Previously published on www.fishonfriday.org.uk visit their website for the recipe.
Summer is officially here: let’s make the most of it, get down to the beach and enjoy fish at its freshest, straight from the sea! Around this time of year mackerel chase whitebait close into shore, creating a feeding frenzy that makes the sea boil. If you are lucky enough to witness this spectacle with a rod in hand you will be guaranteed easy pickings, flicking flapping fish onto the shore by the dozen.
Back on the land we are having a similar feeding frenzy as we harvest artichokes, asparagus, new season beetroots, broad beans, broccoli, courgettes, the first fennel, french beans and endless other goodies.
The longest day of the year, summer equinox, is on the 21st of June. The sun rises at 4.43am and sets at 9.21pm, giving us a marvelous sixteen and a half hours of sunlight. I like to celebrate the equinox by watching the sunrise, and where better than the beach to partake in such an enlightening experience? I’d strongly recommend packing up a thick sleeping-bag, grill, and some provisions to spend the night under the stars. My meal of choice, easy to cook and perfect for the barbecue is jig-caught squid, grilled potatoes and mojo verde, a wonderfully zesty and piquant, coriander based salsa verde from the Canary islands. Ask your fishmonger to clean the squid and cut into 4-6 pieces depending on the size. Before setting off on your expedition; marinade the squid in a tub or sealable bag with black pepper, crushed garlic, salt and a little olive oil. Boil the potatoes and cut in half lengthways. Make the mojo verde: finely chop 3 cloves of garlic, 1 green chilli, and a small bunch of coriander (including the stalks). Add a dash of wine vinegar and enough extra virgin olive oil to make a thick, sauce like consistency. Season with salt, pepper and cumin. When you’re on the beach and your barbecue is white-hot, grill the potatoes until a little charred, lower the grill right down, next to the coals, then flash the marinated squid on the grill for just one minute each side. Serve immediately with a good helping of mojo verde on the side, unconventionally with a glass of red, to warm your cockles.
As the temperature of the North Atlantic rises, many species of fish migrate to our waters. It’s at this time of year that we start to see a really impressive variety of fish landed on the English coast: Atlantic cod, black bream, brown crab, coley, dover sole, flounder, haddock, hake, halibut, herring, john dory, lemon sole, lobster, mackerel, northern or cold water prawns, plaice, pollock, pouting, queen scallops, sardines, sea bass, and sea trout. With all of this choice available, it’s as important as ever to pick wisely. First choice is to buy fish landed locally, that is caught by a hand-line. Be flexible about which species you would like to buy, so that you can choose the freshest fish that has been caught using the best methods. From this huge list my top sustainable recommendations are: the undervalued yet marvelous black bream, brown crab (buy handpicked for the best flavour), coley, farmed halibut, pouting, northern prawns (hyperlink to May) and my popular, pick of the month, pollock.
Pollock is a sturdy contender when choosing an alternative to cod or haddock. The stock levels are safer globally and easier to navigate as a consumer. Buy Alaskan pollock if possible. It’s a large fish, so buy by the fillet, allowing 150g per person. It has a clean white meat that is incredibly versatile. Smoke it, batter it, roast it; what the hell, even eat it raw with wasabi and soya sauce. For this month’s recipe though, I’m keeping it simple and letting the ingredients speak for themselves, pan fried, served with aioli and the majestic artichoke.
Pan-fried pollock with aioli and baby artichokes
Artichokes are now in season. They are a seductive vegetable worth a little effort and patience. The poet Pablo Neruda describes this so well in his final paragraph of Ode to the Artichoke: ‘Leaf after leaf, we undress, its deliciousness, and eat, the peaceful substance, of its green heart’. The uniquely savoury sweet flavour goes very well with a fresh fillet of white fish and needs little else adding. This meal is indeed inspired by this poem, and is appropriately romantic.