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The easy way to fillet and debone your fish

Fish tastes delicious and it's good for you. But maybe you're one of those people who never cook fish, because you're unsure how to prepare it and you worry about bones. Actually, preparing fish isn't difficult; just follow the simple steps below and you'll be able to descale and fillet your own fish and no longer dependent on buying expensive kitchen-ready fish.

To gut and clean fish you need a pair of scissors and a sharp knife. If you need to remove the scales you can use a special descaler or simply a sharp knife. First cut off the back and stomach fins. Then hold the fish by the tail and scrape off the scales, working from tail to head. Our tip: the best place to descale a fish is in the sink, then you won't get scales all over the kitchen. Once the scales have been removed, take the scissors and carefully cut the fish open from the anus to the gills. Spread the two flaps apart and pull out the guts. Rinse under cold running water and pat dry with kitchen paper.

Filleting the right way

Now you can fillet your fish. If it's a "round" fish like a herring or trout you can make two fillets. To do this, use the knife to cut along the backbone and across behind the gills. Then slide the knife along on both sides of the main bones to separate off the fillets. If you prefer your fish without skin, this is the time to run the knife under the skin and remove it. If you have a "flat" fish like sole, then you can cut four fillets by cutting the main fillets in half. With flat fish, it's better to remove the skin before filleting.

Different ways of cooking fish

Poaching, frying, steaming, stewing or grilling are all excellent ways of cooking fish. If you're stewing fish, keep the liquid just simmering, because if it boils furiously the fish will disintegrate. If you're poaching fish, prepare a hot liquid flavoured with herbs and maybe wine and then slide the fish into it. Don't even let it simmer. Poaching is a very gentle, low-calorie method of preparing fish. Another low-calorie cooking method is to steam the fish wrapped in aluminium foil in the oven. Here too you can add herbs and spices for extra flavour. Basil, dill, thyme and lemon harmonise well with fish, or you can add curry, ginger or mustard. Close the foil up tightly, but leave a little space around the fish. Fish is cooked when the flesh becomes opaque and solid.

Salt the fish just before you cook it, because although salt makes the flavour more intense by drawing out some of the water this also makes the fish drier.

Source: Dr. Claudia Müller, www.aid.de