Ugly Fish, Tasty Dish

With Halloween fast approaching, we thought we’d serve you some monsters from the briny deep! We think that all the fish in the sea are beautiful – think of the stunning, striped markings on mackerel skin, the sparkle and glisten of a salmon’s scales - even the cute orange spots on a plaice. However – there are some fish that definitely wouldn’t ‘win’ any beauty contests, despite being healthy and delicious! Read on for some fearsome feast ideas.

1. Monkfish

Fresh Monkfish from Cornwall

The monkfish is probably the scariest looking beast we source and supply here at Fish for Thought. Growing up to 5 metres long, it lives on the ocean floor camouflaging itself amongst rocks and weeds. It lies in wait for unsuspecting prey to be snapped up in a huge Joker-esque gaping mouth and long uneven, pointed teeth! Even worse, it has a hugely distendable stomach, which allows it to swallow prey as large as itself. Sounds like a horror movie, doesn’t it?

While it’s not particularly pleasant to look at, it is actually very delicious on the plate. Chef Adam’s recipe for monkfish Vietnamese skewers really makes the most of the mild, firm flesh, which takes flavouring well and is resilient in the cooking process. Working equally well in a pan or on the grill, the monkfish pieces are marinated and wrapped in lime leaves for a fragrant, delicate flavour and beautiful presentation!

2. Hake

Fresh Cornish Hake

Hake is another of the ocean’s ugly sisters. With its large eyes, long tapering body and needle-like teeth, we think it looks aggressive and eel-like… not the most beautiful thing to find at the bottom of the net! Often growing up to a metre in length, young hake prey on small crustaceans and move on to small fish as they mature.

While they might not look as immediately appealing, hake are part of the cod and haddock family; they have a similar texture, but a milder flavour and a smaller flake. In this recipe, hake fillets are grilled and served on a bed of sumptuously spiced lentils with an accompanying green salad for a light but protein filled dinner. Trust us, it tastes better than it looks!

3. Gurnard

Fresh Gurnard from Cornwall

Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest fish of them all? Not the gurnard, in popular opinion! It gets its name from the strange croaking sound it makes when caught, it has an unusually shaped skull and protective spines on its body… certainly not the prettiest fish we’ve come across. It has six spiny ‘legs’ (actually part of a fin) which help it locate food on the seabed.

Whatever it lacks in elegance, it more than makes up for when cooked. Its flesh holds together well, making it a favourite in soups and stews. However, in this recipe, it’s pan-fried and paired with sweet potatoes, sultanas and a decadent pecan and maple dressing for a rich, filling and importantly, sustainable meal!

These fish are more monstrous than mermaids – but they’re versatile, nutritious and incredibly tasty. We Brits are notoriously conservative in our tastes with seafood – it’s estimated that of the £2.8 billion we spend on fish a year, £1.2 billion is spent on just three species: cod, tuna and salmon!

What’s particularly important is that the growing use of less popular fish – particularly gurnard – is helping to take some of the pressure off more popular, and therefore depleted fish stocks such as cod. Fresh, locally caught fish are not only a sustainable option, but with the right recipes and preparation, they’re utterly delicious.

While you might not want to meet these fishy characters on a dark night, don’t exclude them from your dinner plate.

So without further ado… embrace the beasts from the deep! If you dare…