Channel 4's The Big Fish Fight has provided some very interesting viewing recently, although I'm not completely sure that it has convinced the public about exactly what they should and shouldn't be eating.
Fishmongers, supermarkets and restaurants are really going to have to address the question of what type of fish they are selling – and I imagine that some of them are going to be caught out with the wrong fish. Fish2fork (fish2fork.com) is a great campaigning guide for those who want to eat fish sustainably, pointing customers towards restaurants who care about the issue, and steering them away from those who don't give a flying fish about the ocean! At Selfridges, we are going to be working with the Blue Marine Foundation (bluemarinefoundation.com), the charity set up by the producers of the pioneering film The End of the Line. We will also be serving the Oyster and Fish House menu at Selfridges to give the whole campaign a bit of clout.
The potential problem with all of this is that we don't want it to backfire – I remember that nearly a decade ago we were all told to eat hoki instead of cod, and sadly by 2006 it was clear that hoki had been overfished and had become an endangered species!
You rarely see whiting on menus as it's deemed to be a bit third-division and only fit for the cat bowl. Rather like mackerel, it hasn't got a great shelf-life once it's out of the water, compared to, say, a bass or a sole. However, it is perfect for fish and chips or goujons or chopped up fresh and raw like this in the form of a ceviche.
250-300g very fresh whiting fillet, skinned, boned and cut into approximate cm dice
Juice of 3 limes
1tbsp of soda or mineral water
1tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
Vegetable or corn oil for deep frying
For the garnish
Half a red pepper, seeded and finely diced
Half a red onion, peeled, seeded and finely diced
1 large medium spiced green chilli, seeded and finely chopped
2tbsp chopped fresh coriander
Preheat about 8cm of the corn or vegetable oil to 160-180C in a large thick-bottomed saucepan or electric deep-fat fryer. Meanwhile, slice the plantain lengthways (with the skin on) with a mandolin about a fifth of a centimetre thick. Deep-fry for about 3-4 minutes or until crisp, turning the plantains with a slotted spoon during cooking, then transfer on to kitchen paper; scatter with a little salt. Mix the lime juice with the soda water and olive oil and mix with the fish; season to taste. Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for about 20 minutes.
Either mix the garnish ingredients together or serve in separate little dishes. Arrange the fish with the juice in individual bowls, or a large one to share, with the plantain in a basket; serve with the garnish.
Sardines with potato and cumin salad
Pilchard and sardine fishing is a part of Cornish heritage and the two names can be easily confused – in the UK, sardines are officially classified as small pilchards and sardines used to be called pilchards once they were canned. But Cornish sardines now enjoy protected food status and the word "sardine" (evoking Mediterranean holidays) is more appealing to the public than "pilchard" (which calls to mind the canned variety). Whatever you want to call it, the fresh sardine or pilchard can be cooked either whole or as fillets and served in the same way that you would a mackerel or herring.
8-12 sardines or pilchards, filleted
A little flour for dusting
A little vegetable or corn oil for frying
For the potato salad
3 medium shallots, peeled, halved and finely chopped
One-third of a tsp ground cumin
1tsp cumin seeds
100ml chicken or vegetable stock
30ml cider or white wine vinegar
400g large new potatoes, peeled cooked and cut into cm slices
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1tbsp parsley, finely chopped
30-40ml olive or rapeseed oil
First prepare the potatoes: in a pan, simmer the shallots, ground cumin and seeds, two-thirds of the vegetable stock and the white wine vinegar until almost completely reduced.
Add the sliced potatoes and the rest of the stock, stir well, cover and cook gently over a low heat for another 4-5 minutes, giving an occasional stir. The liquid should have almost disappeared and the potatoes should be falling apart a little. Stir in the olive oil and parsley and replace the lid to keep warm.
Heat a little vegetable oil in preferably a non-stick frying pan, season the sardine fillets and very lightly flour the skin. Fry the fillets for a couple 0f minutes on the skin side on a medium heat until crisp, then flip them over and finish cooking for 30 seconds or so; then remove from the pan and drain on some kitchen paper. To serve, spoon the potato salad on to warmed serving plates and arrange the fillets on top.
Megrim sole with brown shrimps and capers
I've been serving megrim sole for years and the big question is whether it's going to become the new lemon sole. In France, you will find it on the fishmongers' slabs as cardine and in Spain it's known as gallo; over there it's as popular a fish as our Dover and lemon soles. Megrim is certainly in abundance in the West Country (along with Torbay and witch soles) but on restaurant menus I think it will take a little time for it to gain popularity with diners. It can be treated in exactly the same way as other soles and it will almost certainly cost a fraction of the price.
4 megrim soles weighing about 250-300g with the fins and black skin removed
Plain flour for dusting
A couple of tablespoons of vegetable or corn oil
100g unsalted butter
80g peeled brown shrimps
2tbsp capers, washed
Juice of half a lemon
2tbsp finely chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
Season the soles and lightly flour the white skin side. Heat some vegetable oil in a heavy or non-stick frying pan and cook the soles with the skin side down – first for 3-4 minutes on each side on a medium heat, adding a knob of butter for the last couple of minutes of cooking, until they are golden. You may need to cook the soles in a couple of batches, depending on your frying pans.
Once the soles are cooked, heat the rest of the butter in a small frying pan until it begins to foam and stir in the shrimps, capers, parsley and lemon juice and remove from the heat.
To serve, lay the soles on warmed serving plates and spoon the shrimps and butter over.
Crispy coley, bacon and horseradish salad
I've served coley at formal dinners for 100 people: it turned into a real talking point.
A piece of streaky bacon, or pancetta weighing 200-250g with the rind removed
200-250g coley fillet, skinned and boned
Vegetable or corn oil for deep frying
2-3tbsp Dove's Farm gluten-free self-raising flour
A handful of small salad and herb leaves such as watercress, rocket, chives, chervil, flat parsley etc
1tbsp freshly grated horseradish
For the dressing
1tbsp cider vinegar
2tsp Tewkesbury or Dijon mustard
2tbsp rapeseed oil
2tbsp corn oil
Put the bacon into a pan of cold water, bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until tender, then leave to cool. Once cool, cut into 2cm cubes. Whisk the ingredients together for the dressing and season.
Preheat about 8cm of oil to 160-180C in a large thick-bottomed saucepan or electric deep-fat fryer. Heat a little vegetable oil in a frying pan and cook the bacon on a medium heat for 6-7 minutes, turning the pieces as they are cooking, until crisp; drain on kitchen paper; keep warm. Cut the coley into similar-sized chunks to the bacon. In a bowl, mix the flour with enough cold water to make a batter and season well. Mix the pieces of fish with the batter and deep-fry in a couple of batches until crisp, then drain on some kitchen paper. Arrange the leaves, bacon and coley and top with the grated horseradish on serving plates; spoon over the dressing.