I’m off to the Isle of Wight for a few days (probably back again when you read this) and I’m looking forward to seafood. A lobster in The Hut, the best dressed crab on the island, Asian flavoured squid and scallops and good old fish and chips on the beach.
But with the exception of the last, I might not stretch to trying all those options unless I remortgage the house. Going out in general has become incredibly expensive this year, and seafood in particular is eye-wateringly pricey. Only a few years ago one of my local restaurants did a seasonal special of grilled lobster in August for something like £30 for the whole beast. These days that money will get you a half at most!
But forget lobsters, a Cornish or Cromer crab will set you back about thirty quid as well. I’d thought crabs were plentiful all around the coast. It looks like the situation is complicated, but it is still completely bizarre that in an island nation seafood should be a luxury.
So it appears you’re better off sourcing some excellent seafood yourself: from a fishmonger at a weekly market, a trip to the coast for the daily catch, if the distance is convenient, or buying sustainably caught, frozen seafood in the supermarket.
Why not fresh? Because most fish at the so-called ‘fresh fish’ counters is actually previously frozen and defrosted, which you might miss because it states it on the labels in a very small print (yes, I’m talking to you, Waitrose!) Whatever is the point of that? I’d much sooner buy frozen products with the option of defrosting it at my convenience, and pay a lot less. The mind truly boggles.
Once you have your fresh or thawed fish and seafood, let’s see about cooking it. Quite a few people are quite absurdly nervous about cooking fish and seafood. No need – here’s a handful of very failproof recipes followed by a couple more involved, but still painless ones.
Let’s start with salmon, the least frightening fish. Simply grilled is wonderful but you can wrap it in foil with a little blue cheese for a less common approach.
Monkfish is more expensive but also more robust so harder to overcook (which is the primary reason why a fish dish might fail). Spiced monkfish or monkfish with chorizo and mushrooms? Both equally easy.
Even expensive fish like halibut is a doddle to prepare if you steam it gently on top of braised leeks, and it’s a one pan meal too.
For home use, we tend to buy dressed crab but a whole monster, if you’re brave enough to tackle it, is infinitely better value. And then you can make layered salad with sweetcorn, or crab butter to put in rolls.
Much more can be done to prawns than sauteing them with garlic, though there’s nothing wrong with that. But spicy prawns or prawns Creole pack a much feistier punch.
Mussels – famously easy to cook in a creamy sauce. Scallops with chorizo – it only takes searing them for one minute on each side for a feast. And if you want something a little more special, try scallops Thermidor.
If cod with potatoes is more your thing, here’s the recipe for that. And even homemade fish and chips if you fancy a challenge (challenge of pans full of oil and smell of a chippy in the house, rather than a difficult task).
If you’re fortunate enough to procure a live lobster, here’s how to grill it. And don’t be scared of cooking whole fish, be it pricey Dover sole or a simple bream. Happy fishing!