From the dustwrapper: There are 52 species of edible fish -- and Jane Grigson feels that most of us do not eat nearly enough of them. If anything will make us mend our ways, it is this delightful book with its varied and comprehensive recipes, covering everything from lobster to conger eel, from sole to clam chowder.
The author spends her summers in France, shopping at a local market stall where the fish are `stiff-alive with freshness'. Many of her recipes come from France -- some from that same market stall; others are from the British Isles, America, Spain, Italy -- any country where good fish is cooked with loving care and eaten with appreciation.
But this is much more than a book of recipes. Besides precise information on all aspects of fish cookery, it provides much entertainment for the reader. The first pages describe how to choose and clean fish, the last, how to preserve and cure it; in between, together with many recipes, it deals with such absorbing subjects as the romance of the herring trade, and why the John Dory comes under the hand of St Peter the Apostle.
The eight colour plates show prepared dishes, and prove that fish on the dinner table can please the eye as well as the palate. [see Jegs11 uploads of these plates for your delectation]
INTRODUCTION by Jane Grigson
The problem with a book on fish is how to stop writing it. To start with, there are 52 species of edible fish (including many different varieties) listed by the White Fish Authority. This does not include either shellfish or freshwater fish. It leaves out the extensive choice of cured fish, as well as fish imported from abroad to be sold to foreigners living and working here. Think of this when you next visit your fishmonger. Count the choice of fish for sale. And count how many different kinds you have eaten in the last few months. You may then agree with me that fish is one of the great untapped areas of exploration, for curiosity, and for the delight of the cook and her family and friends. Compare this abundance with the choice of meat. How often do you come across an animal you have never heard of before? At least, heard of in culinary terms. For me, the answer is `once', and that was when I visited the strange shop of Monsieur Paul Corcellet in Paris not so long ago -- he sells ready-prepared elephant's trunk, python, crocodile and monkey. Yet with fish one never seems to come to the end of perfectly reasonable possibilities. To begin with, we eat too little of the best fish. We know about them, we may order them in restaurants on occasion, but we buy and cook them rarely. I am talking about sole, lobster, eel, scallops, oysters, clams, trout and salmon trout, monkfish (the lotte of the French*) or squid. We think it is too expensive, and go off and buy steak instead, or a large joint. Partly, this is convention. I read a statement the other day which struck me as particularly foolish. The writer remarked that fish could not be served as a main course when men were present, as they needed steak or some other good red meat. Why? The protein content of fish is as high as meat. It is more easily digested too -- a point which concerns more men, I suspect, than women. And in the cooking of sole with its sauces, or of lobster, there is far more implied compliment to the guests than in grilling even the finest Scottish steak. I suppose, too, that most of us grow up with the firm impression that fish means cod and plaice, usually overcooked and coated with coloured substances of unpleasing flavour. Certainly I was startled, when I first crossed the Channel, to discover -- in Italy, and then in France -- that there were far more fish in it than anyone had allowed me to believe; and later on, when we spent longish periods working in France, I was able to count between 30 and 35 different kinds of fish to buy on a weekly stall at our local market. 150 miles from the sea, the fish were stiff-alive with freshness. The woman who runs it would persuade me into new discoveries, and then tell me how to cook them. The sad thing was to find out that most of these fish, which seemed so new, so exotic, were swimming around the shores of Great Britain, as well as off the Bay of Biscay and Brittany. If only I could take the fishmongers I know to Madame Soarès' stall in France, and keep them there for a few months, the whole pattern of our eating would rapidly change. Of course, fishmongers say: `No demand'. But this is a weaker and weaker excuse, as more of us go abroad and find out what possibilities there are in the way of fish to be eaten. The authorities run campaigns to make us eat more fish, but they are concerned with the gluts; the cod, plaice and so on. It is up to us to insist, and complain, and learn about fish, so that things can be changed a little more rapidly.
* ["lotte de mer" = monkfish; not to be confused with the entirely un-related "lotte de rivière" = burbot -clarification by CooksBookery]
[ OCR and additional text input by Jegs11 for CooksBookery, 2007 ]Read more ›