Poached white fish with a leek, lemon & herb dressing

There are few dishes as elegant and delicious as a well poached piece of fish.  Unlike other means of cooking fish which, in my experience, can be somewhat temperamental, this way is relatively foolproof because you can’t burn it or make it hard or dry, and its much less likely to become rubbery.  Fish is good friends with lemon, onion (leek in this case) and herbs – the tartness and strong flavours become absorbed very easily and this particular combination somewhat masks the overly fishy taste you get with some varieties such as Mackerel.  Having said that, I don’t like that fishy taste at all so we opted for lovely, clean tasting fillets of Basa instead (but any white fish will do).  You can serve this immediately as a hot dish, with your favourite steamed veggies, or chill it and serve flaked on top of a nice green salad.  Very versatile, and – like almost everything on this blog – fast (you can cook everything from frozen without defrosting), healthy & delicious 🙂

For those of you familiar with poaching, you’ll probably wonder why I haven’t flavoured the poaching liquid with anything.  The answer is simple – I tried it once and the fish tasted of absolutely nothing afterwards.  I boiled it with fennel, onions, lemon, herbs, peppercorns, salt, you name it – and the only result was a soggy waste of all those precious ingredients (boiling lemon in any form makes the stock too bitter to be used for anything else) and some rather bland fish.  So in this recipe I’ve saved all the good stuff and made a hot dressing to pour over the fish later – so you can taste it all instead of tipping it down the sink.



Three fillets, waiting to be eaten 🙂

Ingredients – serves 2

  • 4 small or 2 large fillets of white fish, skinless & boneless (fresh or frozen – your choice)
  • 1/2 a small leek, or 1/3 to 1/4 of a large one, finely sliced
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • sea salt or himalayan pink salt, to taste
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp dried herbs of choice – we used oregano
  1. fill a large, shallow saucepan or frying pan with water (no more than 1.5″ to the top though, you don’t want it overspilling when you add the fish) and bring to the boil. Once boiling, add the fish.  If you’re using frozen fillets (all packaging removed first please), boil for 5 minutes then flip the fillets over, and lower the heat to low (or very low, and cover the pan) – however you do it the idea is to keep the water barely bubbling.  leave it in there for another 5 minutes or so.  If using fresh fillets, you’ll probably need to halve both those times.  Check the fish is done by breaking it open a little in one of the thickest parts – the flesh should be flaky and pure white, not translucent or firm/ hard to break apart (if it is continue to boil).  Remove from the heat, leaving it in the hot water to keep it warm.
  2. in a small pot, heat the olive oil until hot.  Add the leeks and stir for a few minutes, until soft and cooked.  Add the garlic, herbs and salt and fry for a minute more, then remove from the heat – note, you want more salt than you think, because it has to go on that unflavoured fish.  Once it has cooled for a minute, add the lemon juice and stir well – boiling lemon juice is not good as we’ve already mentioned. 
  3. Arrange the fillets on a warm plate, then spoon over the dressing and gently spread it over the surface of the fish.  Serve immediately.  Enjoy! 🙂