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Picklemonster

I over ordered slightly this weekend and was left with half a dozen mackerel at the end of the day. I love mackerel, I could eat them every day. They're an incredibly versatile fish and while I've tried my hand at most things, from ceviche to escabeche, I'd never got round to pickling them.

The thought of soused seafood can be off-putting enough for some people, but knowing it's been done by an eccentric amateur can really add to the concern. Still, I thought I'd plunge in with two very different techniques: one Japanese, one Scandinavian.

The Japanese shime saba is possibly the best thing I've ever done with mackerel. It's super easy, pretty quick and the melting texture and subtle flavour are really quite something. Please do give it a go, it will blow your mind.

At the time of writing, I still haven't had a chance to try the Scandinavian pickle (it's still ruminating in the fridge). But will do a 'how to' in a couple of days (once I can guarantee it's deliciousness).

Shime Saba (Japanese cured mackerel)
Enough for 4 as a starter

I once ate mackerel raw, on a boat, seconds after dispatching it. It was great. According to the Japanese, that's the only way to do it. As soon as the fish has been landed, they wouldn't dream of eating mackerel as traditional sashimi, it's always cured before it is made into sushi (new to me too).

Two fresh SoleShare mackerel from Martin

Two fresh SoleShare mackerel from Martin

Mackerel deteriorates quickly and within a few days, it can become quite pungent and fishy. This ancient curing technique is used to prevent that. Obviously, the freshness of the mackerel is key here. If you got it from us, then obviously, it's probably still gleaming. If you're not a member of SoleShare however, go to a local fishmongers, this time of year, they should have some.

Ingredients:
2 mackerel
Salt
1 Lemon
A cup of rice vinegar
2 tsp Sugar
Ziplock bag

1. First off, fillet your mackerel (don't know how, join us for a filleting workshop). Make sure to remove the rib bones from the side of the fillet, don't worry about the pin bones running down the middle though.

2. Lay the fillets on a rack and salt generously on both sides. Pop this on top of a dish (the salt will draw water from the flesh and it'll drip). Leave the fillets to cure for an hour. Once they're done, they will be noticeably firmer to the touch.

3. After they've cured for an hour, gently rinse the salt from each fillet under a cold tap. Pat the fillets dry with kitchen towel and pop them in the ziplock bag.

4. Using a potato peeler, pare off a few strips of lemon rind (half a lemon's worth) and add them to the ziplock bag as well.

5. Pour in enough rice vinegar to cover the fish and lemon and sprinkle in a couple of tsps of sugar. Seal the bag and pop it in the fridge for 45 minutes.

I used Chinese rice vinegar, still tasted great

I used Chinese rice vinegar, still tasted great

Squeeze the air out of the ziplock bag and you'll need much less vinegar than you would using a dish.

Squeeze the air out of the ziplock bag and you'll need much less vinegar than you would using a dish.

6. After 45 minutes of marinating, the acid from the vinegar will have cooked the outside of the fish and it'll look opaque. Lay the fillets on a chopping board and gently rub the corner of the shiny side, until the skin starts to come away. Pinching it, gently pull the skin from the fillet lengthways and discard.

Rack marks provide handy cutting lines

Rack marks provide handy cutting lines

It's been 'cooked' on the outside by the vinegar.

It's been 'cooked' on the outside by the vinegar.

7. Most sources I checked suggested removing the pin bones that run along the middle of the fillet. I skipped this step (by this point I was ravenous) and didn't notice them.

8. Finely slice the fillet into equal portions about a centimetre in length. Try to do this at an angle. The rack I used to cure the fish left some handy indentations which I used as a guide (see above).

9. Plate up, skin side up and serve with soy and wasabi. Prepare your mouth for a flavour bomb.

It tastes even better than it looks.

It tastes even better than it looks.


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Thank you Spring.... Hello Summer!

We’ll it’s a wrap folks. Our spring season has come to a close, so we’d like to say a massive thank you to all our members who have joined us over the last 8 weeks.

The spring seas showed us what they were made of and we were thrilled to get our hands on a real range of delicious fish and seafood this season.

It seemed fitting that the SoleShare spring kicked off with sole taking centre stage. Our father and son team Ken and Joe in Kent blew us away with their first haul of the season with dover sole & lemon sole taking centre stage. It’s been a treat to be able to escape the city and take the trip down to Dungeness this spring in time to greet their boat and fishy bounty. We’re glad to be able to support this fishing family, one that’s been fishing the Kent coast for generations. Here’s to you boys!

Our fisherman Martin, who’s been with us since day one, continued to blow our minds with his catch over the course of the season too. On days when Martin was fishing for us, we’d get a call as he was pulling in the nets to tell us what he’d caught, and then at breakneck speed he’d have landed his catch, loaded the fish onto ice and before we knew it, he’d be pulling into London with his catch in tow, just in time for our members. We’re talking dock to dish in a matter of hours. Someone say spanking fresh? We’ve never seen such glowing gurnard, radiant mackerel and brilliantly spotted plaice before. 

