Good Fish, Bad Fish?

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I try really hard with sustainability of seafood and using seasonal local produce, I have a lot more success with the seasonal and local than with the ethics of fish.

The problem is it does change, so mantras from a few years back are not necessarily in line with current thinking. This is partly due to the success of the sustainable lobby, the Marine Stewardship Council not to mention Hugh’s fish fight and so on, so it’s not all bad news. Now some farmed fish is a good option in terms of sustaining stocks, but it must be from reputable sources. If you buy your fish in a supermarket then forget that, it might say the country but it rarely states the location or details of the farm. Let’s face it we haven’t all got a decent fishmonger on our doorstep – OH WHY HAVENT I MANAGED TO GET MY SEAFOOD DELI OPEN YET!

So, it can be time consuming not least because I would like to promote the eating of fish. It’s healthy, and it’s a traditional industry in our country. I don’t mean I think people shouldn’t be veggie – I’ve been on the verge of that myself at times and eat meatless meals several times a week… nor do I think more recent industries are less important – I would just like to preserve the best of everything we have going on. For better or for worse here are my own 10 rules about seafood:

1) Eat less fish and meat in terms of portion and frequency, but choose good quality when I do eat it.

2) Buy fish that is fresh and looks good and glossy, which smells of the sea and nothing else. Never compromise on this.

3) Buy British fish, when in Britain, and French when in France and so on as far as possible, and try for as locally caught as possible.

4) Try to use independent traders and build up a rapport with them so as to be able to trust their traceability, and to support their endeavours.

5) When buying fish that may be endangered, buy farmed or line caught options as appropriate. If not available, try to use a sustainable alternative.

6) Get familiar with the MSC guide to sustainable fish so that I am as informed as I can be.

7) Try always to know where the fish has come from and how it has been caught, pay due respect and don’t waste food.

8) When accessible to the coast, try to buy from source i.e. fishermen and cooperatives.

9) Sometimes I want a great big prawn or some exotic offering that has come from far away and may not meet the good criteria – so I have it,  I just try not to do it all the time.

10) Open my bloody seafood deli and let the good people nearby have some of the above.

I found myself unexpectedly off work and home alone yesterday due to a tedious domestic situation so I had an opportunity to do a little cooking and be a little healthy….

Wandering around the shops looking for inspiration I decided on a ‘tart’ of jersey royals, with roasted red onions and tomatoes. There were some beautifully fresh farmed sea bream on offer, so I picked up one of those and thought I could top my tart off with a nice fillet of the bream. Feel good food for one on a sunny day….

I’ve tried to take a few snaps but tasks that needed 2 hands prevented too many successful images!

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Pan fried sea bream with Jersey royal, onion and tomato tart, lemon chervil mayonnaise.

Why add the pink peppercorns? They go so well with tomato, we were in pavement cafe in Toulouse a few years ago and we saw those around us enjoying a simple tomato salad well we had to have it. When it came up it was assembled of those lovely heavy fleshy tomatoes that you get in French markets in late summer, studded with the almost perfumed pink peppercorns, which created a lovely fragrant note.

Pre-heat the one to gas mark 6

1 fillet of sea bream, scored on the skin side – pinch the fish across the fillet while scoring to make it easier. (No chance of a one handed photo of that!)

For the tart:

7/8 Jersey Royal potatoes, washed and sliced thinly to about 3mm.

3 tomatoes of broadly similar size to the potatoes, sliced to 5mm.

1/2 red onion cut into wedges.

1/4 tsp pink peppercorns.

1 tbsp Olive Oil.

Freshly ground black pepper.

A handful of rocket leaves.

For the lemon chervil mayo:

Juice and zest of 1/2 a lemon.

1 tbsp picked and finely chopped chervil leaves

1 free range egg yolk – large.

125 ml of rapeseed oil.

125ml light olive oil.

A little warm water.

1/4 tsp Sea salt

First  drizzle the onion wedges with a little olive oil and pop them into the oven for about 30/40 minutes.

Next make the Mayo.

You can whisk by hand, use a handheld blender of a processor for this…

Whisk the egg yolk in a bowl and gently add in the oil a little at a time until around half of it is in and the mixture has started to thicken.

Then add the juice of half a lemon and continue to whisk in the oil until you have a loose mayo mixture. Add the lemon zest and chervil and now a little warm water to make a sort of dropping consistency, add a little seasoning to taste. The rape seed oil and lemon zest make it a pretty yellow colour…

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Take a very non stick baking sheet and brush generously with oil – or else the tart will stick and be ruined.

Drizzle the potato with come olive oil and make sure the slices are all coated, add a sprinkle of salt and black pepper then start creating the flower of potatoes from the outside. Make the size of the tart first and work your way in (you can do it the other way, I just prefer this way). The diameter should be about 20cm.

Obviously, you can make them smaller as a starter but this was a main course size for me, I wouldn’t go bigger as it would be too hard to move it onto your plate at the end.

There are some lovely mediterranean dishes where you layer up potatoes, peppers tomatoes etc in a baking dish and then set sardines or other fish on top – they are also fab.

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Complete the tart with a piece of potato on the top on the middle, then take 1/2 the roasted onions and scatter them over the potatoes.

Put the tart in the oven on a high shelf for about 10 /12 minutes checking that the edges don’t burn.

Once the potato has started to go lightly golden and crisp around the edge, remove from the oven and create a smaller ring of tomatoes on top, scatter the pink peppercorns over and add and a little salt to the tomatoes.

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Now scatter over the rest of the onions on the tomatoes and return to the oven for about 6/7 minutes to just slightly soften the tomatoes.

Whilst the the tart is in the oven for this final time, heat a non- stick frying pan to a high heat. Brush the skin of the bream with a little olive oil and season with salt and black pepper. Place the fillet skin side down in the pan, if the fish is fresh the middle will rise up in the plan so just press it little to hold it down for a few seconds. Turn to medium heat and leave for about 3 minutes (dependent on the thickness of your fillet) until the skin has become crisp and the flesh is mostly translucent. At this point carefully turn the fillet over, turn out the heat and allow the fish to sit in the residual heat of the pan for a minute or so before removing.

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The tart should now be ready to come out of the oven, take a sharp knife and slip it under the outer edges all the way around to make sure the potato is not stuck. Take a slice gently lift the tart, tipping the tray and carefully slide it onto your plate.

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Place the fish in the centre and pile some rocket leaves onto the tart to the side of the fish. Drizzle some of the lemon, chervil mayonnaise around the fish and across the leaves.

I accompanied my supper with a glass of elderflower cordial, with some sparkling water. My body is a temple…..for a day or so.

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2 thoughts on “Good Fish, Bad Fish?”

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