Cooking fish is straightforward, if you just keep to a few basic rules you will serve up dishes to vie with the best of restaurants. It is suggested that we eat at least three or more servings of fish a week, since the experts have proved that if you eat more fish you are less likely to suffer from heart disease and cancer. The fat in fish is called omega-3, an essential fatty acid which keeps our blood from getting sticky and so reduces the probability of having a stroke.
Maureen and I well, we just like fish and shellfish for its handiness, ease of cooking, taste and if it’s good for us well, that’s a bonus!
Fish and seafood is available to buy fresh, frozen, or cured, you can buy it whole, filleted or cut into steaks, your fishmonger or supermarket fish counter should stock a large choice of each of the groups of seafood there are 3 main groups of fish;
White Sea Fish
- White Fish, including Cod, Haddock, Plaice, Whiting, Pollack, Pout (Pouting. Bib), Saithe (Coley), Hake, Monkfish, Dover Sole, Lemon Sole, Megrim, Witch, Brill, Turbot, Halibut, Dogfish, Skates, Rays, John Dory, Bass, Ling, Catfish, and Redfish
- White fish are divided into two types round and flat.
- Large round white fish such as Cod and Coley are usually sold in steaks, fillets, or cutlets.
- The small round species such as Whiting and Haddock are usually sold in fillets.
- With flat fish, the larger species such as Halibut and Turbot are sold whole in fillets and as steaks
- Smaller flat fish like Plaice and Sole are usually sold whole, trimmed, or filleted.
Oil Rich Fish
- Including Herring, Mackerel, Pilchard, Sprat, Horse Mackerel, Whitebait, Tuna.
- Oil-rich fish such as Herring and Mackerel are rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which have been shown to have a lowering effect on blood fats; this decreases the chance of blood vessels clogging up with cholesterol.
- Oil-rich fish is also a good source of vitamins A and D.
Fresh Water Fish
Including Salmon, Trout, Perch, Bass, Bream, Pike, Arctic Char
Then there are; Shellfish (Molluscs and Crustaceans)
Including Clams, Cockles, Whelks, Periwinkles, Mussel, Oyster, Lobster, Crab, prawns, Crayfish, Scallops, Sea Urchins, Shrimp, Squid, Octopus, Cuttlefish
You know that you can always ask for help when choosing your fish and shellfish especially if you are not sure how it should be prepared and cooked.
Your fishmonger should be happy to prepare fresh fish for you in exactly the way you want, if what you want is not available, species of the same type can always be substituted and once again a good fishmonger can help you out.
We should be eating at least two servings of fish a week including one of oily fish. Fish and shellfish are excellent sources of a range of vitamins; minerals, and essential fatty acids, furthermore oily fish is especially loaded in omega 3 fatty acids.
However if we would like to make sure there are sufficient fish to eat now, and in the future, we must start thinking about the choices we make when we decide which fish we eat and your local fishmonger can also help with that, a good fishmonger will always know where the product he sells comes from and all the fishmongers, fishermen and chefs I know put sustainability at the top of their to-do list.
Anyway, enough of all that let’s get to the main point of what we hope will be a weekly or fortnightly part of our blog;
John Dory, (St. Peter’s Fish)
I think that this is one of the most excellent tasting fish in the sea, John Dory is called St Peter’s fish in many languages, as St Peter was supposed to have taken hold of it, leaving the impression of his fingers on the fish’s side, as you can see in the photo’s. But this legend is also shared with the haddock!
The best season for John Dory is from September to June with June and August being the spawning season May is just about the best month for the sweetest plumpest fish.
John Dory is generally caught as by-catch in trawls so it is always best to avoid the immature fish (less than 25 to 35cm). There are some fishermen who do specifically target John Dory “The Crystal Sea” is one of them probably the best in British waters.
The label John Dory is believed to have come from the French “Jaune Dorée”, yellow and gold, and that is an acceptable description of its skin colours.
While you can buy whole John Dory cleaned with the head on we prefer to buy the fillets of larger fish so that they are more sustainable.
I have to say though that the John Dory, is not an appealing fish, it has no scales and is quite ugly however the white, boneless, meaty flesh is firm, sweet and very flavoursome and it can be cooked in a variety of ways: grill, sauté or poach it.
It’s well-liked by chefs because it goes well with a wide range of ingredients and flavourings and the bones from its head make an excellent stock.
I think that if you are partial to sole, brill, and turbot then you’ll like John Dory.
These characteristic fish are common in northern waters and may be found in estuaries and harbours, from the shoreline down to depths of about 150m, and they frequently reach sizes in excess of half a metre in length.
Best British Season Is;
• April to May is when John Dory is really at its plumpest and sweetest.
• Avoid it in June to August that is when it is Breeding/Spawning.
• September to March is when it is at is most available.
- John Dory is sold mainly as fillets but can be bought whole.
- When buying whole, look for bright skin, bulging eyes, firm flesh, and a pleasant sea smell.
- Fillets should also be glistening with no brown markings, have a pleasing sea smell, and not leak water.
Storing John Dory, (St. Peter’s Fish)
- Put your fish and/or shellfish in the fridge as soon as possible after purchase and use within a day, or freeze for up to three months.
- When you bring it back from the fishmonger, unwrap, and rinse under cold water, pat dry with paper towel and place in an airtight container.
- Store in the coldest part of the refrigerator for best flavour, texture, and nutritional value, store fresh seafood no longer than two days before use, for best quality, it’s best to use fresh seafood in its fresh state.
- If it’s necessary to freeze the fish, freeze it quickly and use it as soon as possible.
Preparing and Cooking John Dory, (St. Peter’s Fish)
The subtle flavours of John Dory require a strong partner so why not try blending generous amounts of coriander and garlic in a food processor with one part lemon juice to two parts extra virgin olive oil and drizzle the mixture over the pan-fried fillets. Or place half a lemon into the roasting tray, then squeeze it over the roasted fillet before serving the juice will be pleasingly sweet and sticky.
The John Dory’s nice firm flesh does not easily flake apart when it is fried, making it the just what the doctor ordered for that most British of our popular meals, “Fish and Chips”.
Just beat up a light batter, we always use sparkling water for our fish batter but you could use ice-cold beer, add just enough water or beer to the flour for the batter to have the consistency of double cream.
Heat the oil thoroughly, and then deep-fry the batter coated fish until crisp, golden brown and bubbling.
Alternatives to John Dory are; Red Gurnard, Grey Gurnard, Red Mullet and Seabass
- Thumbs up for St. Peter. (conorbofin.com)
- Fish & Chips, Hanbury’s, Torquay (crumpeats.wordpress.com)
- Seafood (Fish) (beatcancer2010.wordpress.com)
- 13 Pro tips for grilling perfect fish (livindolcevita.wordpress.com)
- Pembrokeshire Fish Week a great Family holiday idea for the UK, Festivals (visitwales.co.uk)