March is a month full of potential: signs of spring are everywhere, crocuses are in bloom and the daffs are beginning to swell. The keen forager can even find the odd spring mushroom such as a morel or St George and you can certainly buy them from a good market. St George’s are absolutely scrumptious fried up in butter with a fresh Dover or lemon sole.

Originally published on www.fishonfriday.org.uk

We are still, however, reliant on our stock veg and stalwarts of the winter: cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, kale, leeks, onions and swede. So it’s time to delve into the larder, discover new ingredients and get creative. At this time of year, I like to cook with grains and pulses like spelt and barley: cooked up in filling broths and stews they make a great winter warmer and go surprisingly well with fish as they soak up the rich flavours.

As the tempestuous seas calm and our fishing boats more frequently leave the harbour, fisherman start to bring back a wider variety of fish from the English coast. Flat fish have spawned and are now a good reliable catch. A good sustainable choice is dab and it is very reasonably priced. According to the Marine Conservation Society, a recent study suggests that dab is the most abundant fish species in the North Sea. Try roasting dab whole in a hot oven for 10-15 minutes with a sprig of rosemary. They are delicious and have a gelatinous texture.

Farmed Scottish halibut is also a good choice and is one of my favourites. It is farmed in smaller quantities to other fish and so has less impact on the environment. Ask your fishmonger to cut them into steaks and sear in a pan with light olive oil.

During the winter months Neptune’s larder is stocked full of molluscs from cockles, winkles, clams, mussels, rock oysters and whelks, to scallops, limpets and 100 others, many of which I’ve never heard of, let alone eaten. Between the many varieties, molluscs are readily available all year round and are now at their best. They are sweet and delicious from the cold waters. I’m going to make the most of these quirky fruits de mer and make a moreish clam risotto using pearl barley (see below).

lesser-eaten molluscs

Cockles, whelks and other lesser-eaten molluscs can be hard to buy in supermarkets but our trusty fishmongers will often stock them, or order them in especially if you ask nicely. Otherwise you can order them online from sites such as www.thecornishfishmonger.co.uk. Shellfish are best cooked fast, most within 2-3 minutes, making a delicious fast food or snack, although whelks need a bit longer. Whenever cooking bivalves in their shells, check that they all open when cooked: if any don’t, discard them.
When there is a choice between hand-gathered or dredged shellfish, choose hand gathered: this means the quality and size can be selected by the picker or diver. They are more expensive, which is why I choose to buy the cheaper species such as cockles, clams and whelks. Bivalves such as cockles, clams, mussels, oysters and scallops make a good sustainable choice as they filter the water they are in and increase the biodiversity of the local habitat. Most oysters sold today are farmed, as are mussels: cultured on ropes, they can be superb, with really clean bright shells.

Clam, leek and pearl barley risotto

Clams impart a delicate sweetness to this delicious, rich and healthy risotto. It’s very easy to cook, so take the time to make a stock to create a rounded and full flavour. Pearl barley makes an interesting alternative to rice; it has a bouncy bite and nuttiness that is very satisfying.

For the stock
1.5 litre fish stock made with: 300g fish bones, 1 carrot, 1 onion, 1/2 leek (just tops), 1 stick celery, parsley stalks, sprig thyme, 2 bay leaves, 1 tsp fennel seeds (optional)

For the risotto – serves 4
25g butter
1 leek, finely sliced
75g celery, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
250g pearl barley (or short grain brown rice)
100ml white wine
400g clams or cockles, washed
Few sprigs parsley, thin stalks and leaves chopped finely
1/2 lemon

Method
First make the fish stock. Grate or finely chop all of the vegetables. Cover with 1.6 litres of water, add the herbs and fennel and bring to the boil. Simmer for 30 minutes. Leave to rest for half an hour then strain through a sieve.

Gently fry the leek and celery for 5 minutes in the butter. Then add the garlic. Stir for 2 minutes. Then add the pearl barley (or rice if using). Turn to coat the grains in the oil.

Cover the pearl barley (or rice if using) in the stock and bring to a simmer. Keep stirring until the stock is absorbed. Then cover again and repeat. After about 20 minutes the pearl barley or rice should be cooked, bouncy to the bite but enjoyable to eat. Remove from the heat and season to taste.

