This delicate flat fish is smaller than, and inferior to, turbot. Sold whole or filleted. Bake, grill, fry or poach. Season: June to February.
A flat fish that is smaller than plaice and has small, rough scales. Sold whole or filleted. Grill, fry or bake. Season: September to May.
A European flat fish of the same family as brill and plaice. The light brown upper side has orange-red spots and the underside should be creamy white. Season: March to November.
This is the largest flat fish and it is sold in steaks or fillets. Chicken halibut is smaller, as is Greenland or mock halibut.The latter has dark skin on both sides unlike true halibut which has a creamy white underside. Greenland halibut is inferior and less expensive than true halibut. Season: June to March.
A well-flavoured European flat fish with a good texture. Lemon sole is not a true sole and should not be confused with Dover sole, the only true sole, which is of higher quality. Season: May to March.
This fish comes from the same family as brill and turbot. Megrim has a good flavour and texture. Quality-wise, compare this fish with plaice or lemon sole rather than sole. Season: May to February.
Grey-brown with orange spots on the upper side and creamy-white on the underside. Sold whole or as fillets. Grill, poach, bake or fry. Season: May to February.
This flat, ray-shaped fish is a member of the shark family, Skate is never cooked freshly caught, it is kept for a day before the wings are skinned and sold for cooking. The wings have a distinct smell which is ‘fresh’ and mild when they are ready for eating. Braise, poach, grill or fry. Season: May to February.
Sole or Dover Sole
The tough dark skin on the top of sole is always removed, usually by the fishmonger who strips it off the whole fish. The white underskin may be left on or it can be removed. The flesh is finely textured and delicate in flavour, making this the most superior of the flat fish. Sold whole or in fillets. Poach, bake, grill or fry. Season: May to February.
A large flat fish with raised nobbly growths on its back and a creamy white underside. The white, firm flesh has an excellent flavour. Sold whole, as steaks or fillets. A special, turbot-shaped fish kettle is available for poaching whole fish. Poach, bake, grill or fry. Season: April to February.
Witch (Torbay Sole)
Similar to lemon sole, but slightly smaller. Season: May to February.
A round silvery fish with greyish-blue back and light underside. The firm white flesh has a delicate flavour. Scrape off scales and cook whole or in fillets. Bake, poach or grill. Season: August to March.
There are many types of sea bream. Red bream has a red or red-tinged back and a black spot on the side behind the head. Black bream is a better-quality fish than red bream; it has a dark grey back and pale gold stripe or stripes along the side.
Bake, grill or fry. Seasons: red bream – June to February; black bream – July to December.
Large fish with an elongated body which may weigh up to 36 kg/80 lb. It has a brown back with yellow and brown spots, small soft grey scales and a white underside. The firm white flesh separates into large flakes. Sold whole, in fillets, steaks or cutlets. Suitable for all cooking methods. Season: June to February.
This fish has near-black skin and pinkish-grey flesh which whitens when cooked. Coley has a strong flavour, larger flakes and coarser texture than cod, and is generally considered to be inferior. Bake, fry or grill; useful for fish cakes and pies or spiced dishes. Season: August to February.
The most common sea eel, this fish has pale grey to jet-black skin. The white flesh is tough and is best cooked by stewing or braising, usually with flavoursome ingredients and seasonings. Sold in steaks or larger pieces for baking. Season: March to October.
There are many varieties of grey mullet, some of which swim up river estuaries. The flesh is firm and white. Bake, poach or grill. Season: September to February.
A grey-skinned fish of the cod family. A dark line runs along both flanks and there is a dark smudge behind the gills. The firm white flesh breaks into flakes that are finer than those in cod. Sold whole or as steaks and fillets. Poach, bake, grill or fry. Season: May to February.
A round, long and slender fish with scaly silver-grey skin and tender, white flesh. Cuts from the tail end tend to be slightly bony but the main part of the fish has few bones other than the backbone. Sold whole, as fillets, steaks and cutlets. Bake, poach, fry or grill. Season: June to March.
Unrelated to, and smaller than, grey mullet, red mullet has firm white flesh with a good, though delicate flavour. Bake, grill or fry. Season: May to November.
A member of the cod family, whiting is a small fish compared to cod and hake. When fresh, the soft flesh is flaky, but it deteriorates rapidly. Whiting has a very delicate flavour and is considered to be rather bland. Poach, bake or fry. Season: June to February.
Whilst common around the British Isles, historically pollock was seldom used by chefs. Now seen as an excellent alternative to cod and haddock due to its good sustainability record.
This deep water fish, found all around the British Isles, was historically thrown overboard with other by-catch, but it has become a popular fish in the UK over recent years. The large, wide head accounts for approximately 60% of the fish’s weight and it’s the tail, skinned, trimmed and with the membrane removed, that yields the firm, meaty flesh. Between December and January prices can rise considerably as demand outstrips supply.
A small bony fish with a good flavour. Sold whole or ask the fishmonger to fillet the fish, then remove any stray fine bones before cooking. Bake, fry or grill. Season: May to December.
Mackerel must be used on the day of purchase. Sold whole. Grill, fry, bake or souse. Season: throughout the year.
