flat fish (eg plaice or sole)
Cut off the fins then the head from just behind the gills. With the fish flat, once again cut through to the backbone from head to tail. Then, keeping the blade against the bones of the fish, slice the left-hand fillet away, then the right-hand fillet, then flip over and repeat. Or get a fishmonger to do it.

Fry fish
Coat a frying pan with clarified butter (butter that’s been melted then skimmed to remove impurities) and turn up the heat until a sweat appears on your brow. Dust the fish with plain flour. It should sizzle loudly when placed in the pan, like a snake disturbed by Steve Irwin while snoozing in heaven. Leave the fish for 2 mins each side for a 1cm-thick fillet, no more than 3-4 mins for thicker steaks.

Roast fish
Grease an oven-proof dish and brush a fillet with olive oil, season with fennel and add a dash of wine or lemon juice. Cook in a hot oven (230°C/450°F/gas mark 8) for around 10 minutes.

Bake fish
Follow the one-inch rule: 10 mins in a very hot oven (240°C+) per inch of thickness.