Britain's favourite fish: off the 'do not eat' list, and back on the menu
Having been one of the more famous fish on the ‘do not eat’ list for several years, cod is now back on the menu. And in the battle to save dwindling stocks, Iceland has been at the forefront, first in halting the decline, then rebuilding the numbers of north Atlantic cod.
“We need to use responsible, science-based analysis. But I would say it’s a case of so far, so good,” Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, the Icelandic minister of fisheries and agriculture told a conference in London last week. “Cod, our most valuable fish stock, is stronger than it has been for 50 years. We are also using fewer vessels, too, which is having less of an environmental impact.”
The British attachment to this particular fish is evident in the fact that the raising of the cod quotas made national news. Paul from Sussex Fish—where cod is available in abundance—is equally elated. “This is not only great news for Icelandic fishermen,” he says.
“The quota system is of course still in place, but the amount we can legally bring to shore has just gone up from 150kg to 200kg a month. This is especially good news because at this time of year cod starts to get really prolific where we are.”
In some ways the recovery of the North Sea stock does not directly affect us, says Paul, because the cod stocks in our area have always been healthy. “Cod are not fish that swim vast distances like salmon. They are quite territorial and will keep to the same areas, heading out into deeper water as the waters warm in the summer months and coming inshore as temperatures drop,” he explains.
“But we all operate under the same umbrella, so the fact that stocks have recovered does benefit us. Hopefully this news will mean people will start buying it again.”
There are, of course, many ways to cook cod. Next time you fancy fish and chips, why not shun your local chippy and try making it at home with this classic recipe using some fillets from Shellseekers Fish and Game, or if it’s been a while since you last cooked cod at home, Paul suggests making a very simple ratatouille-style dish.
“Cod can grow quite large, so it’s best to start off with fillets,” he explains. “Chop them up, lightly squash some fresh tomatoes, chop some parsley, onions and a couple cloves of garlic, mix them together then lay it all on some tin foil. Place the fillet on top. Add a knob of butter and season with salt and pepper, then wrap the whole thing up.”
Put it in the oven and bake it for about 15 minutes at 180C. When it’s done, plate up the fish then pour the sauce on top. “The cod falls apart into lovely flakes,” Paul enthuses, “and the result is lovely.”
A wonderful fish
When it comes to storing cod, he has very specific advice. “Once you get it home, take it out of the wrapping. Lay it on a plate then loosely cover it with the wrapping paper before putting it in the fridge. It will retain more moisture, which is important because as it dries out it loses flavour. Eat it within two days. You can freeze it, but cooked fresh, cod really is a wonderful fish.”