As regular readers know, I've reviewed a number of products from Abel & Cole over the last year, from fruit and vegetables to dried fruits and nuts to chicken, beef and lamb. Most recently, I was invited to review some of their fresh fish produce, which was perfect timing after our recent day at the Billingsgate Seafood Training School.
Although most of us still associate them with organic fruit and veg, Abel and Cole also offer a great range of fish, from haddock, pollock and whiting to sardines and mackerel to salmon and trout to more specialist fish such as john dory, lemon sole, sea bass and guilt head bream. And then there are the various smoked fish and fish cakes not to mention the crab, scallops and squid.
Here's what I was sent and how I found it:
- Cornish Pan-Ready Mackerel (390 grams, £3.89, £9.97 per kg)
- Flaky Roast Smoked Salmon (160 grams, £5.75)
- Monkfish Fillets (375 grams, £13.92, £37.11 per kg)
- Sea Bass Fillets (£12.15)
- Seafood and Eat it White Cornish Crab (100 grams, £4.99)
Cornish Pan-Ready Mackerel
Sold in pack sizes of approximately 350 grams (ours was just over) and priced at £9.97 per kilo mackerel really are a great value fish for every day eating.
For us, the pack of three smallish fish was awkward – we cook for two and 3 fish on the bone aren't well-suited dividing between two people! I understand Abel & Cole have reviewed all their pack sizes recently, but it's the pack size alone that would stop me ordering this again.
We used a simple marinade recipe (of dark soy sauce, sesame oil, honey and fresh ginger) from the The Billingsgate Market Cookbook before barbequeing the fish on our brand new (rather spiffy) new barbeque. Absolutely delicious, great quality, very fresh. We served it with a simple cucumber salad, lightly pickled in salt, sugar and a little white wine vinegar.
Flaky Roast Smoked Salmon (160 grams)
The roast smoked salmon was very nice – we enjoyed it with a fresh tomato salad. But whilst it was pretty good, it wasn't as good as the incredible kiln roast salmon by J Bennett that we found at the Billingsgate Fish Market (and which MarkyMarket has sinced sourced more of for us).
There were three monkfish fillets in the pack, of variable size. This wasn't such an issue as next time, I'll likely cut them down further into large cubes of fish and either cook on skewers on a BBQ or in a curry or bouillabaisse.
This time, we marinated them in a ready-made spice mix I was given ages ago, and shallow fried, as per the spice packet's instructions. The spice-mix wasn't great and certainly not suited to being used as per the instructions, would have been far better in a slower-cooked curry dish.
However the fish was perfect and, if I couldn't get to a local fishmonger (I like to look and choose, not to mention have more control over volume) I'd certainly be happy to buy this from Abel & Cole.
Sea Bass Fillets
We used another recipe from the The Billingsgate Market Cookbook for the sea bass fillets (of which there were five in the pack, of variable size). We baked the fish with garlic, lemon juice and zest, rosemary and extra virgin olive oil).
It was fresh and delicious – the simple recipe really enhanced the natural flavours of the fish.
Seafood and Eat it White Cornish Crab
I was also sent two 100 gram pots of cornish crab meat (white only). You can also buy pots of just brown meat or potted crab with butter, white and brown meat mixed, both of which are less expensive than the white meat, as you'd expect.
I had plans to use the crab in a pasta dish but came home from a long-running PR event having eaten only a handful of canapés since lunch time. It was nearly 11 pm – too late for me to consider cooking. So I ate a pot of the crab meat straight from the fridge.
Really, really fabulous with not a single scrap of shell and some lovely large chunks of meat as well as the usual tiny white flakes. Sweet, fresh, delicious. But I do think £4.99 is a lot for just 100 grams.
Overall, I was certainly impressed by quality, freshness and taste. But I found some of the pack sizes awkward to use, cooking for two. I do realise fish come in different sizes, so it must be hard to standardise pack sizes. Shopping in person, I can see the size of whole fish or fillets available that day and choose to buy one or more for each diner. I know this isn't possible when ordering online, but it does mean I'm much less likely to buy my fish this way, even though I know it's sustainable, which is important to me.
The The Billingsgate Market Cookbook is currently available from Amazon for £11.89, usual retail price £20.