Seafood on a budget - can you have great quality for less?
Raymond Blanc's fresh grilled mackerel with soy and lime dressing“You won’t find any greasy burger vans here,” explained chef and local resident Chris Sherville who was running the festival’s hugely popular seafood café. “Just use your nose for navigation and you’ll find your way around.”
Nathan Outlaw's fresh mussels at this year's Port Eliot Festival
If like Chris you’re lucky enough to live a short distance from the coast, it’s easy to lay your hands on fresh and affordable fish all year round. You could develop a good relationship with a fisherman or fishmonger, or you can always catch your own. But if you’re landlocked, you might have to cast your net a bit wider, explains Chris.
A good way of incorporating mackerel into your diet is to buy it smoked or to cure it yourself, says Michélin-award winning chef, Nathan Outlaw. He was demonstrating simple mackerel and oyster recipes at the festival’s bowling green. “I wouldn’t bother with mackerel if it’s more than two days old, but curing is a great way to make it last longer.” Curing and smoking also brings out the superb flavour of the fish such as this mackerel and horseradish recipe with oyster sauce.
If you’re looking to save money without compromising on quality you could always do as Nathan does and adopt a less-is-more approach. ‘You risk ending up with something that’s not very nice if you try and save money when it comes to quality fish,” he says. “I would rather have fish one day of the week and meat another and then eat vegetables or risottos the rest of the week – so I can afford good quality fish.”
You can also make your seafood go further by making curries, soups and stews, explains Nathan. “Take a fish like grey mullet. It’s a nice chunky fish, very similar to sea bass so it can handle big flavours. So if you’re into curries or pastas with strong sauces it’s ideal.” As a sustainable and affordable alternative to cod, you could also opt for a fish such as pollack which works well in a stew such as this Cornish salt pollack, squid and mussel stew recipe.
If you live away from the coast and can afford to pay a little more, you could consider buying from an online fish merchant. “It’s great because you can see what you’re buying in advance and you can guarantee it has come fresh from the market that morning and will be with you the next day,” says Nathan. You have to factor in a delivery costs but if you’re able to split an order between friends, it can become more cost effective. Some suppliers also offer online seasonality charts so that you can see when fish stocks are in abundance and therefore more affordable.
Spaghetti with clams, garlic and parsley
How do you make your seafood go further? Would you buy from an online fish merchant? Is the supermarket failing you when it comes to seafood?