Fortunately when in the kitchen, singing: 'Oh fishy, fishy, fishy, fish. Fish, fish, fish, fishy oh! Oh fishy, fishy, fishy fish. That went wherever I did go ...' in full Monty Python pantomime style (accent?!), I no longer receive any response and the walls don't make much of a comment either. Anyway, this week I was surfing the 'interweb' as normal and reading some site reviews when I stumbled across this debate on Door-to-Door fish selling on Nappyvalleynet. Poor old Northumberland Fisheries where getting it in the neck for what seems like a case of mistaken identity. I spoke with Al today as I wanted to find out about his trade prices, and although he couldn't help me for my immediate requirements, I'd probably give his company a go in the future, as he was a delight and his Northern accent was lovely to listen to.
This also got me thinking about where to go to buy your fish and what you need to look out for. I like to be able to stand and smell my fish which is why I love buying from Toni and Lee (South Coast Fish) on Northcote Road, rather than the impersonal 'ready-wrapped' fish that comes from the supermarket. And as I'm making Sea Bass on Lemon Couscous (I can't stop thinking about couscous since my last post) for Barmouth Kitchen's Supper Club this week, I thought I should share what I believe are the best way to check if your fish is FRESH!
Buying Whole Fish
- Look for bright, clear eyes. The eyes are the window to a truly fresh fish (and not just the sole - ha ha). Basically they fade quickly into gray dullness. Dull-eyed fish may be safe to eat, but they are definitely past their prime and probably not best for a young family.
- Does your fish shine? Does it look metallic and clean? If it has dulled or has discolored patches it's fairly marginal (read iffy) and I'd personally give it a miss.
- My favourite is giving fish a good whiff. A fresh fish should smell like clean water or at least a little of the sea (the technical term 'smell a bit briny'). Most fishmongers will let you have a whiff if you flutter your eyelashes a little.
- If you can't get a whiff, then have a look at the gills. They should be a rich red. If the fish is old, they will turn a faded colour.
- Look for vibrant flesh. All fish fade as they age. If the fillet still has skin, that skin should look pristine, shiny and metallic.
- Smelling again but this time it is especially important. (I'm sure I'm sounding obsessed!)
- If the fishmonger lets you, press the flesh with your finger (in the supermarkets you can't do this - except on pre-packed stuff), if an indentation remains, then say 'no' to the fish.
- One last pointer, is to see if there is any liquid on or around the flesh? If there is (and sometimes there is), just check that the liquid is clear, not milky. Sadly, milky liquid on a fillet is the first stage of rotton flesh.