So over the last 8 weeks, with the combined forces of Ken, Joe, Martin and a final feisty delivery of live brown crab from our fisherman Kev in Cornwall, here’s all the fishy goodness that  landed on our tables this spring:

Dover sole, lemon sole, plaice, gurnard, dab, huss, brill, cod, pouting, seabass, grey mullet, skate, whiting, brown crab, cuttlefish, garfish & the mighty mackerel.

Was brill to hear from our members each week about what became of their fishy shares once they'd reached the table, so cheers to all our members for making the most of your catch and turning out some spectacular dishes. We'll keep the recipes coming! 

So what’s in store for the summer season you say?

Mackerel, sardines and herring will begin heading into the shallow warmer waters off our coast which means they’ll be within close reach of our inshore fishermen. So we’re likely to see more of these omega-3 rich beauties finding their way onto our member’s plates. With the warmer months ahead seabass are also a more likely catch, as are crab, bream, cuttlefish, skate, sole, pollock, garfish, mullet and no doubt there will be more weird and wonderful fishy surprises finding their way into our fishermen’s nets.

We hope you'll join us for our summer season which kicks off on the 21st of May with pick-ups on Wednesdays at Hackney City Farm, Thursdays at Mother Earth Shop (Newington Green) and Saturdays at The Towpath Café (on the Regents canal, De Beauvoir). 

If you'd like to get on board, signup deadline is 19th May. Head to our signup page to get started and we hope to sea you soon! 

 

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G is for Gurrrrnard...

Welcome back fish fans! This weeks blog is brought to you by the letter 'G'. Introducing one of our fave bottom dwellers.... the Gurnard!

We think Gurnards are downright funky. Not only do they growl (true story!), but they’ve got an incredible set of wing like fins that they use to maneuver the sea floor. They belong to a group of fish known as the Triglidae (sea robins) family. These guys grow quickly and reach sexual maturity relatively early in life.

Gurnards are a non-quota species, which means they are often discarded due to low market demand. By choosing to eat gurnard, we can help to alleviate the wasteful practice of discarding at sea. We hope to see more research and interest in this species in the coming years. One bizarre thing we do know is that they grunt & growl in the deep! They do it with the help of muscles associated with their swim bladder, and it’s believed they get their grunt on to keep schools tight during the spawning period. Grrrr!

 With the help of Rick Stein, here’s how we chefed up our Gurnard this week: 

The sea brought us another quirky beast this week too, the mighty huss.  Huss is a generic term for a number of species of catshark of the genus mustelus. They’re caught as bycatch in demersal fisheries (i.e. when fishermen are targeting soles). Catches shoot up after storms, as they move in to feed on any bits and pieces washed around in the turbulent waters. We also noticed increased catches in areas with lots of whelk pots, but that’s certainly not backed up by firm evidence.

We used to shy away from eating elasmobranchs (cartilaginous fish like sharks and rays), as they’re called k selected species. This means they mature slowly and only give birth to a small number of offspring, however, numbers in the Eastern channel seem plentiful. Also, these species are caught by accident and I’d much rather they got eaten by people than turned into cat food.

They’re usually skinned on the boat by fishermen- which saves us a pretty hefty task! This means the hunk of fish you get still has a spine running through the middle. However, this is pretty easy to remove. Just pare it from the flesh with a sharp knife. Also, if you bake it whole, the backbone slides away from the flesh very easily and as it’s a cartilaginous fish, there aren’t any small bones to choke on.

They’ve got a firm, meaty texture and stand up really well in a Goan fish curry

Or if you fancy something a bit more Mediterranean, try this.


Baked huss with a pesto and parmesan crust.

500g Huss, skinned
Pesto
A handful of fresh breadcrumbs
Fresh tomatoes (large ones quartered, small ones halved)
A handful of finely grated parmesan (the powdered stuff in a plastic pot WILL NOT DO- throw it in the bin)
A small bunch of fresh parsley, finely chopped (optional)
Olive oil

Rinse your huss (bone in) under a running tap and pat dry with kitchen towel.
Place it in a roasting dish and arrange the tomatoes around the fish.
Season well with salt and pepper.
Spread a layer of pesto on your huss.
Scatter the breadcrumbs (and parsley, if using) on top
Season and drizzle with olive oil.
Scatter over the parmesan.

Place in a hot oven (200ºC) for 20 minutes. Check the fish by inserting a knife at the thickest part of the fish, when it pulls away from the spine easily, serve it up.

A simply dressed salad of bitter leaves would work well here, maybe some new potatoes too.

Here's another beauty that Ken and Joe brought us last week. The brilliant Brill! 

And a couple more recipes of the week featuring Ken and Joe's catch of the day:

Have a delicious week! Sea you back here next time. 

