I’ve never heard of a sow fish and it doesn’t feature on the fish poster I’m most familiar with. This plays well with the notion of the fish poster as an abstract idea, rather than this or that poster we’ve seen at our local fish ’n’ chips shop. I picked up some sow fish heads and bones as they were the only non-oily white fish available that day for stock making.
The sow fish, also known as the giant boarfish or common boarfish (according to Wikipedia) is found in the eastern Indian Ocean, around southern Australia, and New Zealand. Clearly I am going to need a field guide to fishes and may need to come back to the humble sow fish to do it justice. I found the following article interesting – prepared by the fish section staff of the Museum of New Zealand:
“divers have witnessed giant boarfish rooting in the sand with their long snouts like a pig, hunting for their preferred food of crabs, worms, brittle starfish and sea cucumbers. Curiously, giant boarfish are one of the few fish species in our waters that are known to actively prey on sea cucumbers.”
I reckon any food blog worth it’s salt starts with a stock recipe.. I followed one from April Bloomfield’s ‘A Girl And Her Pig’. The cookbook is full of great recipes, interspersed with autobiographical snippets, anecdotes and tips. It is very well written and I should point out that I have paraphrased and added commentary into the following recipe:
2.3 kg fish bones and heads
½ a small spanish onion [what I call a ‘normal’ brown onion] – quartered
5 skin-on garlic cloves
1 small celery stalk – chopped in thirds
a small handful of fennel fronds
a small handful of flat-leaf parsley stems
Discard the eyes and use scissors to remove the gills. This is much more fiddly and awkward done than said.
Rinse under water and wipe away any remaining blood as this can cause bitterness. Combine the bones and remaining ingredients in a large pot and almost cover in water. Bring the water to a simmer over high heat then immediately lower the heat and cook at a gentle simmer for around 30 minutes, before passing the stock through a fine mesh sieve (and picking away at all the delicious leftover fish bits).
Boiling should be avoided as it causes cloudiness. This requires some close attention – particularly when cooking on an old electric stove – and I’m a little hazy on the difference between simmering over high heat and boiling, but I was pleased with the clarity and colour of the stock. It will keep in the fridge for 3 days or a month in the freezer.