Don’t you hate it when you finally find the store that sells jeans that actually fit your shape – and it goes out of business. Or you finally find the perfect shade of concealer that does not make you look like an outpatient at the jaundice clinic – and the company discontinues that particular shade. Or you find a versatile, affordable food that you truly love and can’t get enough of… only to find out it causes cancer in rats; or that producing it decimates the rain forests – or that eating it is wiping out a species? That’s pretty much the case with Atlantic cod, a fish with which Britain has had an extremely protracted love affair in the shape of classic fish and chips. As a result of over-enthusiastic commercial fishing and bad fisheries management over decades, the Atlantic cod population went into steep decline and these days ordering cod on a menu is nearly as fraught with ethical dilemmas as ordering foie gras.
But wait – there is a flicker of hope! Although Atlantic cod populations are severely under stress, cod stocks in other places are healthier because of better management and more sustainable fishing methods – other places like Norway. Up to two-thirds of the fish caught in some European waters are thrown back into the sea dead because of the way the EU’s common fisheries policy and quota system works. But over 25 years ago, Norway introduced a ban on fish discards and as a result, cod stocks have recovered. So if you can find Norwegian cod, feel free to buy with a clear conscience! But if you want to be in for a real treat, ask your fishmonger to get you some Skrei.
Skrei is a highly seasonal delicacy and is only available each year between January and April. This is when millions of migrating cod travelling thousands of miles from the Barents Sea back to their spawning grounds along the northern part of the Norwegian coast, off the Lofoten islands. In fact, the name “skrei” comes from an old Norse word meaning “to move forward or migrate.” As the cod migrate over these vast distances, their flesh becomes exceptionally firm, white and supple. Although many migratory cod are caught, only the top quality fish gets graded as Skrei cod, fulfilling the following criteria:
- only large, fully grown fish can be caught (approx. five years old)
- all fish are line-caught from day boats
- the skin needs to be immaculate, with no scratches, bruising or injuries
- fish have to be packaged within 12 hours of being caught
Skrei has been certified by the MSC and has only reached the UK shores in the last couple of years, but has already been enthusiastically received by chefs and diners alike. So is it any different to the cod you are used to? For a start, it is a beautiful fish with a glistening, speckled skin and thick, juicy flakes of translucent flesh, separated by distinct layers of fat. When cooked, it is this fat that melts and allows the flakes to, well, flake! To me, the difference in taste between any old supermarket cod and Skrei is like the difference between a standard beef steak and Wagyu beef: it’s cod, just a little richer in texture and somehow cleaner in taste. When the Norwegian Seafood Council recently sent me some Skrei to try, I wanted to be sure to taste the fish itself as much as possible, so I wanted to keep it simple – maybe just a spice rub and then a pan fry.
This is where NoMU comes in – one of my favourite South African brands and maker of wonderful hot chocolates, fonds and fine spice blends, including the Cajun rub that I used. Unlike some Cajun blends, this one is chunky, is not overloaded with salt, and has a real spicy bite – a perfect partner for the sweet, firm flesh of the Skrei. A little bird also tells me that after years of being pestered to do a cookbook, NoMU has recently launched a rather novel concept. They did not want a static recipe book that gets read once and then sits on the shelf – instead, they wanted something more interactive and collectible. The result is the NoMU Recipe Box – a modern interpretation of the Rollodex-type card index that our mothers had in their kitchen cupboards. Your box comes packed with 48 recipe cards and dividers (starters, mains, desserts, snacks etc.), and top-up extra recipes will be sold according to the existing divider sections and refreshed every three months (for about ZAR35). So every 3 months you can get all new recipes, collect them, or even swap them with friends. Clever, clever NoMU! At the back of every top up pack will be a colour-coded mystery card in four different colours, packed in randomly so you never know which card you might get with each top up pack purchase. Collect all four colour and send them in to NoMU to stand to win a huge prize (the April prize is a SMEG cooker, and the June prize is rumoured to be bigger!). NoMU have kindly agreed to donate one recipe box as a prize to my readers, and they are willing to ship anywhere in the world.
THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. THE WINNER WAS DAWN WALLENKAMP – CONGRATULATIONS, DAWN!
(Tips on how to enter with Rafflecopter as well as the full terms and conditions can be found below the recipe at the bottom of this page. Please also read the full terms and conditions at the bottom of this post before entering!). Good luck!
Other bloggers cooking with cod:
- Kavey Eats cooked Skrei three ways
- Michelle cooked honey-glazed cod with seasonal vegetables
- Margot cooked cod roe burgers
- Jan cooked Skrei with salsa verde
- Andrew cooked baked cod with parsley sauce
- 2 line-caught cod loin portions (or substitute hake loin)
- olive oil
- Cajun spice rub (I used NoMU)
- FOR THE AVOCADO DRESSING
- 1 ripe avocado
- 4 Tbsp Greek yoghurt
- 50ml buttermilk
- 1 Tbsp good mayonnaise
- about half a small bunch of cilantro, stems removed
- 12 large mint leaves, stems removed
- salt to taste
- Prepare the dressing first. Halve and stone the avocado and scoop spoonfuls of the flesh into a blender. Add all the other ingredients except the salt and pulse until the herbs are all chopped and all ingredients are mixed into a creamy consistency. Add a little more buttermilk if you want a runnier texture. Add salt to taste, mix thoroughly and set aside.
- Rinse the fish off and pat dry. Brush the skin side with a little olive oil and then coat generously with Cajun spice rub, pressing it on with your fingers. Heat a small amount of olive oil in a non-stick pan and when it is hot enough to sizzle, add the fish, skin side down. While the skin side is cooking, brush the top with oil and cover with Cajun spice rub.
- Cook on the skin side for 3-4 minutes (there will be smoke - don't be alarmed! This is from the spices blackening), then using tongs, carefully turn the fish over and cook on the other side for a further 3-4 minutes (depends how thick your fish is and mine was pretty thick).
- Once cooked, serve immediately, skin side up, with a dollop of the avocado dressing. I served this with a crunchy mixed cabbage slaw, dressed with the same avocado mixture.
NOMU RECIPE BOX GIVEAWAY RULES
1. This giveaway is open to readers all over the world aged 18 years or older.
2. There will be a single prize in the form of a box of 48 NoMU recipe cards.
3. The prize may not be exchanged for cash.
4. Entry will take place via Rafflecopter. Once you have completed your first entry and left me a comment confirming this in the comments section of this post, you will also have the option of submitting further entries via Twitter and Facebook, increasing your chances of winning.
6. All entries will be verified – if you have not commented or followed as required, I will check and you WILL be disqualified.
7. The deadline for entries is midnight UK time on Wednesday 1 May 2013.
8. The winner will be drawn at random from all verified entries, using randomising software.
9. The winner will be announced on my blog and notified by e-mail within 48 hours of the end of the giveaway. If the winner has not replied after one week from receiving the organiser’s e-mail notifying them of their win, a new winner will be randomly drawn.
10. I am running this giveaway in good faith on behalf of NoMU but am not responsible in any way for the delivery of the prize, or from any loss or damages relating to the prize. Once I have announced the winner, any issue relating to the prize is a matter entirely between the winner and NoMU. I will not be responsible for any loss, damages or inconvenience related to the winner not receiving the prize, or to injuries or damages sustained in any way by either the winner or NoMU in connection with the prize.
Here are some more tips that you might find useful:
- Click here for a tutorial how to enter giveaways with Rafflecopter.
- If your Rafflecopter entry form is not showing, try refreshing the page.
- You MUST complete the form, otherwise your entries will not be counted.
- Make sure the mandatory entry (leaving a blog comment) is completed first, and then go back to add additional entries.
- If you’re viewing this post by email, you will need to click through to the post on my blog to enter.
DISCLOSURE: NoMU is kindly donating the prize for this giveaway and I received free samples of Skrei for review purposes from the Norwegian Seafood Council, but I received no further remuneration for writing this post and all opinions are my own.