04/08/2017 - 10:47
Innovation in the fish and seafood sector continues to grow and new product development in the field is rife. Emma Page reports.

Consumers are increasingly aware of the environmental and health benefits of eating a wide range of seafood, but many lack the confidence to cook fish at home and supermarkets tend to stick to the usual suspects on retail fish counters. There’s a growing expectation that diners will be presented with a more exciting range of fish when they eat out, and this poses a huge opportunity for operators.

Jason Calcutt, business development chef M& J Seafood says that now is the time for operators to  pull away from big sellers such as salmon, cod and squid. “There is so much more fish and seafood in and around the UK that we need to explore and get creative with. Although Dover sole, lemon sole and lobsters might be expensive they can be cooked with cheaper alternatives like megrim, plaice, gurnard, coley, hake and pollack. Use the bones to create a broth, the shells for a bisque and the skins to make crisps. The trimmings can even be used for fishcakes or dumplings.

“Fish doesn’t have to be just a centreplate item,” he adds. “Stronger varieties such as herrings, sprats and mackerel make great tacos, while brown crabmeat makes a great sauce when blitzed with mayo, tomato and herbs and added to a risotto or pasta.”

 “Customers are moving away from the heavy cream and butter sauces of the past and are looking for lighter, flavoursome fish dishes,” says Fergus Martin, Major development chef. “Chefs can explore popular global flavours, while ticking the healthy box. From a gluten and dairy free baked sea bass with prawns, pad Thai noodles in a coconut curry sauce, to a sushi-inspired cured salmon starter served with pickled Asian vegetables, chefs can create mouth-watering dishes which scream fresh, bold and exciting flavour.”

Willie Pike, Major’s consultant development chef for Scotland says: “Draw inspiration from street food to deliver on international flavour when it comes to grab and go offers. Tempt customers with tacos, or a Korean Mari Base-infused squid and samphire noodle salad.”

Spanish wholesaler Mevalco is seeing growing demand for salted and pickled fish products, such as salt cod and salt-cured Mojama (air-dried tuna loin, traditionally served in thin slices with tomatoes, olive oil, almonds or grated egg.  Check out the company’s pickled white anchovies, marinated sardines, smoked sardines and anchovies in olive oil. Squid has always been popular but what about octopus? “Our Octopi are caught in an artisanal way in Morocco and considered the best in the world. Octopus with harissa and potato or dressed octopus salad are particular favourites,” says Mevalco MD David Menendez.

“Other quirky fish and seafood products that we are starting to see on menus include Plankton, Cazon (Dog Fish), Squid Ink Jar and Monk Fish.  Plankton brings the pure essence of the sea to cooking in a natural way. Once hydrated, it forms a paste and can be added to sauces, fumets, soups and stocks.”

When it comes to sourcing more unusual types of fish, check for the Marine Stewardship Council‘s blue label for traceability and reassurance that the fish has come from a certified sustainable source. MSC’s 2016 consumer insights study revealed that 40% of UK consumers are aware of the MSC label, and 75% agree that shoppers should only consume sustainable seafood. MSC species recently becoming available through an extending list of certified suppliers include: Cornish hake, redfish, saithe, whiting and mackerel.

Last year, Crown Foods and Brakes linked up to offer MSC gluten free bubble fish. Available in two varieties - MSC Wild Alaska Pollock or MSC Wild Alaska Salmon - the fillets are coated in an innovative and gluten free rice crispy crunch coating making them an appealing product for children and adults, particularly in the casual dining sector. One of several new MSC products being launched by Brakes is Japanese Style Karaage King Prawns: MSC King prawns coated in a potato starch, which can be baked and produces a tempura-like bite.

Andrew Crawford, fish & seafood manager at Brakes, says almost 50% of all lines in the category are MSC certified. “We want to be seen as market leaders in the provision of sustainably and responsibly sourced fish and seafood, driving the foodservice market in the right direction,” he adds.

Fish fingers work particularly well as a hot sandwich or wrap filling so are a great option to include on grab & go menus. Young’s Omega 3 Fish Fingers, Free From Wheat, Gluten and Milk offer the perfect solution for those looking to serve tasty, gourmet fish finger sandwiches.

Young’s Omega 3 Fish Fingers will appeal to the more health conscious customers. Free From Wheat, Gluten and Milk, the fish fingers are also a great alternative for establishments looking to cater for customers with specific dietary requirements.

Young’s MSC Fish pie mix is particularly versatile and can be used to make pasta bakes and Mexican tacos.

Artis has included lots of new and fun tableware for presenting seafood dishes in its 2017 catalogue.

In addition to quirky lobster pincers and forks and a vintage-style oyster plate (list price £13.04), there are mussel casserole dishes (in three sizes from £6.09); five different sizes of round and oblong stainless steel wire baskets(from £8.20); a ceramic frying pan with wire basket (£7.83); a glass seafood bubble that can hold ice in its base (£5.19) and Vertigo, which is ideal for a deconstructed prawn cocktail (complete set £10.60, but components available individually). Lock Eat canning, preserving and serving jars (various sizes from £4.03) makes a perfect presentation for fish terrines.

Artis’ marketing manager Gill Head, says: “There’s everything you could possibly need - for sushi, fish and chips, moules, oysters and even caviar”.

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