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F - FISH & FRUIT DE MER

F - FISH & FRUIT DE MER

FISH & FRUIT DE MER...

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With over 400 kilometres of pristine coastline, the Poitou-Charentes region is the perfect spot to find fresh fish and seafood. Most local markets will have at least one dedicated fish stall with an interesting, perhaps bewildering, array of fish and seafood to choose from, although of course bigger markets will have a much broader choice.

The closer to the coast you get, the wider the range of fish you will be able to access. There are three ports which deal with the majority of fish and seafood sales: Royan, La Rochelle and La Cotinière at St Pierre d’Oléron. Although the auctions are only open to fishmongers and the restaurant trade, all fish sales in the Charente-Maritime come through these three auction houses.

You will find that the Île d’Oléron, Royan and La Rochelle therefore have the widest range of seafood, but you will find stalls and shops along the entirety of the Charente-Maritime coast, and even the smallest inland market of three or four stalls will usually boast a fishmonger.

Sea bass (bar) is one of the most popular of the catches and has been granted its own ‘Signé Poitou-Charentes’ label to show that it has been caught in Poitou-Charentes waters. You will also find maigre or grogneur (giant seabass) on the menu. Merlan (whiting) is a very popular choice as well. Maquereau (mackerel), raie (skate), carrelet (plaice) are widely available depending on the season.

The biggest haul is usually of sole, always popular as sole meunière, where sole is served in a simple butter sauce. A classic for a reason!

At many seafood and fish stalls, you will find anguilles (freshwater eels often fished for in the Marais Poitevin) writhing in baskets. You may also find conger eels on ice.

Frequently used in soups, they are also excellent grilled or barbecued.

It’s easy to forget, with the abundance of seafood on offer, that France is a country with many départements or counties named after rivers, including the four that make up the Poitou-Charentes region. Some would say it is the rivers that make France itself. And where there are plentiful rivers, there are also river fish. Anyone who has stopped off along the rivers of the region and peered into the depths among the plants will have remarked upon the clean waters and the variety of river fish.

Some of these freshwater fish make their way onto the tables of restaurants in the region, or onto the icy displays of fishmongers. With a licence available from most tabacs and bars, you might even want to fish for your own supper! You are most likely to find truite (trout) but you may find things unlikely to be found on British menus such as brême (bream) and sandre (perch), carp and pike. As these are very bony fish, it’s best left to the professionals to prepare them. Don’t forget the humble frog, la grenouille, is also a French delicacy you might want to try. Cuisses de grenouille, frogs’ thighs, are often available at the fishmongers.

 

 

FRUIT DE MER

Besides fish and eels, there will also be an almost bewildering display of seafood on display alongside the mussels and oysters.

Typically, you will find langoustines; homard (lobster); crevettes (shrimp); araignées (spider crab) and tourteaux (crab); bigorneaux (winkles); bulots (whelks) as well as escargots de mer (sea snails). Coquilles St Jaques or scallops are also very popular and easy to cook. The flesh of the scallop itself is called the noix - nut - and you can buy these in half shells or without a shell at all.

 

 

HOW TO: Choose your fish

In warm temperatures fish and seafood degrade rapidly. Domestic fridges are also ill-equipped for storing fish, so buy your fish and cook it that day. If you must store it overnight, place ice cubes underneath and more ice cubes on top and store it in the coldest part of the fridge. In warm weather bring a cool bag with you when you go shopping. Always ask the fishmonger to put the fish on ice.

 

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A FRESH WHOLE FISH HAS:

* eyes that are clear and bright. Dull and cloudy eyes indicate that the fish is past its prime.

* skin that is shiny and metallic.

* a smell that is only of water or sea water.

 

 

DO TRY THIS AT HOME...

Roasted sea bass in white wine

SERVES 4

1 sea bass (between 650g - 800g) gutted and de-scaled

1 lemon, zested then squeezed

125 ml of white wine

2 tsp of chopped thyme

salt and pepper to taste


Clean the fish.

Place the fish in an oven-proof dish and season with salt and pepper.

Pour over the white wine and lemon juice.

The dish should be big enough to hold the entire fish, and small enough that the white wine covers the bottom and will not evaporate completely.

Sprinkle over the lemon zest and chopped thyme.

Bake in a medium oven at 160°C for 12-15 minutes.

Serve with steamed or boiled Île de Ré potatoes and a nut of Echiré butter.

 

 


Fish counter French

* Can you gut and clean the fish please? Pouvez-vous vider et nettoyer le(s) poisson(s) s’il vous plait?

* Can you put the fish on ice please? Pouvez-vous le mettre sur des glaçons s’il vous plait?

* Can you fillet it for me please? Pouvez-vous le préparer en filets s’il vous plait?

* How can you cook this fish? Comment peut-on cuire ce poisson?

* How long will it keep for? Combien de temps peut-on se conserver le poisson?