Can you fix this fish?


I have always maintained that pretty pictures don’t necessarily make a pretty meal.

As pictures go, the photos of last night’s dinner were fairly ‘pretty’ (I put low res pics now given the rampant plagiarism here).

The meal didn’t give pleasure though. At least not in absolute terms.

I came back from work last evening and defrosted some betki fillets which I bought this weekend. I then smeared on some sumac, zatar, lemon powder on the fish and then added salt along with these Mediterranean spices. I then added some chardonnay left over from a bottle I opened a few days back to the fish. I poked some holes into the fish fillets with a fork and then let the fish marinate for about half an hour. I then popped in the fish on a tray into a preheated oven. I added the remaining liquid from the marinade on top of the fish when there was 3 minutes left.

The grilling details, 15 min at 200 C, rest, plate, eat.


The resultant fish was cooked properly but a tad dry and had a fishy taste. You got a hint of the wine but the flavours of the marinade otherwise were rather weak.

Wonder what could have gone wrong? I looked up the last time that I grilled betki and realised that the marinade that I used far stronger favours then than this time. Would that have helped to have masked the fishy smell? Or was it that the fish was not that fresh? Cooking time was the same after all. And why was it dry? Would sealing the fish on a foil, thereby locking in the juices, have helped? Didn’t do this last time though and turned out fairly good.

I am not the biggest fan of fish. I buy lots of it but am not too fond of it. However even K, who loves fish, found it dry and fishy this time. 

So any suggestions on what could be done to fix this? Do drop in a comment if you do have a point of view.

Else I will just crumb fry it in bacon fat the next time.


The mash – preboiled potatoes, heated with milk, butter, salt and cheese and then whipped in a food processor – was indulgent and divine though. The next morning I made bruschettas with the left over mash and baguette from Candies. 10 min at 150 C.

Turned out to be a lovely start to the day.

photo (31)


Poorna Banerjee said…
Was the fish fresh? If not, fishy taste is a mandate.

Lemon powder - cross it out. 200 degree is too high. No lemon powder. Add lemon juice. Also, when you are baking fish, the key is to be delicate and 15 minutes is perhaps too long.

Here is how you can fix it. Za'atar + lemon juice rub on the fish with a bit of salt. Make foil packet by folding a large piece of foil. Make a bed of lemon slices and spring onions. Put fish on it. Add the wine. Tightly close foil packet. Poach for 20 minutes at 160 degree centigrade. Remove cover, turn oven to 220 and bake for 4 minutes more exactly if you want it firm (I don't want it firm, btw). Serve.

Kore dekho.

Othoba, you can always batter fry it. Makes sense.
Amitabha said…
Kalyan, regarding plagiarism, why don't you put a copyright tag on all the photos? Since you are using your DSLR and am sure download the photos into your laptop first, use the interface s/w to put the copyright text ... it gets embedded and none can use it without giving you the due credit :) ... and the entire exercise does not take more than 30 secs!
Kalyan Karmakar said…
I guess it's a question of making a start. When i first started blogging I had slow connection, office comps, limited understanding of tech and no desk at home. Adding a watermark was a pain. Somewhere I rationalised thinking why start now, so much is out there already. Not the best argument I know.
I have also seen many many cases where bloggers who put watermarks have their pics lifted and watermarks removed. That of course is like the 'why put a lock as thieves can pick them'argument
Yes, will perhaps start
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Well the fish was fresh to the extent that I bought it on sunday and forze it but that's normal. Not sure if there was something wrong. Texture etc seemed fine

I think the lemon juice suggestion and foild packet suggestion is good and we have some more betki left

I normally do fish for 200 at 15 but of course you might need different specs for different fish. This works well for pomfret. So far :I

