World Ocean Day is on Wednesday the 8th of June 2022.
I am not fully clear if this is meant to be a celebration or a day of reflection to remind us of the chronic mess we humans have got ourselves into.
In our busy lives, most of us have taken the oceans for granted. We somehow haven’t understood that mankind depends on the health of the oceans for our very existence.
The oceans cover over 70% of the earth’s surface, provide 97% of the world’s water supply as well as 80% of the planet’s biodiversity.
94% of the earth’s living species exist within the oceans and apparently much is yet to be discovered.
70 – 80% of the oxygen we breathe is produced by marine plants plus the oceans feed and provide livelihoods for billions of people.
The ocean plays a vital role in our climate. It’s the ocean currents that govern the world’s weather. For decades scientists and marine biologists have stressed that rapidly rising ocean temperatures are causing the ice to melt, altering coral reefs and coastal ecosystems, causing cold water habitats to shrink resulting in less plankton available for marine life.
Rising temperatures are putting low lying nations such as the Maldives in the Indian Ocean at immediate risk of disaster.
For centuries, the oceans have been used as a dumping ground for all manner of waste, sewage, plastic in its many forms, six pack rings, fishing nets, polystyrene…. which harm sea mammals, fish and seabirds who get entangled in it or feed it to their young mistaking it for food.
Although the ocean is vast, it turns out it is more easily polluted and acidified than was originally thought.
Many of you will have read about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a vast floating dump, 15 times the size of Ireland in the Pacific Ocean. It contains over 100 million tonnes of plastic debris.
We have reached a tipping point…….
At last, scientists and governments of many countries are cooperating to limit overfishing and control pollution in a frantic effort to slow down global warming – hopefully it’s not too late.
Here in Ireland, a little progress has been made but there is still much to be done. Year-round swimmers have given further impetus to the Clean Beach campaign and Blue Flags are much coveted.
So after all that, let’s go back into the kitchen to cook some delicious fish…
But where do we find information on sustainable fish, it’s much easier to get information on the health benefits.
There are few things more delicious than a piece of spanking fresh fish simply cooked. Freshness is everything. Remember, fresh fish look bright and lively and DOESN’T smell fishy, stay alert when shopping, freshly landed (could be five days old) is altogether different to freshly caught.
Forever and ever, fish has been referred to as ‘brain food’ and numerous studies confirm the health benefits of eating fresh fish at least once a week.
The omega-3 fat found in fish is now scientifically proven to be helpful in the treatment of depression, Alzheimer’s, dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADHD….
From the cook’s point of view, fish is the quintessential fast-food. I am a big fan of crudo or thinly sliced raw fish but it must absolutely be fresh. If that idea doesn’t ‘float your boat’, there are a million other super quick recipes to enjoy with your family and friends.
It’s really easy to overcook fish, remember the flesh just needs to change from translucent to opaque, a matter of two to three minutes if the fillet is thin like plaice, lemon sole or megrim. A little longer for a piece of hake or haddock.
It’s also worth knowing that sea vegetables are 10 to 20 times more nutritious than anything grown on land.
Sustainable fish in Irish water?
It is unbelievably difficult for the concerned public to get simple coherent information on what to buy and believe me – I’ve tried! My preferred option is day boat fish but there are few enough day boats still fishing around our coasts for a variety of reasons.
The bigger boats can go further out and stay longer at sea. They target the fish shoals with sophisticated technology. The ‘unintended’ consequences often result in copious amounts of by-catch and decimation of the ocean floor and breeding grounds. Many species have been overfished almost to the point of extinction which impacts on many other species and habitats in the complex web. So, let’s do our best to seek out non-threatened species and strive to support our local fishing communities. Be prepared to pay more for day boat fish if you are fortunate enough to be able to source it.
Try at least to ascertain that the fish you buy is caught in Irish waters so we are supporting the Irish fishing community who are experiencing unprecedented challenges.
Check out Sustainable Seafood Ireland – www.sustainableseafood.ie
Yummy Fish Fingers with Garlic Mayo
The hake stocks are in good shape, fresh hake is a superb fish, sweet and flaky.
