Top celebrity chef Aldo Zilli is on a mission to re-introduce the British tradition of eating fish on a Friday. Here the Italian culinary whiz, who is renowned for his simple and stylish cooking, shares his tips, secrets and recipes to help you get beyond the national norm of fish and chips.
You've got seven brothers and sisters so obviously grew up in a large family. Did fish feature often on your dinner table?
"Fish was a staple of our diet – we grew up in a fishing village and were sent to work for a fishmonger and were paid in fish!"
Why do you think Italians have a different attitude towards fish and seafood?
"We just cook it differently – it doesn’t always have to be fried and served with chips! Olive oil and fresh ingredients are the key. We also don’t fuss too much about it – we’re taught from a young age that it is an affordable, healthy and easy meal."
The tradition of eating fish on a Friday is really only followed at Easter in the UK. Why do you think this is?
"It’s a great shame that the tradition is fading – research from Birds Eye shows that many people in the UK aren’t even aware of the tradition anymore. I also think a lot of people have misconceptions that fish is expensive and difficult to prepare, which is doesn’t need to be. They’re put off by handling it and the smell, which is a great shame because fish is such a delicious and healthy food."
For some people cooking fish is a bit of a hit and miss affair and often seen as complicated. Do you have any tips to make the whole process seem less challenging?
"Ask your fishmonger to do the skinning and gutting the fish first, then you can bring it home clean and fresh. All you then need to do is pop in the oven or stick on the BBQ. Alternatively, opt for frozen fish from the supermarket, which can be cooked in the oven, straight from the freezer."
Is there a very simple recipe you have to get people started?
"Roasting a whole fish is one of the simplest recipes – grab your fish, stuff the cavity with garlic, rosemary and lemon, then oven roast it. You’ll need 15 minutes per 1lb and the whole thing can be done under £5 and in under 30 minutes."
Fish has a reputation for being a 'healthy' food. Why should we be eating fish at least once a week?
"The recommended consumption is twice per week. Studies have shown the benefits of fish can range from reductions of cardiovascular disease to helping the skin and brain function."
Would you agree with the view that seafood has fallen out of favour in Britian?
"I’m not sure it has fallen out of favour – the number of people who still eat fish and chips is as high as ever but there does seem to be this misconception that cooking it at home is difficult or more expensive. Which it doesn’t need to be."
Do you have a favourite fish or recipe?
"My favourite fish is Salmon – here’s one of my favourite recipes."
What ingredients could you not live without when preparing fish?
"Garlic, rosemary and olive oil."
Do you think we have lost touch with the 'dining table' as it were, preferring instead to eat meals on the go or in front of the television?
"I think people have busier lives these days, so it’s not so easy. It’s so important to have family time though – every couple should make an effort to have a special night in together with a delicious meal at least once a week."
***Aldo Zilli has teamed up with Birds Eye to launch a new fish range 'Simply Bake to Perfection'