Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has become one of Britain’s most celebrated food personalities through his River Cottage TV series and books, which reflect his commitment to seasonal, sustainable food.
He is also a formidable advocate for sustainable fishing policy. In 2011, when Hugh learned that half the fish caught in the North Sea are thrown back into the sea, dead, he launched a campaign known as “Hugh’s Fish Fight” to educate the public about the massive problem of bycatch in the EU, and to effect policy change.
More than 700, 000 people have signed the fish fight petition, and the campaign pressure led to a debate about discards in the Houses of Parliament. In July, as a result of pressure from Hugh and others, including Oceana, the European Commission published their proposals for a new Common Fisheries Policy, including recommendations for a discard ban.
“Fish are among the most precious of foods. Their numbers are not inexhaustible and we cannot afford to squander them idly,” said Fearnley-Whittingstall.
Recipe: Quick-fried Mackerel Fillets with Garlic and Bay
Reprinted with permission from The River Cottage Fish Book
Fresh mackerel, 1 per person
A few garlic cloves, thickly sliced
A few bay leaves, coarsely torn
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cut the fillets from either side of the mackerel. Season them with a little salt and pepper.
Put a large frying pan over medium heat and add a thin film of olive oil. When the oil is fairly hot, scatter in the garlic and bay leaves, then lay the mackerel fillets over them, skin side down. You’re looking for a gentle sizzle rather than a fierce flash-fry. As it cooks, the mackerel flesh will change from translucent pink to opaque white. When the fillets are almost completely white, turn them over for just a minute to finish cooking. The whole process won’t take longer than 5 minutes. Let the garlic and bay just sizzle in the oil under and next to the fish, flavoring it gently.
Lift the mackerel fillets from the pan, leaving the bay and garlic behind (they’re probably just starting to burn a bit). Give the fillets a squeeze of lemon juice and serve right away, with salad (a sliced tomato salad is delicious with mackerel) and either new potatoes or buttered bread.