8 pieces fresh haddock, hake or pollock cut into fingers 11.5 x 3cm (4 1/2 x 1 1/4 inch) approximately
salt and freshly ground black pepper
white flour, seasoned well with salt, freshly ground and pepper and a
a little cayenne or smoked paprika (optional)
2-3 beaten free-range, organic eggs and a little milk
panko or dried white breadcrumbs
crunchy Little Gem lettuce leaves
225g (8oz) homemade mayonnaise
Add 1-4 crushed garlic cloves (depending on size) to the egg yolks as you start to make the mayonnaise. Add 2 teaspoons of chopped flat-leaf parsley at the end and season to taste.
Heat the oil in a deep fry to 180˚C/350°F.
Season the fingers of fish with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Then, dip the fish, first into the well-seasoned flour and then into the beaten egg and finally coat evenly all over with the crumbs of your choice. Pat gently to firm up…!
Heat some olive oil or clarified butter in a wide frying pan over a medium heat.
Cook the fish fingers until golden and crispy on the outside and cooked through into the centre. Drain on kitchen paper.
I love to wrap them in crunchy Little Gem lettuce leaves, add a dollop of garlic mayo (aioli)/mayo of choice and enjoy.
Smoked Mackerel Pâté, Potato Crisps and Dill or Fennel Sprigs and Flowers
A fun and delicious way to serve a fish pâté.
Cooked fresh salmon, smoked salmon, mullet, trout or herring can be substituted in the above recipe.
110g (4oz) undyed smoked mackerel or herring, free of skin and bone (we use Belvelly smoked mackerel –www.frankhederman.com )
50-75g (2-3oz) softened butter
1/4 teaspoon finely snipped fennel
freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2-1 clove garlic, crushed to a paste
salt and freshly ground pepper
Homemade Potato Crisps (see Darina’s Letter 8th May 2022 – OFFAL)
sprigs of dill or fennel and flowers
Next make the smoked mackerel pâté.
Whizz all the ingredients in a food processor. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, taste, add freshly squeezed lemon juice and garlic. It should be well seasoned and soft. Cover and chill until needed.
Put a generous tablespoon of smoked mackerel pâté on a small plate. Cover the entire surface with homemade potato crisps. Tuck tiny sprigs of dill (or fennel) in between the crisps and dill or fennel flowers.
Baja-Style Fish Tacos
All along the coast in Baja, California, the beach shacks offer fish tacos and there’s no reason you can’t enjoy them at home too. If you’d rather not have batter, you can just sprinkle the fish fillets with a mixture of salt and spices such as cumin, paprika and maybe some chilli powder before shallow frying.
10 portions of fresh fish – haddock, monkfish, brill, plaice, lemon sole, weighing about 125g (4 1/2oz) each
olive oil, for deep-frying
Chilli Beer Batter
225g (8oz) plain flour
2 teaspoons English mustard powder
2 teaspoons mild or hot chilli powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
3 organic, free-range eggs
225ml (8fl oz) light beer or a mixture of beer and water
225ml (8fl oz) homemade mayonnaise
1 1/2 tablespoons puréed chipotle chillies in adobo
juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon chopped coriander
a pinch of salt
10 corn tortillas
20 lettuce leaves
Guacamole (see recipe) or avocado slices
Tomato Salsa (see recipe)
a few sprigs of coriander
First make the chilli beer batter. Sift the flour into a bowl and add the mustard and chilli powders, salt and sugar. Make a well in the centre, crack in the eggs, then gradually add the beer, whisking all the time from the centre to the outside of the bowl in ever increasing concentric circles until all the flour is incorporated. Cover and leave to stand while you make the mayonnaise.
Mix the chilli in adobe, lime juice and coriander with the mayonnaise and season to taste.
Warm the corn tortillas either individually in a pan or better still wrap them in a parcel and heat at 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 5–10 minutes.
Heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer to 190°C (375°F). Dip each fish fillet in the batter, then cook for 4–7 minutes until crisp and drain on kitchen paper. This will depend on the thickness of the fish. Alternatively, fry in a deep saucepan with 5 – 7.5cm (2 – 3 inch) depth of olive oil.
Put a little lettuce on one half of a warm tortilla, top with a chunk of crispy fish, some chipotle mayo, guacamole, tomato salsa and a sprig of coriander, fold over and enjoy!
Choose really ripe avocados for guacamole.
