Our series What's the Catch with Matthew Evans explored how we can all do our part to ensure the supply of seafood for future generations. Here are a few of the tips:
• When in doubt, buy local: Australian fisheries are in pretty good shape, but 70% of the seafood eaten in Australia is imported, where there's less transparency about fish stocks or the impact of fishing practices.
• Change it up: Try to eat a variety of different fish and other seafood - this helps to keep demand sustainable. If you want to swap one variety for another in a recipe but aren't sure, ask your local fishmonger (or a knowledgeable friend/ relative!).
• Give the slow-growing tuna and salmon stocks a break by choosing less commonly eaten and more productive species.
More sustainable choices:
These fish are tracked by the Australian Marine Conservation Society as having healthy stocks, and being caught by fishing methods that have a relatively low impact on marine habitats and protected species.
Flathead's gentle flavour, firm flesh and light texture make it a good default option for many cooking methods: it can be eaten as ceviche or sashimi when very fresh, battered and deep-fried, or made into the perfect casual summer entertaining food, flathead tacos.
2. Spanish mackerel
Mackerel is an oily fish with a bold flavour, so it works well with ingredients or condiments that have an edge, like vinegar and lemon juice. In this recipe for roasted Spanish mackerel with broccoli puree and crispy capers, the salty capers and creamy, vibrant green puree balance out the richness of the fish.
3. Red Emperor
Red Emperor is one of Australia’s favourite fish, with firm white flesh, large flake and delicate flavour, it works well in a variety of dishes. This barbecued red emperor with finger lime, ginger and lemongrass is a particular winner.
King George, Eastern School, Sand whiting or Stout whiting—whiting has a light, sweet flavour and need little intervention aside from a hot pan to make them taste exceptional. In this recipe for pan-fried whiting with celery and pomegranate salad, the whiting is simply cooked in olive oil, lemon and parsley for a couple of minutes on both sides and serve with a bright, crunchy salad. Perfect for a quick but impressive midweek meal.
Popular in Mediterranean cuisine since Roman times, mullet is often shunned in Australia due to its more intensely fishy flavour. But this deep umami quality works well cooked on dry heat—baked, grilled, barbecued to bring out its natural sweetness—as well as smoking and pickling to soften the fishy taste, or cooking it up in a bold curry, like this south Indian curry of mullet.
If you want to cook sardines with success it's best to take a note from the professionals: the Spanish and Portuguese. Coat the sardines in a herb-laced crumb, grilled them, and served them with a creamy condiment - it's a recipe for success. Try it with these fried sardines with aioli, and find a new-found fondness of this lesser-loved variety in Australia.
Australian blue mussels are farmed in a way with negligible impact on habitat or other species, and they filter food from the water, meaning they don't require additional feed. Try this sustainable seafood choice cooked up as a French classic, mussels in white wine (moules marinières). Serve the mussels with plenty of crusty bread to mop up all the deliciously briny, minerally, herb-infused boozy broth, or serve with fries to make the meal a Belgian classic.
Australians waters are blessed with all sorts of prawns (we didn't get a reputation for throwing a shrimp on the barbie for nothing). Look out for local varieties like black tiger, kuruma, banana, Western King, and Bay prawns. Try this 5-minute wonder, stir-fried prawns with black pepper and cardamom, and serve it with freshly steamed white rice to soak up the fragrant sauce.
Squid reproduces quickly, meaning stocks can replenish themselves and making squid a sustainable choice. Look for local Gould's Squid or Southern Calamari. When cooking squid, the trick to keep squid tender is to not overdo it - cook it until it just begins to curl and turns opaque, about 30-60 seconds. Try this fried squid with basil, and serve it with lots of fresh lemon wedges.
10. Mud crab
Mud crabs have a lot of meat, so are a great choice when you're feeding a few. The colours of the Kimberley region of Australia were the inspiration for this flavour-bomb of a dish by Adam Liaw, chilli, tamarind and mango mud crab. Crack the claws to open channels for the flavours of the tamarind and mango sambal steep through.
Octopus doesn't have to just be restaurant food - you can cook at home! The tough meat means you do need to tenderise it, which can be done by brining it, slow cooking it, or poaching it, like this olive oil-poached octopus.
If you accidentally spilt your gin cocktail into your oysters and ate them anyway, it would taste along the lines of this genius concoction: soy, ginger, cumquat and gin oysters. The good news for oyster lovers, oyster farming has a very low overall impact on our oceans.
Scallops with roast garlic and lemon: a creamy onion puree, topped with fragrant fried scallops and crispy onion rings. If available, choose saucer over commercial scallops.
Swap out these:
If you want to eat tuna, bypass Bluefin and go with Skipjack...
Skipjack is a fast-growing tuna variety that is still fairly abundant around the world. This recipe for skipjack tuna with Japanese marinade showcases the light but hearty qualities of the fish.
...or Albacore tuna
Albacore tuna is lean fish with meaty appeal. Try it cooked 'tataki style (seared on the outside, raw on the middle) in this albacore tuna, tomato and cucumber salad with dill and olives.
Instead of mulloway (Jewfish), go for mahi-mahi or Chilean Sea Bass
Try this recipe for pan-fried mulloway fillets in lemongrass and chilli for a seamless substitution.
If you're an eel lover, try using Spanish mackerel instead
Eel fans out there (believe it or not, they do exist!) are fans of its rich, oily qualities. Unfortunately, their low populations, environmental susceptibility, unsustainable feeding practices when farmed mean they should be avoided. The good news is, Spanish mackerel offers similar perks, and is a more sustainable option. Try it for yourself with this pan-fried eel in coconut and saffron sauce.
Binge-watch the entire series of What's The Catch with Matthew Evans:
I love mussels in tomato sauce because it reminds me of my grandfather. He had an amazing garden, and we would make a quick tomato sauce and throw in vegetables and mussels.
This is my spin on the classic Chinese salt and pepper squid. I've used native Australian ingredients dried saltbush flakes for their herbaceous saltiness, mountain pepper for its punch and dried lemon myrtle for its zing.
What’s really important in this dish is that the water is ice-cold and the fish is just out of the fridge. Don’t let the batter sit for any length of time, and definitely don’t stir it until there are no lumps – lumpy batter, an anathema to European cooks, is just fine for tempura, and helps give the crisp, crunchy, multi-textured coating that defines the best versions.
Skipjack tuna, otherwise known as striped tuna, is amazingly underrated. If it’s line caught and bled, like the best sashimi fish always are, it’s terrific raw, rare or cooked. It has a bolder flavour than some tuna, so suits more robust sauces or garnishes. In this recipe, I've made a Cajun-inspired spice mix to add crunch and wow to the outside.