Recipes from Coasts & Waters by Christopher Trotter

In On The Side on Wednesday we featured Coasts & Waters, the latest cook book from the prolific pen of Christopher Trotter. Many thanks to Christopher for permission to reproduce these two excerpts. The first is an interesting fish curry; the second is a fine explanation of a skill which many have struggled to master, namely how to cook a salmon steak with perfect crispy skin.

Bengali Fish Curry

In his introduction, Christopher writes, you could use a farmed fish as the curry flavour is quite strong, but I suggest pike if you can get hold of it. Pike is a fresh water fish which is available from Scottish lochs, notably Loch Awe in Argyll and English lakes. It has a flavour which combines well with spices. Hake and coley are also good for this dish. 

Ingredients  (serves 4)

450g pike fillets, cut into about 8 pieces; salt; 2 tsp turmeric; 1 tsp cumin seeds; 1 tsp mustard seeds; 3cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped; 1 large onion, chopped; 4 tbsp vegetable oil; ½ tsp onion seeds; 1 tsp chilli powder;  2 tsp ground coriander; 1 large potato, cut into wedges; 1 small cauliflower, cut into florets; 1 tbsp fresh chopped coriander.


Rub the fish fillets with a little salt and 1 tsp turmeric. Soak the mustard seeds and cumin with the remaining turmeric in 4 tbsp warm water for 10 minutes, then puree in a blender with the ginger and onion, adding more water to create a very smooth paste.

Heat a large pan or wok with a little oil and fry the fish until crisp. Set aside. Add a little more oil and fry the onion seeds, briefly, and then pour in the onion puree, the remaining turmeric and chilli.

Add the potato wedges and reduce the heat, cook for a few minutes, then add the cauliflower and a little more water and simmer for another 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and gently place the fish pieces into the mixture, leave for a few minutes to heat through and serve, taking care not to break up the fish pieces.

Serve with rice and the chopped coriander.

How to cook a salmon steak

Christopher's Introduction

Simply grilled, cooked in a pan or on a barbeque is, I think, the most delicious way to eat salmon. It is important to remove the scales. I often use a griddle pan, but a heavy based frying pan is fine or a barbeque, but do not try to cook it under a domestic grill. The heat needs to be in direct contact with the skin. Cooking the steak in this way keeps the flesh moist and you get the lovely crunchy skin. A whole side cooked like this on a barbeque looks great and you serve it whole skin side up so guests can help themselves to bits of crunchy skin and lovely moist flesh.

Editor's Note Even if, like my wife, you hate crispy fish skin, this is still an ideal method. The skin can easily be peeled off before service and the fish will be perfect.


Salmon steaks or a whole side, descaled; a little oil; salt and pepper.


Heat a griddle pan or heavy based pan until very hot. Wipe the salmon with kitchen paper and season lightly. Brush the pan with a little oil and place the salmon skin side down. Leave for a few minutes to really crisp. Reduce the heat a little and let the salmon cook all the way through.  You can tell when it is nearly done as the flesh turns from a translucent colour to opaque. It will feel firm to touch,

Turn over and cook on the flesh side for a minute and remove. Rest for a few minutes and serve with the skin side up.

All photos courtesy of Caroline Trotter

An Ignoramus Does Sourdough: An Update

Thanks to all who provided me with advice and tips. At the weekend I tried again. Things looked quite promising. The starter seemed a bit more active. By the end of the first kneading I had a ball of, on the face of it, perfectly serviceable dough. Then I returned to do the second stage. Disaster. The dough resembled a cross between custard and superglue. I did give it a (long) chance to convert into something oven worthy, but it had to end up in the bin. I fear I may have murdered the starter by following dodgy advice from a book.

PS I have been asked by Fife's Greatest Photographer to point out the Fife Sourdough Grand Master and Fife's Food Ambassador are not one and the same person.

Tom Cooks! will probably appear next on November 19



  1. LJ on 5th November 2021 at 5:25 pm

    Fabulous cookery book. Full of useful recipes. Make a space on your shelves.

  2. LW on 6th November 2021 at 1:21 pm

    The fish curry sounds wonderful! I’m definitely going to try this recipe, thanks for sharing with us Tom.

    • Tom Johnston on 6th November 2021 at 2:40 pm

      If you like fish curry I’ll send you another one.

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