Tag Archives: sustainable fish

Fish4Ever challenges big brands

As a journalist and food campaigner, I help Fish4Ever with its communications. I cannot work for a cause or company I don’t believe in.

So, I have the privilege of asking nosy questions and learning about the politics of fish.

Lunch: a fried-medley of Fish4Ever sardine fillets (Steenberg’s Organic online £1.60) on a bed of organic rice vermicelli.

Medly: I fry sliced shallots/onions, garlic and chilli in the organic oil in which the fish are canned – Fish4Ever uses 100% organic land ingredients.

I add the sardine fillets, mashing them (was that respectful?). I snip-in fresh parsley .

Fish4Ever canned fish is in a class of its own, fished traditionally (70% MSC-certified, the rest artisan) and quickly-conserved for freshness.

I am a real food lover and here’s why: you do good – it tastes good.

Why is it important to look after the fish?

Fishing technology is too effective. Desired species are being hunted to extinction.

Its hunting methods are indiscriminate, killing turtles, sea birds, dolphins.

There are too many factory boats and not enough fish. Regulations to control catches are insufficient and often ignored. Out at sea, where no one is looking, rules can be flouted. Poor countries suffer from foreign piracy on an industrial scale.

Hugh’s Fish Fight on Channel 4 earlier this month focused on changing the fishing methods of the big tuna brands and own-label supermarkets.

The food corporations’ proposed changes are far better than nothing.

However, although the big brands may well promise a “pole and line” range, their primary business remains likely unchanged.

Each Fish4Ever can has a story – including the smallest tuna fishing boats in the world.

This is not an eco-add-on. Fish4Ever’s raison d’être is care of land, sea and people.

That’s what I call an ethical company.

Celebrity to market


I had to set an organic challenge for Hardeep Singh Kohli of Celebrity Masterchef fame: become 100% organic in two weeks. See how the comedian fared in olive, on sale now. It was a tall order because, in truth, going organic happens gradually.

I was mad-keen for Hardeep to visit a farmers’ market but he stuck to supermarkets. Farmers’ markets only set up stall once a week (or less), so I can see why they are not convenient. But the difference in quality between local organic food grown, made – or reared – within 50 miles, and the much-travelled organic food in supermarkets, is beyond compare.

Buying organic food from the person who grew it (from farmers’ markets or veg box delivery) adds a new dimension to shopping – you know where your food is from. Price-wise, buying direct is cheaper than supermarkets – no middleman to add costs.

Last Thursday at noon, catching a lift with Mike to Exeter train station, we unexpectedly passed Exeter’s farmers’ market.

“Stop the car,” I said. I had ten minutes to gather dinner (see above). Everything was organic apart from the fish, which was wild. With only a short season, the sprats, caught in Dorset , are special. And cheap. I got six portions-worth for £5. Sprats are sustainable to fish and healthy to eat. Grill without oil – they are naturally rich in must-have omega-3.

I fried the above darlings, eating them with Rod and Ben’s salad and Emma’s homemade bread, fresh from Exeter’s Farmer’s Market.

As well as shallow-frying the fish, I slathered oil on the salad and butter on my bread – what am I like?

The next day my pal and child came round. We ate the fried sprats whole, crunchy heads and all. I was surprised a four-year old would enjoy them but he did.

This time I served them with organic mash potatoes grown at Radford Mill Farm 30 miles away, and sold at its inner-city organic farm shop luckily on my flight-path.

How do you access local organic produce? Do you find it hard like Hardeep?

Black bream roasted

Black bream before baking

Look at this fine fish, called black bream. What an intelligent look in its eye.

Non-flesh eaters may want to stop reading now.

Mike cut slits in the fish’s sides, right down to the bone. I then inserted dried thyme and fresh parley into the slits and its gutted cavity.

I placed it on an oiled baking sheet in a cold oven then whacked up the heat to its max. About 10-15 minutes later, it was sizzling and I turned it over to roast the other side for a few minutes.

We ate it with organically-grown potatoes from Marshford.

For some unfathomable reason, black bream is not considered trendy.

Yet black bream has a firm white sweet flesh comparable to its more expensive cousin, sea bass (but a fraction of the price).

“How much did it cost?” asked Mike, as we dined like kings in the back garden.

“Pennies,” I said.

I had bought it at the Beach House Wet Fish at Widemouth Bay for something like two pounds sterling (and it fed three of us).

I sing the shop’s praises here.

Fish from Widemouth Bay

Fish soup with fish from Widemouth Bay

On Sunday I crossed counties from Devon to Cornwall. My mission: to buy fish. On a Sunday.

As I drove westward, on my right was the grey/green Atlantic ocean. But I knew its proximity did not guarantee I could buy fish landed from its waters.

We have lost the art of buying fresh fish caught locally. Most fish nowadays is sold in supermarkets. Much comes from far away and has probably been frozen.

This is the tragedy of (so-called) developed countries. The only thing which has developed is mass industrialisation. Thus fishmongers are in danger of becoming an extinct species, swallowed up in the jaws of the supermarket.

But not in Widemouth Bay. Perched above its windswept beach is Beach House Wet Fish , probably one of the best wet fish shops around. And it’s open on a Sunday (until 5.30pm).

The lovely fish lady was apologetic the local boats were not out yet this year. So, my fish came from Looe, a bit further down the coast.

All the fish and shellfish in the bowl (pic above) was bought at Widemouth Bay: the scallops, the mussels, the little red mullets perched atop (which I roasted quickly in a hot oven and added with the fried scallops right at the end of the mussels cooking in the water flavoured with a fillet of ling, fried onion and fennel, and fresh parsley and tarragon).

Here is more detail on an earlier fish soup.

The black and white bits in the above pic are actually pasta, farfalle zebra, coloured with black squid juice (the packet has not been opened for a year but this soup was the right occasion).

I am only sorry I had to drive to get there and back (one hour and a half in total) because I consider cars to be cold mean death machines that are bad for the planet as well as my soul.

Gurnard my friend

Raw gunard in baking tin on a sofa

Ingrid Rose came to dinner and I pulled out all the stops. She feels strongly about looking after land and sea – so no cutting of ethical corners with Ingrid Rose.

The fish had to be caught sustainably – not plundered from the sea or factory-farmed, she said. I was grateful to be pushed in a real food lover direction.

I dithered at the Hand Picked Shellfish stall at the Bristol Farmer’s market, agonising between two sustainable fish. Would it be familiar mackerel or ugly-looking gurnard?

In an experimental mood, I chose the gurnard although it disturbed the very fibre of my being.

Yet gurnard never let us down. Flesh firm and sweet, similar to sea bass – and at £7 a kilo, about a third of the price.

Tragically and incomprehensibly, this sustainable fish is called “jetsam” – thrown back into the sea dead, discarded from a more glamorous, prized catch.

My grandmother would say: You can’t tell a book by its cover.

I felt a pang as I handled the sea creature’s body before cooking. I no longer felt judgmental about its heavy face and lugubrious name.

We roasted it (covered) with thyme, sliced shallots and mushrooms in olive oil for 20 minutes in a hot oven. Served it with faithful brown rice and trusty steamed kale.

I felt the gurnard had entered my life like a family animal or pet – and we ate it.

“Don’t be sad,” said Ingrid Rose. “Gurnards eat other fish.”

Gurnard, kale and brown rice plated with fish carcass in background