Easy Fish Stock Recipe
Fish stock has no hard and fast recipe. Like chicken stock or beef stock, fish stock is usually made from the bones of fish and in this particular instance the heads but the other ingredients can be extremely varied and even unusual. There is one important point to bear in mind, however, when making fish stock and that is that white fish is best for this purpose. Fish like salmon, trout and mackerel - while delicious to eat - do not make good fish stock as the flavours are too overpowering.
Remember also, of course, when deciding which species of fish to use to make fish stock to take account of fish sustainability and try not to be using a species of fish deemed to be in any way endangered.
Freshly Caught Sea Fish are Perfect for Making Fish Stock
If you happen to go sea fishing yourself, your own catch will provide you with the perfect opportunity for making pure, fresh fish stock. The fish pictured above were caught in Loch Etive, a sea loch on the West Coast of Scotland, and cleaned and cooked at home within about four hours of the last one being caught. This catch consisted of one mackerel (not suitable for fish stock) and eight small whiting, a sustainable member of the cod family which is ideal for the purpose.
Although fish stock is normally made from "raw" fish heads and bones from which the fillets have been removed, these whiting were mostly on the small side for filleting. I decided to conduct an experiment therefore which I believe worked really well and cook three of these fish on the bone, making stock from the subsequent remains.
How to Bake Whole Fresh Whiting
Fresh herbs, onion, lemon - all and more can be used to stuff the cavities of fish baked in this fashion. In all instances, the fish are firstly gutted and washed under running cold water. The stuffing used here is simply some dill herb butter, sea salt and white pepper.
Lay the stuffed fish in the centre of a large sheet of foil on a baking or roasting tray. Season the outside with more salt and pepper before wrapping the foil in to a loose but sealed tent.
Put the tray in to your oven, preheated to 190C/375F, for about twenty minutes, or slightly longer for larger fish. Remove the tray from the oven and very carefully unwrap the foil. Stick a skewer in to the thickest part of each fish and minimal resistance should be felt where the fish is cooked. Transfer the whiting carefully to a large plate and leave until cool enough to handle.
Peel back the skin from the whiting and pull the flesh off in large flakes. Set aside for later inclusion in a fish pie. Discard the skin and fins and you should be left simply with the head and skeleton.
Note: The flesh could of course be peeled from the whiting as soon as they come out of the oven with your fish slice and served immediately with perhaps some new potatoes and your vegetable of choice.
A Stock Pot is Essential for Making Most Stocks
The relatively quantity of stock made in this recipe means it can be prepared in a large, conventional pot. If, however - as may well be the case - you are looking to make larger quantities of stock, perhaps to freeze in batches, a proper stock pot will be required. These pots can be expensive to buy new but very often a great bargain can be had on eBay or Amazon.
Making the Fish Stock
Chicken or beef stock will of course take a number of hours' simmering to prepare. Fish stock requires nothing like that length of time and forty-five minutes' simmering is quite sufficient.
The traditional ingredients for making almost any type of stock will include carrot, celery and onion. This recipe is slightly different, calling for two sticks of celery, a medium to large carrot and two shallots instead of the onion. All should be washed and roughly chopped. There is no need to peel the shallots. Add them with the fish remains, half a teaspoon of black peppercorns and some sea salt to a large soup or stock pot and pour in enough cold water to comfortably cover. Put on a high heat until the water starts to boil. Add a small bunch of roughly chopped parsley, cover and simmer gently for forty-five minutes. After this time, turn off the heat and leave the stock to partially cool untouched for about an hour.
When the stock is partially cooled, use a large slotted spoon to remove and discard the fish bones and larger pieces of herb and vegetables. Suspend a sieve over a large bowl and line it with two or three sheets of kitchen paper. Slowly pour the stock in - you may need to do this in stages - and the paper and sieve will remove the remaining impurities.
The fish stock is now ready for use in the recipe of your choice. You may wish to prepare a seafood risotto, a fish stew or perhaps simply a fish soup. Whatever you intend to make, you now have the perfect base from which to build. Alternatively, cool the stock completely and store in the refrigerator for a couple of days or freeze for up to three months.