My 6 Yr Old Has A Knot At His Ribs A Fish Called Melva – Much Maligned

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A Fish Called Melva – Much Maligned

I remember successfully buying and cooking melva-like fish in Asia. There was a lot of it and I remember making a pie, a proper pie with pastry on top and bottom. And then I moved to the Middle East, where the fish didn’t seem to be for sale so I forgot what I used to do with it!

Melva is the Spanish name for a small tuna-like fish. It is a blue fish, an oily fish, which goes by other names, such as frigate mackerel. The factor that puts many people off when they prepare it for the first time is that its raw meat is extremely bloody. So when I had the opportunity again to buy melva through the Mercadona fish counter, I decided to look up my old notes and do it right this time. The last time I bought one I cooked it the normal way and made a complete mess of it. Fish blood, if cooked in the usual way, turns sour, so there are not many fish stocks based on blue fish. When I searched the internet for some help, I found the much maligned melva described as both cheap and avoidable. But there is a simple way to turn it into a great ingredient.

I was determined to rediscover my old way. Whenever I see a way to save a few euros I am always persistent. This time the result was so good that I intend to write a whole cookbook on things related to your melbag. And this is the beginning of the project.

First prepare your fish. My latest example was just shy of one kilo and cost me three euros. Here are the steps.

One: Remove the head and discard it. Stock is not useful here.

Two: Clean the fish and remove the fins.

Three: This is where the process differs from most fish. Wash the fish well in a bowl with cold water. There will be lumps of congealed blood all over the spinal cord. They destroyed it. Break the inner tubercle membrane and run your thumb gently down the spine to release most of the blood. It only takes a minute or two. Discard the water and fill the bowl again with cold water.

Four: Fold the fish in the usual way. Remove the backbone.

Five: Place the fillets on a board skin down and run your finger down the middle of each one to find the pin bones. Pull these out, along with any remaining ribs, any bony part of the gill flap and – especially – the bony part just behind the pectoral fins.

Six: Peel the petals in the usual way and cut each one in two along the line of the pin bone. Wash these four pieces again in cold water.

Seven: Cut the fish into pieces and put them in a bowl with a sprinkle of salt and lemon juice. Give them a mix and refrigerate for two hours.

Eight: And this is where this preparation is very different from other methods. Drain the fish and put it in for a minute or two in hot oil. Before it is cooked the fish has turned grey. After this short cooking, it has turned white with brown edges.

You now have about eight hundred grams of fish that can be used as an ingredient. It can be used as it is in salads, for example, but here are the three things I did with my melva.

A melva mayo sandwich sounds pretty small. It is. It is also excellent. Just add a lettuce leaf and a couple of slices of tomato. Spread some mayonnaise on your bread and slice one of the pieces of fish to complete the sandwich.

Melva fish curry is almost as good as that made with kingfish – and it costs a lot less! Sauté medium chopped onion with two or three three centimeters of chopped ginger and four or crushed fish with garlic cloves. When these are soft, add your favorite curry mixture to the level of spiciness you like, but add enough paprika to color them. Add a couple of chopped tomatoes and cook this mixture until the tomatoes fall into a sauce. Then reduce the heat and add some strained yogurt, or coconut milk if you want a Malay style dish. Let the sauce cook until the top looks oily and then add a few pieces of the melva. Heat the fish through, check the seasoning and add chopped green herbs if you like.

Seafood soup noodles become a main dish with a couple of pieces of melva. Grab a bowl of Asian-style seafood noodles. Yes, the prepackaged varieties work well. Make up the soup for the noodles in the usual way with the seasoning provided. Add the noodles and let them go. Add a few pieces of melva and then a handful of finely chopped lettuce leaves. And that’s it! It’s even more if you add an egg first to make an egg flour soup, and the dish is even better with the help of chopped dried chilli – but it will be spicy! And of course you can try with drops of oyster sauce, fish sauce, soy sauce, etc. Any leafy green can be used in place of the lettuce, but something tougher should be added at the beginning and given a minute to cool before continuing.

So there was my melva. One fish made a total of seven servings and cost just three euros. And the dishes themselves – especially the curry – were fantastic.

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