Monday, 22 February 2010

Try worming your way out of this one?

Have you ever taken a piece of fish home from a fishmonger and found a thin black worm in the flesh? If you have it has most certainly put you off that type of fish for life, not unsurprisingly. If you haven’t seen one you may have had a friend that has told you of such an occurrence. This scenario is quite common at this time of year (although there are incidences throughout the year) as fish gorge themselves on food from which the energy they gain is then applied into the production of gametes (eggs and milt). The majority of the bony flat and round fish go through the process of spawning between January and April. So what are these worms and where do they come from? They are parasitic round worms from the species Phocanema and follow the very simple life cycle of most marine parasites. Large marine mammals, generally grey seals, harbour the adult Phocanema who eggs are laid in the stomach of the seal. These eggs are released into the water, hatch, and are then eaten by crustaceans, which are in turn eaten by fish. The worm will then make its way into the flesh of the fish before the fish is eaten by a mammal which completes this very simple cycle. Commonly referred to as Cod worms many species can be affected and some to a huge extent. Cod, Monkfish and John Dory are probably the least affected and easiest to deal with as these three species have nice white flesh making Phocanema easier to spot. Both Hake and Gurnard, more so Tub than Red, can be inundated with Phocanema generally in the stomach and a little in the flesh. Sea Bass can also show signs of Phocanema to some extent at this time of year. I have never seen an incidence in Dover Sole and only once in Lemon sole. Pelagic midwater feeders such as mackerel and herring rarely come into contact with Phocanema.

Most importantly these worms are harmless to humans and die immediately if cooked. Additionally they will die when frozen – probably the reason why worms are never found in many supermarket fish.

So what should you do if you are sold fish with Phocanema in? Firstly, I hope no fishmonger would purposely sell fish inundated with Phocanema, however, if you are buying a whole fish, especially Gurnard, the fishmonger my be unaware of any Phocanema in the flesh. Additionally, if you are buying a very thick piece of cod or Monkfish it could be impossible to see that Phocanema is present. Other than those two scenarios there is no excuse apart from laziness of profiteering to sell a piece of fish with Phocanema in it. If you do see Phocanema in your fish or fillet just put the point of a small knife into the flesh and underneath and lift which will remove the subject. If it is inundated you should consider returning to the fishmonger and asking for a replacement. Be aware the shop is not legally obliged to replace or refund your money, however, I see no reason as why they wouldn’t if they are reputable.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Japanese (Con)fusion at Fujisan

I have never blogged about a meal after attending an eatery or dining establishment; many others provide this service to a very high standard. However, anger has led me to write a review, if it can be described as that, about my local Japanese restaurant. Fortunately for ‘Fujisan’ it does not have an over elaborate description of its restaurant, food or dining experience on its website. Maybe somebody has asked them to remove it in the past?

Now, I have actually eaten at Fujisan twice before. The first time was a disaster with poor service and sub standard food. The second visit was much more successful thus dismissing the first trip as a one off. Oh dear, what a mistake to make. In fact the second visit was the one off, the hole in one, the surprise 21st birthday present whereas visits 1 & 3 were the missed penalty, the getting caught cheating with your team mates bird, the breaking down in tears when being interviewed.

After a very busy Friday at the fishmongers and a restful drink in a local bar my wife and I decided to wander over to Fujisan for some dinner. The restaurant was about half full and we were seated immediately. After 15 minutes of inactivity around our table we were finally asked if we were ok? This was a strange question as the two tables that were seated after us were already on their starters – of course I wasn’t ok, I was exceptionally hungry. Drink and food orders taken (and the worst decision of the evening of not to get up and leave made) we sat and waited and waited and waited – for Edamame (Steamed soybean pods marinated in ginger and spring onions). Were they growing them? Stupidly I asked for a drink whilst waiting for the illusive pods. A tin of Sapporo – you beauty – this will calm me. Suddenly the fearful thought crossed my mind ‘Would they need to brew it first?’ Yes! This never came so I asked again and then again and when it finally arrived the waiter was extremely confused as I poured and toasted its arrival out loud. Sarcastic fool that I am this was the highlight of my evening. With pods, and to be fair a decent portion of Glazed pork ribs consumed, we waited and waited and waited. Even the tables that were seated after us had finished and were at home in bed. 1 hour and 20 minutes after being seated we decided egg on toast at home would suffice. Leaving a restaurant before your main course arrives can cause confusion in the ranks, however, this was unique. Shouting and arguing between the owner, the front of house and the waitress prevailed. The waitress was marched into the kitchen for a bollocking which was a little unlucky as she hadn’t even taken our order. Then they made their worst decision of the night to charge us for what we had consumed. On asking for a receipt I was told there wasn’t one. The owner told me the waitress was confused due to the language barrier. A barrier that hadn’t existed when taking our money. Laughing out load and stating openly my opinions of their restaurant we left only to be followed down the road by the owner shouting ‘I have you receipt, I have you receipt’. I wonder if he did stick it where I told him too?

326 Balham High Road, Tooting, SW17 7AA
(Price £10 ahead but may increase if you receive a main course)

Liver little and try something unique

Every now and then a treat turns up on our fish counter. This time it was monkfish liver. A unique delicacy, and important to me I can deem it ethical; it is a by product that is usually cast back overboard. You see most unusual delicacies fit into the unique groups of endangered or critically endangered – Dodo eggs for example are covered by one of these.  Anyhow, whilst the South-West fisherman attempt to gain accreditation from the marine stewardship council (MSC) for the sustainable status of their (I use 'their' loosely as we technically all own these fish) sole and monkfish grounds we can comfortably assume that levels of monkfish off our Cornish peninsula are sound. Of course I am aware stock levels of monkfish in other catch areas, the Bay of Biscay for example, are in a severe or even a critical status, however, I am not sourcing my products from these fisheries.

I have a simple recipe for monkfish liver that was given to me by a customer a couple of years ago. However, I decided to search through my large selection of fish cookery books to find Rick Stein or Keith Floyd’s recommendations on preparation and serving. Hang on nothing, not a mention. Has Rick Stein never heard of it? Did Keith Floyd leave his in a bag on the fish counter whilst in a rush to catch the Offie before it closed? Searching the internet also offered little helpful information apart from its application in Japanese cuisine. 


The simple but effective recipe:

Season the liver well then dust in flour.
Pan fry in butter until crispy on each side.
When done add a squeeze of lemon or drop of vinegar to the pan.
Roll onto a warmed plate and serve with crusty brown bread.

Alternative recipe

Monkfish Liver, bacon and pea shoot salad with a poached hen's egg

It is very rich and has a creamy texture and maybe a small amount, 100grms per person, is needed. To my surprise it didn’t sell that well, but I put that down to receiving it on the wrong day of the week. I will try again so many of you can taste this delight.