Hooked on fish
PUBLISHED: 08:05 05 May 2014
If you read a lot of news reports about the future of the food industry there is an element of despair and a feeling that the skills of selling meat and fish are being lost. But here in Norfolk, we are well and truly bucking the trend as many talented young people take on the mantle.
With this in mind, and thinking about which fish recipe to cook on Good Friday, my culinary safari has taken me to Burnham Market and one of my favourite fish shops in the county – Gurneys.
Mike Gurney set it up 40 years ago when he learned to grow oysters in the creeks and how to smoke fish. His first fish shop was in Brancaster and he subsequently opened up in Burnham Market 20 years ago.
Today, Gurneys is a thriving fishmongers managed under Mike’s watchful eye, with three accomplished young men with him at the helm. This new generation started with Matt Falvey, who joined after school, learning to ice up and fillet fish; Ned Catt, Matt’s brother-in-law, who joined for a summer job, and their school friend Alistair Steele. All three are “hooked” on all there is to know about cooking and preparing fish.
You will find the counters full of a wonderful selection of fresh fish and shell fish, plus many artisan products that are made in-house, from fish cakes to prawn curry. They also have plenty of advice, knowledge and inspiration to offer for recipes.
Gurneys Fish Shop, Market Place, Burnham Market, PE31 8HF; 01328738967; www.gurneysfishshop.co.uk
My tips for buying fish
1 Visit your local fishmonger wherever possible.
2 Ask lots of questions, it’s a great way to learn about fish and shellfish.
3 Source fish responsibly.
4 Buy a wider variety of fish: More than 50 species are regularly caught in British and Irish waters, but many of them are exported. So don’t limit your choices – try out new fish!
5 Fish should look bright, fresh and have a glossy sheen.
6 Whole fish should have bright eyes and red gills – avoid fish with sunken eyes.
7 Fresh fish should feel firm and either smell of the sea or have no smell.
8 Fish fillets should have a glossy sheen – avoid those that are discoloured and dull.
One of my favourite recipes is a thick fish soup, served with rouille, croutons and finely grated parmesan. If I can, I keep a tub of Gurneys’ homemade fish stock in my freezer and use this as the base of my soup recipe, making it much quicker and easier to prepare. Great for a busy Easter weekend.
900g of filleted mixed fish, such as cod and grey mullet, cut into 3cm pieces
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 stick of celery, roughly chopped
1 fennel bulb, roughly chopped
1 large leek, finely chopped (or 2 banana shallots or 1 onion)
A pinch of saffron
1 200g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
85ml white wine
A splash of Pernod or Noilly Prat
1 tsp orange rind
Approx 1 litre of good fish stock
Salt and freshly ground pepper
In a large pan soften the leeks, fennel and celery; after a few minutes, add the garlic and saffron. Add the tomato puree, then the alcohol, and bring pan to the boil. Stir the fish into the pan, then add tomatoes, rind and finally fish stock. Bring pan back to the boil, then simmer for 10 minutes until the fish is cooked.
In a processor or with a stick blender, puree the soup. For a smooth soup, pass the liquid through a sieve or just re-heat, taste and season. Serve with crusty bread or croutons, rouille and grated parmesan.
Quick rouille: Mix teaspoon of rose harrisa with six tablespoons of mayonnaise.
The Gurneys’ guide to when fish is good to buy:
Brown shrimps – all year
Cod – October to February
Crab – March to November
Dover sole – July to March
Grey Mullet – May to September
Herring – October to February
Lobster – March to November
Mussels – October to March
Oysters – all year
Sea bass – February to March and July to October
Samphire – June to August
Mary runs a cookery school in her farmhouse kitchen in East Harling, south Norfolk, and hosts cookery theatres across East Anglia. To find our more, email Mary at email@example.com