Enjoying your Fish Responsibly

This guest blog comes from Sarah at Food for Think

Over the last few years, mine and I’m sure a lot of others attention has been brought to the sensitive issue of overfishing, which is happening in seas all over the world. This in turn has lead to a huge shortage of certain species. Celebrated chefs have done their part in educating the masses about which species should and shouldn’t be consumed. Restaurants also had to sit up and realise the problem. And if they continued to serve endangered species, they would be frowned upon. Probably the most well known example is when Nobu continued to serve Blue Fin Tuna, but recommended that their diners either don’t eat it, or ask for an alternative. Odd.

You see, if we carry on eating these endangered species, they’ll quickly fade out and we’ll have to kiss goodbye to them forever. What the likes of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver have been telling us is to substitute certain species for ones that do exactly the same job. For example, Coley is a great substitute for Cod and will provide a firm and meaty addition to your dish!

But all of this talk about fish has made me want to eat it more. I picked up a little booklet from Selfridges during their month long Project Ocean when I dined at Hix Restaurant, Champagne and Caviar Bar for a sustainable fish supper, hosted by Mark himself, Valentine Warner and Mitch Tonks. Many of the dishes consisted of sea food that I had never tried before, the cuttlefish dish being one of them. It was served grilled in a broad been and edamame broth and was totally delicious. That alone opened my eyes - then I glanced through the little booklet, which detailed all of the fish that we should and shouldn’t be eating. It really is very handy. Whenever I’m planning a fish dish now I’ll glance at the book just to make sure that I’m doing the right thing.

Since I’m cooking more fish at home, I have recently looked to two books for inspiration. Mark Hix’s Fish etc and Jake Tilson’s In at the Deep End. The former is Marks range of classic fish recipes, taking inspiration from his Fish House restaurant down in his home town of Dorset.

The second is from Jake Tilson, a fine artist and designer who overcame his absolute fear of fish, strange I know, by traveling the world and subjecting himself to a wide range of fishy dishes. I haven’t had a chance to try any of the recipes in Jake’s book yet but the seaweed rock cakes are high on my to do list. Not technically a fish dish as such but they look delightful.

I glanced through Mark’s book and immediately stopped on the Thai Baked fish recipe. I’m lucky enough to have dined at The Ivy a few times and each time I opt for this dish. The Ivy chefs use sea bass but to make it at home I chose cod (North East Arctic). The paste that is smothered of the top of the fish is undeniably better than the ready bought stuff in a jar, while the simple dipping sauce of soy sauce, chilli, ginger and (garlic) is unbeatable. I didn’t have a banana leaf and I couldn’t get my hands on one in time so I baked the fish in a bit of tin foil, which worked just as well.

Thai Baked Fish Recipe

Ingredients - Serves 4

1 tbsp light (not toasted) sesame oil

1 small milk chilli, deseeded and roughly chopped

1 lemon grass stalk, peeled and the bulbous end roughly chopped

20g galangal or root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

4 lime leaves, roughly chopped

½ tsp ground cumin

10g coriander leaves

20g Thai basil

4 cod fillets, each about 200g, with skin, scaled and any residual bones removed

1 banana leaf , about 1 meter in size (I used tin foil)


 For the dipping sauce:

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

1 tbsp finely chopped galangal or root ginger

1 tbsp finely chopped lemon grass\2 lime leaves

1 garlic clove, crushed

3 tbsp soy sauce


For the fragrant rice:

2 lemon grass stalks, bulbous ends crushed

8 lime leaves


225g basmati rice, rinsed well in cold water



1. pre heat the oven to 200 degrees / gas 6. First, make the dipping sauce: heat the sesame oil in a pan and dry the chilli, galangal, lemon grass, lime leaves and garlic gently for 1 minute to soften them and release their flavours. Add the soy sauce, bring to the boil, the allow to cool and pour into a bowl or, ideally, individual dipping sauce dishes.

2. Now make the fragrant rice: cook the lemon frass with the lime leaves in about 1 litre of simmering salted water for 10 minutes. Add the rice and simer for 10-12 minutes more until it is just cooked. Drain in a colander, then return the rice to the pan, cover it with a lid and tne let it stand for 10 minutes before serving. This will help it become nice and fluffy.

3. While the rice is cooking, prepare the fish: heat the sesame oil in a pan and gently cook the chopped chilli, lemon grass, galangal, garlic, lime leaves and ground cumin in it for a couple of minutes until the aromatics are soft. Then tip the pan’s contents into a food processor with the coriander and Thai basil, together with a couple of tablespoons of water, and blend to a paste. Spread the paste on the fish fillets and wrap each one in a piece of banana leaf like a parcel, folding the leaf so that the edges join underneath the fillet. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the tip of a skewer inserted into the centre of a parcel comes out hot.

4. Place a fish parcel on each plate with a little pot of the dipping sauce. Serve the rice either in individual bowls or in a large bowl to be passed around.


