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Sustainable Fish Recipes for a Pescetarian Diet

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A pescatarian is simply someone who eats fish and seafood as well as fruit and vegetables but not red/white meat or poultry. A good example of a pescetarian diet is the popular Mediterranean one enjoyed in countries such as Italy, where the locally produced fresh vegetables and olive oils are supplemented by the catch of the day. This means that the diet can be an extremely healthy one and prove a viable option or compromise for anyone looking to reduce or even eliminate their red meat intake.

Beer Battered Basa Fish Fillets with Bruschetta

Beer Battered Basa with Bruschetta
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Beer battered basa fillets are served on a lettuce bed with salsa and bruschetta

Basa is a type of catfish which is extensively farmed in the Mekong Delta in Asia, ensuring it remains a highly sustainable option for the dinner table. It sometimes has a fairly negative reputation but is actually a delicious eating fish cooked up in a number of ways.

Ingredients (Serves 2)

Tomatoes, Cucumber and Garlic
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Tomatoes, cucumber and garlic for salsa

  • 2 fresh basa fillets
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 4 inch piece of English/hothouse cucumber
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 2 or 3 leaves of fresh mint
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil plus drizzle for bruschetta
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 4 large lettuce leaves
  • ½ medium white onion
  • 4 tablespoons all purpose (plain) flour
  • ½ pint (approximately) very cold
  • 4 thick slices of crusty bread
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Chopped Tomatoes and Cucumber
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Prepared tomatoes and garlic are added to a suitable bowl

Ideally, the salsa should be made an hour in two in advance and refrigerated to allow the flavors time to infuse. This, however, is not essential. To prepare, cut the tomatoes in half and half the cucumber piece along its length. Use a teaspoon to scoop out the seeds and pulp before dicing to around a quarter of an inch and scraping in to a large bowl. Peel and finely chop one of the garlic cloves and add to the bowl.

Mint added to Salsa
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Oil, mint and seasonings are added to salsa

The mint leaves should be rolled together and very finely sliced. Put them in with the tomatoes and cucumber and season with salt and pepper. Pour in the lemon juice and olive oil and stir well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until required.

Deep Frying Basa
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Beer battered basa fillets are deep fried in hot oil

Shred the lettuce leaves and finely slice the onion. Season and mix to combine. Form a bed of leaves on each serving plate for the basa.

Although a deep fryer can be used for making the basa, you may find it easier to monitor the cooking of the fish by using a deep frying pan. Put the oil on to reach a very high heat. Cut each basa fillet in to four pieces. Add the flour to a flat bottomed bowl and season with salt. Slowly pour in the beer, whisking gently with a fork or small hand whisk, until a consistency like thick cream is obtained. Dip the basa fillets in one at a time and hold them over the bowl for a couple of seconds to allow excess batter to drip off before very carefully adding them to the frying pan. Do not overload the pan and frying in batches of four pieces at a time is a good idea. Fry for a total of about six minutes, turning half way through cooking, until the batter is crisp and golden.

Draining Basa Fillets
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Deep fried basa fillets are drained on kitchen paper

Toast the bread until golden. Crush the second garlic clove and rub it over the top of each slice of the hot toast. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spoon some salsa in to ramekins and plate with the bruschetta.

Drain the basa fillets on kitchen paper before plating for service.

Pan Fried Fillet of Atlantic Salmon with Scottish Clapshot

Salmon and Clapshot
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Salmon with a flavorsome potato and rutabaga mash

Clapshot originated in the far north of Scotland and is simply a combination of mashed potatoes and rutabaga (Swede turnip) with butter, chives and seasoning. It is a traditional accompaniment to haggis but also works very well with oily fish such as salmon.

Ingredients (Serves 2)

Potato and Rutabaga
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Potatoes and rutabaga

  • 2 salmon loin fillets (skin on)
  • 2 medium to large starchy potatoes
  • ½ medium sized rutabaga (Swede turnip)
  • 4 ounces trimmed green beans
  • 2 teaspoons freshly chopped chives plus extra for garnish
  • ½ stick (2 ounces) of butter
  • Salt and white pepper
  • Flour for dusting
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Tartar sauce to serve (optional)


Peel the potatoes and rutabaga and roughly chop. Add to a large pot with enough cold water to ensure all the pieces are fully covered. Season with a little salt and put on a high heat until the water boils, then reduce to achieve a simmer for about twenty to twenty-five minutes until softened.

Frying Salmon
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Salmon is fried in a combination of oil and butter

Pour some vegetable oil in to a large non-stick frying pan and bring it up to a medium to high heat. Add half the butter. Scatter some flour on a plate and season. Pat the salmon in the flour on its skin side only and shake off the excess before placing skin side down in the pan. Season the top of the salmon and fry until you can see from the side that it has cooked about two-thirds of the way through. At this stage, turn the heat under the pan off and turn the fish. Leave it for about a minute to complete cooking on the flesh side in the residual heat only. Salmon is like steak in that it should always be served that little bit pink in the middle to be enjoyed at its best.

The beans should be added to a pot of boiling, salted water for three minutes to blanch. They should then be drained through a colander.

Drained Potato and Rutabaga
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Potato and rutabaga are ready for mashing

Drain the potato and rutabaga and return to the empty pot. Allow to steam off for a few minutes. Add the butter and some white pepper. Mash with a hand masher before stirring through the chopped chives.