Pinaz said…

The fillets look good. I love fish and try different recipes with it. I used to poke the fish earlier. I observed it didn't work, as it did relatively dry the fish. To take care of the strong fishy smell, my grand mom used to rub some flour and salt to clean the fish. However, I feel, that a light wash with some lemon juice and salt really takes care of it, besides leaving a nice citrusyness, if I may say so. Also, I would go for fresh lemon juice instead of the lemon powder. I always sear the fish a little before it goes into the oven. The foil or parchment paper works good to keep it moist as well. Steaming in the banana leaf with all the goodness packed in has been the most moist fish I have had :) the Parsi way
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Hi Pinaz, thanks for your suggestions. Inspired by you might try a betki patoori. Betki steamed in banana leaves with mustard isntead of green chutney. Our version of patorri. The poking holes thing makes sense. tks
Pinaz said…
Sounds fantastic, awaiting the photos..
Sonali Kapur said…
Hi Kalyan! First of all may i just say that your blog is simply fantastic! It's like a good novel that you simply can't put down!I'm addicted:-). Now to fix this keep your mediterrean flavor going i suggest that you marinate the fish for 15 mins in salt and vinegar (a trick my mom taught me to do on any sea fish to take the smell away). Never poke a fish fillet esp. if you are baking...all the juices run out and the fish will be dry.I would put sumac, zatar,garlic powder(that will take care of the fishy smell too), lemon powder, chardonnay salt and pepper and of course a little drizzle of olive oil to keep the fish moist. And in a pan i would saute in olive oil some sliced onions with chopped garlic , red bell pepper(optional)and balsamic vinegar and pour it over the fish when its done. Try it. Once my co-worker had made it for a brunch party in office. She had used sherry though in dish.And with no chilli flakes for some heat in the fish how is a bong supposed to enjoy his dish(i know coz i am one!:-)). I have a couple of bhetki dishes(moms recipes)up my sleeve too.But for that you have to wait for my blog to come up :-).
AMitra said…
I agree with some comments above..was the fish in the freezer for too many days? Deep freezer is different from normal freezer and fish becomes fishy pretty soon. I am a recent covert to fish eating and I am very picky about the fishy taste myself.

After watching some cooking shows I have learned that always taste your marinade and it should be stronger than you want it to be because some of it looses flavor in the oven. So, may be you can try that next time.

For dryness, I think 200C for 15 mins is high. I usually do 350F (which is more like 175C) for 15 mins. Just personal experience.

I go through these mishaps like you all the time and thought I might share some of my experiences. Like your blog :)
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Hey thanks Sonali and I hope that I can keep you perpetually addicted. I think salt and vinegar would be a good idea. I added balsamic the last time and that helped. A friend of mine had earlier questioned my poking holes into the fish. Guess she was right. And a drizzle of olive too. Got to make this work as a red meat meal is so much more tempting
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Thanks for writing and thanks for sharing. Food blogs often talk only about perfection but I thought that this was a good way of getting some solutions. And have got some great ideas.

I've had fish since I was a kid and probably that's why am not too fond of it Meat is so much more fun :)

You are right about the marinade. They do become a lot less potent on cooking so one should go for an overkill I guess

200 at 15 works well for pomfret though. A bit undercooked below that. I guess each fish has a different texture. Must try the reamianing betki ata lower temp as you and others suggested
Anonymous said…
Hmm...agree with the comment that a little lemon juice (or vinegar) will 'freshen' up the fish and help with the fishy taste. I would seal it in a foil/baking paper pouch and bake in there. I don't think the high temperature of the oven matters, in fact it is better to cook at a high temp for a shorter period than a long slow cook. Add a slice of tomato or lemon on top of the fish before sealing it up. Maybe add some more aromatics like slices of onion or ginger. Or just flash fry in a pan (without batter or bacon fat!! :))
Kalyan Karmakar said…
SpiceandmoreIn fact i told K the other day about the mountain trout you had cooked in Sydney with slices of lime and herbs inside and sealed in a foil...about how wonderfully fresh the texture. i am sure the fish was great too But I plan to try it someday
kaniska said…
hi. i am reading this piece a little late i guess. work shit is keeping me away from play. not good. coming to the point, i have grilled fish in an otg and have never been happy with the result. either too dry or too under done. and all the marinade basically sits under the fish. i have since found that using a grill pan on a stove top works better for me. not to mention the soothing sizzle as fish hits hot pan. its a bit of slavery over the stove, but the result is well worth it. for an average thick fillet, i grill for best minute and half each side and drizzle reserve marinade as i go along. hope this helps.
yatzgad said…
The trick I learned with salmon (and can, hopefully, be used with other fish) is skin on the down and cover with very finely sliced lime (or lemon) on top. Keeps fish moist and citrus penetrates the fish...and for me, citrus + seafood is generally a very good thing.
Also, the fish doesn't look so good in the pics. It looks dry-ish. I like my fish moist. It should glisten in pics. You're over-cooking it is my guess.
Just discovered that Dolce Vita at Phoenix carries reasonably fresh salmon. Time I tried my old recipe.