Hard to beat

From local mackerel to Michel Roux Jr, it’s all happening down at Rock-a-Nore in Hastings where this week’s seafood roundup comes from local fishmonger Sonny Elliot.

This week I’ve been really focusing on putting together a good display of local fish. That’s partly because there’s so much of it about, and it’s always good to celebrate what we’ve got just off our shores down here in East Sussex. But I must admit I had an ulterior motive too as I’d heard Michel Roux Jr was coming down to film with local cook and food writer Alistair Hendy, and I was hoping to put on a good show of local fish for them.

In the end they were only here for about two minutes – but I was delighted that they took some of my beetroot smoked salmon for the dish they were making. We use only the best quality farmed salmon, from Loch Duart, for both our hot- and cold-smoked fish. The beetroot cure really is something – the bright magenta and the orange-pink flesh look amazing together on the plate, either served simply with a bit of rye bread, butter and a wedge of lemon or perhaps in a salad.

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Of the local fish, the best bet at the moment is mackerel. They’re a good size at the moment, and the condition is superb. There are nowhere near as many of them around as there used to be though – today the fisherman I buy from caught 30kg, compared with a typical daily catch of anything up to 100kg a few years back – and that’s inevitably reflected in the price. But they’re still great value compared with the premium fish such as turbot and Dovers, which are also looking very good at the moment.

The local plaice is in good nick too, and will be for at least another couple of months. These are night trawled fish, so they’re coming into the market at the crack of dawn and then straight on the slab before they’re even 24 hours old. They’re very plentiful at the moment and excellent value for money – we’re selling small fish on the bone for just £1 each. Grilled or pan-fried, what could be easier or more delicious?

Turning to fish from elsewhere, something that really caught my eye this week was some lovely haddock from the North Sea. We’ve also had some really good monkfish from Cornwall, and some great Scottish squid. But for me at the moment there really is nothing to beat our local mackerel, simply barbequed with a sprinkle of salt and a squeeze of lemon.

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