This is a small, immature pilchard. Fresh sardines are available throughout the year, but the local catch is spasmodic, and depends on weather conditions and shoal activity. Frozen sardines are of excellent quality. Bake, grill or fry sardines. Season: throughout the year.
Small, silvery-skinned fish of the herring family. Prepare and cook sprats in the same way as smelts. Young sprats are often sold as whitebait. The young fish are also known as brislings, and are often sold canned in oil or a sauce, sometimes after being lightly smoked. Whole smoked sprats are also available in late autumn and winter. Season: October to March.
The ‘fry’ or young of the herring or sprat. About 3.5 cm/1½ in long, and silvery in colour. Whitebait are cooked and eaten whole. They are coated in seasoned flour and then deep fried until crisp. Season: throughout the year.
This is the most common form of smoked herring. It is split and salted before being smoked. Some kippers look dark because artificial colouring is added. These should be eaten as soon as possible after buying. Some kippers are not dyed at all and will keep well. All kippers should have a sheen to them and the flesh should be soft to the touch. Kippers are sold whole, traditionally in pairs, or as fillets which are also available vacuum-packed and frozen.
The common crab or brown crab is grey-brown when alive, brownish-red when cooked. It is usually sold cooked or dressed, that is prepared ready for eating. The weight of a crab varies from 675 g/1½lb to 3.62 kg/8 lb. The claws provide white meat and the shell, brown meat. Male crabs (cocks) have larger claws, and the female crabs (hens) often contain edible roes or red coral. Crabs are best when medium-sized (1.4 kg/3 lb) and should have both claws attached. When buying crab, shake it lightly; it should feel heavy but with no sound of water inside. Season: April to December.
(spiny lobster or rock lobster) Similar to lobster, but heavier, weighing 2.27-2.72 kg/ 5-6 lb. It lacks the large claws, and all the meat is contained in the tail. The flesh is coarser in texture than lobster meat, but should be prepared in the same way. Sold live or cooked, but in scant supply, and most crawfish tails are sold frozen. Season: April to October.
Dublin Bay Prawns (Scampi, Norway Lobsters or Langoustines)
About 10 cm/4 in long, these look like miniature lobsters because of their long claws. They are pale pink when alive and pink when boiled. Dublin Bay prawns are sold mainly shelled, as scampi tails, and generally breaded, frozen and are available all year round. Season: April to November.
Sold live or cooked. This shellfish is dark blue when alive and scarlet when boiled. The male lobster is brighter in colour and smaller than the female, but with larger claws. The female has a broader tail and more tender flesh. The female also contains the red coral, spawn or eggs, used for lobster butter. Buy a medium-sized one which feels heavy for its size. Best at an average weight of 450-900 g/1-2 lb. The tail should spring back when it is straightened out. Avoid lobsters with white shells on their backs as this is a sign of old age. Season: April to November.
Popular, comparatively inexpensive and available in many forms. Uncooked prawns are a grey-beige colour, they turn pink when they are cooked. It is easiest to group the types of prawns into cold water and warm water varieties. The cold water prawns include peeled cooked prawns and the cooked unpeeled prawns of average size. There are different qualities of peeled cooked prawns, from small and poorly shelled examples to medium-sized prawns which should be used for the majority of dishes.
Prawns that live in warm waters are usually larger than cold water types. They come from many countries and include the medium-sized cooked prawns in their shells, which are sometimes called Mediterranean prawns. Large Tiger prawns are so named because of their striped markings. These vary slightly in size: they are larger than the average prawn but they are usually smaller than the large Mediterranean prawns. Tiger prawns are available cooked with or without their shells and raw in the shell, with or without their heads. Available all year.
Brown shrimps are small crustaceans with almost translucent shells which turn brown when they are boiled. These shellfish are not readily available from fishmongers countrywide, but they are sold by better outlets and in areas where they are landed. Brown shrimps are difficult to peel, but they do have an excellent flavour. Season: February to October.
Pink shrimps have grey shells and turn rosy-pink when boiled. They are not as tasty as brown shrimps and are usually sold cooked but unpeeled. Shrimps are less widely available than prawns.
These are sold live or cooked. Cooked mussels are also sold frozen on the half shell. Since mussels rapidly deteriorate once they are killed, they must be alive when cooked: discard any with broken shells and any which do not close when tapped. Mussels are traditionally sold by the pint (allow 900 ml/1½ pt per person), but are now more commonly available by weight and 450 g/1 lb will serve two as a starter or one as a main course. Large New Zealand green-shelled mussels are sold cooked on the half shell. They may be stuffed or topped with a savoury butter and then grilled or baked in the oven. Season: September to March.
Native molluscs with white flesh and orange roe. The smaller round nuggets of white meat without the roes are known as queen scallops or queens. They are enclosed in pinkish-brown shells, but are usually sold opened. Look for firm white flesh and bright orange roe. Suitable for poaching, baking and grilling. Season: September to March.
These molluscs are nearly always sold cooked and shelled. They are eaten with vinegar and brown bread. Season: February to August.
Similar to whelks, but smaller. They are sold cooked and shelled. A large pin is needed to remove the cap or scale at the top of the shell and to unwind the winkle inside. Season: September to April.