Decisions, decisions

With such a large selection of fish and shellfish in abundance at this time of the year, it’s hard to choose what to buy. Farmed mussels are full of meat at the moment and due to their abundance are relatively cheap; they are highly nutritional too and a fun food to enjoy on warm evenings with wine.

Not so cheap but fabulously tasty and equally as nutritious are supplies of Irish rock oysters – they’re not so plentiful, so grab some when you can.

Razor clams are a real favourite but the price is proving somewhat restrictive at the moment unless you are the mysterious lottery winner.

Scottish and south coast scallops are still proving to be very popular: they are full and plump and with ample supplies arriving at the market the price should be relatively moderate. For the best flavour always source them alive in the shell or “shucked” and referred to as “dry” meats.

Have you ever considered edible seaweeds? There are numerous varieties available and moderately priced and can add that extra degree of culinary finesse to some of the most simple seafood cuisine.

Try dulse: deep red in colour with long broad strands, it is gathered wild from the sea around the UK coast and west of Eire. It is preserved in sea salt which requires soaking before use. It is a nice side dish for salmon fillet.

Other seaweeds of note include laittute de mer, sourced from the French coast and often referred to as sea lettuce, while nori, kombu and wakame are used extensively in Japanese cuisine. The seaweeds all have their unique colour, including red, deep green, browns and black.

For the less squeamish, French samphire is now readily available. It’s more expensive than the Norfolk home-grown variety but a delicious accompaniment to any fish dish. The home-grown variety will start to appear at the start of next month

Equally daring is the variety of fish roe readily available in small glass jars. Salmon keta is very popular with chefs for dressing and decorating large poached seafood dishes. The bright orange roe adds colour to any dish.

Arenkha, the small black herring roe, is a big favourite and can be served up the same way as caviar, while the Japanese tend to prefer tobikko, the roe from the popular flying fish sourced from temperate water regions.

Roe has been gathered and hot smoked for many years but surely the best must be the large UK cod roe. Rich in flavour and firm on the knife it is used as pate to accompany any platter placed before the discerning diner.

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