Sunday, 1 April 2018

April 2018: fish forever?


We’re supposed to eat fish twice a week, for our much needed omega 3. Mind you, to a lesser extent this can also be found in full-fat milk, but only when it comes from cows fed on grass. Because in cows fed the modern way – on chemically-grown cereals, maize and soya meal - the milk contains far less of this, and other useful nutrients. The same holds for meat. If it’s grass-fed it has omega 3, so lambs and sheep are ok; cattle don't have quite so much [1]. 
Flax seeds and walnuts also contain it, and so do cos lettuce, spinach, kale, turnip greens, squash, sprouts and french beans, though far less of it. See [2].
But here we’re talking about fish.

Do you buy yours in a fish shop or a supermarket? For atmosphere and helpful information, nothing can beat a good local fish shop, but most of us go to the supermarket. 
It is said that ’fresh’ fish in supermarkets is often nothing like it [3]. Frozen is another matter. If frozen on the ship within hours of being caught, apparently fish looses none of its nutrients.
And then there are the tins. Nothing beats having a store of tins in your cupboard: sardines are my favourite. Recently, Fish4Ever was named the most ethical tinned fish provider in the UK. It has been awarded top score for sustainable sourcing by Greenpeace. What’s more, every Fish4Ever tin tells you where the fish was caught, and their website lets you trace it from your plate back to the sea: it explains conservation issues, fishing methods and processing [4].

Greenpeace believes we should eat less fish altogether. For fish are supplied in a fundamentally different way to other animal foods. Meat and dairy products are farmed. As we consume them, more animals are reared to ensure continued supply. In stark contrast, the vast majority of fish we eat are not farmed but mined – taken from the ocean without consideration for maintaining the source.
And when they do farm fish, it’s even worse. Apart from widespread pollution caused by chemicals, antibiotics and vaccines, wild-caught fish are used to feed the stock. One of the worst is farmed salmon: it takes more than five kilograms, and up to a hundred!! - of feed fish to produce one kilogram of farmed salmon ….. [5].

So if you want to buy sustainably, which fish do you choose? There is plenty of information out there. It’s always a good idea to buy bycatch: those fish which are caught accidentally while trying for the valuable ones. You can tell which is bycatch because it’s usually cheaper than the others. 
Or ask in the shop. Why not try dab instead of plaice or sole? Or pollack/coley instead of cod or haddock? Whiting and grey gurnard are always good.
Avoid farmed fish, see above. Shellfish is an exception, because farming those actually improves the quality of the water, as the bivalves act as filters [6].
See [7].

There's a very quick guide which shows you which fish stocks are under pressure and which are ok to eat at
If you don’t live in Britain, see [8] for information about good fish guides. 
And if you are buying fresh, [9] shows you what’s in season.
For general info about fish, go to and
For an in-depth study about different types of omega 3 and the needs of veg(etari)ans especially, see [2].

veg: purple sprouting broccoli, chard, cabbage, leeks, spring onions, spinach, watercress, loose-leaved lettuce, radish, sorrel, spring greens.
meat: lamb, wood pigeon.
fish: cockles, crab, langoustine, lobster, prawns, salmon, shrimp, herring, mussels, British crayfish.

direct: lettuce, rocket, radish, beet, broad beans, calabrese, kohlrabi, parsnips, peas, spinach (beet), spring onions, chard, carrots.
Plant: summer cabbage, onion sets (early), potatoes, cabbage, leeks.
Sow to transplant: leeks, brussels, sprouting broccoli, autumn cauli, kale.
If you have a lawn mower which collects grass, you can throw it on the compost heap. You haven't got one? Then put them at the base of a hedge: in due time it will show its thanks. 


Fillet, rosemary, olive oil, sea salt, sliced lemon.
Preheat oven to 220°C. Slash skin side of the fish diagonally; put rosemary into the gaps. Rub the rest with olive oil and salt. Sear in a pan skin-side down, until the skin starts to crisp. Transfer to oven for 5 mins. Serve with lemon and olive oil.

2 slices firm bread, 225g crabmeat, 1.5 tblsp oil, 1 tsp lemon juice plus wedges, 1/2 tsp Worcestershire or soy sauce, 1 large egg, beaten, 2 tblsp butter.
Tear the bread into small pieces, mix with crab. Add oil, Worcestershire/soy, egg, salt. Mix gently but thoroughly,  form into patties. Heat butter until foam subsides: cook crab cakes, turning once, until golden.

