Book review: Take One Fish: The New School of Scale to Tail Cooking and Eating by Josh Niland

19 August 2021 by
Book review: Take One Fish: The New School of Scale to Tail Cooking and Eating by Josh Niland

Chef Josh Niland of Sydney restaurant Saint Peter revolutionised fish cookery in 2019 with the publication of his first book The Whole Fish Cookbook. His approach applies Fergus Henderson's nose-to-tail philosophy to seafood, "shifting the focus to valuing diverse species and all parts of their edible components", allowing chefs to achieve up to a 90% yield from a wide range of fish, rather than the usual 45% that is represented by the fillets alone.

Niland's second book shows there's still much milage in the idea, with a collection of strikingly original creations. Fish offal is put to imaginative use in dishes such as salt and pepper John Dory tripe (deep-fried cured stomach) and a John Dory liver terrine that looks like a foie gras equivalent, made with rendered fish fat harvested from species such as snapper and kingfish.

Niland often treats fish like meat, aging some species for up to four weeks. He transforms yellowfin tuna loin into ‘nduja by adding a ground spice mix of paprika, black pepper, fennel seeds, nutmeg and chilli flakes (and more of that rendered fish fat), while whole flounder is butchered down to French trimmed bone-in chops and prepared gai yang-style, a spicy Thai dish usually made with marinated and charcoal-grilled chicken.

You'll need to bone up on your knife skills to reverse-butterfly red gurnard that is then flavoured with tikka marinade and served with spiced chickpea yogurt, or to remove the spine and gut a mackerel from the top down so that it can be stuffed with shallots, pine nuts and currents and served with an agro dolce dressing. But there are less demanding recipes too, like swordfish schnitzel, and salted sardine fillets and globe artichokes on grilled bread.

Not every chef wants a dehydrator full of snapper's swim bladders or mason jars of heads fermenting into garum (to make into a caramel to top a custard tart), but Take One Fish is so full of delicious, different and doable ideas that no kitchen should be without a copy.

Take One Fish: The New School of Scale to Tail Cooking and Eating by Josh Niland (Hardie Grant Books, £26)

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