Plate the clapshot and the beans, garnish with the last of the chives and lay the salmon alongside. Tartar sauce is optional. The crisped salmon skin should easily peel away in one piece.

Deep Fried Fillet of Whiting with Homemade Chips

Whiting and Chips
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Battered fillets of whiting with chips

Atlantic cod, plaice, haddock and more are all popular fish choices for making what probably remains the UK's national dish but there are presently some sustainability issues with many of the traditionally used species. Whiting is a member of the same genetic family as cod and haddock and currently represents a more sustainable but equally tasty option for preparing this meal.

Ingredients (Serves 2)

Whiting Fillet
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Fresh whiting fillet

  • 2 large skinless fillets of whiting
  • 2 large baking potatoes
  • 4 large lettuce leaves
  • ½ medium white onion
  • 4 tablespoons all purpose (plain) flour
  • Ice cold water as required
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2 lemon wedges to garnish


Draining Chips
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Boiled potato pieces are left to steam

Peel the potatoes and slice and chop them in to chip shapes, about the size of a human middle finger. Add them to a large pot with enough cold water to comfortably cover them and bring the water to a boil before reducing the heat to simmer for five minutes only. Carefully drain the chips and allow to cool before refrigerating them for a minimum of half an hour in a plastic dish.

Once Fried Chips
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Once fried chips are drained on kitchen paper

Take the chips from the fridge and pat dry in kitchen paper before deep frying at 300F/150C for five minutes. Drain on kitchen paper, cover with a plastic, vented food cover and allow to cool before refrigerating again for a further half hour.

Battering Fish
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Battering whiting fillets for deep frying

The batter for the fish in this instance can be prepared up to half an hour in advance and refrigerated to rest. Simply add the flour to a dish, season with salt and gently whisk as you pour in the cold water to achieve a consistency of thick cream.

Slice each whiting fillet in half along the natural line. Dip in the batter, drain the excess and add to the hot oil for six or seven minutes until the batter is golden and crisp. The chips require five minutes in the hot oil.

Chips and Lettuce
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Chips are plated with lettuce bed for fish

While the fish and chips are frying, shred the lettuce and finely slice the onion to form a bed for the whiting. Drain the fish and chips on kitchen paper before plating up and garnishing with a lemon wedge.

Coley or Pollock Fish Tacos

Coley Fish Tacos
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Assembly ingredients for fish tacos

Tacos may be more commonly prepared using beef or chicken but fish tacos are delicious and this recipe should be a welcome addition to any pescetarian diet. Virtually any type of firm fleshed white fish could be used but in this instance it has been prepared using coley (known along with other sub-species as pollock in North America, or alternatively as coalfish or saithe in the UK). This particular fish was rod and line caught off the West Coast of Scotland and is another presently sustainable member of the wider Atlantic cod family.

Ingredients (Makes 6 Tacos)

Coley Fillet
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Fresh coley fillet

  • 1 pound fillet of coley (skin on)
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 3 inch piece of English/hothouse cucumber
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • ½ tsp dried chili flakes (optional/variable)
  • 1 teaspoon roughly chopped basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • Sea salt and white pepper
  • 4 ounces Mexicana or similar cheese
  • 12 large black olives (pitted)
  • 6 tortilla wraps
  • Flour for dusting fish
  • Vegetable oil for frying


Spicy Salsa
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Prepared spicy salsa

The salsa should be prepared first and - if time permits - covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for a couple of hours to let the variety of flavors fully infuse. Half the tomatoes and half the cucumber lengthwise. Use a teaspoon to remove and discard the seeds before moderately finely dicing with a sharp knife. Add to a glass or stone mixing bowl along with the peeled and finely chopped garlic, basil leaves, chili flakes, extra virgin olive oil and white wine vinegar. Season with sea salt and pepper and mix well.

Mexicana Cheese
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Mexicana cheese

Mexicana cheese is a medium hard cheese, laced with Mexican chilies. For this recipe, it (or its equivalent) is finely diced and added to two serving ramekins, likewise the black olives. Shred the lettuce, slice the onion, season and mix together before dividing between two serving dishes.

Frying Coley
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Coley is added skin side down to a hot frying pan

The reason it is so important that the skin be left on the coley is that the skin will keep the fish in one piece as it cooks. Add some vegetable oil to a non-stick frying pan and bring it up to a fairly high heat. Scatter some flour on a plate and season. Pat the skin side only of the coley in the fish and shake of the excess. Place the fillet in the pan, skin side down, and cook over a medium to high heat until you can see the fish is cooked about two-thirds of the way through. This will take three or four minutes.

Cooked Coley
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Cooked coley fillet is removed from frying pan

Turn the heat off under the pan and turn the fish on to its flesh side. Leave it for a couple of minutes to complete cooking in the residual heat only before transferring it to a plate with a fish slice. The skin should have crisped up beautifully and you should be easily able to pull it free.

Flaked Coley
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Coley fillet will separate easily in to natural flakes

Break the fish fillet in to large flakes and divide evenly between two heated serving dishes.

The tortilla wraps should be heated for about fifteen seconds, one at a time, in a clean, very hot frying pan or skillet before being stacked on warmed plates. Assemble the component parts of your meals and serve immediately.

Assembling Fish Taco
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Assembling fish taco

There is no golden rule as to how the wraps are assembled. You may wish, however, to begin with some lettuce and onion spread along the center, followed by some coley, topped by salsa, cheese and olives before folding up the sides and tucking in.



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