Go Fish: By Al Brown

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Al Brown - "Go Fish"In Go Fish celebrity chef Al Brown shares his twin passions for fishing and cooking. It's a book of recipes and stories from the New Zealand Coast.

A little wave of nostalgia swept over me as I read the first chapter about Al Brown's iconic kiwi childhood. His family holidays, like ours, were always spent at the beach. Al went fishing with his Dad in a dinghy. Mum supplied a thermos, a bottle of quench, cold mutton sandwiches and slices of ginger crunch in a cake tin. Those were the days when fish were plentiful – they would throw out their lines and never come home empty handed. Each evening, dinner was cooked on a barbecue made out of a cut-down 44-gallon drum.

The book covers the basics of how to prepare your catch and gives clear step-by-step instructions on how to shuck an oyster, deal to a fresh squid, and tunnel bone a fish. Al also shares many of his favourite fish and shellfish recipes. His main advice to cooks is:

Keep it Simple

Al Brown dislikes pretentious food. "Food doesn't need to be flash to be tasty," he says. "On the contrary, the simplest of combinations, flavours and cooking methods can offer up the greatest culinary experience"

He has tried his darndest to keep his recipes simple and has included some very easy recipes such as crayfish roll with highlander condensed milk mayonnaise, iceberg lettuce, and tomato. Others are more daunting, such as his chargrilled squid with white bean skordalia, chorizo and roasted red pepper capsicum vinaigrette, and his king salmon sashimi with pickled ginger, soy jelly, wakame and wasabi.

The recipes I like best are basics such as Al's mayonnaise and tartare sauce, his not too spicy harissa, and the salsa verde, which he often has on the table like a mustard, to add here and there. All of these would almost effortlessly transform a simply grilled or barbecued fish into something more special.

Aim for Variety

"Don't get stuck in the cycle of eating the same fish over and over again." he says. Eating a wider range of species will also take a little pressure off the more overfished popular varieties in a small but meaningful way.

To tempt us to be more adventurous there are recipes for a wide range of fish including well known varieties such as snapper, gurnard, and terakihi but also species I have never have tried before such as butterfish, trumpeter, conger eel and swordfish.

Be Creative

"Experiment a little and don't get too hung up on following the recipes exactly – use them as a guideline and add a few of your own twists and turns along the way." And if the fish used in a recipe is not available, substitute it with one that is.

Don't Overfish

To preserve our fishing grounds for future generations, keep only what you need and release the rest of your catch back into the sea. Make a plan beforehand of how much you need, and stick to it. If you're buying fish, make informed choices (the Forest and Bird "best fish guide", ranks fish from best to first choice)

"It's up to all of us to ensure that our kids and grandkids will be able to go out and catch a fish. We must be proactive and keep our oceans and sea environment front of mind. This is not just regarding the state of our fishery, but caring for our beaches, sand dunes, marine mammals and everything else that affects all aspects of our coastal environment."

I would really recommend Go Fish for anyone who loves fishing or cooking fish. It is not only an excellent practical resource, it's also a really good read.

Title: Go Fish
Author: Al Brown
Publisher: Random House
RRP: $49.99 (paperback)

Read more from Lyn at her FocussedOnFood blog.