When it comes to food many of us cling to the familiar. It’s easy, we know what we are going to get, and the potential drama from questioning children or spouses often push us back there to that safety net of experience. Even though I don’t necessarily agree with it, it’s certainly at least understandable. I don’t however fully comprehend our issue with fish. Eating just cod for example, and refusing to try say hake, Pollock, or haddock is akin to saying that you will only eat black angus beef or perhaps a hubbard chicken. This becomes even more so baffling when there is such a price difference when it comes to different types of fish, never mind the huge issues of sustainability with certain species of fish that would benefit from a reduction in consumption.
There is an abundance of wild fish in our waters and making an alternative choice will not only help in the sustainability of some fish but will likely see you with more coins in your pocket for a very similar product. In a simplified way fish pricing is based on a few factors; availability, seasonality, abundance or lack thereof, scarcity, rarity, and of course demand. There are other factors but that’s the general economics of it. As a result there can be a possible misconception that a cheaper fish is a lesser quality fish and that is absolute folly. Yes, more expensive fish can often have great flavour but as already mentioned there are many factors contributing to the end price that you, the consumer, pays. A prime example of this ideology is monkfish. Once considered a fish of the poor it now adorns the menus a many a fine restaurant and is naturally lauded for its texture and taste. Do not be afraid to try new fish, you could have a new favourite about to grace your plate. Black pollock, which is also known as coalfish or more colloquially recognised as coley, is a round white fish in that similar family as cod, hake, white pollock, and haddock, among others. A meaty chunky, yet delicate fish it benefits from a light salting about 45 minutes before cooking to slightly tighten the flesh. Before cooking, drain on kitchen towel to remove excess moisture and dust in flour.
For the following dish there are a couple of notes to consider, especially pertaining to mussels if you’ve never cooked with them before. Requiring a little preparation but delivering abundantly, the first thing to remember about mussels is that they are live. As a result, you should use them as soon as possible but they will keep for about 2 days in your fridge. To prepare rinse them and go through them individually, discarding any mussels that don’t close, or indeed offer some resistance to closing. If in doubt and it doesn’t close, throw it out. You also need to remove the beard if there is one. This is the sort of membrane that a mussel uses to attach itself to rocks in the wild or to rope if farmed. It is most likely that mussels you will buy will have been rope raised ones and the beards tend of be already removed if that’s the case. Find the line where the two shells meet and run your finger down. If you feel any feathery, seaweed like threads, grab with your thumb and forefinger and pull to remove. Use the back of a knife to scrape off any barnacles that may have attached themselves to the shell and rinse under a cold tap. Once all this is done, place the prepared mussels aside and start cooking the dish.
For the mussels
For the broth
For the Wild Garlic Pesto (Optional)
See recipe here
There are 2 comments
Is wild garlic similar to garlic scapes in flavor? Or more subtle? This dish looks delicious. Will have to try it with a fish more local to me (The Northern Pacific coast of Washington state). Cheers to supporting our local fisher-people!
Thank you so much! Wild garlic is that little bit more subtle. Quite like a garlic flavoured soft herb. But it is also certainly garlicky in flavour! Any white fish would be good here. I’m not an expert so I’m not sure what would be more local to you. Sustainable cod, haddock, hake etc. would be more than suitable substitutes but talk to your local fishmonger for more advice 🙂