A cousin of the cod, the whiting is similar in appearance, but is slimmer and lacks the mottled colouring. They also don’t have the telltale barbels (whiskers). They can be found as far north as Iceland and south to the Mediterranean.
Despite their range, more than half of the whiting in Europe is taken in the North Sea. They like shallow, sandy bottoms which is why they are often taken by inshore boats in nets set for soles or cod. They tend to move into shore around November and leave for deeper waters in the spring, so their peak coincides with the SoleShare winter hiatus. Still, we tend to get a few in the nets year round.
Whiting has a bad rep- ‘the flesh of the whiting, steamed, is good for invalids’. However, this is due to the fact that it is hard to keep it looking good on a fishmongers slab. Historically, when refrigeration wasn’t quite what it is now, this is understandable, but these days we should turn that around. Fresh whiting is excellent, and whiting fillets, as HFW says are 'a blank canvas’.
Filleted and crumbed/battered, they make excellent fish and chips. The French often serve them as merlons en colère (biting their own tails), which, I'm sure you'll agree, looks pretty trill sur le table. Or the even crazier merlon en belier, which turns a fish into a rams head.
Or try cooking them whole without foil, in a hot oven, then drizzling with an Asian dressing, shredded carrots, chillies and spring onions.
(Click to enlarge)
If it's smoked whiting you're after, head to our smoked fish page.