How to pick the freshest seafood, a chef's guide

Prawns on skewers being grilled


Posted December 22, 2020

RACV Noosa Executive Chef Lee Jenyes' expert tips for picking the freshest seafood.

Fresh seafood can be hard to find and harder to prepare. But it is always easy to eat. To help you navigate the mysteries of your local fish market, RACV Noosa Resort’s executive chef Lee Jeynes has pulled together his top tips for purchasing the freshest ingredients, and how to turn them into a delicious barramundi dish.

Lee’s tips for picking the freshest market seafood

  • Follow your nose: Start by checking the smell of the fish and the market itself; good, fresh seafood should never smell bad. Saltwater fish can smell briny – like the ocean – and freshwater fish should smell like a clean pond.
  • Use your eyes: When buying whole fish, always look at the eyes. You’re looking for bright, shiny, full-rounded eyes; sunken or cloudy eyes are a sure sign the fish is not fresh. Next, check out the scales. The fresher the fish, the more tight, shiny and glossy the scales will appear. The skin is also important; it should not be dull and patchy. Finally, the gills should be bright and red; if the fish is old they will start to dull and turn brown.
  • Don’t be afraid to feel: If you are buying filleted fish, make sure the flesh is bright and firm. Press the flesh gently; it should feel taut and spring back when pressed. Soft and squishy flesh is an immediate red flag. Look at the structure or grain of the flesh to make sure it is smooth and intact, not broken and flaky. The fish may be moist, but any moisture should be clear (not cloudy) and the fish should never feel slimy to the touch.

Now that you’ve got your fresh fish, it’s time to put it to good use. One of Lee’s star picks is barramundi; usually sold in fillets and cutlets, it has a firm, moist white-pink flesh. A versatile fish that’s great steamed, fried, baked or barbecued, it’s also the key ingredient in one of the most popular dishes at RACV Noosa Resort’s Arcuri Restaurant. This easy-to-follow recipe combines North Queensland barramundi, truffle cauliflower puree, buttered spinach, leek, oyster mushrooms and roasted baby carrots for a dinner that’s guaranteed to impress.

A photo of fresh seafood on ice

Follow your nose. Saltwater fish can smell briny – like the ocean – and freshwater fish should smell like a clean pond.


Barramundi with truffle cauliflower puree



Time to make

40 min





  • 4 x 150g barramundi fillets skin on (scaled)
  • ½ leek thinly sliced
  • 200g oyster mushrooms sliced
  • 8 baby carrots (blanched)
  • 200g baby spinach (blanched and squeezed)

For the puree

  • ½ cauliflower
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp truffle paste
  • 200ml cream
  • 100ml vegetable stock


  • Over a medium flame, heat a non-stick heavy-bottomed pan.
  • Coat the barramundi fillets in olive oil, sea salt and cracked black pepper. Score through the skin, then place skin side down – you should hear a gentle sizzle when placed in the pan. The hardest thing is to leave the fish alone; ensure heat is low and consistent to crisp the skin golden brown, but do not turn it or move it around the pan. Once the skin has crisped up, turn the barramundi over and cook for a further four to five minutes (depending on the thickness of the fillet).

For the puree

  • Melt a small amount of butter in a saucepan over low to medium heat. When the butter starts to foam add the cauliflower and garlic and cook slowly without colour. Add cream and stock and cook until the cauliflower is soft.
  • Strain the cauliflower, being sure to keep the remaining liquid. Place in a blender and blend until smooth. Add the cream until the required consistency is achieved – the finished product should resemble lightly whipped cream. Add truffle paste to taste and correct seasoning as required, then put to one side.

For the vegetables

  • In a non-stick fry pan melt a small knob of butter over medium heat. Once the butter starts to foam, add the sliced mushrooms and leek, season with salt and pepper, then toss for one to two minutes. Repeat the same process for the spinach and baby carrots.

To serve

  • Using a dessert spoon, smooth the cauliflower puree onto the plate. Place the buttered spinach on top of the puree and arrange the oyster mushrooms and leek around the plate. Gently place the crispy barramundi fillet on the spinach, resting the baby carrots against the barramundi, and finish with a generous drizzle of butter.
  • Serve immediately with a glass of Dal Zotto Pinot Grigio and enjoy!

Save on ingredients

RACV Members can save on ingredients by purchasing gift cards from a range of Woolworths’ brands. Go to the Woolworths RACV Member Offer website, enter your membership details, then redeem your gift card at thousands of participating stores across Australia.