What to do with swordfish
Swordfish are dense and meaty, with a slightly sweet taste and a high oil content. Like tuna (also dense and meaty with a high oil content) they can also be dry.
One major advantage of swordfish steaks is that they are simple and easy to cook – there is no skilled filleting or patient deboning required. They just need a few minutes frying each side on a griddle…. or even better over a barbecue.
Care needs to be taken, though, to get the cooking balance right. Too much cooking and it really does go dry and saw-dusty. If you take it off the heat while still just pink in the middle, by the time you serve it, it should be cooked through. But if it isn’t cooked through it is very chewy.
Care also needs to be taken when marinading. If you marinade for too long, especially if the marinade is acid-heavy, the flesh will start to break down and become mushy. But don’t be too precious about this – I got distracted and marinated for an hour and all was still well!
The flavour of the fish can be easily overwhelmed, so this method uses rosemary which lends a lovely smokey-herb flavour to the dish (but if you forget, as I sometimes do in the rush of everything, all will still be fine); lime, which brings out the taste; and a very lighly curried mayo sauce which counteracts any dryness. The one described below uses tomato paste and curry powder – but I have also substituted some Belazu artichoke and truffle paste very successfully. And for tuna I skip the tomato paste and curry powder, and maybe add a little ginger and possibly some mint.
Swordfish steaks go well with jacket potatoes; or with roast new potatoes to mop up any mayonnaisy juices. And a crisp, green salad adds a bit of texture interest. An avocado and mango salad also goes well. If I make the mayo-truffle-artichoke sauce described above, then it goes really well with a tomato salad, with a lime dressing and a sprinkling of dukkah.
Swordfish (Xiphias Gladius) are large, long (about 3m) and fast, with a long, thin, rapier-like bill (hence the name). Like tuna, and some sharks, they have a heating mechanism which heats their eyes and brains well above the surrounding water temperature. This gives improved vision and renders them all the better to pick out their prey. If the prey is large enough to merit it, the swordfish slashes with its long bill in order to weaken it.
If you find a swordfish with slightly pinkish flesh that will be because it has been gorging (probably on the east coast of north America) on a diet of shrimp… often these fish are more expensive.
Swordfish stock is broadly sustainable, for more information on this go to The Marine Conservation Society website.
There’s a very simple solution if you have any leftover swordfish – make it into pâté – just whizz the leftover swordfish flesh, and leftover sauce. You may need to add a little extra lime juice, and some more seasoning… if it’s too solid, maybe a little extra yoghurt.
The best thing to do with swordfish
Serves – 2
- 2 x swordfish steaks, approx. 170g/6 oz each, about a generous inch/3 cm thick
- Olive oil for marinating and frying
- 2 sprigs of rosemary
- 1 lime, juice and zest (or a small lemon)
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed with a little textured salt
- 80 ml/⅓ cup mayonnaise
- 2 tbsps yoghurt
- Couple of pinches of curry powder
- 1 tsp tomato paste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Zest the lime. Cut it in half and add a squeeze or two to the mayonnaise. Add the yoghurt.
- Coat the swordfish steaks in olive oil and put them on a board. Squeeze over the rest of the juice from the half lime you have just spritzed into the mayo.
- Grind over some pepper and leave for about twenty minutes.
- Meanwhile add the tomato paste, curry powder and some more black pepper to the mayo. Mix in well.
- Peel and crush the garlic with the salt, if you haven’t already done this. Add the zest to it, and a little oil to make a paste.
- Oil a griddle pan generously, and get it hot. Add the rosemary. Add the swordfish steaks and fry for a couple of minutes (it slightly depends on the thickness of the steaks and the temperature of the hob). Turn, and fry for another couple of minutes.
- Spread the garlic-zest paste over the steaks. You can either serve as is (together with the rosemary and the mayo), or if you prefer you can lower the heat, flip again to lightly fry the garlic (you may need a bit more oil) and take the pan off the heat. Plate up the swordfish steaks with the rosemary and whatever else – roasted new potatoes go well, and a green salad). When the garlic has cooled a little, add it to the mayo and serve with the rest.