Just One Change week four - stop hating fish!
Over the next few weeks we're giving you one small, manageable change you can make to your diet each week, that over time will add up to a big difference to your health. This week is something fishy.
Official dietary guidelines in the UK currently say we should eat two portions of fish per week. Now, here's the thing with dietary guidelines. They're not really based on the absolute healthiest thing you could do. They're based on what the people who write the guidelines think they can actually get you to do. they're the "better than nothing" guidelines.
Since fish is a great source of lean protein, is low in fat and is full of essential vitamins and minerals, we expect it would be pretty good for you to eat a lot more than two portions a week. That's why we're advising you get it up to three. But the fact that the Department of Health suggests so little says a lot about Britain's strange relationship with fish.
Yes, although we all live on an island surrounded by fish, an awful lot of us just don't want to eat the scaled ones. And a study over the water in Ireland suggested a few reasons why people struggle with it.
So, as we set you off on this week's fish odyssey, we wanted to go through some of the fishy fears people have and see if we can answer them today. Let's go!
Fish is too expensive
We don't know where this worry comes from, but it's not true at all! There are obviously some very fancy fish out there, like halibut, but for home cooks there are a ton of super affordable fish. Mackerel is both very cheap and one of the most fashionable fish out there right now. That means there are absolutely loads of easy mackerel recipes all over the internet, including our own quick pickle recipe.
Other affordable (and sustainable) fish choices are lemon sole and coley. These are both good alternatives to cod or haddock - meaning you can swap them in recipes - and cost less too. Coley can be tricky to find in supermarkets but lemon sole is pretty widely available.
Fish goes off too quickly
We think this one might be more down to paranoia than truth. Fresh fish can keep for 3-4 days - about the same as a lot of meat. As time goes by the flesh can become a little less tender and you'll be better off chopping it up and putting it in a stew rather than cooking it on its own, but as long as you store it in the fridge and keep an eye on the Use By date you have nothing to worry about.
Fish smells bad
This is an understandable fear. Once you smell that overpowering fishy smell there's no forgetting it and it certainly isn't going to warm up your appetite. We wouldn't eat it either. But here is one very important fact to remember - only old fish smells like fish. Fresh, uncooked fish hardly has any smell at all. Honestly, if you don't believe us we recommend you buy some fresh fish asap and give it a good sniff. See, smells delicious!
Fish is hard to eat
We've all got memories of ordering a delicious-sounding dish off a restaurant menu and finding ourselves picking miserably through tiny needle-like bones. Everyone else finishes, the food has gone cold, you never get to eat more than a fingertip's worth of fish at a time, and you give up before you're halfway through.
BUT this shouldn't put you off fish altogether. That's because most fishmongers and supermarkets know this makes people miserable and they sell the fish filleted - with the bones taken out already.
Fish is hard to cook
Just like people struggle to eat more vegetables because they don't know what to do with them, people ignore fish because they don't know where to start.
We can easily help with that. Firstly, if you don't want to learn a new recipe you can simply drizzle some lemon juice over a fillet of fish and sprinkle over some salt, then stick it under the grill until the skin turns golden. You want the inside tender but you'll quickly figure out how long it needs to cook for you get there. And you can't go wrong with some tenderstem broccoli and new potatoes on the side.
If you want to do something a bit more interesting, you can try the pickled mackerel recipe we linked to above, you can have a go at our very simple recipe for Tahitian poisson cru, or try something more involved with our recipe for crab risotto (yes, shellfish totally counts).
So, have we put your mind at ease? Think it's time to change your mind about fish? And are you trying #JustOneChange? Let us know how it's going on Instagram or Twitter with #JustOneChange - we can't wait to see how you're getting on!