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Product of the week: skrei cod

Categories: Product of the week

A high quality and highly seasonal Nordic fish

Our awareness of seasonality is, slowly but surely, getting back to where it should be: citrus couldn’t be more strongly associated with winter; the arrival of the Jersey royal is a sure signal of spring. But with fish, you’d be forgiven for feeling slightly in the dark still, given the seemingly constant supply—a product of the vast swathes of ocean from which the seafood we eat can be drawn. Some fish, though, are extremely seasonal—and with skrei cod, this seasonality is very strictly enforced.

This is a migratory fish, its name derived from the old Norse word for ‘wanderer’. It spends most of its life in the deep, cold waters of the Barents Sea, travelling to the Norwegian coast to spawn—where they’re caught with rod and line between January and April. “All skrei cod is from Norway and they are strict on the season to protect their stocks. It gives the fish time to breed,” says Darren of Shellseekers Fish and Game. “They’re very passionate about their product: they don’t allow over-fishing, they control it heavily. There’s more traceability, seasonality, and the quality is right up there. And Borough Market is about quality.”

All skrei cod is certified, as a seal of both its sustainability and its excellence. “It’s revered,” says regular demo chef Hayden Groves. “It’s a bigger fish then regular cod, torpedo-shaped. And because it does a lot of swimming, the flesh is more muscular.” While still reasonably mild in flavour, it’s somehow purer. “It’s coddier, if you know what I mean,” laughs Hayden.

Superlative quality, short season
“Its firm texture also means it has very large, firm flakes when cooked appropriately,” he continues. “I like to use some coarse sea salt, season it heavily, rest it for 20 minutes then gently brush that salt off before cooking. It just tightens the flesh up even more, so that when you cook it, it doesn’t fall apart. Poach it very gently in a fish stock, white wine or even milk. It’s already been seasoned, so don’t add any more salt afterwards.”

Much like anything of superlative quality and short in season, it’s a fish to be savoured. Make the most of its clean and delicate taste by pairing with ingredients that allow it to sing. “If you walk around the Market, you’ll see the very early signs of spring,” Hayden continues. “Young, small Jersey royals—the ones we call ‘pearls’—and the first of the English asparagus will be coming through. Wild garlic is abundant. You can have a delicious meal out of four ingredients. What could be better?”