Learn to love fish – and not just salmon and cod
JP McMahon: In Ireland we’re obsessed with beef, but fish is the future
Fish doesn’t need to be cooked by a magician to make it delectable. Photograph: Getty Images
How did we become so infatuated with cod and salmon? We are a beef nation after all. I’m always surprised how little time we give to fish, trying other varieties or cooking it with the same pleasure we get from beef. History, it seems, is too blame.
We always loved our beef, for thousands of years. Fish was a poor man’s food, for people on the edge of the land. Growing up in Maynooth, my only memory of eating fresh fish (we ate loads of frozen fish fingers) was attempting to consume floured boney whiting, wondering all the while would I die before I finished eating it. “Don’t choke on those bones,” my father or mother would say. So I grew up afraid of fish. Didn’t we all?
I encountered my first fish loves on holiday in Spain in my early twenties. Fried squid, hake and parsley, salted cod, monkfish skewers, scallops: all of these beautiful flavours and textures danced upon my palate, showing me the sumptuous diversity of fish.
I now love fish (which means I eat other fish than salmon and cod). Last week, I did a fish workshop for the chefs of Gather and Gather. We blow torched mackerel, baked whole turbot, poached pollock, roasted monkfish tail and fried gurnard. All of it tasted beautiful.
It was as fresh as hell and all I seasoned it with was Irish rapeseed oil (Collar of Gold from the Boyne Valley), Achill Island sea salt (my favourite salt) and our own seaweed vinegar (you can use lemons too).
Pure and unadulterated. Fat, salt and acidity: that is the secret of good fish.
Fish doesn’t need to be cooked by a magician to make it delectable. It just needs a little love in the pan and (very importantly) love from your fisherman and your fishmonger. We need to elevate our fish to the same level of our beef.
Maybe take a leaf or two from how our Japanese friends treat fish with love and respect. That is were the future is, so give up your cod and salmon and learn to love fish a little more.