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While many chefs are coming back to Cod with renewed enthusiasm time and time again, savvy chefs are turning to a Norwegian specialty that’s not only fished sustainably, but delivers texture and flavour that’s second to none.
Between January and April, the small seasonal window for fishing skrei opens up and the clear waters of the Barents Sea come alive, teeming with rich healthy stocks. This is the only time of the year this cod can be fished and is monitored meticulously by the Norwegian Seafood Council.
The word skrei means ‘wanderer’ and is given to this special stock of cod because they make a 1000km journey each year to spawn around the Norwegian islands of Lofoten and Vesteralen. This epic journey through the Barents Sea has an important impact on the delicate texture and flavour of the fish. Working hard to swim, this great journey makes the skrei very lean, which leaves you with clean, meaty, muscular flesh to work with in the kitchen.
Because skrei cod is such a big and healthy fish, the tongue to tail ethos is often used when dealing with it. Every little bit of this fish carries bags of flavour, whether you’re braising the cheeks with a little schnapps or creating delicate crisps from the skin.
If you plan to take your skrei dishes hyper regional, look to use the livers and roes which are used a lot in regional dishes of Northern Norway. Being a rich source of vitamin D, they have been vitally important for the skrei fishing communities where the winter delivers very little daylight.
Norway runs a pretty tight ship when it comes to the sustainability of skrei too. The fishing industry ensures only the very finest specimens make the cut to be able to carry the skrei name. According to the Telegraph, these are some of the most regulated fisheries in the world, and arguably the healthiest.
Loyal fans of skrei include some of the UK’s big name chefs like Michel Roux Jnr, Simon Hulstone and Monica Galetti who recently had it on her pop-up menu with miso glaze and pearl barley stew, telling the Independent that it, “works very well in winter as it’s so meaty”.
That meatiness gets used to full effect in Michel Roux’s skrei bourguignon, partnering the firm succulent flesh with veal stock, butter and red wine. What’s important to remember is not to overcook this lean fish. Seafood From Norway suggest cooking skrei at temperatures as low as 38 degrees celcius. Sous vide naturally becomes a solid choice for cooking, as do slow braises in broths and liquors.
Between responsible practices requiring the fish to be at least five years old when caught, to a heritage of fishing skrei that goes back to 875AD, the Norwegians are well invested in the sustainability of this cod. It’s a delicacy in line with the likes of wagyu beef, making it one of the finest regional ingredients in the world.
Photo credit: Steve Lee. With thanks to the Norwegian Seafood Council.