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Scots chef urges consumers to dive into the unknown world of seafood

Following the European Parliament’s decision to reform its Common Fisheries Policy, chef Roy Brett, of Ondine in Edinburgh, explains why he thinks it’s time for consumers to try something new.

Roy Brett says the European Parliament reform should lead to recovery of fish stocks and an increase in value and jobs for the Scottish fishing industry
Roy Brett says the European Parliament reform should lead to recovery of fish stocks and an increase in value and jobs for the Scottish fishing industry

It’s hard to keep track of which fish we’re supposed to be eating these days. Even as a chef who cares about fish stocks I find it hard to keep up with confusing changes in guidance.

What I do know is that our seas have a much wider range of fantastic fish than we usually eat. We’re all creatures of habit so it’s easy to go for cod, haddock, salmon, prawns or tuna at the supermarket. Eighty percent of the fish we eat is one of the top five. 

In my restaurant I am finding customers better informed and more open-minded about fish they wouldn't have thought about ordering a few years ago. 

Here are my tips for some great alternatives you could try at home.

Megrim sole is a sustainable, affordable alternative to the overfished Dover sole and lemon sole. It’s quite wide and has a lovely texture. Witch sole is longer and thinner in appearance but very satisfying in the eat. Great for Goujons.

When I lived in Cornwall the fishermen told me gurnard was the chosen fish for lobster bait. But it’s now fashionable and went up in price after Rick Stein used it on TV. It’s firmer in texture than monkfish and you can roast it on the bone in the same way. Delicious.

The Spaniards really prize hake but it’s still unfamiliar to most Scots.  Ask your fishmonger to fillet for you as the flesh is so delicate ,definitely worth a try.

Pollock is now becoming better known thanks to Jamie Oliver and Rick Stein. But it too is now at risk of overfishing.

Don’t overlook lesser-used parts of the fish. I love cod or monkfish cheeks fried in breadcrumbs. And they’re very affordable.

The key to all of this is to befriend your local fishmonger. They know how to get the best value and taste out of a fish. They’re often cheaper than the supermarkets and stock a wider and more interesting range of fish.They'll fillet it for you and give you tips on how to cook it. In particular, fish is the most perishable of foods so you can often get great deals towards the end of the day if you’re flexible about what you’re going to buy.

Fishmongers have really moved with the times too. They’re often on Twitter with great up-to-the-minute chat about what’s good coming in off the boats and latest pricing at fish markets. Why not give them a try!

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