Tips from the Cinnamon Club Seafood Cookbook

Posted on Analysis May 2008 - by Tandoori Magazine

Buying and Preparing Fish.

  • When shopping for fish and shellfish, remember the fresher the better
  • Fresh fish should smell of the sea, not of fish. If it’s fresh and briny, you’re in for some good eating. Walk away if it’s stinky and fishy
  • The flesh should feel firm to the touch and, if pressed lightly, should spring back. If your fingers leave a depression, then the fish is no longer fresh. If you can twist a fish enough for it to kiss its tail, it is well past its prime!
  • The eyes should be clear and bright, not sunken and dull
  • The skin should be shiny and bright, with no discolourisation or damage
  • If possible, lift up the gills to check that they are bright red underneath. Darkening indicates that the fish is not fresh
  • If the fish has large scales, they should be firmly attached, not flaking off
  • Fish fillets should be firm, should smell fresh and have bright skin. There should be no obvious bruising or damage to the flesh
  • Molluscs and crustaceans should smell sweet and briny
  • Bivalves such as mussels, clams, oysters and scallops should be alive when bought. Avoid any with broken or chipped shells
  • Live lobsters and crabs should be moving strongly. Cooked ones should feel heavy for their size
  • Crustaceans should have no apparent bruising or damage to the shells. Any blackening at the joints means that they are not fresh


  • To scale a fish, hold it by the tail and use the back of a knife (or ideally a fish scaler) to scrape towards the head.
  • To remove the gills, place the fish on its back, open the gill flap, gently pull the gills out through the flap, then cut and discard. Trim off the fins with a pair of scissors. To gut a whole fish, make a slit in the stomach and pull out all the entrails, then rinse the fish thoroughly under cold running water.


  • Make a cut behind the head, then move a very sharp knife along the backbone, cutting into the flesh with clean sweeping strokes as close to the backbone as possible, moving towards the tail. Work your way through the flesh till you reach the other end, then cut to separate the fillet from the bones. Repeat with the other fillet.

Skinning Fish Fillets

  • Put the fillet on a board, skin-side down, with the tail end nearest you. Make a small cut across the tail end, without cutting right through, to release the skin. Then take hold of the end bit of skin with one hand, place the knife between the skin and the flesh with the other hand and gently work it along the fillet towards the head end, easing the flesh off the skin and holding the skin taut.

Shelling and De-Veining

  • Pull the head off the body if it is still attached. Peel the shell away from the body with your fingers, then make a shallow cut along the back of the prawn and pull out the dark intestinal vein with the tip of the knife.

Cleaning Mussels

  • Tap any open mussels with the back of a knife and should close. Discard any that don’t. To-de-beard them, hold the mussel with a towel and yank the beard (also known as the byssal threads) towards the hinge end to pull it out. Then scrub the mussels thoroughly under cold running water to remove any dirt or grit.
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