From Essex oysters to Welsh lobster and Scottish salmon, the UK boasts a dazzling array of seafood.
National Seafood Week – and eight-day celebration of the bounty found in our island’s waters, starts today.
And why should we eat more seafood? Well, the health benefits are numerous. Oily sea fish contains plenty of Omega-3 oil. This helps to – amongst other things - clear blood vessels, protect the heart from disease, improve mood and ease skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. Prawns contain plenty of zinc which boosts immunity while mussels are packed full of vitamin B12 which is essential for the metabolism of protein and fat, as well as contributing to proper nervous system function.
Often, seafood is seen as a luxury but the truth is, much of what is on offer is actually super inexpensive, especially if bought locally from a fishmonger.
Buying seafood can be overwhelming – the choice can be massive. It is, of course important that the fish or shellfish you choose is sustainably sourced. Why? Because marine life is precious and valuable, so by supporting fishing practises that protect it, we are ensuring we are not compromising it.
When buying seafood, don’t be afraid to ask questions or check that it is prepared in the way that you want it to be. Any fishmonger worth his or her salt will be happy to remove bones or shells. However, here are some things to look out for when you’re buying:
- Choose a fish with bright, slightly bulging eyes
- Sea food should smell of the sea. If it smells ‘wrong’ in any way, leave it
- Mussels and clams should be closed fast. Avoid any that appear open, damaged or have gaps between the shells
- Always opt for the heaviest crab or lobster
In terms of cooking – there are literally endless ways to proceed. If you want to whip up a simple, healthy supper you can do a lot worse than simply taking a couple of pieces of meaty fish – salmon or cod will do nicely – and wrapping it up in kitchen foil with a drizzle of olive oil and a couple of wedges of lemon before bunging it in an oven (190 degrees) for 20 minutes.
But for something more ambitious let’s take a look at the fish pie, a dish which celebrates so many different seafoods. Comforting, filling and completely delicious if executed correctly. Sadly, fish pie is one of those dishes that is often responsible for putting children off seafood for life. They recall soggy, slopping, structureless plates of beige in school canteens. But a stellar fish pie is one of life’s great delights. The fish within should be tender, the sauce should be thick and the potato should have a thin but crispy topping. This version by Rowley Leigh is a winner – not least because of how beautiful it looks. The inclusion of tomato in the sauce adds pops of colour to a dish that can often look bland.
Another great recipe which includes a whole host of seafood as well as chicken is that Spanish classic, paella. Sally Abe’s version ticks all the boxes, from taste to tradition.