Sustainable fish recipes for World Oceans Day

Have you watched Seaspiracy on Netflix? I watched it recently and am still shocked by it. I reckon I knew a little about the crisis in the world’s oceans but I had no idea just how shockingly serious the picture is nor did I fully realise that the future of mankind depends even more on the state of the seas and fish stocks than on what happens on land.

I now understand that the ocean absorbs more than 90% of the heat that enters the atmosphere; it provides more than half of the oxygen we breathe; it supplies more than 3 billion people with 20% of their daily protein needs; it enables global trade and transport, and provides healthy food and a livelihood to millions, if not billions of people. Without the ocean, humans could not exist on Earth.

I’m trying to pick up courage to watch David Attenborough’s Blue Planet series and Seaspiracy again so I can try to glean some hope from the depressing facts. It’s difficult not to come to the conclusion that we should not be eating any fish or shellfish at all but life is rarely black and white — it’s a very challenging time for the fishing industry with Brexit, fish quotas and EU policies. Fishing is worth more than €1 billion to the Irish economy and employs 16,000.

Local communities around the world rely on fishing for their livelihoods — the skills have been handed down in many families through the generations. My preferred option is day boat fish but there are few enough day boats still fishing around our coasts for a variety of reasons.

The bigger boats can go further out and stay longer at sea. They target the fish shoals with sophisticated technology. The ‘unintended’ consequences often result in copious amounts of by-catch and decimation of the ocean floor and breeding grounds. Many species have been overfished almost to the point of extinction which impacts many other species and habitats in the complex web.

As consumers, we really want to source ‘sustainable’ fish. According to Ali Tabrizi in Seaspiracy, this area also appears to be problematic with many unanswered questions.

In 1987, the then Prime Minister of Norway, Harlem Brundtland defined sustainability as ‘Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ which could be parsed into ‘balancing the needs of today with the needs of tomorrow’. Marine ecologist and fisheries biologist, Bryce D Stewart, from the University of York, strongly disputed that sustainable fisheries don’t exist. He maintains that 65.8% of fish stocks are harvested sustainably and that 78.7% of all landings of marine fisheries come from biologically sustainable stocks. However, this doesn’t mean there are no problems; approximately 34% of fish stocks are now overfished and this proportion has increased from only 10% in 1990.

So, let’s do our best to seek out non-threatened species and strive to support our local fishing communities. Be prepared to pay more for day boat fish if you are fortunate enough to source it.

So what species are sustainable in Irish waters?

Look out for hake, rock salmon, sometimes called coley or saithe, and mackerel. There’s also lots of squid which can be either tossed in the pan for seconds or else cooked long and slowly to melting tenderness. Squid also makes delicious fish cakes. Prawn stocks are healthy in some areas as is monkfish but for more detail check out the Marine Institute website — it’s a very large file but scroll down to Table 3 on Page 19 for a summary: red, green or white indicates the MSY of the species (Max Sustainable Yield).

Meanwhile, here are some of my favourite fish recipes, eat them slowly and enjoy every morsel.

Hake or haddock with piperonata and buttered crumbs

Piperonata sounds very grand but it’s really just a pepper, tomato, onion and basil stew, gorgeous with fresh fish

Cooking Time

1 hours 30 mins

Total Time

1 hours 50 mins


  • 1.1kg hake, ling, haddock, grey sea mullet or pollock

  • salt and freshly ground pepper

  • 15g  butter 

  • For the piperonata:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil

  • 225g onion, sliced

  • a clove of garlic, crushed

  • 2 red peppers

  • 2 green peppers

  • 6 large tomatoes (dark red and very ripe) (use tinned if fresh are out of season)

  • salt, freshly-ground pepper and sugar

  • a few leaves of fresh basil

  • For the mornay sauce:

  • 600ml whole milk

  • a few slices of carrot and onion

  • 3 or 4 peppercorns

  • a sprig of thyme and parsley

  • 50g approx. roux (25g melted butter mixed with 25g flour)

  • 150-175g  grated Cheddar cheese or 75g grated Parmesan cheese

  • ¼ tsp mustard preferably Dijon mustard

  • salt and freshly ground pepper

  • For the buttered crumbs:

  • 25g butter

  • 50g soft, white breadcrumbs

  • 900g mashed potato (optional)


  1. First, make the piperonata. Heat the olive oil in a casserole, add the onion and garlic, toss in the oil and allow to soften over a gentle heat in a covered casserole while the peppers are being prepared. Halve the peppers, remove the seeds carefully, cut into quarters and then cut the pepper flesh into 2 – 2 ½cm squares. Add to the onion and toss in the oil; replace the lid and continue to cook.

  2. Meanwhile peel the tomatoes (scald in boiling water for 10 seconds, pour off the water and peel immediately). Slice the tomatoes and add to the casserole, season with salt, freshly ground pepper, sugar and a few leaves of fresh basil if available. Cook until the vegetables are just soft, 30 minutes or so. 

  3. While it’s cooking make the Mornay sauce. Put the cold milk into a saucepan with a few slices of carrot and onion, 3 or 4 peppercorns and a sprig of thyme and parsley. Bring to the boil, simmer for 4-5 minutes, remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes if you have enough time.

  4. Strain out the vegetables, bring the milk back to the boil and thicken with roux to a light coating consistency. Add the mustard and two-thirds of the grated cheese, keep the remainder of the cheese for sprinkling over the top. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, taste and correct the seasoning if necessary. Add the parsley if using.

  5. Next, make the buttered crumbs. Melt the butter in a pan and stir in the breadcrumbs. Remove from the heat immediately and allow to cool.

