Friday, October 24, 2008

A hearty dinner with fish and potato casserole and the sustainable seafood event

Eating fish in a sustainable way, without a bad conscience? Yes, it is possible. But, no, it isn't an easy task.
Not, once you know what is happening with the seas, how they are being overfished and what ways are being used to destroy the marine ecosystems. The news is everywhere, but somehow nobody seems to care. Atleast not the governments. It is all left to the individual to decide what they want to do.
I had been reading about fishes being overfished since many years now. But, since we weren't such big fish eaters, I didn't bother. And when we did buy, we bought these cultured trouts (German: Forelle) from the fish shop, baked them with some vegetables and wine in the oven and that's it. But, with time I learned that frozen fish is as good, still it was rare that we bought fish. And the couple of fish names I got to know through the newspapers, I started avoiding them. I rememeber some, like Atlantic cod (Kableau), or the halibuts (Heilbutt) and the hakes (Seehecht) and the European plaice (Scholle). And then I got a baby. And to put it simply, we started eating fish more often. We bought that which was offered in the cold shelves of supermarkets, usually Redfish (Rotbarsch) or Alaska pollock (Alaska-Seelachs) and also Zander (closely related to perch) and salmons sometimes.
So, if you are well informed about the state of the oceans and their (over-)fishing, then there is nothing so great about it. But, then you assume that the governments must be taking required steps and doing controls etc. What a fool I was. My sister in law expressed her concerns about it once when we had gone out for dinner. That was about a couple of years back. So, I checked the greenpeace website, as she also said to have this information from them. And I actually found a list of fishes to avoid. But, then the whole thing started for me, where I got to know more and more about these reports and I saw and read more and more and went into more details adn the more i read the more horrified I was. In a way, I shouldn't have been surprised. What else does one expect, fish eating has almost become like a trend. Being more healthy and the exquisiteness associated with them and now we can all afford everything, we don't need to be rich to eat fish or meat every day if we want. But, when you look deeper into the matter - you don't have to look so deep, though- the moment you get to know of the methods of fishing being used, you don't have to think long to realise the the huge impact of these on the oceans and the ecosystems in them. Wonder what is left of that now, after we have been ruthlessly, and I really mean it - ruthlessly, overfishing the oceans. So, I'm not surprised that my SIL has stopped eating fish.
I haven't stopped it. I am still in a phase where I am trying to figure out a way to combine both: of taking up my responsibility and not waiting for the others to do it, and at the same time being able to do something as simple as eating fish now ans then.
Since I have got to know of this and realised it, we have reduce eating fish a lot. Also, because Rishab gets his "healthy" portion in the kindergarten (Now, don't ask me what fish they eat there, I don't know and I am not in a postion yet to question them, not yet atleast). But, still the urge to eat it is there and I do want to know what and how I can do it to be able to eat fish without a bad conscinece. Initially I thought it is going to be simple, just leave out the ones you want, but then the more I looked the more difficult it became. We love shrimps or prawns and I still have to figure out which one are Ok, if there are any. As for warm water prawns , they are not Ok. And I was happy to know that the cold water shrimps (Pandalus borealis) I can buy here are a good choice, but I'm not so sure any more. It is not so easy to get the right information ans noby seems to care. All the restaurents, the canteens and the whole market. All the endangered stocks of fishes are being exploited and nobody seems to care. I would love to get hold of a good German source about it.
I think I have written enough. This post was my vent to my thoughts. But, before I end this I also want to give you the information i have been able to collect here at my blog. This post was meant to be shorter and now I would finally write about the recipe I want to post here.
I had initially planned to make something else and I ended up making this, something totally different, another one of my experimenst which worked out!
I wanted to make "Rotkohl" with this not-so-red pointed cabbage. It is a variety which looks like cross between red cabbage and a pointed (green) cabbage. I'm not sure of "pointed cabbage" is the correct name, this is how we call this variety of cabbage here, which in my opinion tastes much like the Indian variety than does the "traditonal" German white ones.
I wanted to bake the potatoes with some broccoli pieces in a white sauce and in addition have a red cabbage side dish, as it is traditonally made with apples. I had choosen a recipe from Le Cordon Bleu: Vegetables (the German version of it), a series of books brought out by the cooking school Le Cordon Bleu. It is a simple but tasty recipe I liked immediately. But, then one thing led to the other and I decided to modify and bake this preparation along with the potatoes.

