Decades of bad fishing practices have left our oceans in a tragic state. Many species which were once common-place are now threatened, dwindling to the point where there aren’t enough to catch and make a profit. Over 90% of predatory species like cod and tuna have already been caught and many fisheries are overfished.
Numbers of fish are dropping faster than they can reproduce and this is causing profound changes to life in our oceans. In reality, there aren’t plenty more fish in the sea.
The fishing industry has become high-tech and giant ships use sonar to find fish schools with pinpoint accuracy. Huge nets catch fish in vast numbers. These ships are also floating factories, with processing and packing plants to handle their catch more efficiently. All this means there is now capacity to catch many times more fish than are actually left.
In the UK, we import most of the seafood we eat and export most of what we catch. But if you stick with sustainable options, going local can be much better for the environment.
It’s important to note that ‘local’ does not automatically mean ‘sustainable’ but there are some great options that you should consider eg Cornish Sardines instead of Tuna; Hake instead of cod; plaice instead of haddock. At the moment, mackerel remains a good sustainable fish, particularly if caught with hand lines.
The Marine Conservation Society About us | Marine Conservation Society (mcsuk.org) is a UK charity fighting for a cleaner, better-protected, healthier ocean, one we can all enjoy and support the fish we eat. They have produced a good fish guide Home | Good Fish Guide (mcsuk.org) where you can see for yourself what are the more sustainable fish available – there is even an app you can download to check out when you are next off to your local fishmonger!
The NHS recommends eating 2 portions of fish per week for our health – but let us also take some time to consider the health of our oceans and fish stocks and work for our mutual benefit.
I’ve put together some fish recipes for you to try, swapping the usual for a more sustainable alternative – do give them a try and expand your cooking repertoire from the ordinary to the extraordinary – and give our seas the chance to recover!
Harissa Hake with griddled vegetables
- 1 courgette, trimmed and cut into ribbons using a vegetable peeler
- 2 red peppers, deseeded and cut into thick slices
- 2 red onions, cut into wedges
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 – 4 pieces of hake, depending on size
- 1 tbsp harissa paste
Heat a griddle pan over a high heat until very hot. Brush the vegetables all over with the oil and griddle for 5 minutes, turning once, until charred and tender. Meanwhile, preheat the grill to medium. Put the fish on a baking tray and brush each fillet with the harissa paste. Season with freshly ground pepper and cook under the grill for 4-5 minutes, until cooked. Divide it among the plates and top with the griddled vegetables and harissa sea bass.
Oriental style citrus Mackerel
- 1 orange, juice only
- 4 teaspoons soy sauce
- pinch dried chilli flakes
- 2 teaspoon sesame seeds
- 2 – 4 mackerel fillets, cut in half
- 1 lime, juice only
- 2 tablespoons fresh coriander leaves
- handful fresh rocket
- 1 orange, cut into wedges, to serve
Place the orange juice, soy sauce, chilli flakes and sesame seeds into a frying pan and simmer for 3 – 4 minutes. Add the mackerel and cook for 2 minutes on each side. Remove from the heat, squeeze in the lime juice and scatter with coriander. Place the rocket leaves into a bowl, pour over the juices from the mackerel pan and stir. To serve, pile the rocket salad onto a serving place, top with the fish and garnish with orange wedges.
How lovely it is to open a parcel to find out what is within! Did you know you can cook fish in parcels – and how lovely it is to open, smell the lovely aromas and taste the gently cooked food, full of flavour. This is one of the best ways to cook fish savouring all their flavours.
For the parcel, you will need some baking parchment – or if you haven’t got this some greaseproof paper and kitchen foil, folded together, foil outside. The size will be determined by the size of fish but I would say about a 30cm square or A4 piece of paper should definitely do it.
This recipe is for one parcel – obviously double/quadruple for more!
Lemon and Herb Plaice in a Bag (if you want to be posh that’s en papillote in French!)
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley (you could use a little dill too)
- 1 clove of minced garlic
- Lemon slices and 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 spring onion
- a fillet of plaice
- cherry tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon butter
Heat the oven to 200oC. Mix the parsley, garlic and lemon peel together and put to the side. Cut the spring onion into small pieces and slice lengthwise. Season the fish with salt and pepper and the lemon juice and spread the top with butter. Put the spring onion and tomatoes in the middle of your parcel and top with the fish. Put some of the herb mix on top of the fish. Fold the packages up – each long side to the middle then sides brought inwards to seal. Place on a baking sheet and bake about 8 minutes. Put the parcel on your dinner plate with whatever vegetables you like best and open – be careful all those lovely juices will seep out and you don’t want to waste them!
Tinned Sardines and Rocket Salad Eating fish doesn’t have to be an expensive option, either. Tinned fish is just as good for you and this easy-to-assemble salad filled with flavours and textures. The diced cucumber and slivers of red onion lend crunch, the pomegranate seeds some fireworks. The lemony dressing provides the requisite acidic cut-through the tinned sardines love.
- 1 tin sardines
- 1/2 cucumber
- 1/2 red onion
- 2 large handfuls of rocket
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- salt & pepper to taste
Halve cucumber and scrape out the seeds, then dice. Slice 1/2 red onion into thin crescents, and toss with rocket leaves. Whisk 3 tbsp of olive oil, 1 tbsp of lemon juice, salt and pepper to make a dressing, and toss with the salad. Lay sardines on top. Season with salt and pepper to taste.