'Everything that has fins and scales in the waters, in the seas and the torrents, those you may eat." Leviticus 11:10
Since the time of the Bible, we Jews have followed these laws. Our traditional recipes have evolved from a glorious diversity of fish. We tuck into golden battered cod with chips, the perfect grilled Dover-sole, a moist cutlet of hake. Past generations adored eating their plaice cut across the bone, the perfect gefilte combination of bream, haddock and cod, and finally, the old favourite, halibut gently poached and served with egg and lemon sauce.
But while the much trumpeted health benefits of fish have made it more popular than ever, over-fishing has brought us to the verge of ecological disaster. Groups like the Marine Conservation Society warn us that "our seas are under immense pressure; too many fish are being taken out… and too little is being done to protect our precious marine wildlife and vital fish-stocks". For a comprehensive list of the fish we should and should not eat, go to www.mcsuk.org. Sadly many of our old favourites are now endangered.
Look at tuna. According to Greenpeace, which is campaigning to obliterate the practice of purse seining (the use of a purse-type net which indiscriminately grabs all sea life, including turtles and sharks), the majority of tins sold in this country are partly made up of endangered species such as big eye and those described as "vulnerable" such as yellowfin. Both Princes, responsible for a third of the UK market, and John West – which uses purse seining and continues to sell yellowfin - have been urged to change their policies. Asda says it is "committed to bringing in a pole and line range in 2011" but adds that this will only comprise 12 per cent of its tinned tuna. Tesco claims to be dolphin friendly but buys from companies which appeared to be shown on the recent Channel 4 Hugh's Fish Fight series to be using purse-type nets.
There are certainly sustainable subsitutes for our favourites, for example pollock for cod and whiting and coley for gefilte fish. Yet after speaking with fishmongers who supply Jewish comunities I have been told that these fish are seen by customers as "cat food".
A healthy supply of herring and mackerel exist plus responsibly farmed salmon. Pacific and Icelandic cod can still be used and line- caught sea-bass makes an elegant meal.
Below is a traditional recipe brought up to date. When I cooked and tested it I was instantly transported back to my childhood by the delicious egg and lemon sauce - perfect with a piece of fresh challah.
salmon in egg and lemon sauce
● 1 ½ kg responsibly sourced salmon
● 1 large onion peeled and sliced
● 240g, carrots peeled and chopped
● 3 celery sticks, cleaned and finely chopped
● 1 vegetable stock cube
● few sprigs fresh thyme
● 1 bay leaf
● 2 teasp salt
● 20 grinds black pepper
● rind of 1 lemon
● 875 ml water
● Sauce mix
● 4 medium egg yolks
● 3-4 tbsp lemon-juice
● 3-4 teasp sugar
● 3 tbsp corn-flour
● 25g finely chopped parsley
● Place vegetables, stock and herbs in water and simmer for 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Place salmon in the hot liquid and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Switch off heat.
● Leave to cool, if possible in the liquor. Save the liquor. Place fish on a serving dish.
● Pour liquor into a saucepan. Place egg yolks in a glass bowl sitting above a saucepan of boiling water. Whisk with the sugar and a pinch or two of salt.
● Mix cornflour with lemon juice and whisk into the egg mixture. Add some of the poaching liquor. Keep whisking as mixture thickens. Add more liquor if necessary.
● Add chopped parsley. Serve alongside poached fish.