Potato Red Cabbage Casserole
with Pan fried Fish (see below)


6 small potatoes, peeled and cut into 5 mm (1/5th inch) thick round slices
1/2 broccoli, cut into small florets
1/2 red cabbage, quartered and thinly sliced (I used a pointed cabbage variety)
salt to taste
1 large red onion, halved vertically and thinly sliced
1 cooking apple, thinly sliced into small pieces
1 tbsp butter
1-2 tbsp white wine vinegar, depending on its strength and to your taste

White sauce:
30 g butter (about 2 heaped tbsp)
30 g all purpose flour (about 2 heaped tbsp)
300 ml milk (or soya milk)
100 ml water (or the broth of the potatoes)
1 1/2 tsp vegetable broth (powder)
1/2 tsp salt , or to taste
1 tbsp soya cream (17% fat)
chilli powder or black (or white) pepper

  • Cook the potatoes in water for 15 minutes on medium heat, they should not be cooked through
  • Cook the broccoli and red cabbage(1) slices for 3-5 minutes(2) till they are slightly tender (not cooked through)
  • In the meantime heat butter in a fry pan on medium heat and add the onion slices and stir
  • Add the apples and cook both till they begin to take a nice brown colour, reduce heat if required and then set aside
  • Prepare white sauce :
    • melt butter in a saucepan and whisk in the flour
    • stir till it is roasted without turning brown(3) and has a nice aroma and throws bubbles
    • remove from heat and while whisking add milk,
    • keep whisking, add water and the vegetable broth powder
    • whisk till you have a smooth mixture
    • put it back on the heat and cook on high heat while stirring with the whisk till it starts boiling
    • reduce heat to medium or medium low so that it keeps throwing bubbles
    • cook for another 3 minutes while whisking
    • it will thicken, add the soya sauce and stir
    • remove from heat and check the salt and add pepper or chili powder to taste, set aside
  • Remove the vegetables and place in a bowl, add the vinegar and mix carefully to get back the red/pink colour of the cabbage
  • Remove the potatoes and place in a colander to let drip and then place in a baking casserole porcelein baking dish
  • Layer the vegetables over the potatoes, followed by the fried onion and apples
  • and pour the sauce ovet it
  • bake in a preheated oven at 165°C (150°C convection) for 20-30 mnutes till it gets a nice brown colour on top
  • serve warm with fish or meat of choice or just eat wit some bread(4)
the quantity of vegetables can be increased and it can be baked with a layer of grataed cheese of choice on top
  1. the red cabbage on adding to hot water turns violett, but it will get back its colour the moment vinegar is added to it.
  2. Blanching the vegetables together with the potatoes saves energy, but they can also be cooked / blanched separately
  3. Roast the flour in butter on medium low heat so that it does not turn brown, but remains whitish yellow
  4. If it is to be use as a vegetarian meal:
    • the quantity of vegetables can be increased
    • and it can be baked with a layer of grated cheese of choice

Pan Fried Fish:
for 3 servings

3-4 Fish filets (I used frozen MSC certified Alaska Pollock)
juice of one lemon
1 egg, slightly beaten (optional)- I left out this step
2-3 tbsp all purpose flour
olive oil for frying

  • To fry the fish, thaw it, wash it once and pat dry.
  • Then let it marinate in the lemonjuice, salt and pepper.
  • Before starting to fry the fish, dip in the egg (I left out this step) and then roll the fish filets in the flour on a large plate to coat them properly.
  • heat olive oil in a large saute pan on medium heat.
  • Place the fish filets in the pan and cover with a lid
  • After a few minutes change sides,
  • Be careful not to break the pieces, if the fish sticks to the base, reduce heat if required
  • Cook for another few minutes untill you get a nice brown colour
  • Don't cook for too long as it will get dry otherwise.
  • Serve with a lemon wedges to sprinckle on it.
Enjoy it while it is still warm and juicy! Guten Appetit!

Now, hubby is not a very big fan of white sauces, but just as I had guessed the fried onion and apples had given so much flavour to the casserole that he appreciated it a lot and sonny boy was picking out the onions lie always, whenever he saw any large pieces, even though I had tried to slice them really fine. This made a wonderful combination with the fish. The slightly sweet and a hint of sourness from the white wine vinegar in the casserole and the fish with the thin brown crust was wonderful.
This one goes to a very special event "Teach a Man to Fish" at Jacqueline's wonderful blog The Leather District Gourmet. I am really happy to be able to take part in this event. I had seen the one from last year and it was good to see others who think like oneself. I'm really looking forward to this years round up.

This is my packet of MSC certified Alaska pollock or walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma)


Ivy said...

Fish is very important in our nutrition and you are right about what you write. Your recipe sounds delicious.
I have an Award for you to collect.

PG said...

Ivy, yes, you are right, I feel with the signs of aging showing on us, we feel it as important to eat fish as to give it to my son!
And wow! I'll be right there! :)