Fish and chips with a side order of mushy peas has been a Friday night tradition for generations. A Jewish immigrant, Joseph Malin, opened the first recorded fish and chip shop in London in 1860 and dedicated takeaways have been serving customers ever since.
Yet despite this heritage, if you choose battered cod, plaice or haddock to soak up your vinegar, its unlikely to have been fished from UK waters: the majority of the cod and haddock we buy is imported from the Barents Sea or around Norway or Iceland.
According to the Sea For Yourself campaign, which is largely funded by Defra and aims to inspire the UK to eat seafood caught in UK waters, close to half of adults would buy more seafood if they knew it was caught locally. The good news is that if youre keen to eat more seafood thats been caught closer to home, theres a wealth of alternatives to choose from.
We know fish is good for us and the catches found in our waters, from mussels, oysters and crab, to oil-rich mackerel and flaky lemon sole, are a great source of protein, vitamins and minerals. The NHS recommends that we should all enjoy at least two portions of fish a week, one of which should be an oil-rich variety.
“Most of us are familiar with nutrition advice that encourages us to eat a wide variety of fruit and vegetables for optimal health, and its the same when it comes to seafood,” says Juliette Kellow, consultant nutritionist at Seafish, a non-departmental public body set up to support the UK seafood industry and funded mainly by a levy on all first-hand purchases of seafood products in the UK, including imported seafood. “Many varieties of fish provide a range of B vitamins, which help fight fatigue for those of us always on the go.
“Incorporating fish such as herring, coley or hake, and shellfish like crab and mussels into your diet is smart, as they provide a great source of protein and allow you to make the most of all the health benefits seafood offers.” When youre trying to get more variety into your diet, it makes sense to try something new.
Trying a wide variety of fish dishes instead of sticking to well-worn favourites supports UK fishermen, helps stocks stay sustainable and keeps your mealtimes creative – because of course, the real beauty of seafood is its endless versatility.
Four in 10 of us claim wed be more likely to cook seafood at home if we felt more confident using it in the kitchen, and whipping up a Friday night fish supper – whether youre angling for a pile of battered monkfish bites, a plate of simply dressed devilled herrings or a steaming bowl of moules marinière – is a lot easier than you might think.
If a fish and chip supper is non-negotiable on a Friday night, beer-battered dover sole is a delicious alternative to cod, while shellfish is a great choice if youre bored with chicken and looking for an alternative source of low-fat protein.
In warmer weather, go for fresh hake with seasonal asparagus and Jersey Royals, or a poached hake salade niçoise. For something a bit different, crab thermidor is surprisingly quick to make, while fish tacos made with coley goujons make the ideal bite for sharing in front of the TV. Fresh oysters on ice or spiced coconut mussels are perfect for impressing. When the weather cools down, theres a wealth of winter warmers to choose, from roast hake with curried stew to smoked mackerel risotto.
Plenty of seafood dishes are surprisingly quick to pull together. Monkfish and coconut curry takes about 15 minutes to prepare, while an Asian-spiced crab and noodle salad with black sesame seed dressing can be on the table in 10 minutes flat. Children love fish too, which is always a bonus when faced with picky eaters – coley goujons instead of fish fingers, or mackerel fishcakes made with mash are easy weekday crowd-pleasers.
We all have a favourite fish, and when youre seafood savvy its not hard to find an often-overlooked alternative to your usual choice – from soft, flaky flounder to firm, boldly flavoured sprats or rainbow trout.
With so much choice, you may struggle to decide what to cook, but to make things a bit easier, Seafish has created a website so you can arrange for the best of UK seafood to be delivered to your door. Head to fishisthedish.co.uk, enter your postcode, and find out how to buy online for easy ways to explore a world of new flavours.