Thursday, 28 July 2011

Baked Ling with Cauliflower Puree & Fennel Salad

This photo does not do justice to the
yumminess of this dinner, trust me!
When I first started this blog, I said it was going to be a warts-and-all sharing of my experiences, as I try to eat both interestingly and ethically. Today, I present a large "wart". On the positive side, I learned something I didn't know today and writing about it might spread the word, certainly it highlights the easy pitfalls a hedonethicist can fall into.

It really starts with an old, and rather silly, assumption: if you haven't heard of a fish, or don't often see it for sale at a supermarket, it's more likely to be sustainable than one that is really common. This idea could have worked in the past for some things: king prawns, cod, haddock, salmon, tuna and sea bass have all made their appearances on the endangered charts, whereas pollack, dab, cockles, coley and the like hadn't. Nowadays, it's a bit more complicated than that.

Ling, a fish I'd never cooked before, is listed by the MCS has having a sustainability rating of 4 or 5, depending on various factors. This is bad. I won't be buying it again unless it makes it up to 3. 
I emailed my supplier (the nice people at The Fish Society) for advice. It turns out this was their first shipment of ling and they were as surprised as me to see how badly it scored on the sustainability charts, as it isn't a fish in high commercial demand. They get theirs from Denmark, which should mean the fishermen abide by EU regulations; however, for the ethically concerned consumer, a different fish would be a better choice. The good news is that they are about to start selling pouting which they recommend as a "mega sustainable" alternative - can't argue with that!

The meal I made with the ling was yummy though, so I'm still going to post it. Another white fish could (and should) be easily substituted.

First things first, the cauliflower puree. Sounds all cheffy, but it isn't. Break up a cauli head into small peices and pop into a pan with a couple of bay leaves and some mace. Almost cover with milk and bring up to a simmer, leave it to cook until the cauli is tender (about 10-15 mins or so, prod it with a fork to check).

While that's cooking, finely slice a fennel bulb and cut a couple of carrots into thin batons. Pop into a bowl and in another bowl whisk up a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Pour over the dressing and mix really well. Put the salad into the fridge to marinate.

Lay your fish fillets onto a peice of foil (recycled!) and put a knob of butter on each one. Squeeze over some lemon juice, a sprinkle of salt and grinding of black pepper, plus a scattering of parsley, oregano and chives. Pop in the oven at 180 degrees until cooked - the timing is going to vary depending on how thick your fillets are, ours took about half an hour because they were still ever so slightly frozen.

When the cauli is done, whizz it up in a food processor with salt, pepper, some butter and as much of the milk as is required to give it a creamy, pureed texture.

The creamy puree, herby fish and crunchy fennel salad work wonderfully together; this is a really lovely mid-week meal.

Marine Conservation Society - Good Fish Guide

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