Seasonal and sustainable: three’s better than one

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This month we’re putting not one, not two, but three fish in the spotlight.

Our first fish of the month is turbot, an impressive fish which can grow up to 10kg in weight. However, turbot is expensive and normally reserved for high-end dishes in the kitchens of seafood restaurants. That’s why this month we’re bringing you two other sustainable fish, plaice and mackerel, which is more affordable, but still in season and sustainable.  

Turbot

Turbot is an expensive fish with a huge fan base, making it a popular dish for fine-dining restaurants and for special occasions and dinner parties at home. The average catch is between 1-5kg with a 2kg+ fish easy yielding enough fillets to feed four. They are usually a very welcome catch for local trawlers and beam trawlers because of their high value, although during the spring and summer there is also a good tangle net fishery for them.

When buying turbot, it is important to look for a freshly caught fish, with bright eyes which are free of any fishy odour. The flesh should also be firm to the touch without any discolouration, as turbot can turn a blueish shade as the fish becomes less fresh.

You can cook turbot whole by roasting it on the bone, adding extra flavour to the flesh. When cooking turbot whole, it is important to check that the fish has been properly prepared to avoid a bitter taste, so ensure that the gills and scales have been removed and that the fish has been gutted.

If you are cooking turbot fillets, it is better to use gentler cooking methods such as steaming or poaching. Turbot can be fried but as it is a delicate fish, it should be cooked carefully until the flesh is springy. To check if the fish is cooked you can insert a sharp knife into the thickest part of the fish or fillet; the knife should be hot to the touch when removed.

Check out some delicious turbot recipes on the Great British Chefs website here.

Plaice

Plaice is a more affordable fish which has grown in popularity as people seek sustainable alternatives to prime white fish, such as cod. It has a soft flavour which works well in many recipes, taking on the flavours of the other ingredients used.

If you are looking to purchase plaice, ensure it has been locally landed and comes from sustainable stock. Plaice is available all year around, and is a popular and plentiful fish in the South West regularly sold through Plymouth Fisheries, but should be avoided between February and April, as the flesh can become thin and watery during this time.

When cooking plaice at home it is best to eat the fish as soon as possible after purchasing, as plaice can quickly lose its flavour. It is easy to spot fresh plaice on the fish counter as its iconic bright orange spots will become duller as the catch gets older.

Plaice can be cooked using a range of methods such as grilling, baking, poaching, frying and even deep frying, however it is important to remember it takes on the flavours of anything it is cooked in, and any other ingredients it is cooked with.

It is preferable to cook plaice on the bone in order to enhance the flavour, ensuring the black skin of the fish has been removed. Fillets of plaice can also be served as an alternative to cod for fish and chips, or even stuffed with a number of fillings to create an exciting dish.  

Click here to find plaice recipes from BBC Food.

Mackerel

Mackerel is a fantastic fish which is generally low in price, but high in nutritional value and rich in the beneficial fatty acid, omega-3. It is a very versatile fish which can be used in a number of recipes, ranging from simple, quick meals to more complex, time consuming gourmet dishes.

To ensure you are buying the most sustainable catch, buy mackerel which was locally caught using traditional fishing methods such as hand-lines.  

Although mackerel stocks in the South West are healthy, mackerel has been noticeably absent from Plymouth Fisheries so far this year – a situation we hope to see change very soon as mackerel, especially hand-line caught mackerel, is such a great fish.

It is recommended that you should eat at least two portions of fish each week, with one portion being an oily fish, in order to have a healthy diet. Mackerel is an ideal fish to include in your weekly shop as it is commended for its high levels of essential oils and it is rich in omega-3, nutrients and vitamins.  

When buying mackerel from your local fish monger it is important to look for a shiny fresh fish, with bright eyes and no fishy odour. If you are planning on cooking it at home it is important to eat the mackerel on the day of purchase as it can spoil quickly. Alternatively you can freeze or smoke the fish for use later.

Mackerel has a distinctive fishy flavour which can put some people off, however when it is cooked using the correct methods and with the right ingredients, mackerel is a versatile and delicious fish. It can be cooked in a variety of ways including frying, baking, grilling and tastes great as a pâté

For a quick and easy snack try these mackerel topped crackers from Fish is the Dish.

Plymouth Trawler Agents

Thousands of tonnes of fish are landed at Plymouth Fisheries each year, or landed at smaller South West fishing ports and transported to the fisheries complex by road, in order to be sold at the daily auction managed by Plymouth Trawler Agents.

To find out more about other fish are available throughout the year, visit the PTA website here.