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Tasty cakes!

I don’t know about you, but my freezer tends to get quite disorganised. In my line of work, that means all sorts of different fish of different sizes, and lots of unlabelled freezer bags containing unidentified fillets or a few frames for stock. I tend to keep adding frames (fish heads & bones), til I reach a critical mass (enough to make stock).

I know a few of our members are putting a small fish in the freezer every week and so I thought I’d share a really easy way of using up any kind of white fish. It works well with a random mixture too, so a great way to use up whatever you have.With fishcakes you can opt for potato based European or fragrant Asian. I like my potatoes fishcakes to have some smoked fish in there too (Felicity Cloake’s are excellent http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2011/jun/16/how-to-cook-perfect-fishcakes).

So for ease I’ll share a Thai fishcake recipe that can be adapted to whatever you have lying around. If you cook a lot of Asian food, you’ll probably have most of the bits in the fridge/cupboard. If not, I’d buy the ingredients from an Chinese Supermarket, as you get a lot more and much better quality, for your money.

Fancy a fishcake?...

Thai fishcakes
500g white fish (filleted weight), roughly chopped
3 Tbsp. fish sauce
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. palm (or brown) sugar
3 spring onions, finely sliced (or 1/2 small onion/shallot, finely diced)
1 thumb-size piece galangal or ginger, grated
1 lemongrass stalk, bruised
3 cloves garlic
1 red chili, sliced, OR 1/2 tsp. dried crushed chili
vegetable oil for high temp. frying
Optional Extras
6 kaffir lime leaves, snipped into thin strips with scissors
Finely diced green beans
Finely chopped fresh coriander
You can substitute the spices for  a tablespoon of Thai red curry paste
a splash of lime juice
3 Tbsp. coconut milk
Breadcrumbs/flour and an egg to bind

Things like fishcakes are great, especially if you’ve not got much experience filleting fish. Even if you mess it up and leave a bit of meat on the bones and are left with scraggy fillets, you’re putting them in the blender anyway, so just scrape any remaining meat from the bones!

You’ll need about a kilo of whole fish to get 500g of skinless boneless fillets. If you’ve never skinned a fillet before, have a look here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9kp9f7yFJk 

If you’re fish has come out of the freezer, give it a pat dry once it’s thawed to remove any excess moisture.

Combine all the ingredients (except the fish) in a food processor. Once they’re all mixed and mashed, add the fish and pulse until you’ve got a thick paste. N.B. If it’s too thin/watery add some flour. If it’s not combining well, add an egg, if it’s too thick, add a few tablespoons of water. You want a nice thick consistency that you can work with your hands.

Once you’ve got your paste right, using wet hands, take a small handful and roll into a small ball (golfball-sized), then flatten into a patty. Put these onto a clean plate. Once they’re all done, pop them in the fridge for 10-15 mins to firm up.

While the fishcakes are in the fridge, get your oil heating up. Pour vegetable (not olive) oil into a high sided frying pan- you’ll need it an inch deep. Put this on a medium-high heat. The oil’s hot enough when a piece of bread fizzes when added to the oil.

When it’s hot enough, fry your fishcakes in batches. Serve with cucumber, coriander and sweet chilli sauce. Tasty cakes!

Catch and recipes of the week were...

Our member Georgia had a brill time chefing up her catch:

'My Father and I were just lamenting the lack of brill on menus. As it isn’t wildly abundant that’s unsurprising, which made this a real treat. I’m on a BIG budget so I did some ingredient substituting to use what I had in the kitchen. It didn’t matter at all. Despite thirty minutes in the oven this fish was as plump and juicy as Mitch Tonks promised'. 

This recipes goes with: Spinach. If you are four people I’d also recommend some potatoes as the fish goes fast. Perhaps mashed because there’s lots of juice to soak up!

Weekly discovery: Tom Hunt’s Forgotten Feast. Eco Chef, food waste activist and member of the Sustainable Seafood Coalition (http://sustainableseafoodcoalition.org). I want to have a party just to try his food http://www.tomsfeast.com.

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A plaice for us

This weeks catch was brought to you by Martin!

Martin has helped us lead this season’s filleting workshops, so some of you have met him already. For the rest of you, introducing Martin…

Martin fishes out of Newhaven on his 16ft open boat, Violet May. He shares our ideas when it comes to responsible fishing methods and sustainability and he's about as low impact as they come.  All his fish are caught using a rod and line or static gear. 

Martin's top catch this week was PLAICE...

And this week's fave plaice recipe brought to you by Nathan Outlaw...

And... SoleShare fish will now be getting chefed up on Thursday nights at Frizzante, Hackney City Farm! 

Their fish dish this week: 'Fillet of plaice from Sole Share, our local Community Supported Fishery, baked in a bag with fennel, potato and cherry tomatoes, served with a seasonal salad'.

Now that's a plaice for us!

Sea you back here next week.

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