2 ripe avocados (organic if you can find it)
3-4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly chopped coriander or flat parsley
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Scoop out the flesh from the avocado. Mash with a fork or in a pestle and mortar, add lime juice, olive oil, chopped coriander, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Serve immediately. Otherwise, cover the surface of the guacamole with a sheet of damp parchment paper to exclude the air. Cover and keep cool until needed.
A little finely diced chilli or tomato may be added to the guacamole.
Tomato and Coriander Salsa
In Season: Best in Summer and early Autumn when tomatoes are ripe and juicy.
This sauce is ever present on Mexican tables to serve with all manner of dishes. Salsas of all kinds both fresh and cooked have now become a favourite accompaniment to everything from a piece of sizzling fish to pan-grilled meat.
8 very ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons red or white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1-2 chillies, deseeded and finely chopped Jalapeno or Serrano
2-4 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
squeeze of fresh lime juice
salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar
Mix all the ingredients together. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Roast Fish in three delicious ways
An inspired way to cook either whole fillets or individual portions of fish, I’ve given three separate sauce suggestions here but even a simple dill butter makes roast fish into a feast. Needless to say, other ‘round’ fish, such as hake, haddock, ling or cod can be cooked in exactly the same way. Pollock stocks are not in good shape at present.
Serves about 20
1 whole wild fresh salmon or Mowi (organic farmed salmon)
butter or extra virgin oil, about 25g (1oz)/25ml (1fl oz)
flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Tomato and Dill Topping
4–8 tablespoons chopped dill
4–6 ripe tomatoes, deseeded and diced, sprinkled with a little flaky sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and sugar
110–225g (4-8oz) extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 250°C/500°F/Gas Mark 9.
Descale the salmon, fillet and remove the pin bones. For the topping, mix the dill and diced seasoned tomato together with the extra virgin olive oil.
Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Put the fillets of fish on top. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon the dill and tomato oil over the surface. Roast for 8–10 minutes or until cooked and tender.
Serve in the tray or transfer the salmon onto one or two hot serving dishes. Sprinkle with a little fresh dill and dill flowers. Serve immediately with a salad of organic green leaves.
Roast Salmon with Teriyaki Sauce
To make the teriyaki sauce, put 100ml (3 1/2fl oz) light or dark soy sauce, 100ml (3 1/2fl oz) dry white wine, 2 large, thinly sliced garlic cloves, a 4cm (1 1/2 inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced, 2 tablespoons of wholegrain mustard and 2 tablespoons of soft brown sugar into a stainless-steel saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 3–4 minutes. (Alternatively, spoon over the fish before putting it in the oven.) Roast the fish as above. Brush the fish generously with the teriyaki sauce, sprinkle with fresh coriander and serve.
Roast Salmon with Pul Biber
Prepare the salmon as above, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with pul biber and flaky sea salt. Roast as above. Serve with a good green salad.
Mussels with Tomato and ‘Nduja
2kgs (4 1/2lbs) mussels
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
50g (2oz) sliced onions
1 clove of garlic, crushed
450g (1lb) very ripe fresh tomatoes (peeled and chopped) or 1 x 400g (14oz) tin of tomatoes, chopped
salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar to taste
pinch of chilli flakes
1/2 – 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
175ml (6fl oz) rich cream
2-3 tablespoons parsley, coarsely chopped
Wash and check that the mussels are tightly shut. Keep refrigerated.
Next, make the tomato base.
Heat the oil in a stainless-steel sauté pan or casserole. Add the sliced onions and garlic, toss until coated, cover and sweat on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured – about 10 minutes. It is vital for the success of this dish that the onions are completely soft before the tomatoes are added. Add a pinch of chilli flakes and the smoked paprika. Add the ripe tomatoes or the chopped tinned tomatoes with all the juice to the onions. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar (tinned tomatoes need lots of sugar because of their high acidity). Cover and cook for just 10-20 minutes more, or until the tomato softens, uncover and reduce a little. Tinned tomatoes will need to be cooked for longer. Add cream and allow to bubble for 3-4 minutes and taste for seasoning.
*The base can be prepared to this point.
Just before serving. Bring the base back to the boil, add the mussels in their shells. Cover, stir from time to time and cook on a medium heat until the shells open, 3-4 minutes approx.
Turn into warm bowls, scatter with coarsely chopped parsley and serve with lots of good sourdough to mop up the juices.