  6. Skin the fish and cut into portions: 175g for a main course, 75g  for a starter. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Lightly butter an ovenproof dish, coat with the Mornay sauce. Put a layer of Piperonata on the base of the dish. Lay the pieces of fish on top. Top with another layer of sauce. Mix the remaining grated cheese with the buttered crumbs and sprinkle over the top. Pipe a ruff of fluffy mashed potato around the edge if you want to have a whole meal in one dish.

  7. Cook in a moderate oven, 180°C/gas mark 4, for 25-30 minutes or until the fish is cooked through and the top is golden brown and crispy. If necessary flash under the grill for a minute or two before you serve, to brown the edges of the potato.

Hot-smoked mackerel tostadas with salsa and chipotle mayonaise

These tostadas are delicious, combining the smoky flavour of mackerel and chipotle, lightened with a vibrant, citrusy tomato salsa. I like Frank Hederman’s smoked mackerel available online

Hot-smoked mackerel tostadas with salsa and chipotle mayonaise


  • 8 corn tortillas

  • 300g hot-smoked mackerel fillet

  • For the tomato salsa:

  • 4 very ripe tomatoes, chopped

  • 1 tbsp red or white onion, chopped

  • 1 clove garlic, crushed

  • ½ -1 chilli, deseeded and finely chopped Jalapeno or Serrano

  • 1-2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

  • squeeze of fresh lime juice

  • salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

  • For the chipotle mayonnaise:

  • 225ml  mayonnaise

  • 1 ½ tbsp puréed chipotle chillies in adobo

  • juice of 1 lime

  • 1 tbsp chopped coriander

  • pinch of salt

  • To serve:

  • 1 cos lettuce, shredded

  • Deep-fried shallots

  • Avocado

  • Lime juice



  1. Make the salsa and mayonaise by mixing  the ingredients together well and seasoning. 

  2. Fry or bake the tortillas until crisp and golden.

  3. Flake the hot-smoked mackerel with a fork and mix into the fresh tomato salsa.

  4. Spread each tostada generously with chipotle mayonnaise and top with shredded lettuce. Spoon over the hot-smoked mackerel salsa and top with a slice of avocado. Squeeze over a little lime juice and if you like and sprinkle with deep-fried shallots.

Spicy haddock and squid cakes with Thai dipping sauce

These hot little nuggets of deliciousness will be a hit with any guests. Curry paste can vary in intensity, so be careful and add more or less as needed

Spicy haddock and squid cakes with Thai dipping sauce


  • 2cm (3/4 inch) cube fresh ginger, peeled and grated

  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly crushed

  • 1 large bunch of fresh coriander, roots attached, roughly chopped

  • 1-2 tbsp Thai green curry paste

  • 250g fresh haddock fillet, skin and bone free, cut in cubes

  • 250g  squid, cleaned and roughly chopped

  • freshly squeezed juice of a lime

  • 1 ½ – 2 tbsp fish sauce (Nam pla)

  • lime wedges to serve

  • sunflower oil for frying

  • For the dipping sauce:

  • 3 tbsp Nam pla, fish sauce

  • 3 tbsp freshly-squeezed lime or lemon juice

  • 3 tbsp warm water

  • 2 tbsp sugar or more to taste

  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed

  • 1 red or green chilli 

  • For the cucumber salad:

  • 2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced lengthways

  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and sliced into rings

  • 1 green chilli, deseeded and sliced into rings

  • 4 tbsp sugar

  • 6 tbsp water

  • 6 tbsp malt vinegar

  • ½ tsp salt

  • 1 cucumber, quartered lengthways and thinly sliced


  1. Make the dipping sauce. Put the fish sauce, freshly-squeezed lime or lemon juice, sugar and 3 tablespoons of warm water into a jar, add the crushed garlic. Mix well and pour into 4 individual bowls. Cut the chillies crossways into very thin rounds and divide them between the bowls

  2. Now make the cucumber salad. Put all the ingredients except the cucumber in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 3–5 minutes. Set aside to cool. Once cold, pour the marinade over the slices of cucumber and set aside to marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

  3. Put the ginger, garlic, coriander and curry paste into a food processor. Whizz until the mixture is very well processed. Stir and re-blend if necessary.

  4. Next add the fresh haddock, squid, lime and fish sauce. Pulse – the mixture should not be completely smooth.

  5. Heat oil in a deep fryer or about 5cm in a deep frying pan, cook a little piece to check the seasoning. Divide the mixture into patties roughly 4cm in diameter. The mixture will make 14-16.

  6. Deep fry the fish cakes in batches of about six for 3-4 minutes until golden. Drain well on kitchen paper and keep warm while you cook the rest.

  7. Serve with the dipping, a wedge of lime and the cucumber salad.


Pop-Up Pizzeria reopens at Ballymaloe Cookery School on Saturday, June 12

Take-out pizzas with seasonal toppings from the farm, gardens and local area fresh from the wood-burning oven from 12–4pm (Saturdays only) (021 4646785)

For more details check out ballymaloecookeryschool on Instagram.

McEntee’s Tea

I love a cup of tea — but I’m a loose tea fan, no tea bags for mI le. ove to see the infused tea leaves in the bottom of my cup so I can get my fortune read. We all know and love Barry’s Tea but look out for McEntee’s multi-award winning Tea from Tallanstown in Co. Louth.

New Seasons Home-grown Irish Potatoes

Maybe I’m biased but I really think that our new potatoes this year are better than ever. They are wonderfully dry — ‘balls of flour’. An organic variety called Colleen, just gorgeous slathered with Jersey butter and flaky Irish sea salt. Drop into the Farm Shop at Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry and pick up a bag before the last of the early crop has been harvested — maybe a week or 10 days — better still order ahead on (021) 4646 785

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