THE Scottish foodie talks us through his new cookbook, Tom Kitchin's Fish And Shellfish.

They way to get anyone, and particularly kids, into fish, says Tom Kitchin, is to show them the whole cycle of eating it, from catching to plating.

The chef, whose Scottish restaurant The Kitchin has one coveted Michelin star, goes fishing five or six times a year, "whether it's sea fishing or trout or salmon fishing" - but it's mackerel fishing that he's a real sucker for.

"I love to do that with the kids [he has four boys with wife Michaela], it's great fun because quite often you catch something," says the Edinburgh-born restaurateur. "The one thing about fishing is, you have to have a bit of patience, and it's not something that children have a lot of..."

But if you do snag a few muscular, iridescent mackerel, silver-bellied and eyes bright, he says, follow the process all the way through with kids if you can, because "more often than not, that's how you'll get them to eat it. If they've caught it, they've gone through the gutting and the barbecuing, and then they taste it - that's a very satisfying day," he adds.

This enthusiasm for fish - an enthusiasm Kitchin hopes to share - is the backbone of his latest cookbook, Tom Kitchin's Fish And Shellfish.

He calls the recipe collection "a real celebration" of seafood and "a real passion of mine", that shows how seafood offers "such a quick way to cook, such a healthy way to eat". The book is also underlined by a desire to help people quash their fish fears and "get away from [the belief that], 'Oh, I just like salmon, I just like haddock'," adds Kitchin, with a knowing touch of exasperation.

Being based in Scotland though, the 41-year-old is well aware that he has incredible access to the joys of edible sea creatures not enjoyed by all. But he's adamant it is possible to get your hands on decent seafood, no matter how landlocked you might be (although obviously, anything scaly is better fresh out of the ocean).

"First and foremost, you've got to build your relationship with a fishmonger," says Kitchin. "Fishmongers in general are great banter, proper old school, love a regular customer, and will go out of their way. So if you find a recipe and say to yourself, 'I'd really like to try that, it's got scallops or prawns or mackerel', then go and speak to your fishmonger because they will be able to source these ingredients for you.

"If it's for the weekend, then try and get there Wednesday or Thursday to pre-order it," he continues; it'll certainly be more of a learning experience than shucking cod fillets from vacuum-packed plastic sheathes from the supermarket.

"I think [people] have really bad childhood memories, they think about fish with bones in it. It's a bit like offal," muses Kitchin. "People think about liver and onion at school - 'I'm never having that again' - but like most things, if it's done properly, it's really, really good."

Cost, particularly if you don't entirely rate you fish cookery skills, can also be a concern. After all, the trendiest fish of the moment, turbot ("The king of fish"), is stunningly pricey, especially if wild caught. But for Kitchin, the wonderful thing about fish is that there's so much variety - in flavour, size and cost.

"As long as it's fresh, it's good. So if you're really pushing the boat out, you're talking lobster, turbot, langoustines, scallops, but underneath that you've got some wonderful fish; hake, cod, haddock, mussels, plaice, [which are] great value for money. It can certainly be done on a budget - and just think of how good it is for you."

Still hesitant? You definitely don't have to start with oysters. Even Kitchin, who, at 29, became the youngest chef at the time to win a Michelin star, didn't knock back his first oyster until he was 16 or 17 ("which for a chef is quite old").

"I don't think it was love at the first taste, but I tell you what, I love them now," he buzzes. "If you're gonna try them for the first time, maybe don't go for a big massive one, and go somewhere they really know what they're doing. Just try and embrace them. They'll grow on you. I have mine with shallots in red wine vinegar, a little bit of lemon juice, and off we go."

As a child himself, Kitchin reckons he was "pretty adventurous" but wasn't elegantly scoffing snails, or anything like that. "My kids are eating much better now than I was at their age," he says - and if his boys were faced with a snail? "They'll try it, I don't know if they'll fully enjoy it, but they'll try it," he offers with a laugh. And with seafood, just trying it is a rule you can't argue with.


This will wow your guests when you set it on the table.

"People are always looking for dinner party and special-occasion ideas, and this recipe ticks all the boxes," promises chef Tom Kitchin. "You can get the dish prepared in advance, allowing you to relax and enjoy the evening as much as your guests, as all you have to do is bake and then carve the salmon.

"Just be careful to really squeeze all the excess water out of the spinach after cooking," he notes. "Also, when you're carving, use a really sharp knife or serrated knife. I'm sure if you try this it will become a favourite in your family, too."

Here's how it's done...


(Serves 4)

100g spinach, thick central stalks removed

100g watercress sprigs

1 garlic clove, peeled but left whole

Olive oil

1 shallot, finely chopped

30g cream cheese

2tsp chopped dill

11/2tbsp creamed horseradish

300g puff pastry, thawed if frozen

Plain white flour for dusting

2 salmon fillets, about 250g each, skinned and pin bones removed

1 free-range medium egg, beaten

Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper


1. First prepare the spinach and watercress for the filling. Rinse the spinach and watercress well and shake dry. Spear the garlic clove with a fork. Heat a well-seasoned saute or frying pan over a medium-high heat, then add a splash of oil. When it is hot, add the spinach and watercress with just the water clinging to the leaves, season with salt and toss with the garlic fork until the spinach is just wilted. Tip into a sieve and squeeze out the excess water, then transfer to a bowl and set aside.

2. Wipe out the pan and reheat over a medium-high heat, then add another splash of oil. Add the shallot with a pinch of salt and saute for one minute before adding the spinach and watercress and mixing together. Remove the pan from the heat, transfer the spinach mixture to a bowl and leave cool completely.

3. When the spinach is cool, stir in the cream cheese, dill and horseradish, and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper and set aside. Make room in your fridge for the baking sheet.

4. Roll out the puff pastry on a very lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 30cm square, about the thickness of a £1 coin. Pat the salmon fillets dry and season them with salt and pepper, then place one fillet in the centre of the pastry. Spread the salmon and watercress mixture over, then top with the remaining salmon fillet.

5. You now want to completely enclose the fillets in pastry. Use both hands to carefully lift the pastry and fold inwards to meet at the top, so both ends just overlap. Trim off any excess pastry to avoid a layer of unbaked pastry. Brush the edges and press together firmly to seal. Brush the pastry on both short ends with beaten egg and press together, again cutting off the excess pastry. You want about a 0.5cm gap between the edge of the salmon parcel and the pastry seals.

6. Carefully transfer the salmon parcel to the prepared baking sheet, seam side down. Brush the pastry all over with the beaten egg and chill for at least 20 minutes. When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 200 C Fan/220 C /Gas Mark 7. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake the salmon Wellington for 35 minutes, or until golden brown. Leave to rest for five minutes before slicing.