by Ruth Arendse
At Shampers we obtain our fish from Hackney-based inland merchant
R Green. The bulk of Russell Greens fish is landed at Brixham in Devon, the home
port to 72 fishing vessels, where he has an agent who purchases his requirements at the
quay-side and arranges deep chilled transport to London. Salmon, cod, haddock and prawns
account for over 65% of fish purchases in UK restaurants.Of the many other varieties of
fish available to us, these are some of my favourites.
Baked filleted gurnard with caponata, The caponata
stew is from The Carved Angel by Joyce Molyneux with Sophie Grigson.It is a robust
Sicilian aubergine and tomato dish, sweet sour totaste with capers and olives. Fillet 4
gurnard (serves 4-5)
1 medium aubergine (chopped into 4-inch thick pieces); 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil (plus extra to
finish); 1 medium onion, chopped; 1clove garlic, chopped; 1 green pepper, seeded and
chopped; 1 red pepper, seeded and chopped; 1 stick of celery, chopped; 1dsp white wine
vinegar; 1 tsp caster sugar; 1 dsp tomato puree;freshly ground black pepper; 9 black
olives, halved and pitted; 1 dsp capers, drained and rinsed.
Heat the oil in a pan and cook the onions and garlic gently for 3mins without browning
until tender. Add the aubergine, peppers and celery and cook for a further 5 mins. Add the
vinegar, sugar, tomato puree, salt and pepper to taste. Stir, then add the capers and
olives. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle more olive oilover the sauce. Place the
fillets on the sauce, cover with foil andplace in a pre-heated oven for 30 mins, gas mark
Skate. The smaller, edible members of the ray family are
known as skate and the term ray is reserved for their larger cousins, such as sting rays
and electric rays. The thornback ray is the best skate and is best eaten
au beurre noir. The flesh of the wings is composed of long thick strands that
are easily removed after cooking. The ideal is for the fish to be served with butter and
wine-vinegar sauce absolutely sizzling.
John Dory. This fish has an exquisite taste and firm white flesh that
provides boneless fillets. Fishermen maintain that the single dark spots on either side of
a John Dory are the finger marks of Saint Peter, as this is the fish which he took up on
the instruction of Christ to find in its mouth the silver to pay the tax collector. Often
referred to in English as St Peters fish, it is known in France as Saint-Pierre, in
Spain as Pez de San Pedro and in Turkey as dülger (carpenter).
Gilt-Head Sea Bream. This excellent fish, widely regarded
as the best of the bream family, is identified by a golden spot on each cheek and another
crescent shaped golden spot between the eyes. Hence the name gilt-head in English, daurade
in French and dorada in Spanish. Most bream inhabit tropical and sub-tropical waters,
including the Caribbean. A French recipe filets de dorade à LAntillaise
is a rum-based dish.
Gurnard. For my recipe I have chosen gurnard. This
unusually shaped fish takes its name from the French word to growl (gronder). Gurnards, in
common with species such as Meagre or Drums, make strange sounds to keep in touch with one
another (a feat performed by muscle contractions acting on the swim bladder). A shoal many
feet below the surface can be heard quite clearly on a fishing boat. This has led to
speculation about the origins of the Sirens Song.
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In my article on Vietnamese cooking (Spring issue) I wrote about Lê Mi, the Vietnamese
food store on Mare Street and by Ruth Arendse its owner Quyen. Quyens sister Búi is
opening a Vietnamese restaurant at 251 Mare Street in October. Búi told me that her menu
will include traditional fish dishes such as Chá Chá (monkfish with dill) and Cá Lóc
Hãp (steamed fish with ginger and coconut milk)
Ruth lives in Stoke Newington and works as head chef at the West End restaurant Shampers.
For more information on fish read Jane Gregsons Fish Book (Penguin Books)
and Alan Davidsons Mediterranean Seafood (Prospect Books).
The UK fishing fleet has declined from 2,467 registered vessels in 1996 to 1,772
in 2002. The largest fleets are based in Fraserburgh (150 vessels), Newlyn (128) and
Grimsby (101). According to the Sea Fish Industry Authority, 47% of fish reaches the
consumer through wholesalers such as Billingsgate, followed by inland merchants (29%),
port merchants (9%) and fishmongers (9%).