8 Things You Need to Know About Seafood With Expert CJ Jackson

Wed 4th July 2018
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Q & A session with seafood industry expert and renowned seafood chef CJ Jackson.

Q. In the UK, we eat a lot of cod, haddock, prawns and salmon. Are there other tasty and cost effective alternatives easy to buy locally?

A. If you are eating any of the above because it’s low in fat, I would go for hake, plaice fillets and coley of megrim. To replace salmon, you can’t beat mackerel of sardines.

Q. Many people think seafood is expensive, what would you say to that?   

A. It doesn’t have to be! Really good value fish include mackerel tinned or smoked and sardines which are incredibly inexpensive. Also pickled herring, cold water prawns, roll mops and mussels. For all your favourites, check out the freezer cabinet, particularly frozen fish, tends to be less expensive than fresh. 

Q. Two thirds of UK people aren’t eating the recommended 2 portions of fish a week, what do you think they are missing out on?

  • A huge range of flavour and texture experiences! We all know what chicken and other meats taste like, but there are so any fish and shellfish to choose from and all have their own flavour and texture.  
  • You need the simplest of ingredients to enjoy each fish with. 
  • It is the ultimate fast food because it is quick to cook and suits many different methods of cooking.

Q. If you’d like to eat to more seafood, what would you suggest?

  • Stock up on both canned and frozen fish and shellfish, so that it is all to hand and then investigate ways to cook and serve it.
  • Start with what I am familiar with and then ask the fishmonger or fish counter to offer advice as to the best quality.
  • A lot of people join us at the seafood school as they want to eat more but need to know more about how to cook it. There are also some fantastic food magazines available each month and these are designed for the consumer and are usually simple and easy ideas. 

Q. What seafood would you recommend for the summer?

A. The sky’s the limit! For the BBQ, the very obvious are raw tiger prawns, shell on, or skewers of scallops wrapped in streaky bacon or monkfish. But, I love plank smoked fish, such as mackerel or hake loin. For informal supper or sharing, I would go with lots of big sharing shellfish slates with basil aioli. 

For quick, easy and inexpensive value suppers, whizz up a skinned coley fillet, with chilli, ginger, and spring onion, season with fish sauce and shape into burgers. Slip into a bun with all the usual trimmings!

Q. Sometimes the smell of seafood can put people of cooking it, what are your comments?

A. Yes, I think one of the main complaints from people cooking it at home is the lingering aroma of fish after the meal... so I would suggest cooking 'En papilotte' - take a sheet of foil or good quality grease proof paper. Bake in a hot oven... a loin of coley will take 10 mins and a bass fillet probably no more than 5 minutes. 

Q. You’ve been called the female face of the seafood industry and are expert in your field. On your recent trip to Peterhead Fish Market and the International Fish Canners, what stuck with you? 

A. I’m passionate about the industry, and I certainly have my own take on things, but… you never stop learning and I’m very inquisitive about the industry. 

My recent trip to Peterhead was fascinating and I met many other experts in their own right. Peterhead was huge and everything I expected it to be and what I imagined what Billingsgate would have looked like 100 years ago. There was far more fish - 6 times of what I’d expect to see at Billingsgate in any one day, but a tiny portion of species that we get at Billingsgate. 

I caught up with some of the skippers that I know. I especially loved seeing the huge pelagic boats. My visit was topped off by the visit to The International Fish Canners Factory and had a tasting of a large assortment of mackerel and sardines - lots of different flavours, so you can never get bored.

Q. How do you think the industry could get more people to eat seafood?

A. I suppose make it less scary and complicated. I think many fishmongers and fish counters are doing a fantastic job and understand their customers well. 

Showcase more things that the industry are doing all the time to deal with concerns from the public and educate the press more to avoid unnecessary scaremongering. Show more filming of fishing techniques - Trawlermen was an excellent series and highlighted life at sea... that sort of programme engages the public when they see the dangers involved… but needs to be positive and not just a 'story'.

Would this article encourage you to eat seafood?