With the rise of allergies, intolerances and dietary preferences, the food industry is having to cater for a broad spectrum of food regimes these days. I don´t preach to people about their dietary choices, but I´m often asked why I´m pescetarian. I’ve been a pescetarian for a long time. Aged 11 I told my mum I didn’t want to eat meat and she agreed, with one condition, that I still ate fish. No one thought it would last, but here we are, 25 years later and I’m loving being pescetarian.
With lots of people cutting red meat from their diets for environmental and ethical reasons, Pescetarianism seems like it is becoming a lot more popular in today´s society.
Why eat fish?
As well as being incredibly tasty, eating fish is an easy, quick option for a mid-week meal. We are often short of time in today´s world, fish doesn´t take long to prepare and can be ready within minutes depending on how you cook it. It can be sautéed, grilled, barbecued, baked, poached, cured and in some dishes eaten raw. It is so versatile, there are many ways to include fish into your diet. As well as convenience, fish is also really good for you….
Fish (and seafood) are full of protein, nutrients, vitamins and minerals. It is also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids (especially fatty fish like tuna, sardines, mackerel and salmon). Omega-3 is essential for optimal brain and body function as well as reducing the risk of some diseases. So, it´s no surprise that Japan, Iceland, Norway and Spain have a higher life expectancy than other nations. This directly correlates with the highest incidence of eating fish in their diets.
Fresh fish has a short shelf life so it should be cleaned and filleted, then eaten as soon as possible. If you want to save it for another time freeze it as soon as you can. One way to preserve fish for a longer time is to cure it (see my recipe for Gravlax).
In Japan fish are handled with much love and respect. This means cleaning it and cutting it well, using a sharp knife. In case you missed it before Sim from El Casal Café shows you how to clean and scale a fish.
How much fish should I eat?
The message is simple, try to eat fatty fish twice a week. This should be done as part of a balanced diet, using whole fish to minimise wastage.
Char´s tip: Wherever possible, it´s advised to buy line caught fish, as opposed to farmed and GMO fish. The traditional method of fishing with a hook and line has less environmental impact and ensures the fish are all alive when caught (so better quality). This method also means that no unwanted bycatch get wasted in the process. More about this later.
The cheapest, best way to buy fish, is to buy it whole and fillet it yourself. On average 40% of the fish is thrown away, including the guts, head and bones….but lots can be done with this! Many people are uncomfortable dealing with a whole fish, but there are many online resources showing you how to best do this. Buying a whole fish, encourages using the head, tail, bones and skin to harvest the full flavour. These can be used to make seafood sauces, stocks, bisques and broths. For example, I often use prawn heads and shells to make prawn powder.
There is a general lack of awareness about which fish are sustainable and ok to eat, which leads to stocks being depleted. Check www.goodfishguide.org which will give details on sustainability and seasonality. See The Marine Conservation Society´s easy to follow Pocket good fish guide.pdf document.
One major factor in terms of sustainability is that people tend to stick to what they know; we need to diversify the type of fish we eat and therefore buy. This will help stop certain species being over fished. So mix it up, in terms of choice. As a bonus you often find that cheaper, tasty options are available outside of the common favourites. I´ve recently started buying Sole which is a lovely white fish, with it´s own unique flavour. It´s delicious, you should try it out!
A recent article in The Guardian showed how Bluefin tuna has been fished to the verge of extinction.
…this makes a lot of sense with fish as well as other fresh produce. It means the fish will be fresher, and won´t have been shipped for miles to reach your plate. I have struck up a good relationship with my local fishmonger. She´s a real talker so I find out much more about the fish I am eating then I ever did at the supermarket counter. I ask lots of questions, and get many satisfying answers. Asking questions shows that you care when your seafood comes from, and we all have a responsibility to make sure we are not eating endangered species. Making that personal connection will increase awareness and education, and is very rewarding, if you can find the time. As I mentioned before, 2017 is all about health for me, we need to be more aware of what we are putting in our bodies.
Eat fish, live longer!
…just choose sustainably to make sure the next generation have as many options as we do.