FISH STEW, serves 2
1 tin mackerel in olive oil, 1 tbsp oil from the tin, 1 onion (chopped), 750ml chopped celery or Florence fennel, 1/2 tin tomatoes, lemon juice, parsley, cayenne/red pepper, salt/pepper (olives).
Drain mackerel but keep the oil, break apart. Sauté the onions and celery/fennel in this oil for 2-3 mins. Add the tomatoes. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 mins, stir as needed. Add fish and return to boil, simmer for 10 mins. Add a bit of lemon juice, olives and seasonings. Stir occasionally and add water if needed. Serve over potatoes, rice or other grain, with crackers or with bread.

This can be served with or without buttered granary bread. Serves 2. 
A 120g tin sardines, some of the oil for frying, a 400g tin cannellini beans, 1 diced onion, 1 finely chopped garlic clove, 2-3 chopped tomatoes, 1 finely chopped red chilli, a roughly chopped bunch of parsley, 1 tbsp capers, lemon juice, salt, black pepper, and extra virgin olive oil to serve.
Sauté the onion for a few minutes till nearly soft, then add the garlic. Cook for a minute. Add the tomato; continue to cook until soft and beginning to break down. Add the sardines: break these down with a wooden spoon as they heat up, and then add the beans. Season. Once all is heated through, stir in chilli, parsley and capers and some lemon juice. Loosen a little with some extra virgin olive oil. Personally I like to add potatoes as well: in that case I only use half the beans. I do love potatoes - but then ours are very local!

ANCHOVY ideas:
Put an anchovy on top of a soft-boiled egg.
Make pasta with onions and anchovies 
Mix 10 finely chopped anchovies with 100g unsalted butter at room temperature and chives or other fresh herbs: serve with bread. 

For more April recipes, see other years (click on 2018 and then on April, on the right hand side). Or go to, which still has eight recipes for this year. 

Next month: our precious eyesightTo see this now, go to and scroll down.

alphabetical index of subjects

alcohol                       Dec 14:
antibiotics                  Sep 15:
                                  Apr 17:
arthritis                      Apr 14:
brain food                  May 13:                           
bread                         May 10:
                                  Oct 16:
breakfast                   Jul 10:
                                  Aug 12:
butter                         Feb 12:
                            Apr 10:
calories                      Jan 12:
chocolate                  Jun 13:
cholesterol                Nov 13:
                                 Apr 11:                         
                                 Mar 10:                                       
coughs                     Nov 14:
cravings                   Jun 12:
dairy                         Oct 17:
death                        Feb 17:
diarrhoea                 Aug 15:
diet                         Jan 15:
                               Jul 11:
                                Jan 15:
drink                        Dec 17:
                                Dec 14: 
eggs                        Jan 17:
eyesight                   May 18:
fat                            Nov 13:
                                Jun 10: 
faeces                     Sep 17:
fever                        Dec 15:
fish                          April 18:
                               Jul 12:
insomnia                  Apr 15:  
milk                          Oct 17:
                                Sep 11:
salt                         Oct 15:
                               Oct 11:
soy                         Aug 13:
stress                     Jul 14:
sugar                     May 17:                        
                              Jun 15:
                              Jul 13:
throat                      Nov 14:
vitamins                  Mar 13: 

April 2017: biotics: pro or anti, pre or syn?


Pro, pre, antibiotics, even synbiotics: you feel tired even before you start to read. So I’ll keep it simple.

Biotic means: to do with life.
Antibiotics kill or slow down the growth of bacteria. 
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for us, especially for our digestive system. 
We usually think of bacteria as something that causes diseases. However, our body is full of bacteria, both good and bad. (So what did the antibiotics, mentioned above, do? Correct, they killed them, both the good and the bad. Pity.)
Prebiotics are themselves indigestible, but they stimulate the activity of micro-organisms which are good for us: they are food for the probiotics. Probiotics introduce the good bacteria; prebiotics act as a fertilizer for those good bacteria that are already there [1].
Synbiotics contain both pro- and prebiotics.