To cook the clams, heat 100ml of white wine to boiling point. Add the cockles and place a lid on top giving them a shake. After just 1-2 minutes, when they open, add a squeeze of lemon and the chopped parsley. Turn the clams through the risotto and serve immediately.

Storage: The sturdy pearl barley reheats well. Keep in the fridge for three to four days in a sealed container. Reheat with a little extra water to rehydrate.

fish stock

PREP TIME

COOK TIME

SERVES

Ingredients

Directions

Share

Twitter
Facebook
Email

Discover more recipes

Salad on a Stick

This dish is inspired by a Basque Pintxos recipe called Gilda. A Gilda usually consists of an olive, anchovy and pepper skewered onto a toothpick.…
Regenerative agriculture

Regenerative agriculture

Regenerative agriculture is an ideology and farming practice based on many years of scientific research and agroecological farming practices such as organic, biodynamic and permaculture.…
Waste Not Chocolate

Waste Not… Chocolate

Over the last ten years all my work in food, writing, cooking and teaching has had a clear environmental focus. This passion for climate-friendly cuisine…
Biodiversity

Biodiversity

“Biodiversity” The variety of life (from a single-celled organism or plant to a mammal) within a defined location or system, from the whole world to…
Food Sustainability

Food Sustainability

“Food Sustainability” A holistic approach to food that considers how our nutrition impacts the world around us from an environmental, social and economic perspective which aims…
Waste Not- Lettuce

Waste Not… Lettuce

Salad is a bit like Marmite: you either love it or you hate it. I’m a lover of both, and they even taste good together…
Waste Not Celery

Waste Not… Celery

A bushy head of celery with its leaves intact is quite spectacular and almost twice the size of a regular, chopped bunch from a supermarket.…
Lemons

Waste Not… Lemons

Lemon rinds add flavour to roasts, make a versatile salty preserve and give summer salads a sharp boost. Good lemons are knobbly, juice-filled and can…
Waste Not Cauliflowe

Waste Not… Cauliflower

he once-neglected cauliflower has been lifted to new heights in recent years, and now features regularly on restaurant menus, where it’s treated like a delicacy:…
Waste Not Potato Peelings

Waste Not… Potato Peelings

It’s not surprising that the many people are up in arms about how much food we waste, and potatoes are part of the problem: about…

Autumn / Apricot Frangipane

After incubating the ground over the summer months the sun grows soft and the wind drops a degree in temperature – signalling agriculturalists to prepare…
Chocolate pot with Candied Beetroot

Chocolate pot with Candied Beetroot

CANDIED Beetroot Eat as sweets, decorate cakes or make my super rich chocolate pot. 150g unrefined sugar, 100ml water, 1 medium beetroot (about 200g) Wash…
Chocolate salted rye cookies

Chocolate salted rye cookies

This recipe is adapted from Chad Robertson’s Tartine book 3. These are the best cookies I’ve ever eaten. Say no more. Ingredients – makes 20 cookies…
Cavolo nero and walnut dip

Cavolo nero and walnut dip

First published in the Guardian – Photographs by Elena heatherwick This is a variation on a pesto recipe that I learnt from a close friend…
Spider Crab Paella

Fish on Friday, Spider Crab Paella

My poly-tunnel and veg patch are now bulging with glorious summer vegetables: bell peppers, aubergines, broad beans, new season beetroot, onions, and garlic. The courgettes…
Watercress-pasta-pesto

Veg Box – Watercress

This post was previously published on www.goodbyesupermarkets.co.uk A wonderful springtime green is Watercress. A powerhouse of vitamins and minerals that should perhaps have been Popeye’s…
Wild Food

Wild Food, foraging in May

This month Absolutely Wild’s Peter Studzinski drops by to give us some great tips about foraging in May. For foraging, May is a transitional month between…
Wild Garlic

Veg Box – Wild Garlic

‘You may occasionally find wild garlic for sale in local farmer’s markets, but they grow abundantly, so why not go out in search of your…
Prawn-ceviche

