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The Caterer

Book review – J Sheekey Fish

19 October 2012 by
Book review – J Sheekey Fish

J Sheekey Fish By Tim Hughes and Allan Jenkins, with photographs by Howard Sooley
Preface Publishing, £25
ISBN 978-1848093805

J Sheekey's restaurant in London's Covent Garden is a Mecca for discerning seafood lovers and this new book is everything you'd expect from such a hallowed institution. It is beautiful to look at, the recipes are clearly laid out, with snappy instructions and easy-to-glance-at ingredient lists, the pictures are sublime and the overall enjoyment of flicking through the pages is effortless.

There are also extra titbits, including some quality narrative providing a vivid glimpse of life at the restaurant and among its suppliers. However, what really sets this book apart from other fish books is that it overcomes what I find to be a perpetual problem - the guilt of being a seafood chef.

This has been a constant thorn in my side and the book meets the problem head on, acknowledging the difficulty of over-fishing and explaining how best to use, honour and respect what is now a rare and valuable commodity. Not only does chef Tim Hughes explain the restaurant's philosophy in this regard, but also delivers recipes that practice what he preaches.

Indeed, the book shows that it is still possible to enjoy seafood with a clear conscience. The first four recipes provide brilliant examples of this - using, in turn razor clams, rich brown shrimps and asparagus, potted shrimps and tiger prawns with mango. While each one is a great recipe, what really strikes me about them is that the ingredients are used sparingly and to maximum effect. This has clear resonance with the authors' message on sustainability - you don't need to pillage the sea to make an agreeable meal.

In my humble opinion, the time is coming when chefs are going to have to start creating more combination dishes where meat and fish are rare commodities and have to be used more sparingly and creatively. J Sheekey is clearly well ahead of the game in this respect.

Ultimately, the simplicity of the book and its recipes marks its genius. Manx kipper pate, ceviche of bass and crab bisque are all straightforward to prepare and also very good to eat.

By James Nathan, executive chef, Retallack Resort and Spa, St Columb Major, Cornwall

If you like this, you'll love these:

Nathan Outlaw's British Seafood Nathan Outlaw

â- Rick Stein's Complete Seafood: A Step-By-Step Reference Rick Stein

â- The Clatter of Forks and Spoons: Honest, Happy Food Richard Corrigan" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">View the recipe for Sheekey's fish pie from the book J Sheekey Fish

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