Look beyond cod for sustainable fish and chips

  • Johnblackmore Flickr

Is it still possible to enjoy fish and chips without the guilty aftertaste of knowing that you've depleted dwindling fish stocks? Britons' hard-to-break habit of ordering cod and chips has been partly responsible for the diminishing stocks of cod. Campaigners, including TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, are attempting to educate Britain about tasty alternatives, and the message is starting to get through.

Although there are sustainable sources of cod and responsible fishing will maintain supplies, the pressure will be eased if restaurants encouraged customers to try new fish. The Harbour Lights shop in Falmouth experimented with a Cod Free Week, supported by the customers, and scores of other fish and chip shops are now offering unfamiliar fish.

Haddock remains the most popular fish supper choice in Scotland and is increasing its popularity south of the border. Firm-fleshed and tasty, it works very well with chips, and has no sustainability problems.

Hake is one of the most popular fishes in Spain, and it would make an ideal alternative to cod in Britain's national dish, having a similar colour and texture. It hold together better in the fryer and has a little more fat meaning it stays moist. At present most of the British hake catch is heading for the Iberian peninsula.

Pollock occasionally has an image problem with the older generation, being associated with cheap fish given to cats, but fresh pollock, fried in a light batter, is catching on as a sustainable and inexpensive alternative to cod. McDonalds use it in their filet-o-fish, although it's difficult to know whether that is a recommendation or not.

Other fish and chip restaurants are discovering their own favourites. Gurnard is an ugly-looking fish that has firm white flesh reminiscent of monkfish. Other whitefish, like coley, whiting or bib, would be ideal alternatives in everyday dishes like fish pie, fish fingers or fishcakes, where cod has been used for decades.

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