I am surprised that there are not more fish cookbooks. We live on an island and the wet stuff around the edges is sea. It’s home to a wealth of good things to eat, that seem far more appreciated by those from other European countries than by us Brits. Fishy Fishy Cookbook is the latest on that small list of fishy books.
We go on holiday to Spain and France and we return waxing lyrical about the marvellous meals that we have had. We glibly state that the Continentals have a way with fish and that “we don’t get that here”. Well, yes we do indeed get “that” here, although lots of our catch still seems to clock up the food miles on its way across the Channel. Ironic, me thinks.
We know it’s good for us. We should, for many reasons, eat less red meat, and variety is the spice of life. Fish and seafood are delicate but they are, for the most part, simple and quick to prepare. A good cookbook can educate and inspire and Fishy Fishy Cookbook is one of the best I have come across.
“New York, New York, so good they named it twice” sang Gerard Kenny in 1978 and I can voice a similar sentiment with regard to Fishy Fishy. It’s a restaurant as well as a cookbook, and there are now two branches (Brighton and Poole). The book contains within its covers just about the best-chosen recipes of any fish cookbook. OK, so that’s down to personal taste, but they are broad-based and consider practicality, economics and flavour.
Restaurant cookbooks can sometimes tend towards the ‘cheffy’: long-winded recipes, too many ingredients, with an over-fussy end result. Fishy Fishy Cookbook avoids culinary showboating and offers dishes for every pocket and skill. There are family-friendly pies as well as the posh and posy lobster plates that you might not be feeding to the kids, although they will doubtless enjoy the fish burgers.
Just about every page offers an idea for a seasonal lunch or dinner. It’s important to appreciate that fish and seafood are indeed seasonal, or should be. The authors have taken time to introduce their audience to the concept of sustainability. We might all support the notion but we need advice to enable us to make the best choices.
There are contemporary as well as classic dishes here. Smoked Mackerel Paté is traditional, good value for money and versatile. This version uses horseradish to add heat but if you don’t like that you can use a pinch or two of cayenne pepper. There are two other smoked fish patés here using trout and salmon, but mackerel has been too long overlooked, so give that one a try.
Sticky Mackerel is one of my picks-of-the-book. The fish is first seared in oil before being finished in the oven and basted with a sticky barbecue sauce. It’s a glaze that would work well with any kind of oily fish. Tangy and aromatic.
I am not a great lover of an oyster – much over-rated and rather boring – but Tempura Oysters with Tomato and Chilli Jam has converted me. The batter gives texture to the shellfish and the chilli adds a sweet-hot edge. They are stunning when served on their shells. Scallops with Chorizo, a common restaurant dish, is also served in the same way but with slices of crusty bread alongside.
Mussels Three Ways are listed in the Everyday Fish and Seafood chapter; although I still think of them as a treat they are not expensive these days. Moules Marinières is perhaps the best known version of mussels cooked in a pot. A little white wine, shallots, garlic, butter and parsley make this a moreish lunch that will remind you of holidays on the cold Belgian or French coast.
Fishy Fishy Cookbook is perhaps one of the most exciting and inspiring fish cookbooks around. This will be on my list of best books reviewed in 2011. It’s a must for any fish lover as well as those who want to enjoy a healthier diet.
Fishy Fishy Cookbook
Authors: James Ginzler, Paul Shovlin and Loz Talent
Published by: New Holland
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018