Antibiotics kill, and this is the defining word. They fight infections caused by bacteria, but they kill indiscriminately. They are not effective against viral infections like colds, most sore throats, and flu. Not only are they not effective: they kill the good guys, the ones who’d HELP us fight them. 
And almost all important bacterial infections are becoming resistant to antibiotics.
The misuse of antibiotics has contributed to one of the world’s most pressing public health problems today [2]. See also the article in the New Scientist, on the right hand side. 
However, there are alternative ways to fight infections, ways which will not damage all of us in the process. Garlic, onions, quality honey and ferments, cider vinegar, cabbage, fruit and veg in general, achieve the same results without doing any damage - on the contrary [3]. 
If there really is no other way, here is a list with the best foods to have after taking antibiotics: [3a].

Probiotic supplements are fashionable and easy to get. They have shown benefits in treating IBS, constipation, diarrhea, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and many other digestive issues. Probiotic foods however, offer a much wider variety of beneficial bacteria. Ferments like live culture yoghurt, sauerkraut, sourdough bread, kefir, pickles and unpasteurized cheeses are, in the long run, far better for us than the pills [4].

Prebiotics: natural prebiotics are in: whole grains, garlic, onions and leeks, peas, beans, leafy greens and asparagus, bananas, berries and quality honey [5].

Synbiotics: when probiotics and prebiotics are combined, they form a synbiotic. To get your synbiotics the natural way, you could have yoghurt with honey or fruit, beans with pickles, or greens sautéed with garlic and sour cream [6]. Kefir has them both on its own.


I know I'm always on about FAT - trying to rid it of its bad name. Look at this webpage, where you should find a BBC podcast which explains how the latest research has overturned all the 'expert' advice we have been fed for decades:


purple sprouting broccoli, chard, cabbage, leeks, spring onions, spinach, watercress, loose-leaved lettuce, radish, sorrel, spring greens.

direct: lettuce, rocket, radish, beet, broad beans, calabrese, kohlrabi, parsnips, peas, spinach (beet), spring onions, chard, radish, salsify/scorzonera, parsnips, carrots. Plant: lettuce, autumn cauli, summer cabbage, onion sets (early), potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes, leeks. In warmer areas
sweet corn, pumpkins, courgettes. Sow to transplant: leeks, brussels, sprouting broccoli, autumn cauli, kale.



60g fresh young nettle tops (4 big handfuls), 400g cooked white beans, 2 tbsp olive oil, 2-3 cloves chopped garlic, 750ml water, salt, pepper, extra-virgin olive oil. 
Wash nettle tops, put into a pan along with the water that is clinging to them, and cook slowly until wilted (5 mins). Drain, (keep drained juice and add to soup), chop. Heat oil, add garlic and cook very gently for 1-2 mins, taking care that it doesn't colour. Add beans and water, simmer for 5 mins. Mash with potato masher, stir in nettles. Taste, season generously, simmer. This is meant to be a thick, coarse soup. Spoon into bowls, swirl oil over the top. Serve with nice bread.
450g white cabbage, 1 onion, 2 tblsp olive oil, 2 tsp garam masala or curry powder, 25g sunflower seeds, salt. 
Shred cabbage and onion finely. Heat oil, add both, mix. Add masala, turn down the heat. Cover and leave to cook for 10 mins, stirring occasionally: you may need to add a tiny bit of water so it doesn't burn. Season with salt, sprinkle with seeds, serve.

Mix well-cooked broccoli or other greens with minced garlic and olive oil while still warm. Spread toast with (peanut)butter and put the veg on top. Add lots of chillipowder. 
You can replace the peanut butter with cheese if you like. 

4 medium potatoes, 4 tblsp flour, mixed herbs, 4 tblsp dripping, pepper, salt.
Grate the potatoes, add flour, herbs and plenty of seasoning. Heat the fat, drop in heaped tablespoons of the mix. Fry 4 minutes on each side. With chutney for instance. 

For more recipes, see April former years (right hand side, click on 2017 and then on April).

Next month: how to get out of the SUGAR habit. If you want to have a look at this now, go to

See also the September 2015 issue about antibiotics, and its attendant article ‘Microbe City’ (
In the case of garlic, the best way to use this is leave it for 5 minutes after chopping, before you heat it up. And don’t cook for longer than 15-30 minutes (
[4] Wholefood shops are the best places to find proper pickles. Seek out varieties that are brined in water and sea salt instead of vinegar. Vinegar brine won’t allow the beneficial bacteria to grow.