Pengelly's, the finest day-caught fish and shellfish, in Looe & Liskeard, Cornwall
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Freshly chopped parsley
Several skin-on whitefish fillets, such as cod, john dory, sea bass, sole or plaice
First off, wash the fish in some cold water. Using your fingertips, check the fish for any remaining pinbones. If you find some, remove them using tweezers. When finished, dry the fillets with kitchen roll, paying particular attention to the skin side.
Using a sharp knife, make a few shallow diagonal cuts across the surface of the skin. This is to stop the fish from curling up during cooking.
Add a knob of butter and a splash of oil to a thick based, non-stick frying pan, and place on the heat.
While the oil is warming up, season the fish on both sides with a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Pay particular attention to the skin by rubbing the seasoning into it, as the salt helps to create a delightful crispy finish.
When the oil is hot, but not smoking, gently place the fish skin side down into the pan.
At this point look at the fish from the side. You'll notice that the flesh is almost translucent. Yet, as it cooks in the pan, you'll see the flesh from the skin beginning to become opaque and white - it will creep up as the fish cooks. This is the key to cooking perfect fish - watch the cooking process from the side.
When the flesh has become opaque halfway up the fish, use a fish slice to gently turn the fillets over. (This normally takes just a minute or so with thin fillets, or a few more minutes for thicker cod and dory fillets.)
Continue to cook the fish for a minute or two more, watching carefully as the flesh become opaque. This is the most important bit! When just a sliver of translucent flesh remains in the middle of the fish, it is cooked to perfection! Turn off the heat!
To finish simply squeeze the juice of half a lemon across the fillet and the pan, and sprinkle the chopped herbs across the fish and the pan.
Serve immediately with the sides of your choice, by carefully lifting the fish out with the fish slice, and drizzling the fillet with the juices from the pan.
TOP TIP - if the skin is not crispy enough, take the fillet out slightly earlier (when there's a few millimetres of translucent flesh left), and flash the fish - skin side up - beneath a hot grill for 60 seconds or so.
(Note - when using this technique you must watch the fish every second... if you turn your back for a moment, it will burn!)