by Ed Halmagyi


It’s not surprising to me that several of the apostles were fishermen. Catching a good fish is a religious experience. But just as there is a time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones together, so too there are times for catching fish and times for bunging them in a frypan!

I’ve caught tons of different fish over the years. In and around Sydney they have been mostly bream, kingfish, flathead, Australian salmon and snapper. These are coastal fish who feed in the shallows, making them prime targets for beach, rock and dinghy fishing.

However, it is when you head off the coast a little way to where the channels start to run really deep that some of the more interesting fish start to appear. One of my favourites is Mirror Dory.

The members of the Dory family spend most of the year in very deep water, between 700 and 1500 metres. They are a predatory species who like to surprise smaller fish in the darkness. However during June and July they congregate around coastal underwater mountains around 300 metres down, providing excellent catches for our trawlers.

Mirror Dory is a sweet, delicate winter fish much like its more famous relative John Dory, but without the alarming price tag. In fact it costs around half as much. That said, all Dories remain relatively expensive due to their low fillet yield. Whereas many fish will return around 60% of their landed weight as edible fillet, you are lucky to get 35% from Dory.

Mirror Dory can be easily identified from its shiny silver skin which reflects like a mirror (no surprises there!). The skin is free of scales and can be pulled off the fillet from the tail end if you wish to serve it denuded. Mirror Dory also lacks John Dory’s signature dark spot on its sides (Italian tradition ascribes this marking to the thumb of St Peter, another fisherman), but it tastes and cooks almost identically.

All Dory fillets are generally free of bones and are flaky, moist and tender when cooked. Being high in naturally occurring sugars, the fish also caramelises to a delicate golden colour if fried in a little butter.

While Mirror Dory doesn’t marinade well, it does pair with sauces, especially butter-based ones. Try classic French concoctions like Bearnaise, or give it an Italian touch by poaching gently in butter, dry white wine and herbs.

Insist on fresh Mirror Dory as it tends to dry out when frozen. A large amount of Australia’s fish catch is frozen at sea or soon after landing, so take the time to ensure you’re getting what you want. After all, why not enjoy this elegant fish at its seasonal peak.
Tuscan style poached mirror dory with white wine and herbs