Fish tongues, livers and fins are on the menus of some of the country’s finest chefs in a new sustainable eating trend.
While other cultures think nothing of eating fish heads and using the offal, the British tend to stick to eating fillets, which make up about 40 per cent of the creature.
However, the tide is turning as people try to reduce food waste. It is also inexpensive and, according to top chefs, delicious, to ask for unusual cuts of the animal.
While “nose-to-tail” eating with mammals became popular decades ago, and many would not think twice about eating a liver from a lamb or a goose, most do not think the same way about fish.
However, it is restaurants and fishmongers where you will find the most unusual parts of the fish.
At Kiln, a busy Thai restaurant in Soho, London, chefs use monkfish livers to enrich sauces and infuse flavour into shellfish dishes by using lobster heads.
Head chef Meedu Saad told the Sunday Telegraph: “We believe in using the entire product, as much as is possible. We use lobster head meat as it is delicious and it adds both texture and flavour to the dish.
“We also put monkfish liver in our monkfish curry to add richness and constistency to the curry. The fat gives you a really velvety texture.
Those eating a whole fish at the restaurant may have questions about the delicious paste which is stuffed inside the animal. It is actually offal – Mr Saad explained: “We tend to take the innards of our fish pound them through curry paste and put them back into the fish and it adds fat. We use the innards as fat instead of oil and butter and it gives a more complex flavour to the fish.”
He recommended readers start their fish offal journey by requesting monkfish liver from the fishmonger to add fat to curries and sauces – it is used in much the same way as butter.
Fishmongers recommend asking them for unusual cuts. Alistair Blair, who runs online fishmonger Fish Society sells fish heads, roe and tongue. He said: “We’ve always sold the cheeks and tongues but my big moment in trimmings was ten years ago. I was showing a couple of Malaysian students round our fish room. They saw a bin full of halibut heads and asked what was going to happen to those. When I said we threw them out, they nearly fainted. They took them all away in a big black bin bag. I was chastened.”
He also sells “imperfect” parts of fish fillets and sashimi off-cuts, which you cook the normal way, and they are a much cheaper way of trying premium fish. Local fishmongers are likely to sell these if asked, too.
Ivan Tisdall-Downes is the head chef at Native in Borough Market, London, and aims to be as sustainable as possible in his cooking. A popular starter at his restaurant is fish trims, including fins, on toast.
He told the Sunday Telegraph: “We make sure we buy our fish whole – it is a great way to make more than one meal from the fish. The leftovers from your fillets can be used in multiple ways for example, the fish cheeks can be used in a delicious fish chowder, the scrap bits of trim can make fish cakes and batter and deep fry the fish collars to make the meatiest, most juicy fish and chips. The fish bones will make a wonderful fish soup or broth for noodles.”
Charlie Taylor, Head Chef at Alyn Williams at The Westbury, looks to Japanese chefs for inspiration when using the whole fish.
He said: “We always buy and use the whole fish at the restaurant, from cod to cockles, mussels to monkfish.
“When we receive a whole cod, I take the fillets off, right from the tip of the nose of the fish. This is where you get this snout like muscle which is very firm once cooked, but deliciously sweet. Of course cheeks from a cod are a firm favourite, almost resembling scallops.
“Working in Japan we used the milt of the fish a lot also, which is basically the sperm of the fish, it has a delicious sweet and creamy flavour and is great in dashi stock. Lobster brains are also a favourite of mine, creamy texture but the light flavour of brown crab meat, works great in a sauce or finish a bisque.”