08 March 2010


Growing up in an Irish Catholic family meant that we ate fish on friday. Every friday. Without fail. The only exception we ever saw was when my older brother had rheumatic fever and the doctors wanted him to eat beef every day to strengthen his heart. Heh. I know. But it was the best medical wisdom at that time. My grandfather had the same advice after his heart attack, and he lived to be 87.

Actually, as Catholics, we weren’t obliged to eat fish. We just couldn’t eat meat. Except my brother. At our house, though, 'no meat' meant fish. So we ate fish every Friday. We didn’t live especially close to the sea (Atlanta), and the selection of fresh fish at that time wasn’t great. We were also a large family (Irish Catholic, remember?). All of this meant that we ate a lot of the dreaded Tuna Noodle Casserole. With potato chips on top. No peas. We also ate a lot of salmon patties made from canned salmon. I still like these. I haven’t made them in a long time, though. Hmmm....

Because we didn’t live near the sea, the fish we ate was most often canned. Tuna and Salmon. Sometimes frozen, from the kitchen of our friend Mrs. Paul. She always made her specialty for us, fingerfish, a species that must be extinct now. At least I hope so.

In the summer, it was different, because we could go to the beach (St. Simon’s Island). At the beach we ate fish. Crabs. Shrimp. Lobster. All of it. We loved it. Somehow, though, we didn’t eat fresh fish at home. In later years, my parents used to bring home frozen shrimp and crabs. But they waited till I had left home to do that. I’m not bitter, though.

All this meant that I didn’t have a big taste for fresh fish. Shrimp, yes, but not fish. I didn’t know anything about them either. I liked to order trout in restaurants because I loved eating the flesh on one side and then unzipping the backbone to get at the other side. I still like to do that.

It was only when we moved to Belgium that I began to seriously cook and love fresh fish. Here, we are close enough to the sea to have fresh fish readily available. Everyone has their favorite fish market. For some, it’s in nearby Soumagne. For others, it’s in Herve. Or even the supermarket. My friend Françoise swears by the fish monger who’s in the town of Ensival for its weekly market. Me, I shop around.

I’ve developed a taste for fish. We still associate it with Fridays, but we eat it other days of the week as well. I find myself in the strange position of knowing the names of my favorite fish in French but not necessarily in English. Some of them have names that are not so pretty in English--rouget, for example, is mullet in English. Makes me think of a bad hair style...

Where was I? Oh, yes. We try to buy fish that’s sustainable and relatively local. This usually means tilapia or plaice or pollack or cod from Iceland. My favorite fish is the trout caught by one of our friends. He doesn’t really like to eat it, so he and his wife freeze it and sometimes they give it to us. YUM!

This dish is one that I first made one night when we were going out of town and we had some leeks and tomatoes in the fridge. And some fish. You can use any firm-fleshed white fish for this. It’s veryvery easy, and the flavors are delicate and healthy and clean--tomatoes, leeks and of course the fish. I serve it to company. On Fridays, of course!

Friday Fish

4-5 large leeks

10-12 small tomatoes (golf ball size)

400 g / 1 pound white fish

2 Tablespoons + 2 Tablespoons olive oil

  • Preheat the oven to 160 C / 350 F.
  • Cut the root ends off the leeks, and the hard green part. Cut them in half lengthwise, and wash them thoroughly under running water to remove all the sand and dirt between the layers. I just hold them near the base in one hand and with the other separate the layers and wash between them.
  • Slice the leeks into pieces about 2 cm / 1 inch long.
  • Heat 2 T olive oil in a large pan and add the leeks. Cook over medium-low heat till the leeks have released their liquid and are soft. This should take about 10 minutes.
  • Put the leeks in a baking dish.
  • Cut the fish into pieces about half the size of the palm of your hand. They should be roughly the same size so that they cook at the same rate. If there are some that are thinner than others, double them up. Nestle the fish pieces down into the leeks.
  • Cut the tomatoes in quarters. Put the tomato pieces down into the leeks between the fish pieces.
  • Drizzle 2 T of olive oil over the fish.
  • Bake till the fish is opaque and flakes easily--about 20 minutes.

Serves 4 if they like it and 10 if they don’t.


  • I often serve this with new potatoes, steamed and then crisped in a non-stick pan in a little olive oil. The crunch goes well with this dish.
  • Good crusty rolls go well too. I think you need some crunch.
  • Sometimes I just steam the potatoes and add them to the dish with the fish. Then I need crunch from rolls or something else.
  • You can use flavored oil to drizzle over the fish--sometimes I use lemon flavored oil. Pepper oil wouldn’t really work here--it would kill these delicate flavors.


zurin said...

that was an interesting story......and the fish dish looks very colourful and very very easy! easy (on the washing up too). A keeper.^^thanks

grace said...

this is great, kate! it's so simply prepared yet it looks classy and delicious, even to this fish-hater. :)
i didn't grow up around ANY catholics, so the whole fish friday thing is news to me. thanks for sharing!

Carol at Serendipity said...

Recipe looks wonderful and simple. I love fish but Jack really doesn't so I never get to have it unless we are out for dinner.

Have a great week.


La Table De Nana said...

I always enjoy white fish w/ some color..even it it's parsley or some capers.It just needs that accessory to me..You've glammed your up very nicely.

Kim said...

What a classy and beautiful way to serve fish. It is a beautiful dish!

