Leatherjacket jackpot


Leatherjacket Oven-Roasted with Lemongrass & Garlic, photographer Cath Muscat

Bingo! The Food Sage’s Sustainable Seafood Challenge has got off to a cracking start. I was browsing the latest issue of Delicious when i spotted a recipe for Leatherjacket Oven-Roasted with Lemongrass & Garlic, by head chef at Sydney’s Red Lantern restaurant, Mark Jensen. It’s from his new cookbook The Urban Cook: Cooking and Eating for a Sustainable Future (published by Murdoch Books).

The photograph (above) looked amazing, the ingredients were relatively few and some of my favourites (lemongrass, garlic, bird’s-eye chillies) and i knew my local fishmonger sold leatherjacket – in all their shimmering, silvery, yellow-tipped splendour. I’d admired, but never dared purchase, them in the past. I decided to take the plunge.

Leatherjacket oven-roasted with Lemongrass & garlic
By Mark Jensen

Serves 4

4 lemongrass stems
8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 bird’s eye chillies, finely chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
juice of 1 lemon
4 x 350 g (12 oz) leatherjackets (these are usually sold with the heads and skin removed)
2 lemons, halved
1 handful of coriander (cilantro) sprigs

Spring onion oil

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 spring onions (scallions), green part only, finely sliced

What you do.

To make the spring onion oil, place the vegetable oil and spring onion greens in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook the spring onions until they just start to simmer in the oil, then remove the pan from the heat. Allow the spring onions to cool in the oil.

Peel the tough outer leaves off the lemongrass. Finely slice the bottom white 6–8 cm (21/2–31/4 inch) section, then chop very finely. To make the marinade, combine the chopped lemongrass, garlic, chilli, fish sauce, sugar, lemon juice and spring onion oil in a bowl, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

Lay the fish on a chopping board and make four diagonal cuts along the flesh, not quite through to the bone. Repeat the process on the other side. Once you have prepared all of the leatherjackets, place them in a large non-reactive dish. Rub the marinade evenly into all the fish and place in the fridge to marinate for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4). Remove the fish from the fridge and allow it to come back to room temperature. Place the fish on a baking tray with the lemon halves and cook for 20 minutes, or until the flesh is opaque to the bone. Serve garnished with the coriander sprigs.

Urban Cook: Cooking and Eating for a Sustainable Future The experience.

I embarked on cooking this dish with some  trepidation. Fish is a hard sell in my  household. Unfamiliar fish was likely to be  even tougher to get over the line.

My first mistake? Not asking the  fishmonger  to skin the fish. Jensen’s  recipe  says  leatherjackets are  usually sold with the  heads and skin removed. My purchases were  headless, but  not skinless. I  figured i could  do it myself.  It was a fiddly 15 minutes of my  life that i’ll never get back.  I either need to  learn how to  do it properly, or  get the man  who does it for a  living to do it  for me. I’ll  cross that bridge the  next time i get to it.

After my hatchet job of skinning the fish, the recipe was quick and easy to follow. A minor flaw is that Jensen doesn’t explain whether to strain the spring onion from the oil for the – you guessed it – spring onion oil. I did. I figured it wouldn’t make too much difference either way.

The leatherjackets were perfectly cooked after 15 minutes in the oven. The firm white flesh was subtly infused with the Vietnamese flavours that were a big drawcard when deciding whether or not to cook this dish. We enjoyed it so much we could have sucked the bones (which we picked bare). Which brings me to my second mistake: not buying the extra leatherjacket i had my eye on!

The verdict.

One of the best things about this dish – besides the easy recipe, wonderful flavours, and the satisfaction that followed stepping beyond a comfort zone – was the price. The leatherjackets cost $3.95! Although they were smaller in size than Jensen suggested. All up, the dish cost about $7 (the lemongrass came free from the garden). We hit the leatherjacket jackpot. Love your work, Jensen!

Readers may also like:

Sustainable Seafood: A load of old codswallop?

Fish on ice

Fish on ice (iStockphoto)



Filed under Sustainable Seafood Challenge

6 responses to “Leatherjacket jackpot

  1. Hi ,Rach I really enjoyed reading yours and Mark Jensens article/recipe on the oven roasted leatherjacket with lemongrass.Leatherjacket has always been one of my favorite eating fish.You make the recipe so tempting and mouth watering and relativly simple to prepare that we have already made plans to visit our local fish markett to purchase some leatherjackets. Will let you know how we go with it. Regards BOB


    • Hi Bob,
      Thanks for reading The Food Sage. Mark Jensen’s recipe certainly is lovely – Mitch really enjoyed it and i thought it would be a challenge getting that one past him, as he’s not really into fish! I love the fact that leatherjackets are so cheap, too. It made the experience so much more pleasurable! Hope you enjoy the dish as much as we did. Let us know how you go.


  2. Well ive just come back in after taking my daughter out on the boat for a fish ( she is 2 1/2 so her friend dora the explorer came too ) 🙂 but ended up with 7 leather jackets and was wondering what / how to cook them ! looks like ill give this a go as i have all the ingreidents and herbs in the garden … ill be back with verdict
    Adam – esperance WA


  3. Elly

    Leather jackets are amazing! Delicious and so cheap!! Why does no one know about them? I also cook them in a tomato sauce with vongole and spaghetti. I believe the white ‘skin’ is an inner, edible skin that you don’t need to bother removing, and there is an outer dark leathery skin that gets removed by the fishmonger. Enjoyed your blog post, thanks.


  4. Kate

    Thanks for your recipe. I have never cooked leatherjackets before but saw a lady at our fish market buying some whole fish. I asked her how she was planning to cook them and she said whole with some lemon zest, lemon juice, pepper and tomatoes wrapped in foil. I felt like more of an asian bent and lucked onto your recipe. It was fantastic and I must say I’m now a convert to leatherjacket. Great blog too!


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