Steamed fish with lots of colour

The best way to present fish is simply. Makes sense. Cook it simply, and serve it with something moist and colourful and delicious on its own — without intruding on the subtle flavour of the fish. This is the cooking of the restaurants of the eighties. Gentle flavours, served with colour, all put together simply.

Fish is a prime target for this sort of cooking. The freshest of fish, matched with the rich reds of tomatoes, bold greens of broad beans, against the pure white of steamed fish. Mixed with the best of oils and vinegars, you have total simplicity, and very healthy to boot.

3 luscious, ripe, red tomatoes, skinned and chopped as roughly as you like


60ml best virgin olive oil

1 chilli, chopped finely

dozen broad beans, or peas, broccoli, spinach, sugar peas, asparagus

black pepper

some balsamic vinegar

the freshest fish in the market (preferably one with white fillets), skinned and boned by your fishmonger — Orange roughy is delicious presented like this.


Hours before you get to the cooking stage, even the night before, give the tomatoes a good dose of salt, cover them with the olive oil, and sprinkle the chilli about. Every now and then, toss them around with a wooden spoon, as indelicately as is reasonable.


Pod the broad beans, and cook them in their inner pods for about 2 minutes. Cool quickly under cold water and remove the delicious inner bean from the pod by squeezing between your fingers. Set aside to be re-heated.


When you’re ready, and it’s ready, force the tomato — olive oil mix through a fine sieve and add the black pepper. You will be left with a very fluid, richly flavoured and coloured tomato puree. Taste, and add the balsamic vinegar drop by drop. If you haven’t any balsamic vinegar don’t despair. Any vinegar will do, but you should make an effort to get a reasonably cheap bottle of balsamic for the cupboard. It has a sweetness which you must taste. In this dish, the vinegar is to provide a middle flavour to the tomato-olive oil combination, without much addition of acid, already there through the tomatoes. What you are creating is the bottom of a salad bowl after a particularly delicious tomato salad. You know, the part you dredge with crusty bread when no one is looking.


Cook the fish any way you feel comfortable. You don’t need a steamer to steam, although it does help. A tough plate sitting in a little boiling water, the fish covered with wrap will do a similar job. If you do have a steamer, sit the fish on a full head of steam, cover and cook for a couple of minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. Test (carefully) with your forefinger. The fish should be firm, but still give to the push.


Re-heat the vegetables, warm through the sauce, whisking as you do, and spread it thinly on the plate. Place the fish in the middle and spread the pretty green vegetables all about.

WINE: There are a lot of white wine styles that would work here. In Australia, you generally pay for what you get. If it’s a special night, splurge and get an appropriately priced bottleif not, lower your sights. A winemaker friend and I had a great bit of orange roughy and a Rhine riesling from Delatite not long ago.