This post is all about using fresh, caught fish to full ‘advantage’. The fish in question is called ‘gallinella di mare’ in this part of Italy and translates as ‘tub gurnard’ in English. I’d never heard of tub gurnard in English before and do not remember eating much gallinella whilst growing up in Italy. But spurred as I was a few weeks ago, indeed almost driven, to just pop into a fishmonger’s and pick up whatever fish took my fancy that day, I opted for this strangely named creature of the sea. My mother had given me a basket of her home made fettuccine just hours before and I thought I could cook up a wonderful fish stew (ragù) as the height of fresh egg-noodles accompaniment.
My first mistake was not following the fishmonger’s kind suggestion that he fillet the fish for me (Oh no no no no … quoth I to him …. I can do that at home, fish is very tactile and all that, and filleting fish kind be a very zen exercise). The second mistake, or at least misunderstanding on my part, was to have blithely disregarded the cost of the fish. The fishmonger handed over the gutted gallinella to me and smilingly conveyed the price: EU 42. I almost did a double-take but meekly complied with the payment — after all, it wasn’t the fishmonger’s fault.
Hmmmm. I got home and took more than just one photo of Mr Fish the Tub Gurnard cum Gallinella. Take a look.
“You’d better taste good!” I said out aloud. Then I proceeded to fillet it and cursed my hubris. I had never dealt with these gurnards before and ‘tough’ doesn’t begin to describe how frightfully medieval-like-armoured-mail their whole demeanor is. I actually cut myself at one point and had to put my bleeding finger under running water and then bandage myself up before carrying on. This was not boding well. Why oh Why? Why why why? Why had I done it? What what WHAT had induced me to want to buy that silly fish? Sigh.
And then, when I looked at the amount of flesh I managed to extract from the whole fish, I felt even worse! There really didn’t seem to be much to eat for 42 euros! Take a look!
Lovely colour, however, and definitely fresh fresh fresh. And then the magic of pasta kicked in, and I reconnected to an atavistic will to make the most of what lay before me. After all that fretting over the filleting, I was damned if I wasn’t going to come up with a fantastic ragù for my mother’s superb home-made fettuccine. Hands on hips, hah!
For those of you who are really interested in cooking, read on. For those of you who are fond of me and are my friends but don’t necessarily want to cook …. go straight to the end of this post!
MAKING FISH STOCK
Whatever I wasn’t able to use for the ragù, I used to make the stock.
ADDING PEAS TO THE RAGU’
Can you see two cast-iron saucepans? I sliced a big wedge of garlic from a whole head of garlic, into one slice, and put it into one of the saucepans together with a a healthy helping of butter — one large tablespoon’s worth.
THE TOMATO SAUCE
Add the fish stock, a little at a time and as necessary.
Glossy and simmering … taste and make sure the seasoning is right.
Time to add the previously cooked peas … and give everything a good stir.
At this point … it was time to get the pasta cooking.
There was enough fettuccine and fish ragù to serve six hungry people … which in terms of arithmetics comes to Eu 7 per person/per serving for the fish alone. Expensive? yes. Worth it? Even more …