Fish for the Family

ish should be and integral part of everyone’s diet; it’s full of goodness and helps maintain a balanced eating programme.

Fish should be and integral part of everyone’s diet; it’s full of goodness and helps maintain a balanced eating programme. There’s nothing like a piece of freshly caught fish – as anyone with a fisherman in the family knows – and on the whole, we are very fortunate in this country with such a long coastline and the freedom to fish both in the sea and in our rivers and lakes.

Even if you do not have access to fish caught by family or friends, the produce in our specialty shops particularly is pretty fresh and even supermarket fish is much improved over previous years in terms of freshness.

Certainly here in Auckland, the growth of the Asian population, who rely much more on seafood than we European New Zealanders have done in the past, has led to much more selection of really fresh fish and many of the stores are Asian owned and/or run.

People often complain about how “expensive” fish is, usually thinking about our most popular varieties like snapper, terakihi, John Dory, Orange Roughy and even Gurnard. But there are many other varieties now being fished that are just as tasty and nutritious and somewhat cheaper. Look around your fish shop or market. One finds in the larger markets these days that many people like to select their own whole fish and have it prepared for them on the spot – or take it home and do it themselves. It means they can really assess the freshness, checking for clear eyes with black pupil and translucent cornea, and skin that appears bright, firm and glossy, the gills a bright pastel rose colour.

If you’re buying fillets, they should look “lustrous”, moist and firm – any signs of a flat, yellowish, dry or slimy look and they should be avoided. You shouldn’t be able to smell fish – only a salty sea tang. If there’s a “fishy” smell, walk on to the butcher!

Don’t overcook fish – it destroys the taste and it becomes tough and dry. Keep it moist and don’t over season…fish doesn’t need any of strong flavours to bring out its best taste.

Have you tried a tuna steak instead of a rump steak? They need only the lightest cooking (a bit like venison steaks) and are delicious and filling.

Remember, like many other of our fresh foods, some species are seasonal and that can affect the price. As your retailer what’s in season and for suggestions for alternatives to the most expensive varieties…after all, sirloin and Scotch fillet are expensive at the butcher’s and we don’t always buy those, looking instead for cheaper cuts! Finally, eat fish as soon as possible after purchase, when it is at its best.

Check my Fish Facts and Fish Guide for more information. Here are some suggestions for fish dishes for the family. Dress any white fish of your choice up in the lightest of pastry with Creamy Fish Filo Parcels. Fish And Sweet Peppers on Bay uses the South Island favourite, Blue Cod. Serve Frisco Grilled Fish with a nice crisp salad or your favourite green vegetables.

Pacific Seafood Soup is a NZ version of the classic bouillabaisse – serve it with a crisp New Zealand white wine. If you do not have the fish or seafood listed in the recipe use whatever is fresh at your fishmonger on the day you buy.

I first tried Thai Scented Baked Fish in Chaing Mai, Thailand, and was captivated by its upfront nature. The bold and explosive topping for a baked whole fish or fish fillet is sensational. Do not let the sauce sit too long before serving as the herbs take on a bitter flavour. It’s best to cook the fish, place on a plate, dress with the sauce and serve. For a change, use glass or rice noodles scented with chilli and coriander.

Any fresh smoked fish will work well for Smoked Fish Lasagne and using tomato juice to make the sauce ensures a delicate flavoured lasagne. Add chopped fresh basil to the fish smoked sauce when in season.

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