Plenty more fish in the sea...
...Or so the saying goes. There are hundreds of edible seafoods found and landed in UK waters and even more imported to the UK from abroad. However the majority of the seafood we eat here in Britain consists of five species, know in the industry as 'the big five'. That is salmon, cod, haddock, prawns and tuna.
Over the next year I'll be eating beyond this quintet with a project I'm calling Neptune's Bounty - 52 Weeks: 52 Species. The aim is to eat a different species of seafood each week for a year and document the process. The seafood can come in many shapes and forms, dishes and environments. As much as possible I'll be sharing how to shop for, prepare and cook different species of seafood, but I'll also be enjoying preprepared fish as well as sampling new species in restaurants, from markets and seafood stalls where I can.
Why 52 species?
There are three main reasons for embarking on this seafood odyssey. First is to highlight the wealth of seafood available around these shores and encourage others to try some of our lesser-known species. The big five comprise the top 5 species by sales value when it comes to retail sales of seafood in the UK but it's not sustainable to only keep eating these five. With pressure on stocks and concerns around salmon farming we all need to see what else our shores and responsible, sustainable aquaculture has to offer if we're to enjoy the fruits of the sea for years to come.
UK fishermen are out in all weathers doing one of the most dangerous jobs in the UK to put food on our plates. With the Landing Obligation currently being phased in most species caught need to be landed and counted against quota . With often little market for the less popular types of seafood it's the riches of the sea that are being shamefully wasted. We need to start respecting the marine environment and that means enjoying everything it has to offer in a considered way, not just cherrypicking what we perceive or have been led to believe are the best bits.
I'm not just some humourless hobbit banging on about sustainability. Yes it's vitally important, but this also all about the pleasure of food, discovering new tastes and flavours that I've been missing out on or not had the chance to enjoy yet.
I'll be looking at seasonality in fish, taking a lead from what's best in the ocean at any one time, and seeing what I can combine it with from the field, garden or store cupboard. I'm aiming to source most of the seafood from Scottish and UK sources, but that's not to say I won't be trying tinned or frozen fish that's been imported from aboard, depending on where it comes from. One of the best things about seafood is it's variety and versatility and fresh, smoked, tinned and frozen all have a place.
I'll also be trying as many cooking methods as possible, to demonstrate the versatility and easiness of seafood. Baked, grilled, cured, shallow fried, deep fried, griddled, bbq'd, poached, en papillote, I'll be aiming to showcase all the different ways we can enjoy the fruits of the sea.
First time for fish
The third reason for this project is an even more personal one; I'll be weaning our (not so) tiny baby daughter from July and I'm keen to make this a family journey we can all enjoy. There will be plenty of species I have never tried before and I'm excited and intrigued to share the experience of eating them for the first time with our little girl.
My expectations aren't too high; there's enough pressure weaning a baby in our food culture as it is but if we can get her used to a wide varieties of flavours and textures that's enough for me, even if most of it ends up on the floor :) I've no idea how this is going to work out but for her to get used to fish being a regular occurrence at the table, and to see and experience seafood beyond the general expectations for kids of 'brown, breaded and bland' has to be a step in the right direction.
Keep up with my seafood exploits by following me on instagram and twitter @urbanfishwife, as well as using the hashtags #neptunesbounty #52weeks52species. I'm keen to get suggestions and recommendations - if there's an unloved species you think needs sampling give me a shout! I'd also love for you to get involved and join in by sharing the seafood you're eating by using the hashtags and discovering more than the big five!