Swimming in the sea, a skate looks like a cross between Concorde and a spacecraft, with its huge wings. The wings are what we buy at the fishmonger, triangular in shape with a pinky flesh: if they are from a small fish they weigh about 8 oz (225 g) each, if from a large fish they are bought cut into pieces.
It is a delicious fish: the flesh parts so conveniently from the soft bones, which themselves stay intact, so there is little likelihood of finding any unwelcome, spiky bits of bone. It is hard to beat just washed, well dried, given a light coating of flour, then fried in a mixture of butter and oil till crisp and golden; or else served with browned butter, which adds a lovely buttery flavour.
A group of white fish belonging to the skate family – and often referred to rather misleadingly as rock salmon – are the dogfish, huss or flake. In fact they have nothing at all in common with salmon, actually are rather dull (if cheap) and need to be jazzed up a bit with other ingredients.
This unctuous sauce keeps for a week and so can be called into service for other fish dishes too. Make it with lime and coriander for a more oriental touch. Skate is hugely underrated, easy to cook and well worth the effort.
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