May – Fish on Friday, Ceviche

I’m writing for a new website called www.fishonfriday.org.uk It’s brilliantly informative about all things fish, with recipes, techniques, and buckets of information about sustainability. This…
Veg Box – Spring onions

Veg Box – Spring onions

Said in the most positive possible way Spring is almost here! Time for salads and fresh foods to awaken us from our Winter slumber. Spring…
Smoke and forage

Smoke and forage

If you enjoy the alchemy and adventure of smoking and foraging for food but have never had the courage to do it, then this is…
Pomegranate Chocolate Brownies

Pomegranate Chocolate Brownies

What food could be more erotic than a super rich chocolate brownie with jewels of pink and a sticky pomegranate molasses. This, for me, is…
Christmas Leftovers – Brussel Colcannon

Christmas Leftovers – Brussel Colcannon

Brussel sprouts aren’t everyone’s favourite vegetable. Maybe thats why they’re neglected, lack the love they deserve and are always overcooked. So it’s no surprise that…
Seasonal Roasties with Chimichurri

Seasonal Roasties with Chimichurri

I’m always surprised by the seasonal variety of veg available in December and January. Theres only a few months where we’re limited to roots and…
Christmas Persimmon Salad

A Fresh Christmas Persimmon Salad

Persimmon, sharon fruit, kaki or even ‘fruit of the gods’ is a unique and delicious fruit that either tastes like a fresh, sweet, fruity date…
Quince Frangipane

Quince Frangipane

Quince is a kind of yellow pear that has a complex flavour. It works well in savoury dishes, most commonly used to make membrillo or…
Celeriac Gratin

Celeriac Gratin with Anchovies

Celeriac gratin was one of my favourite dishes at River Cottage. Hugh’s addition of anchovies is genius. So I guess this recipe is a homage…
3 Pinchos – Canapes

3 Pinchos – Canapes

Pincho literally means ‘spike.’ Normally skewered with a toothpick, it is eaten as tapas in northern Spain. I like my pinchos to be an intense…
Gurnard Parcel with Fennel

Gurnard Parcel with Fennel

Gurnard is a delicious, firm fleshed fish that roasts well and is even good raw as a ceviche. In this recipe we wrap the fish…
Deviled Kidneys

Deviled Kidneys

I love deviled kidneys, there’s no two ways about it. They’re so rich and unctuous, eating this dish makes me feel spoilt, and for very…
Cleo the Friendship Bread

Cleo the Friendship Bread

We at Forgotten Feast have sent our sourdough starter Cleo into the wide world. We were Inspired by Herman the German Cake and also our…
Beetroot Chocolate Cake

Beetroot Chocolate Cake

Beetroot’s earthy sweetness goes incredibly well with bittersweet chocolate. The beetroot lends a complex and wholesome flavour to the cake that helps relieve the guilt…
Cure pork fat at home

Cure pork fat at home

Cured pork fat This recipe takes the ‘No Waste’ ethos to the next level. Lots of people avoid fat for health reasons, but there’s no…
The Life of a Loaf

The Life of a Loaf

7 Ways To Use A Loaf Throughout Its Life Bread is a product that we expect to buy uber fresh. It’s almost seen as our…
Fruits

Devilled kidneys on toast

This was one of my favourite dishes while I was working at River Cottage, me and Ray Smith the house butcher used to fight over…
Mis-fit veg with babaganush

Mis-fit veg with babaganush

Through mass production, a lot of perfectly good veg is wasted. One of the most ludicrous reasons is that a vegetable is superficially ‘ugly’ or…
Brain Food

Brain Food

Surely its the ultimate insult to throw a brain in the bin, it is however a lot of work to remove from the head which…

For more of Tom’s recipes... Check out his new book

Eating
for
Pleasure,
People &
Planet

By TOM HUNT

Tom's manifesto, 'Root to Fruit' demonstrates how we can all become part of the solution, supporting a delicious, biodiverse and regenerative food system, giving us the skills and knowledge to shop, eat and cook sustainably, whilst eating healthier, better-tasting food for no extra cost.

Share

Twitter
Facebook
Email