I was recently persuaded by someone very dear to me to watch Seaspiracy on Netflix, a shockumentary about the barbaric horrors of commercial fishing. Now I knew I didn’t want to watch it because it was inevitably going to make me feel guilty about eating fish, and quite frankly the list of things I’m not supposed to eat any more is long enough as it is.
I generally shop and eat fairly conscientiously and I think – or I thought – I’m pretty au fait with the fish ‘situation’, until I watched stupid Seaspiracy. Turns out I’m not, and that in fact every time I sit down for a nice Saturday morning kipper (I’m possibly the only person on the planet under 50 who still enjoys a kipper) I’m in no small way contributing to the destruction of marine biology, massacring dolphins and, worst of all, actively endorsing modern slavery.
Well, that’s the last time I take heed of anyone’s televisual recommendations. I’m perfectly happy watching re-runs of Peep Show thanks very much. And for a little while, for maybe ten seconds, I considered giving up fishes full-time but then the sun came out and I had a fancy for a Niçoise salad, so I went and bought some fancy anchovies and tuna and had the most delicious lunch. Tuna – and I knew this anyway – is the worst of all. According to Seaspiracy the old ‘dolphin friendly’ sticker means jack-all; tuna is on the brink of extinction and the poor buggers who catch these wretched fish probably aren’t even paid for their dastardly efforts.
But actually, I know that there are some very responsible fisher-people out there, and many very diligent canneries, processors and so on. And you pay well for their efforts, as rightly you should. It doesn’t necessarily stack up that the more you pay for your fish the less you’re destroying and exploiting everything and everyone, but it’s not a bad place to start.
Read the label dude! Better still, use your local fishmonger who will be able to tell you where the fish has come from. If they don’t know, then they shouldn’t be a fishmonger. Jim-the-Fish at our cracking local Fish House knows his herrings inside out.
The canned stuff? Go to a decent deli or an online tinned fish specialist. For what it’s worth, I buy the excellent Ortiz anchovies, tuna and sardines from Harp Lane Deli, or I go to A Portuguese Love Affair and the Tinned Fish Market. No slaves, no dolphins, just a bit of a whack to the wallet. As it should be. An occasional piscine pleasure.
I can live without tuna (god, they’ll be relieved to hear that, those tunas) but I sling anchovies in everything. Hashtag the most middle-class thing I’ve ever said. But, back in the day, anchovies were everywhere. Fishes for the common man. Worcester sauce: it’s rotten anchovy juice mate. Anyway, I gave up smoking a year ago so I can justify a sneaky expensive anchovy a couple of times a week. Way better for you than ciggies, and almost as enjoyable.
My Niçoise Salad
This is more a gathering of ingredients rather than a recipe. I’m also aware that what goes into a Niçoise salad is highly contentious, but this is how I made this particular one on that particular day. And, hey, it’s just a salad. Get over it. Good anchovies are essential. I don’t think tuna necessarily is. The great food writer Simon Hopkinson is in agreement, and this recipe, such as it is, is based on his from that most joyous of books, Roast Chicken and Other Stories.
This will serve 2 greedy people handsomely:
- 3 hard-boiled eggs (for a slightly runny yolk start in cold water, bring the boil and cook for 5 minutes, refresh under cold running water)
- Little gem lettuce
- 10-ish small new potatoes, scraped, boiled and halved (I used Cornish – they’re better than Jersey Royals these days)
- A handful of cherry tomatoes, halved (they’ve got lovely ones from Worcestershire in the shops now)
- Handful of black olives, the more wrinkly and bitter the better
- Couple of generous teaspoons of capers
- Anchovies, at least half a dozen per person
- Some well cooked trimmed green beans are a nice and traditional addition, but I couldn’t get any.
Dress with a good vinaigrette: One part red wine vinegar to four parts olive oil, a blob of Dijon mustard, salt and pepper.