We all know Christmas is a time for great food and more often than not, eating rather too much of it! And whilst turkey and trimmings are bound to be a staple part of your festive fare, you might not have considered bringing fish onto your Christmas dinner plate.
It's low on calories, great for boosting your overall health and goes with most of your festive treats and titbits. Researchers say fish can even help smoothe out age lines, imporve heart health and promote strong, healthy bones.
CJ Jackson, head of the Billingsgate Seafood School shares his expert tips for finding the best seafood and how to introduce it to your Christmas cuisine this December.
Where do I find the best fish?
"There's so much great fish around at this time of year" says CJ. "Watch out for monkfish, whiting, haddock, mussels, scallops and oysters as these are tasty, fresh and a fantastic source of Omega 3 which helps boost brain power (crucial for those all-important family Christmas quizzes!)".
"Always try and source your fish from the experts, so a fishmongers or good fish market trader, as they know what's the very best quality and how to use the different types of fish".
"Whilst fresh is often best, if it's frozen really quickly at sea before it's transported back to the shops, it can still be of brilliant quality". This also means you can get the very finest fish all seasons.
"Contrary to popular belief, fresh fish shouldn’t actually smell ‘fishy’" says CJ. "You should also check that your whole fish has bright eyes and undamaged fins".
What fish will I enjoy?
If you're not used to eating much fish or being particularly adventuorous with the kinds of seafood you try, CJ has some great ideas for where to start.
"If you know you're not a fan of particularly fishy flavours, products like fresh tuna, monkfish or swordfish are a much safer option" says CJ. "These are bigger and much more 'meaty' fish so they're often served as steaks So these are great to go for if you know your or your guests aren't going to want to see a fish with a head or have to remove bones while you're eating".
"If you're quite keen on smoky flavours, why not try some smoked salmon which is a really gentle introduction to smoked fish? Smoked haddock is also really widely available and works really well with dishes such as kedgeree".
How can I use it this Christmas?
Fish is a wonderfully verdatile ingredient to have around at this time of year and there's plenty of meal ideas you can use it for.
Canapés are a brilliant way to feed a party without a sit down meal. Fish canapés look impressive and taste delicious. Your guests can also pick up and enjoy just as little or as much as they like. CJ recommends these creations:
- Smoked mackerel rillettes: Skin and pin-bone 2 hot smoked mackerel fillets. Break the fillets into small flakes. Mix together 4 tbps fromage frais, 2 tsp creamed horseradish, grated zest 1 lime and some snipped chives. Season with plenty of black pepper and a little salt. Pile onto pieces of melba toast to serve.
- Salmon pin-wheels on pumpernickel: Choose 225g of the best sliced smoked salmon and cut each sheet into 6cm/2cm strips. Mix 6 tablespoons quark or low fat cream cheese with 1 tablespoon each finely chopped gherkin, caper and dill, season with ground black pepper.
Spread this mixture along the strips and roll each into a pin-wheel. Secure each onto a square of pumpernickel with a little cream cheese. Garnish with extra fronds of dill to serve.
- Smoked paprika marinated Queenie scallops on skewers with smoked paprika: Take 24 Queenie scallops (you can buy these both fresh and frozen from a good fishmonger) Dice a 5cm piece of chorizo into 1 cm cubes. Mix together the grated zest of 1 orange, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (hot or mild – your choice) and 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil.
Roll the scallops in this marinade and then thread onto wooden skewers (soaked in water for 30 mins before threading) with small cubes of Chorizo. To cook, pre-heat a grill and cook under the grill for 3 – 4 minutes, turning every so often. Squeeze the lime juice over the cooked scallops and sprinkle with a little chopped coriander to serve.
Fish breakfasts are a great way to start the day (especially at Christmas when there's no better time to indulge!). "Start your winter mornings with a fish based Kedgeree or a Smoked Salmon Royal- just as filling as their meat based alternatives but a whole lot healthier than the traditional English Fry Up" says CJ.
And if you fancy making something a bit more substantial with your fish for dinner, why not try these thai fish cakes?
- CJ is from The Billingsgate Seafood School, located on the first floor of the Billingsgate Fish Market, the UK’s largest inland fish market. All this month, from Monday to Friday, the school will be running special Festive Breakfasts where visitors can tour the market, have a champagne breakfast and gain more invaluable tips from CJ.
- There's more recipes in every issue of Yours magazine, out every fortnight on a Tuesday.