I full understand the logic behind your brother eating beef. My grandfather had the same thoughts as well.

Awhile back you posted a youtube video with Jamie Oliver. I enjoyed watching that and wanted to tell you that he is going to be having a primetime show here called "Food Revolution". I'm excited to watch that.

Linda said...

Looks fabulous!

2 Stews said...

I just made fish last night...with peas. I have it quite often since I can get fresh, wild caught fish here. Thanks for a new and simple way to make it.

I remember those canned salmon patties. My mom made those, too. Give me crab cakes any day!


SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

Friday 'Fish Fry's are very popular in Wisconsin and many churches host them on Friday nights. However, they're not exactly heart healthy with battered fish cooked in boiling oil. If you can find pan-fried fish you are lucky.

Your fish looks tasty and beautiful with the red tomatoes and green bits of leek.

Stella said...

This dish looks very delicious and healthful, Kate. I tried your delicious fish cakes, so I will put this on my list too.
Oh, and I too am mostly Irish, and I still love salmon patties made from canned salmon. Everyone snears and snickers at me when I pull it out to make dinner, but by the time I've added an array of spices, egg and oats they seem okay. Always a bite and then a look of 'Oh!'.

Bob said...

Heh, growing up near Boston I know all about that. Even in the public schools here they don't serve meat on Fridays.

That fish sounds great, I've actually just gotten into fish myself. Unfortunately I don't have a great fish market around here.

Hungry Dog said...

I love this post. You have such a great writing style--makes me feel like we are real-life friends!

I like the look of this fish. And by the way, I'm a trout-flipper too :)

Pam said...

I too can't stop associating fish with Fridays. We always had salmon cakes, tuna cakes, tuna casserole, or creamed tuna on toast.

Mowie said...

Nice to read the story, I love your writing style! And I love fish, have to have it at least once a week, with loads of fresh tartare sauce - can't get enough of the stuff.

Jennifer said...

Looks yummy! Alas, I forgot myself and I ate meat last Friday. Isn't the guilt incredible! I will have to try this recipe!

ARUNA said...

wat a beautiful fish it is.....colorful presentation!!!

Silke said...

I love fish...but we don't eat it at home because the hubby is deathly allergic to fish.
When we go out to eat I always order fish and I am so jealouse when I see people eat tasty lovely fish!

The Dutch Baker's Daughter said...

Yup--we had fish on Friday's, too. I grew up in Wisconsin, where the Friday fish fry ruled. Back in the day, it was "all you could eat" perch. I admit I still make a tuna casserole (also without peas...I use spinach! and canned fried onions on top) and, yes, Mrs. Paul's still exists (I kinda like her). Your fish dish, though, looks amazing!

Juliana said...

Kate, nice fish dish, so colorful and the idea...and the simplicity of it :-)

Barbara said...

I was raised in a Catholic family too, Kate...and our menus sound similar. Tuna noodle casserole and salmon loaf (and then mother poured mushroom soup gravy over it).
Your Friday fish dish is very tempting. Not difficult to make and really makes an appealing presentation!

The Gypsy Chef said...

Beautiful recipe and pic Kate! I enjoyed reading the post. Took me back to my own catholic family days.
My son had never had a Mrs. Paul's fish stick until my sister served him some for lunch. He was about 4 at the time. He had no idea what it was and when she told him, he replied "Fish that swims in the sea?". We have never forgotten it. I think perhaps he heard it in a Disney movie......
I still love salmon cakes, I make them with fresh salmon and serve them with remoulade sauce. Truly a match made in heaven.
I love the sound of this dish and I'm gonna give it a try. I think my minions will like it.

WizzyTheStick said...

You made me smile since we are in Lent so not only is it fish Fridays but Wednesdays too. As a child I hated fish. Mainly because the cheaper ones had lots of bones. Too many favourites to list them all. I love, read snapper, marlin, tuna and salmon, chub

The Domestic Adventurer said...

This dish looks really light and refreshing. Your photographs are very nice too!

Kitchen Butterfly said...

That looks like a stunning bowl of the tomatoes and we would LOVEEEEEEEEE this. I may replace the leeks with fennel. Lots of love dear!

Susan @ The Spice Garden said...

What a wonderfully fresh and simple presentation for a fish dinner! Healthy and easy ... thanks, Kate!

Bit of Butter said...

As a convert to Catholicism (of the Irish Catholic variety), I am just now getting used to my meatless Fridays. I love this recipe -- I think I'll try it for dinner this Friday!

A Canadian Foodie said...

Not only does this food look great, but your photographs are magnificent. BIGGER please! Obviously, your artistic eye is serving you well.

Ju (The Little Teochew) said...

Now that you mentioned, I do remember a friend who was Catholic and went meatless on Fridays. Hey, that is such a pretty fish dish, Kate! And one dish too. Hurray to that!

Divina Pe said...

This dish is so full of color and with only a few ingredients, there's not excuse not to make this.

Dorice Watercolours said...

Simplicity sometimes is best - so that you can best enjoy the individual "bright" flavours! I will make this one, Kate. Thanks!

Bob and I discovered a wonderful fish dish at Cajü restaurant. (Cajü for Cajou, short for acajou which is the Cashew nut). Brazilian. We had a "moquequa" - a fish stew, that was to die for and turns out there are very view ingredients in it. W've found a recipe online and have made it several times since.

Happy Easter to you and yours!