I am really lucky to have good friends who work with fresh fish. And it is always a proper treat to see them when they are working with the fish – not least because the fish is so fresh and beautiful to see, but also because they are so skilled at what they do.
Filleting and de-scaling the fish looks almost effortless when they work. They are efficient with their movements and the fish are prepared with perfect precision. Presented on ice and in top top condition for selling at the weekend markets.
Often the fish have been out of the sea for less than two or three days by the time they get to the market. Their work place never smells of fish. It smells of the sea.
Each week the type and variety of fish that is caught locally varies and, therefore, so too does what is on offer for customers. I went along to find out what kinds of fish had been caught this week.
It seems to me that these fish could easily have met with the seals that I saw last week in the same waters!
I was delighted when they agreed to show me this weeks catch from just off the coast, here in the South East Kent.
We met in a very cold shed surrounded by freshly caught fish (this weeks catch) that demanded processing quickly. Circumstances were not conducive to a long chat … Instead I took photographs – attempting to do justice with the beautiful specimens of fish while my friends worked at speed!
In the process I managed to glean some of their top tips for what to do with each species in the kitchen. A selection of recipe recommendations those who really do know!
”Eat it whole or bake it. It has a sweet flesh but is much underrated. Delicious filleted and pan fried. It’s quite a soft delicate fish and doesn’t take much cooking. It needs to be eaten fresh.”
“Cook it either very quickly, or slowly as in braised. You can also stuff squid”.
The small silvery pouch in the squid is where the squid ink comes from. You can use the squid ink to colour and add flavour to pasta.
“Good flavoured fish, quite bony but with big bones so they are easy to find and remove. Look for Rick Steins Gurnard with sage and garlic butter.”
”One of our customers does it in a salt crust. Salt Crusted Grey Mullet.
Grey Mullet is often used as a cheaper alternative to Sea Bass so you can take pretty much any Sea Bass recipe and use Grey Mullet as a substitute.
Best eaten when caught in open sea (And not near the harbour mouth as it has a predilection for sewerage pipes!)”
Wild Sea Bass
“A very popular fish. Quite a solid fish. Local Wild Bass is line caught. Wild Bass is much larger than the farmed bass you find in the supermarkets. And of course it tastes much nicer!”
One lovely recipe is Sea Bass with potatoes, thyme and black olives from the River Cafe cook book. A version of this recipe is here.
“It has a meaty flesh – I think of it as sort of a cross between a plaice and a turbot (But that’s just me!). Have it baked whole or filleted.”
This brill is so fresh that it has not even come out of rigor mortis.
“Cod is a great all rounder and has a versatile solid white flesh. Goes well wrapped in Parma ham”
”This is one of the most expensive fish available. It’s also known as the King of the sea. There’s lots of great turbot recipes … if they are really big fish we sometimes steak them which can be wrapped in foil with butter and white wine.
It has very gelatinous bones so its really good for making fish stock.
Nathan Outlaw is a highly renowned fish chef who started his training in Thanet, just around the corner from here. He has several recipes for Turbot that will do this magnificent fish justice.“
Here are some archive pictures of some of the impressive specimens of fish that have passed through the skilled hands of my fish monger friends.
I left my friends working hard with this weeks catch. And (thanks to them) with a skate wing, a whole squid (including its ink) and some fresh scallops under my arm. As well as a still warm piece of hot smoked salmon which I must own was eaten unceremoniously directly from the bag in the car on the way home!
Are you wondering why I have not introduced my friends? Well … suffice it to say that they aren’t huge fans of the internet and all that it stands for (I can’t say I blame them!) … their business does well, just as it is, by old fashioned word of mouth.
So – please don’t share this post!
Instead, please DO go about finding your own independent local fish monger (they may be hard to find as, if they are good, as they may not need to advertise) and buy from them.
I promise you that buying fish fresh directly from the ones who specialise in it is way more rewarding than going to the supermarket!