If you’re unsure, here are a few suggestions of what species to avoid and what to replace them with:

Farmed Turbot instead of Brill

Pollack instead of Hake

Coley or Pollack instead of Ling

Skipjack Tuna instead of Marlin

Lemon Sole instead of Plaice

Lemon Sole instead of Dover Sole

To read more from Sarah, visit her blog Food For Think

The Other Side of Cookbooks

This week I am lucky enough to be doing some work experience with Quadrille Publishing. If you haven’t heard of Quadrille themselves you will know many of the books that they have published as they were responsible for the recent delight Two Greedy Italians. Not to mention the fact that Gordon Ramsey, Mark Hix, Jason Atherton and Anjum Anand all publish their books with Quadrille, along with many other fabulous authors.

Spending the day surrounded by cookbooks like this is HEAVEN. Well if heaven for you involves beautifully designed books crammed full of tempting recipes that is. Maybe that’s just me…

This week is a seriously good week to be working there (particularly in the publicity department as I am) as the books that have been published this week reads rather like a dream team of food writers and chefs. Although some have been available for a little while, yesterday saw the official publication of:

Comfort and Spice by Niamh Shields;

Love Music Love Food by  Patrice de Villers;

The Birthday Cake Book by Fiona Cairns (THE Fiona Cairns of Royal Wedding cake-making fame);

In at the Deep End by Jake Tilson;

Bill’s Everyday Asian by Bill Granger.

As well as these new books, parts three and four of their Classic Voices in Food collection were also published, so there really is something for everyone.

Phew, they have been a busy bunch.

Of all the books I’m particularly excited about Jake Tilson’s latest offering as there are some great events planned to mark it’s launch. On Friday, Jake is spending the day  roving around some of his favourite culinary spots in London, including a seriously early start at Billingsgate Fish Market. Don’t panic if you don’t fancy the 5.30 start though! For those of you who would prefer to get your full night’s sleep there are also opportunities to meet Jake and discuss his book later on in the day. Full details of the events can be found here. I’ll be filling you all in on how the day went and giving you the inside scoop once it’s happened.

Having started reading In at the Deep End already, I have to admit I am seriously impressed. I won’t give  too much away as I am going to review the book properly very soon, but it’s safe to say that I think it might be the most visually attractive cook book I’ve ever owned. Praise indeed! Come back soon for more details…

If you want to read more of my food related musings, my blog Delicious Britain can be found here.

A Fine Art by Sarah Lisle

In the preface of The Gentle Art of Cookery,

Mrs Leyel explains what makes her book stand out from the crowd. The most striking of these is the statement that the “recipes are arranged in the only practical way, that is, under their principal ingredients”. 

If you’ve been following the Kitchen Titbits blog, you’ll know that two of my quite recent book reviews have been Simon Hopkinson’s Roast Chicken and Other Stories  (Simon also wrote THE VEGETARIAN OPTION and WEEK IN, WEEK OUT, both published by Quadrille)

and Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty, the arrangement of both of these books being just that, by ingredient. 

This method of organisation of recipes in a book is still considered novel and yet, even in 1925 when The Gentle Art of Cookery was published, Mrs Leyel was attempting to convince her audience that it made sense “because it is more economical to do as the French do; shop first and then arrange the dinner according to what is most plentiful in the market, than to go out and buy what is necessary for a pre-arranged menu.” 

Unusually for a cookery book of the era, the publication contains many unconventional recipes for an English cook of the time as well as a chapter, Arabian Nights, which drew on the influences of her knowledge of Middle Eastern cookery using ingredients such as pistachios, rosewater and pomegranates, which would have been difficult to source but which are quite common today. 

Another surprising inclusion for a book of this period is a whole chapter devoted to children’s cookery. Not just cooking for children but recipes which children can make, on their own or supervised. Mrs Leyel(pictured below)

maintained that cooking should be fun, magical and part of a child’s education and she set out to help home cooks get children involved in the kitchen. This is still so relevant today; entire books and TV programmes are dedicated to cooking with and for children. 

Whilst cookery books have come a long way since the days of The Gentle Art of Cookery, with the inclusion of tantalising photography, books introducing us to cuisines from every corner of the planet, and even those explaining how to bring molecular gastronomy to our own home, there is nevertheless a place for the likes of this book in our kitchen. There are still lessons to be learnt and good recipes to follow from these classics. Only time will tell if almost 100 years from now the nation will continue to enjoy the wares of Delia Smith, Nigel Slater and other great cookery book writers of our time in the same way we are rediscovering the books in the Classic Voices in Food series.

For more on Sarah’s writings and thoughts, please check out her blog at: http://kitchentitbits.wordpress.com/ or follow her on twitter @kitchentitbits

A note from Quadrille: About Classic Voices in Food

This important new series rediscovers the original heroes of cookery. Reissuing texts that for decades have been available only to collectors of old books, each title has been redesigned giving the original text an updated yet timeless look for today’s reader. These classic voices convey the flavour of their times and yet are astonishingly relevant to the modern reader. With four titles now published, this series will establish itself as an exciting new source of reference and inspiration for all food lovers.
Jill Norman, who created the Penguin Cookery Library in the 1960’s, is the Series Editor. You can get all the latest news on this series by following @classicvoices on twitter at:  http://twitter.com/classicvoices