Sustainable fish and how to cook it

Want to source your fish supper sustainably but not sure how to cook it? Fish restaurateur, Malcolm John shares his top tips for cooking an alternative catch.


Grilled dab with garlic butterDab

Similar to plaice and sole, cooked dab has a flaky texture with a sweet and juicy flavour. Previously discarded from fishing hauls, an increased awareness of sustainable fishing has seen dab reappear on chip shop menus. 

Malcolm says: "Roast whole, with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Serve with capers, lemon segments and parsley." 

Or try it in: Grilled dab with garlic butter.


Mediterranean fish stew with garlic toastsHalibut

The largest flatfish in the ocean, halibut is a delicious white-fleshed fish with a firm, meaty texture. 

Malcolm says: "Oven roast supreme in olive oil, serve with steamed clams and samphire." 

Or try it in: Mediterranean fish stew with garlic toasts.


Panfried sea bass with citrus-dressed broccoliBass

Similar to sea bream, bass is found throughout the North Atlantic. Its sweet flavours and meaty texture has seen it's popularity soar in recent years and it is now a restaurant menu regular. 

Malcolm says: "Serve whole roasted on the bone with homemade tartar sauce and lemon." 

Or try it in: Panfried seabass with citrus dressed broccoli


Tandoori spiced sea breamBream

Popular owing to its versatility sea bream boasts a firm, succulent meat, which can be grilled, baked, poached or fried. 

Malcolm says: "Gut and stuff with thyme, fennel and lemon peel, char grill or oven bake, and served with a lemon wedge." 

Or try it in: Tandoori spiced sea bream


Friday night fish pieGurnard

Gurnards can be rather bony and lack flavour so they're usually quite cheap from fishmongers. With a little care and a lot of flavour however the fish makes a great addition to soups and starters. 

Malcolm says: "Use the bones used to make a broth with tomatoes, celery, garlic and saffron. Cut the fillet into pieces, poach and serve in the broth, for a light fish soup." 

Or try it in: Friday night fish pie


Mussels, white wine and parsleyMussels

Once regarded as the poor relation of the shellfish family because of their small size and relative abundance, mussels are now very popular and fairly cheap. 

Malcolm says: "Steam them in wine, shallots, garlic and cream. Finish with parsley and serve with crusty bread." 

Or try them in: Mussels, white wine and parsley


Thai style steamed charArctic char

As it's name suggests, the Arctic char is, most commonly found in the Arctic Ocean as well as the lakes and streams of Northern Europe. Similar to trout and salmon in appearance and flavour, it is farmed extensively in North America. 

What Malcolm says: "Fry the fillets in a pan with olive oil, sea salt and pepper, serve with a lemon wedge and homemade tartare sauce." 

Or try it in: Thai-style steamed fish


Peppered mackerel fish cakesMackerel

In abundance throughout the Atlantic Sea, mackerel is a strong flavoured oily fish, which lends itself well to smoking. In season from April to September mackerel are at their peak in July. 

What Malcolm says: "Try them hot smoked using oak wood chip, and hard herbs, serve with a poached egg and hollandaise sauce." 

Or try it in: Peppered mackerel fishcakes


Buttery trout with capersTrout

Farmed rainbow trout has pretty, spotty skin with a rainbow sheen, and is the most widely available variety in Britain. It is relatively inexpensive with a sweet, succulent flesh that is fantastic grilled or poached and served with a large dollop of mayonnaise. 
Brown trout is harder to come by, make friends with a fisherman so you can experience the creamy meaty texture, and succulent white flesh. 

What Malcolm says: "Lightly poach the fillet in white wine, water, garlic, onion, hard herbs. Poach till pink and serve with braised fennel and a lemon wedge." 

Or try it in: Buttery trout with capers

Spanish sardines on toast

Sardines are named after the island of Sardinia, where they were once found in abundance. Found in shoals throughout the Atlantic and Mediterranean, sardines have a silver skin and a rich-flavoured flesh that is dark in colour. 

Malcolm says: "Fillet and cook under a grill, serve with roasted cherry tomatoes, parsley and capers." 

Or try them in: Spanish sardines on toast

Comments, questions and tips

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23rd Feb, 2017
Halibut also not so sustainable: IUCN list Atlantic halibut as Endangered (1996) and the species appears on the US National Marine Fisheries Service list of species of concern. Additionally the Project Inshore Phase II Report (2013) noted that under the MSC Risk Based Framework, the species was ranked as the 6th most susceptible species, behind some sharks and rays. Good Fish Guide
Skipper James
27th Jan, 2017
Seabass..Wild seabass delicious but NOT sustainable. WWF ,ICES + Marine Conservation Soc. have it on Red endangered/do not buy list. The stock has crashed by 80% in the last 5 yrs + is still over-exploited. Line - caught doesn't mean sustainable as numbers are now so low. It takes a long time to reach maturity and should be avoided until when/if it recovers. Pity that advice to preserve it have been ignored. Farmed bass like sea-bream is good and works well in place of its endangered cousin.
11th Mar, 2015
Kindly suggest a Recipe and Cooking Method for Fresh Tilapia Fish, as we find it a really meaty fish that embraces herbs, spices, etc. I first ate Tilapia when 10 years living in Kuwait but since returning home to Britain we noticed that Tilapia is popular here, thus seeking a variety of Recipes for it please.
30th Mar, 2017
As a fish merchant I can categorically state that : Dabs are predominantly stern trawled and therefore cannot be labelled sustainable with the on set of the fishing method of twin rigging N A Halibut is non sustainable, slow growing and thus expensive. Sea bass are now at risk and are only allowed to be 3%of any commercial boats landing from 01.01.17---01.07.17. Domestic anglers can take none until 01.07.17 and then only 1 per day Mussels are fine whether rope grown or tidal farmed Artic Char ? Trout are actually one of the cleanest and healthiest farmed fish available Sardines are now being caught in an old style ring net method which has been around for centuries, and get Mac recognition,however the boats are now equipped with sonar and can cost millions. They are not selective and catch mackerel, sardines,anchovy,sprat or herring. Mixed catches often go straight to fish meal as is not cost effective to separate 4-6 tons of small fish at a time. A lot of these boats are able to fish within a few yards of the shore which doesn't give the food chain a chance and have dumped many tons of dead fish which wash up on the coast. These are facts but fish is food and food is big business.You simply need up to date information and facts to make an informed choice.