Forget the ‘Fish Big 5’, says Jamie Oliver – our waters are teeming with less well-known but equally delicious fish. And what’s more, they’re sustainable. So why not treat your family to some of Jamie Magazine’s mouthwatering recipes featuring such lesser-known wonders as pouting, gurnard, coley and more – and do the planet a favour in the process? It’s a fin-win! Here's Jamie to tell you more...
'With World Oceans Day around the corner, I’m here to help you celebrate the amazing bounty of fish in our waters (not just the more popular salmon and cod) and to arm you with the knowledge to make informed, ethical choices about what you’re buying.
'Where fish is concerned, you might have noticed that the word ‘sustainable’ is slapped on lots of things these days, but what this really means can often be confusing and badly explained. Really, it should mean the fish in question has been taken from a habitat where it is plentiful, in a way that won’t affect the ecosystem in the long-term and doesn’t impact on other species at risk during the fishing process.
'It’s incredibly hard to measure this, because fish are literally a moving target, but the Marine Stewardship Council – a small independent organisation – is monitoring the situation and accrediting fisheries that work responsibly. For information you can be sure comes from a good source, visit the website, msc.org. The only downside is that the MSC is a small organisation, and while it’s working hard, it will take time to get around to every fishery. So, if you don’t see the MSC logo, that doesn’t necessarily mean the fish isn’t sustainable, it just means you might need to ask a few more questions before you buy it.'
'As you can see, the issues around fish aren’t easy to tackle. We now have the technology to plunder the sea in ways we could never dream of before. A small crew of fishermen with sonar and satellite can zone in on a shoal of fish and literally sweep them up. And the quota system that’s in place doesn’t seem to be working. If fishermen haul in more than they’re allowed to, they’ve got to throw those extra fish back in the sea – but usually they’re already dead in the nets, so this is a tragic waste of perfectly good fish. Discarding fish like this is being banned in EU fisheries at the moment, but it could be a while before this stops happening for good.
'Government intervention doesn’t seem to be working well or quickly enough in Europe, so we’ve got to look for practical solutions we can apply in our daily lives. Our changing lifestyles and general lack of cooking knowledge has meant our fish horizons have narrowed to the point where supermarkets have created pop stars of tuna, haddock, prawns, cod and salmon. This Big Five of the fish world make up nearly 90% of the fish we consume in the UK, and our dependence on them means they are often overfished. This shift is so sad, because it means younger generations aren’t getting a chance to fall in love with delicious fish like pollack, dab, gurnard, coley or pouting.
'I completely get the fact that me telling you to eat more fish seems like a strange solution to these problems, but when you think of it as easing pressure on the Big Five while getting cheaper, equally delicious fish on your table at the same time, hopefully what I’m saying starts to make some sense. My approach has been to find the most succulent, tasty, gorgeous fish out there so we can all expand our fish horizons. These recipes feature fish that are usually the discarded, unloved bycatch. Gurnard and pouting, in particular, are cheap and especially good. I would bet that nobody could tell the difference between fish and chips made with pouting and cod. Pouting has great flavour, great texture and, best of all, there’s loads of it in our waters.
'I know many parents are nervous about cooking fish for their kids, but I’ve found through a bit of trial and error that how you present it is the secret to success. Pouting fishfingers and sweet potato wedges are an easy win, and comforting fish pies are always a favourite in my house – my wife, Jools, makes an epic one. Fish pies work with any kind of fish (even frozen), so they’re great if you’re on a budget – try mixing it up in this recipe with gurnard, coley or pouting, or ask your fishmonger what he would recommend. Crab is massively underrated in the UK, and can be quite strong in flavour, but I’ve found that adding it to fishcakes is usually enough to fool even my youngest ones, and if you’re feeling brave, my harissa sardines are really something else.'
'If there’s anything we should take away from this, it’s that even if you just shop a little differently and try one of these recipes tonight instead of your usual salmon or cod, that could still be enough to make a difference. If we don’t do anything about the situation in our seas, it will affect our children and grandchildren in ways we can’t anticipate. So, I say widen your choices and help save the seas. It’s an issue with murky waters, but I hope we’ll be clever enough to take the initiative.'
The recipes for harissa sardines, pouting fishfingers and fish pie originally appeared in Jamie magazine, the beautiful food and travel magazine from Jamie Oliver. Each issue includes an award-winning blend of new and exclusive recipes from Jamie and other top chefs, as well as insider's foodie travel guides to up-and-coming destinations.