This recipe started off as bream. That was until I phoned the fishmongers and they told me the price of bream.
“What?! Have you got anything a bit more…economical?” I asked.
And so, I ended up with whiting.
Etymologically, whiting is easy to confuse with whitebait, but they’re very different fish. Whitebait are the little crispy things you eat in Cornish pubs. Whiting are far larger, round fish, with delicate, white flesh – like haddock, but a bit sweeter.
“Whilst not considered to be among the more important of the food fishes, [whiting has] softer flesh and is considered to be easily digestible and is of value to those with a more delicate constitution” says Chris Leftwich from The Fishmongers’ Company. It’s easy to eat, not too “fishy”, and it’s sustainable. So bit of a crowd-pleaser really.
I cooked with whiting for the first time earlier this week, but have already done so twice since. I’m besotted. It feels like such a decadent fish – tasty, sweet, translucent-white flesh – but the single fillet I had for lunch cost me just £1.79 for 120g. It’s so easy to justify when you think of the cost of a Pret sandwich.
The other reason that I’ve been eating so much whiting is that I scaled-up the breadcrumb topping in the recipe below, when I first made it on Monday. That classic thing of turning lots of little leftovers into one big bit of leftover, which I’m now working through.
The “inspiration” for the recipe (if you can call it that) came from the little sandwich bags of breadcrumbs I’ve been making from stale bread. And there’s often lots of this in the flat. You see, the bread cycle starts on a Saturday, with Tom buying a loaf of bread to go with a weekend fry up. I then try not to eat any throughout the week, and by Thursday, the loaf – minus Saturday/Sunday breakfast – is then turned into bags of breadcrumbs and frozen.
The problem is that these little bags are now taking over the freezer – hogging precious ice cream storage space. So I emptied a bag of the crumbs into my food processor (breadcrumbs defrost very quickly because of the large surface area). I then added half a bunch of somewhat sad looking flat leaf parsley, stalks and all. And finally a hard little gnarled lump of Parmesan which, I fear, first arrived in the fridge in 2013 – but gave the crumbs a nice salty flavour.
This recipe couldn’t be easier to scale up. It’s great for feeding lots of people. You can make the breadcrumbs in advance, and then simply sprinkle them over the fish, put them in the oven, and take them out again ten minutes later. Easy, delicious and economical.
200g breadcrumbs, white or brown
30g flat leaf parsley (use your judgement. A few stems, leaves, stalks and all should do)
120 -200g whiting fillet, per person (Nb. Ocado sells whiting at £10.49/kg – their bream is £29.99/kg)
Put the breadcrumbs into a food processor – I put mine in as a frozen block, and they thawed as they were being processed.
Add the parsley and Parmesan. Blitz into flavoured breadcrumbs.
Place the whiting in a lightly-oiled baking tray. Tip the breadcrumbs over it, and cook in a pre-heated oven at 180C for 8-10 minutes. The fish takes about the same to cook as it takes for the breadcrumbs to go golden.
Serve with a segment of lemon, and salad or vegetables of your choice.