Fish – The Complete Fish and Seafood Companion by Mitch Tonks – review

Fish - The Complete Fish and Seafood Companion Well, that is quite a claim for a book – to be the complete something or other. Fish – The Complete Fish and Seafood Companion does, at first glance, seem to have all the credentials of a major work on the subject. The hardback volume is artfully embossed and has the feel of quality.

Mitch Tonks has a reputation in the UK as one of the finest seafood chefs. He has been voted Tattlers’ Restaurateur of the Year and described as a Fishmonger for the 21st century by the Independent newspaper. He is also an award winning author. He is oft seen on UK TV and has an infectious enthusiasm for all things fishy, and he has encouraged a fish-wary public to cook simple and delicious seafood dishes.

Fish – The Complete Fish and Seafood Companion has around a hundred recipes but this book is also something of a fish encyclopaedia, a veritable “Enquire Within” of seafood. The photographs by Chris Terry show Mitch’s food to great advantage and the illustrations by Richard Bramble are the equal of those you would find in the best reference books.

We, the general public, find ourselves on the horns of a dilemma. Whilst we know that fish is good for us we are also regaled with tales of unsustainable stocks, legislation from Brussels…and the occasional pollution scare. Yes, fish is good for us, we can source fish that we can eat without guilt, and this book gives you all the advice you’ll need to find fish in season and cook it to perfection.

Part One of Fish – The Complete Fish and Seafood Companion looks at such things as fishing techniques, sustainability and why fish is so good for us. It would be so easy to skip to the recipes (they are probably the reason you bought the book) but it’s all good background to the subject and those pages show Mitch Tonks to be passionate and knowledgeable.

The recipes are the stars. The beauty of this book is that it focuses on fish that are accessible. We are not just talking the classy, pricey sorts but also the humble coley which is, in my opinion, so underrated. Stew of Coley, Roasted Peppers and Small Mullet has the taste of southern France but you’ll make this at home for a fraction of the price you’d pay in a smart(ish) port restaurant in Marseille. Mitch salts the coley overnight to change the texture. A chunk of crusty bread, a glass of red (no, don’t tell me it must be white to go with fish) and you’ll be longing for the perfume (?) of Gaulois cigarettes.

Mackerel are a reasonable price and one of the most healthful fish. Mitch has an exotic Roasted Mackerel with North African Spices. The spice rub is aromatic with a hint of heat from cayenne. This would be a great summer meal for guests as the fish can be marinating in advance and they only take ten minutes to cook in the oven. Serve with lemon and a green salad.

It’s not all about transporting you to far-flung and sun-drenched oases. Grilled Herring with Devilled Butter is very English. This recipe uses those traditional “devilled” spices of cayenne, ginger, and pepper. Oily fish can take a robust seasoning and even those who are card-carrying avoiders of fish will enjoy this recipe. Not too “fishy”!

Skate is a fish designed for those who don’t like bones. It’s an easy fish to eat and has a unique texture. Fried Skate Wing with Caper Mayonnaise couldn’t be easier to prepare. The fish is fried in breadcrumbs to give a crunchy outside but a soft and delicate flesh inside. The mayonnaise is fresh and tangy but the fish would be lovely with just a squeeze of lemon.

This is quite the most comprehensive fish book available – it lives up to its claim of being “complete”. It’s an indispensible addition to a food lover’s bookshelf. It’s well written, well researched and should become a classic.

Fish – The Complete Fish and Seafood Companion
Author: Mitch Tonks
Published by: Pavilion Books
Price: £25.00
ISBN 978-1-86205-833-0


Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018


See more books by Mitch Tonks here