So here it is!

Horse mackerel and jig-caught squid from the Channel, perch from Holland, kiln-roasted salmon from Scotland, plus handy party-friendly prawn cocktail mixes, crayfish tails and rollmops are the pick of a festive and frenetic Billingsgate this week.  

The Christmas rush has arrived here at Billingsgate market. This is our busiest, most frenetic time of the year, but there are still bargains galore, as always, as the bounty of the world’s oceans and rivers continue to provide the finest and healthiest of all food produce.

The colour and spectacle here this week has to be seen to be believed. The brightest fish to catch my eye this morning is horse mackerel (aka chin, char or scad, pictured above), a species we’ve often highlighted before and is a delight to eat. Still stiff, their brilliant bars of sliver sparkling in the light, they are drawing in customers from every direction. Fresh from the Channel fisheries’ late-landing day boats, they are on the market within a few hours. Relatively cheap and highly nutritious, they need a little bit of skill to fillet and prepare for the oven, but what a dish – well worth the wait.

A traditional fish for Christmas is perch. A great favourite of our European neighbours it is starting to become very popular in some of the alternative fish restaurants. The wild rod-and-line caught fish on the market today are from Holland where they are a favourite of the Dutch at this time of the year. A scaly fish with a few bones they can be baked or grilled quite simply.

Pure translucent white, with large eyes that stare up at you, are some super-fresh large and medium sized squid caught by “jigging” on the French side of the Channel and overnighted to the market. Well priced and with a good range of sizes, these will use their wings and fly out the door.

If you want to keep things nice and simple without too much stress in the kitchen then go for some of the traditional favourites, such as kiln-roasted salmon. This product has now become so sought after that you have to arrive early and join the queue. But there should still be plenty to go around and it’s being produced in a range of box and vacuum-packed sizes to suit all pockets. Kiln roast is a must for any light lunch or supper after the big day’s celebrations. Prawn cocktail mix, crayfish tails in brine and roll mops can also all play a part in your Christmas and New Year party planning.

The market is open each week on Tuesday to Saturday, from 4am to 7:45am, with more than 150 species of fresh fish and shellfish available daily – plus a further several hundred other frozen products of all descriptions from all around the world. This year the market will be open on Christmas Eve for those last-minute can’t-find-anywhere-else fishy delights. Have a great Christmas and a very happy new 2017!

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