We realized we had a series of fish related questions in regards to how to think about this nutritious protein at the table. So we sniffed out arguably one of London's favourite fishmongers.
[Presenting: The Chelsea Fishmonger]
This particular establishment has been open since 1995 and is quietly nestled in the heart of SW3. On a (very early) Saturday morning we sought out the expert advice of Rex Goldsmith himself, the proprietor of this gem, in order to find some of the answers we were looking for.
Rex graciously provided a wealth of information which became the inspiration for the newsletter below...
What kinds of fish should we be sourcing through the winter months, and why these particular types?
Seasonal fishing is a concept no matter where you are in the world. It is key for the overall health of the marine ecosystems, as well as for maintaining a sustainable supply. It should be adhered to as much as possible. In the United Kingdom, September through April are the months when there is an abundance of truly exceptional shellfish. Mussels and oysters in particular have just finished their spawning season, making their flesh full and meaty (perfect for a winter-inspired marinière). Dover and Lemon Sole, Brill and Turbot are also perfect this time of year. However, when the Sole do start to spawn it is best to let them breed. Winter cod is also a wonderful choice in the colder months.
Which parts of the UK are considered prime areas for commercial fishing?
As it turns out, the UK coastal waters carry some of the best fishing in the entire world. The scallops and langoustines from the crystal clear waters of Scotland, as well as the Sole and Turbot from Devon and Cornwall are at the very top of what is considered excellent seafood. If neither of those are of interest, the Red Mullet and Sea Bass are also quite spectacular.
Are fishing farms still considered a taboo topic, or have they become better managed for ecosystems and the environment over time?
With coastal waters so rich in pristine wildlife it would seem to suggest that there is no need for fish farms of any kind. But they surely exist. Furthermore, there is always a certain stigma attached to them. It is true, the mass production of a single species, and the damage the infrastructure can cause to the local environment are both very serious concerns. But like everything else, not all fish farms are created equal. There are a few farms that work incredibly hard to create as little impact on the environment as possible. One such enterprise is Loch Duart based in Scotland.
How can we ensure that the fish we are buying is sustainably sourced?
It's worth noting that despite efforts to encourage sustainable fishing, the North Sea is still heavily over fished. The best ways we can contribute to sustainability are to try buy as much line caught fish as possible. This method has the lowest impact on the environment and the fish tends to reach the customer in much better condition. Also, asking where the fish comes from - if the source is small inshore boats that strictly adhere to quotas, then that's great (your fishmonger should know!)
What should we look for when choosing fresh fish for the table ?
When choosing fish, if the establishment smells strongly (oddly enough) of fish, walk away. The fish you choose should be firm, have a glossy sheen, and if whole, have bright eyes and deep red gills.
Is it ever a good idea to freeze fish, and if so whats the best way to defrost it?
If you can buy fresh then really there's never any need to resort to freezing. However, if you have frozen fish you'd like to use then the best way to defrost it is to place the fish in the fridge overnight so that it thaws slowly.
I'd recommend getting them involved in the cooking process. Also, definitely make sure that the fish they are about to try is boneless.
What might be a suggested wine pairing for seafood?
A good, chilled Sancerre or Chablis is always a wonderful thing to have with any seafood dish.
If you could only eat one fish for the rest of your life, what would it be?
If it had to be only one fish for the rest of my life, it would be Turbot (I think!)
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