Belfast Telegraph

A flexible approach to great fish dishes


Jo's scallops with puy lentils, porcini and asparagus
Jo's scallops with puy lentils, porcini and asparagus

With many of us cutting back on our meat consumption - for ethical and environmental reasons - plant-based diets are on the rise.

But what if you still fancy eating the odd mackerel fillet, love your crab or have a not-going-anywhere devotion to fish pie?

Enter recipe writer, food stylist and author of The Flexible Vegetarian, Jo Pratt, whose new cookbook, The Flexible Pescatarian, offers ways to make the most of fish and seafood, while presenting veggie alternatives, side dishes and more.

Who will love The Flexible Pescatarian?

Those with a pliable approach to being pescatarian or vegetarian; home cooks who have run out of ideas for what to do with fish and seafood - pescatarian or not - and need some inspiration; and those who may be afraid of cooking with fish.

What is it trying to get us cooking?

Fish and seafood in all their forms, and for all palates (that includes kids) and budgets. There's a huge, comforting smoked haddock mac 'n' cheese, whole baked snapper with a zingy pineapple salsa, Lebanese fish kebabs with rounds of charred aubergine, a speedy prawn paella, a tart teriyaki mackerel, as well as numerous spiced stews and curries.

Don't expect plain fish steaks and rubbery prawns - there's a lot more imagination going on here.

How easy is it to use?

Nicely laid out, Pratt aims to minimise any fears around prepping and cooking fish. The handiest passages are the 'flexible' additions to recipes, where Pratt recommends alternative seafood you could use.

The best recipe is...

The Cornish crab pasties - such a good idea.

The dish we're least likely to try is...

The homemade fish fingers. Who has the time when the ones from the freezer are so reliably good?

Overall rating:

7/10 - the recipes are solid and reliable.

How to make Jo's scallops with puy lentils, porcini and asparagus


20g dried porcini mushrooms

300g puy lentils

1 bay leaf

2 cloves garlic, peeled

3tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

200g baby plum tomatoes, halved

2tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

Juice of 1 lemon

Olive oil, for frying

12-16 fresh scallops

Bunch of asparagus (approx 250g), halved lengthways if thick

Flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Place the porcini in a small bowl and pour over 300ml of boiling water. Set aside for about 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, put the lentils, bay leaf and garlic in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil. Cover loosely with a lid and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until the lentils are just tender, yet still holding their shape. Top up the water if you need to during cooking, then drain, remove the garlic and bay leaf and set aside.

3. Heat a frying pan and add the extra virgin olive oil. When hot, add the halved tomatoes and toss them in the pan until they take on a little colour. Add the drained lentils, the porcini and their liquor, the parsley and lemon juice, and season well with salt and pepper.

4. In a separate frying pan, heat a drizzle of olive oil over a high heat. Season the scallops with salt and pepper and put them in the pan, cooking over a high heat for about two minutes on each side, until they are nicely golden.

Reliable recipes: writer Jo Pratt
Reliable recipes: writer Jo Pratt

5. Remove the scallops from the pan, pour in a drizzle more oil and add the asparagus. Fry for a couple of minutes while you are plating up.

6. Divide the lentils between four plates. Arrange three or four scallops per person and a few asparagus spears on top. Finish with a twist of black pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

The Flexible Pescatarian by Jo Pratt, White Lion, £20

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph