A lovely wing of skate every now and again is such a pleasure. I used to eat this quite a lot when I was a kid, and I remember how cool it was to pull the flesh off the bones in spaghetti- like strips. Depending on where you live, skate may be plentiful, or it might be a little overfished. Ask your fishmonger, and if he doesn’t have any sustainably caught skate, ask for ray wings instead – they are also delicious. Using fennel and copious amounts of white pepper helps create a really tasty crust with attitude and heat that contrasts nicely with the delicate flavour of the fish and the minted peas. This is the kind of dish I only really cook when it’s just me and the missus – it makes a really generous dinner.
Put a medium-sized pan on a medium heat and add a knob of butter and a splash of oil. Add the spring onions and cook for a few minutes until softened, then add the frozen peas and half the mint leaves. Add a swig of water, pop the lid on and leave to cook for 10 to 12 minutes.
Use scissors to trim the ruffled outer edges (skirt) of the skate wings, and use a knife to cut off the backbone (if you want to see how this is done, go to www.jamieoliver.com/how-to
and you’ll find a video to guide you). Grind the fennel seeds and white peppercorns in a pestle and mortar or in a liquidizer until you’ve got a fine powder, and put aside. Tip the flour on to one large plate and the beaten egg on to another. Sprinkle, rub and pat the peppery mixture all over each skate wing, then quickly dip each one into the egg to coat really well on both sides. Let any excess egg drip off, then put each wing straight into the plate of flour and pat and coat really well on both sides until you have a good covering.
Put a large non-stick frying pan, big enough to hold both the wings (cut them in half if need be), on a high heat. Once hot, add a good lug of oil, a knob of butter and the skate wings. Cook for roughly 3 minutes on each side, then an extra minute on each side to finish them off, until the meat comes off the bone at the thickest part of the fish and you’ve got a nice golden crust.
Add a squeeze of lemon juice and the remaining mint leaves to your peas, then stir and season to taste. If you want to smash or purée them you can, but I like sprinkling them over a warm platter and simply placing the sizzling golden skate wings on top. Sprinkle over a pinch of sea salt and serve with the rest of the lemon, cut into wedges. An absolute joy.