Thursday, July 15, 2010

Fish for Thought

It's odd the ideas we now take for granted - like ordering fish on the internet but it makes abundant sense when you think how few people have access to a decent fishmonger these days and how second-rate supermarket fish counters are.

So I confess I really didn't need convincing when the PR for Fish for Thought, the new(ish) name for Cornwall-based online fishmonger Martins Seafresh asked if I'd like some of their fish to try. Including a lobster and who'd look a gift lobster in the mouth?

In fact I was rather more excited about the sardines and mackerel which were sparklingly fresh and reminded one how delicious - and healthy - these simple fish can be. (Maybe that's why they call it Fish for Thought - all that brain-boosting Omega 3?)

As we didn't want to stink out our flat with fishy smells we bought a disposable barbecue and cooked them down in the gardens below with some grilled fennel and courgettes I'd pre-cooked on a ridged grill - a simple, summery feast that made us feel as if we were camping by the sea.

The Cornish lobster was fine too although I never feel lobster is quite as good if it hasn't been freshly cooked - it seems to lose a bit of texture and sweetness in transit. But you can have it sent live if you're brave enough to dispatch it yourself.

It was much tastier than the ubiquitous Canadian Lobster you get nowadays though ironically more expensive given the shorter distance it had to travel - from £14.37 for a 0.6kg lobster to £29.94 for a 1.25kg one. At just £6.95 a kilo you could buy a lot of mackerel for that.

I'm lucky enough to have a good local fishmonger near where I live in Bristol - Mitch Tonks's Rockfish Seafood Market - but if I hadn't, and had a big enough freezer to store a delivery - I'd certainly use a service like this.

* Incidentally I noticed on the site that pollack which has been much touted as a sustainable catch is now £11.95 a kilo, the same price as haddock which has a much better flavour. Or go for the very reasonable whiting at just £8.96 a kilo.

Have you ever bought fish online and if not where do you buy it?


  1. It's really hard to find good fish in the store here in the US (unless you want to pay incredibly high prices). My husband and I joined a Community Supported Fishery, which brings fresh, local fish into the city. It is the best fish I have ever had and I'm so glad we decided to do it, though now I'm spoiled and can't go back to what we were eating before.

  2. I'm always unsure of where I should buy fish and how I should store it. Obviously in an ideal world I'd be able to get out early to a fishmonger and buy it on the day to pop in the fridge for that evening, but that's pretty much never possible. So as an alternative I often just pop into the Supermarket on my way home and pick up something from the fish counter, but then I'm often left a bit unimpressed and unsure of how fresh it all is. Even knowing that their pre-packaged fish will probably be even less fresh it's still what I end up buying a lot of the time, just out of sheer simplicity and nervous familiarity.

    I've frequently considered whether I could get much better fish buying online or ordering through MarkyMarket, but I know that with only the two of us I'd have to store most of an order in the freezer and I've gotten this probably misguided idea from somewhere that freezing fish spoils it slightly due to ice crystals forming within the flesh.

    Perhaps you could clear this up though? Is it better to buy from a fresher, higher quality source online and freeze in bulk at home, or pick up here and there from supermarket counters where it will probably be of a lower quality?

  3. 2 whole kippers are just £5.49 including postage or 2 kipper fillets are £4.99. Order before 3.30pm and we will send you kippers smoked that day by first class post - so you can eat them the next day. Excellent value and extremely fresh.

  4. Well taken opportunity for a plug, Michael! Will mention it to my husband who loves kippers.

    Becca and Thought for Food: I think you only realise how inadequate supermarket fish is when you taste the really fresh stuff either sold direct like Fish for Thought or from a fishmonger or decent market stall (we have a couple of those too at the weekly Bristol farmers' market). It's a bit like tasting freshly dug potatoes compared to ones that have been in a plastic bag for several days.

    I think freezing fish is OK so long as you can do it quickly. Ice crystals tend to form when the process is too slow. If you can't eat fish the same day you buy it it makes sense to freeze it - so long as it's really fresh in the first place.

  5. My biggest problem with buying fish online is the packsizes. They are, of course, sold by weight but in reality, that doesn't work when you're cooking for a set number.

    At a fishmonger or counter, you can see how big the various individual fish are and decide, based on size, availability and price, which fish and how many of each to get per person/ portion.

    That's not possible when buying online.

    You'll see it's the main issue I had when trying the Abel & Cole fish which I blog here:

    I was pleased with the quality, but the pack sizes/ numbers didn't work for me.

  6. Fair point, Kavey, although I suspect you can ring them - or any other online retailer up (what an old-fashioned notion!)- and tell them what size packs you'd like them in. Or even send them an email.

  7. I'd never really considered buying online... but will defo check it out now. I tend to lump my fish in with my weekly shop at the supermarket. But the quality doesn't blow me away - it's purely convenience. I like the Garnish and Go service at Waitrose.
    We've a new fishmonger on our street which is pricey but nice. I like the fact you can get good advice in there and ideas for dinner.