8 healthy fish dishes recommended by Suffolk chef Stephen David
PUBLISHED: 11:06 30 January 2018 | UPDATED: 11:06 30 January 2018
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A new year calls for foodie inspiration and healthy eating, says chef Stephen David
Local seafood is my perennial fallback for jaded new year appetites – you know, that feeling when you’ve just had too much of a good thing. I think someone was having a laugh when they stuck new year in the diary a week after Christmas. It becomes one long stretch of merriment and overindulgence, mostly made up of delightful evenings and regretful mornings, or is that just in our house?
With my Scottish roots, Hogmanay is definitely no poor relation, not complete without firstfooting and piping in the haggis, plus a liberal sprinkling of wassailing.
After way too much fun, we’re back to the daily routine. We need re-energising in body, mind and spirit and most of all, on the plate – something zingy, light and flavoursome. Fish, and shellfish, is the perfect ingredient to revitalise and refresh.
Local North Sea cod will be having a good new year, the inshore fishermen at least, with the welcome news that it is now officially a sustainable harvest and one we must embrace, supporting our hardworking boat crews, out in all weathers come each and every high tide.
So, to inspire you here are some novel ideas to start the new year with this prime white fish. Its meaty big flakes and mild flavour work so well, a perfect, seasonal ingredient right now. If you’re close to the coast, head down to one of the sheds in places like Southwold, Aldeburgh, Orford and Felixstowe, to buy the day’s catch flapping-fresh. They will even gut and oven-ready your chosen fish, if you ask them nicely.
Supermarket fish counters are improving, but I still try to avoid them personally. Making the effort to purchase direct from source, yards from the sea or at least from your local independent fish shop, is a far more sustainable and benevolent choice.
If you visit no other fishmonger in Suffolk, take a trip to Chris Wightman, owner of Maximus Fish at Friday Street Farm Shop just off the A12 at Farnham, near Saxmundham. His fresh fish selection and smokehouse range are simply superb.
Cod with a difference…
Peruvian ceviche is a bright and colourful cured seafood starter. A citrus-marinated dice of raw cod or any firm fish, it is lovely folded through with red onion, lime, orange, fresh red chilli and coriander leaf.
See below for my warming recipe for this Moroccan spice-laden favourite, the cod making a lighter version than classic lamb.
The freezer offers myriad temptations in the depth of winter. Defrost and tuck in guilt-free as vegetables and fruits are only blast-frozen when plentiful and at their freshest, seasonal best. Wide pasta ribbons, cooked al dente and buttered, topped with flaked cod in a cider and crème fraîche sauce with softened leeks, petit pois, courgettes, lemon zest, garlic and parsley.
4) Black risotto
Risotto al nero di seppia, as the Italians know it, is made with cuttlefish and its ink for the colour. You can make it with sachets of squid ink (a fishmonger or deli can source it) and lots of lovely cod. Use a deep red wine and fish stock base, finished with spring onions, lemon zest, diced tomato and dried red chilli to prop up the rich flavours.
Griddling cod is a delicate affair so to make it easier, I first wrap thick skinless portions in parma ham slices. Oil and season the fish and add a basil leaf or two before encasing. Eats with a warm winter salad.
6) Thai red style
Thai curries are all about intense flavours of fresh vegetables and herbs giving a wet, aromatic paste. A red paste (gaeng phet) features lots of small, zingy chillies, lemongrass, galangal (similar to ginger root), garlic cloves, shallots, kaffir lime leaves, coriander leaf and roots, fresh turmeric and dried shrimp paste. This is cooked up with coconut milk, and I like to add butternut squash and green beans to the cod, finished with fish sauce and coriander leaves.
7) Japanese miso style
Steep fish on the skin overnight in an oriental marinade of miso soya bean paste and rice wine, then crisp-roast the fillets with ginger, garlic and spices. Best enjoyed with simple steamed rice and soy-braised winter greens.
8) Goan curry
A beautiful balance of hot, sour and spicy with the richness of coconut milk. The speedy option uses a ready-made paste, available from delis and supermarkets, or buy and roast your own whole spices for the fragrant masala.