We are all encouraged to buy prime cuts of fish to cook at home. This means the other bits, from the head to the tail, don’t get their deserved place on the dinner plate. Other countries will use all of the fish – just look at Spain, where it’s common to see hake head with clams on a menu.
I’ve made a British take on that dish at Hix Oyster and Chop House, and my Dorset restaurant HIX Oyster and Fish House, serving it with cockles and white port. At their best, cockles are nice and plump and far exceed the eating quality of clams at a fraction of the price.
When a fish head is served in a restaurant, other tables see it and are curious – they often end up ordering and love it.
We’ve also been serving halibut collar curry at the Oyster and Chop House since we opened; the texture of the gelatinous meat behind the head is incredible, and you can use the collar from lots of different fish. Fishmongers often dispose of these, or occasionally give them away for making fish stock.
Fish tails also make good eating, simply roasted whole, especially if you’re cooking for one or two (they don’t have all the fiddly little bones to tackle, either). Some of the best Japanese restaurants serve tuna belly as first division sashimi, although you should stay clear of blue fin as that’s on the endangered list and restaurants shouldn’t be serving it (if you get a chance, watch the short film The End of the Line, which will give you a good insight as to what’s going on in the big blue sea).
We should all be aware of marine conservation and buying only prime cuts is not an ecologically friendly way to shop. This goes for all animals: we’re far more squeamish in the UK than people are abroad and we need to start eating the whole animal, not just a tiny portion of it.
If you’re unsure what to buy, go to websites like the Blue Marine Foundation (bluemarinefoundation.com), Fish2Fork (fish2fork.com), Marine Stewardship Council (msc.org) or Marine Conservation Society (mcsuk.org) before you go shopping – then spread the word.
Barbecue Turbot collar
It’s time to get the barbecue out (or be boring and cook it in the oven or on a griddle). Serve it as a starter or main with grilled spring onions or asparagus.
- 600g turbot or other large flat fish collars
- 5-6tbsp Ketjap Manis or thick soy sauce
- 2tbsp vegetable or corn oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat a grill. Put the turbot collars in a bowl with the soy and oil, season lightly and mix well.
- Cook the collar for 4-5 minutes on each side, basting with any leftover soy and oil as it’s cooking and serve immediately.