When I decided that I would spend my second semester in Edinburgh, Scotland I imagined plaid, bagpipes, and lots of sheep. What I forgot to consider was the dramatic change in diet from my first semester in Italy… Well, I was quite ready for the plaid (it’s even on all the buses!), the bagpipes (my new alarm clock), and even the sheep (in the country). But, I was a bit wary when it came to the food. Scotland is known for its Haggis, meat pies, and whisky. These three are essential for a Scotsman, but not so for me. So I was happily surprised when I realized that fish is a big staple in the Scottish diet.
It’s easy to forget when in Edinburgh, but this bustling city is actually only a short walk from the sea. The United Kingdom is composed of islands, so it’s no wonder that the ocean plays such a large role in the traditions of the Brits, Scots, and Irishmen. Upon a closer inspection of the Scottish diet, I realized that fish n’ chips, fish pies, and recipes for salmon and haddock are everywhere. I had found my salvation! Now the challenge would be to gravitate toward the healthier, non-fried fish fillets as opposed to the buttery and beer-battered deliciousness of fish n’ chips and fish pies.
So at Tesco one day, I came across whitefish fillets. They were cheaper than chicken breast and healthier than a microwave dinner, so I caved and decided to indulge in my love of cooking and stretch my strict student budget just a little bit. I brought home the fish, already scheming up a great recipe that would have even my little brother begging for more. I would make whitefish with mushroom-lemon sauce, modified from a recipe I stumbled-upon (literally with stumbleupon) from Food.com. It’s full of protein, low in carbs, and only about 250 calories per serving.
Candice Allouch is a junior at American University but abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland during the spring semester where she loves to try out new and intriguing tastes, from gastropubs to traditional restaurants (where haggis is a must).
Whitefish with Mushroom-Lemon Sauce
Adapted from Food.com
You can use frozen fillets or fresh fillets. Be sure, if using frozen fillets, that you allow the fish to thaw a bit before cooking it – do not let it completely defrost but let it sit in the fridge while you’re preparing the rest of the meal. Pat the fish dry before placing it in the skillet. (Some people use the “warm-water method” or microwave to thaw fish. This is considered unsafe and may compromise flavor.)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
¼ pound of fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 small onion, chopped
Handful baby spinach
2/3 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/3 cup milk
Pinch of dried parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 or 3 4-ounce white fish fillets (I used pollock, but haddock or tilapia work too)
Place a skillet that has a lid over medium-high heat and add the butter. When it is melted, sauté the mushrooms and chopped onions in the butter until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms are tender. Add the spinach and cook until shrunken.
Add the flour. Be sure to stir well so the flour is distributed evenly. Cook for 1 minute while stirring constantly. Gradually and slowly stir in the milk. Add the parsley, a pinch of salt and pepper, and the grated lemon rind. Bring to a gentle boil, continuing to stir, until the sauce has thickened, 2-3 minutes.
Arrange the fish fillets in a single layer over the sauce mixture in the skillet. Spoon some of the mixture over the fillets. Cover, reduce the heat, and allow for the sauce and fish to simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Test the fillets with a fork; if the fish flakes easily then it is done cooking, if not continue simmering. This timing will depend on the thickness of the fillets so start checking early.
Serve the fish over a third of the sauce and topped with the rest. If you have any fresh parsley, sprinkle some over the dish for added flavor. Enjoy!