Delicious sustainable fish

July 24, 2022 § Leave a comment

I am lucky enough to live within walking distance of Altrincham market which boasts a busy, friendly fish stall every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. Whilst in the queue, I like to watch what other people are buying. Dispiritingly, most customers stick to the so called Big 5 best sellers – farmed salmon from Scotland, tuna from Indonesia, cod, haddock and various types of prawn, none of which are particularly sustainable.

Here are a couple of my favourite recipes, both of which use sustainable fish, as per the Marine Stewardship Council website.

The first uses mackerel fillets (OK if they are line caught from a Cornish coastal fishery) which are rendered sweet and fresh when baked on top of potatoes and basted liberally with a mixture of olive oil, garlic and parsley.

The second uses farmed, rope-grown mussels, a brilliant choice of farmed seafood as the mussels actually clean the seawater they are grown in. This recipe is a twist on the classic Moules Marinière, with fennel and tarragon adding a subtle anise flavour.

Baked mackerel with potatoes, Genoese style

Adapted from a recipe in Marcella Hazan’s Second Classic Italian Cookbook

Serves 4 people with modest appetites


500g waxy potatoes

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

25g roughly chopped flatleaf parsley

salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 medium mackerel fillets with the skin left on (ask your fishmonger to fillet the mackerel for you)


Preheat oven to 230 degrees C fan.

Scrub the potatoes (no need to peel them) and cut into very thin slices with a mandolin.

Remove any remaining bones from the mackerel fillets if necessary.

Into a shallow oven proof baking dish large enough to hold the potatoes and fish fillets comfortably without overcrowding (enamelled cast iron is ideal) put all the potatoes, half the olive oil, half the garlic, half the parsley and a liberal amount of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix everything thoroughly, then spread the potato slices evenly over the bottom of the dish.

Place the dish in the preheated oven. Bake until the potatoes are half cooked, approximately 12-15 minutes, maybe a little longer.

Remove the dish from the oven and place the mackerel fillets skin side down over the potatoes. Mix the remaining oil, garlic and parsley in a small bowl and pour the mixture over the exposed surface of the fish basting it well. Sprinkle with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Return the dish to the oven.

After ten minutes, remove from the oven. With a spoon, scoop up some of the oil in the dish and baste the fish and potatoes with it. Loosen those potatoes that have become browned and stuck to the sides of the dish, moving them away. Push into their place some of the slices that are not so brown. Return the dish to the oven and bake for five more minutes.

Serve piping hot with all the juices from the dish, scraping loose any crispy potato slices clinging to the sides of the dish. Accompany with a salad or some simply steamed green vegetables.

Mussels with fennel and tarragon

Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a starter. Adapted from a recipe in Olive magazine.


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 

2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced

Half a bulb of fennel, trimmed and thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

100ml dry white vermouth eg Noilly Prat

1kg mussels, cleaned and debearded

75ml double cream

Small handful of tarragon leaves, roughly chopped

Small handful of flatleaf parsley, large stems removed, roughly chopped


Heat the olive oil in a large casserole (enamelled cast iron with a lid is ideal) over a medium-high heat, add the shallot and fennel with a pinch of salt, and cook for 10 minutes until soft and beginning to caramelise. Add the garlic and cook for another minute before pouring in the vermouth and seasoning well. Bring to the boil, then tip in the mussels and toss really well. Put on the lid and cook for 3-4 minutes, shaking the pan every now and again, until the mussels have just opened. Discard any mussels that remain unopened.

Remove the lid, stir in the cream and scatter in the chopped tarragon and parsley. Spoon into bowls and serve. Accompany with crusty bread or chips and a salad.

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