trevally

I struck out early Sunday morning for Avondale market and did my usual rounds, filling a backpack with coriander, cabbage and aubergines. I dropped in at the cheerful bread guy, and had the mandatory sunday breakfast on skewers at the Oriental street food bus. I came prepared with a list of possible fish and some corresponding ingredients to find with each option. There were several relatively clear-eyed looking trevally on offer so I picked out the largest one then struck back out into the market to find some lemons and green chillies.

Tandooried hake had caught my eye in a 1987 paperback edition of Rick Stein’s English Fish Cookery. Tandooried! …And hake! Hake is one of those familiar sounding but utterly mysterious fish I know nothing about. As I described in the previous post, hake is on a back-burner for now, but I had seen trevally suggested as a stand-in. Trevally are a schooling fish who feed on krill and plankton and seem to show up in the same area as snapper around the North island, and similarly can be caught with rod and reel from the rocks.

So I’m arriving home with this fish and contemplating how the recipe calls for steaks. Very specifically the steaks must be cut from the central section of the fish. *shrug*. At least one of the steaks will be right …right? I watched a couple of how-to-gut-a-fish videos and set to it. After much swearing and brown muck smeared everywhere I got the job done. An important and obvious-in-retrospect take away is that if you are going to be cutting the head off anyway, you don’t need to worry about all the guts and stuff that’s attached to its throat.

steaks


I’ve never stopped to think about whether some fish are better suited to steaks or fillets. I noticed how its almond shaped torso tapered off sharply toward the tail. At this stage I also glanced at the fish poster and noticed the trevally is of a representative cartoon fishey sort of shape, while the Hake is long and cigar shaped. You would clearly be able to get several similar sized steaks from the latter.

poster


I had read about the bloodline down the side of the fish that is generally cut out of fillets, and it appears fillets is how trevally usually come, so along with two steaks I cut two comically miniscule fillets. I then threw together the marinade ingredients without really thinking about how they would look together, and was super impressed with how tasty the simple combination of mint, lemon juice, coriander, turmeric, paprika, pepper, green chilli and yoghurt was. The whole lot went into a bag in the fridge for 4 hours, providing a good opportunity to tidy up and have a breather.

ingreds

marinade1


I cooked the steaks over a hot grill and they were great. It was a bit finnecky getting around the bones but the flavour was good and I suspect the marinade shored up the slightly fishy taste. I reckon I’ll come back to this recipe, but next time with the whole fish or just fillets.

cooked

hake

 

hake

When I had just started with this fish project I described it in an email to my Granny who lives in England. She replied and wondered “why some fish are found all over the world and others seem to stick to one place? For instance, do you have turbot, halibut, hake etc in the Pacific or are they Atlantic fish?”. This and many other questions about fish are still a mystery to me and usually the answer is not particularly clear cut.

So, we do have hake, but your hake and ours are both one of a dozen or more geographically distinct subspecies of the Merlucciidae fish family. They live mostly in deep water and eat whatever is down there, sometimes rising to the surface at night. Hake seems to be less popular or well known in New Zealand. I suspect if I had a friend reel off 10 commercial fish species hake wouldn’t appear, however it does seem to be available, and it is on the fish poster. It is described as a tasty white fish, which handles a range of seasoning and smoking.

I spent a good couple of hours going around in circles trying to figure out whether New Zealand’s hake is a good choice environmentally. Forest & Bird rate it poorly due to seals, sea lions and birds being caught as a by-catch, and Greenpeace rate it poorly as well. The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), who are an international non-profit originally set up in a partnership between WWF and Unilever have certified the South Western Pacific hake fishery as healthy for the next 5 years, and this is the certification a lot of commercial fishery operations go by.

If you’ve got lots of time on your hands you could read this article from Greenpeace poking holes in MSC’s approach, or this 2011 Guardian article on the poor credibility of MSC’s findings, or this 2014 response from MSC to Greenpeace. I guess overall it is good that there is a robust discussion going on at some level.

Hake’s Atlantic counterpart seems to have a more optimistic outlook in European publications. Thats a good thing because according to Wikipedia the Spaniards are mad for it and eat 6 kilos per capita annually. Anyway somewhere I read that trevally would be a good stand-in for hake, and happened upon some at the market so I’m going to leave all this up in the air and move on to the next fish…