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Fish: The Complete Fish and Seafood Companion – Book review

15 May 2009
Fish: The Complete Fish and Seafood Companion – Book review

Fish: The Complete Fish and Seafood Companion Mitch Tonks
Anova Books, £25
ISBN 9781862058330

Most of you probably won't have eaten at FishWorks, the seafood restaurant chain founded by Mitch Tonks. If you did you probably would have found a restaurant founded on the best intentions but delivering expensive and inexpertly cooked fish dishes.

Tonks' fourth cookbook, Fish: The Complete Fish and Seafood Companion, provides a sort of literary equivalent to the genuine intent behind FishWorks, which, unlike the restaurant chain, luckily can't be obstructed by high prices and expansion plans.

The idea that formed the basis of FishWorks - the desire to spark a British equivalent of the Continent's seafood love affair - permeates the cookbook. While the recipes rarely stray into the adventurous, the book is a solid assessment of British seafood and its possibilities.

The first part offers an overview of fishing - a day at a fish market, the different techniques used to trawl and catch and dredge, the sustainability issues, the absurd extent of the British export market, the pros and cons inherent to the quota system and so on.

The rest is dedicated to a species by species guide, divided into white fish, oily fish and shellfish, with simple, pan-European recipes.

Among the classical dishes - turbot with caper and parsley sauce, lemon sole cooked in butter with brown shrimps - there are Italian influences, with monkfish osso bucco; Spanish touches in monkfish chunks cooked with onions, peppers and sherry; plus sturdy British recipes like salt cured sprats.

Where the book really comes into its own is the exhaustive seasonal and health information attached to each fish, with months to purchase and avoid specific species as well as calorific and fat content. To boot, descriptions and recipes for lesser-used fish, including ling, coley, cuttlefish, whiting and gurnard offer up new ideas and possibilities for those yet to stray into more sustainable waters.

Only the most inexperienced seafood cook will read Fish cover to cover and find it all novel and interesting. But most chefs will certainly find their knowledge enhanced by the book's exhaustive approach to the subject.

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