Smelly, expensive, bony... fish doesn’t always have the best reputation, but it’s packed full of nutrients and there’s a whole ocean of flavours to explore.
Whether it was a whiffy, overcooked piece of haddock as a child that’s put you off, or a plate plagued with bones, many people simply won’t touch fish, no matter how many delicious-looking seafood dishes grace our TV screens on MasterChef.
As an island nation, though, we have a fabulous array of flavours swimming locally on our doorstep. It’s high in protein, low in fat and needn’t be too expensive or tricky to cook. And with so many different varieties, it’s impossible to get bored.
So it’s a wonder why, compared to our Mediterranean friends, we’re a bit unenthusiastic about fish in Britain. I have several friends who won’t touch it unless it’s covered in breadcrumbs, chopped into familiar rectangle shapes and deep-fried within an inch of its life.
A recent survey by Fish of the Day, the consumer face of the industry body Seafish, found most people in the UK (56 per cent of adults) are falling short of the recommended two portions of fish per week.
Despite that, lots of people say looking after their health is a priority, with 39 per cent planning on kicking off a better eating regime in the new year.
If eating for health is your goal, looking to the seas for inspiration is a great place to start.
Known as ‘brain food’, oily fish like sardines, mackerel and salmon are packed full of Omega 3, and all types of fish and seafood are nutrient rich.
As well as Omega 3, vitamin D is another of fish’s key components and, with winter in full force, we can’t rely on sunlight to keep levels topped up so it’s essential that our diets contain it too.
Vitamin D is crucial for healthy bones, muscles and the immune system, while it’s also been linked with helping prevent diseases like heart disease, bowel and breast cancer and type 2 diabetes.
Experts advise that we eat two 140g portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily. According to Fish is the Dish nutritionist Juliette Kellow, making this a reality needn’t be too hard.
“Find the fishmonger counter at your local supermarket, they’re the best people to give advice on all the different types of fish, and how to cook it,” she says. “If you’ve never really cooked fish before, start with something familiar like cod, haddock or plaice, making sure it’s responsibly sourced.”
Most fish comes in handy, single portions or can be filleted by a fishmonger, so it won’t take much, if any, preparation, and it can be cooked in mere minutes.
“Get experimenting, have a play, and build your confidence,” Kellow says. “If the kids are a bit resistant, start with homemade fish fingers or fishcakes. I used to make my little one a bit of mackerel mashed into some white fish, so he’s growing up used to the taste of fish. Now he’ll try anything.”
According to studies, vitamin D levels tend to be lowest from January to March, so now’s the time to make fish the dish of the day.