Seafood of the Week – (Roe) Caviar – Sturgeon Roe

September 17, 2013 at 8:51 AM | Posted in seafood, Seafood of the Week | 1 Comment
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Caviar, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, is a product made from salt-cured fish-eggs of the Acipenseridae family. The roe

Salmon roe (left) and sturgeon caviar (right)

Salmon roe (left) and sturgeon caviar (right)

can be “fresh” (non-pasteurized) or pasteurized, with pasteurization reducing its culinary and economic value.
Traditionally the term caviar refers only to roe from wild sturgeon in the Caspian and Black Seas (Beluga, Ossetra and Sevruga caviars). Depending on the country, caviar may also be used to describe the roe of other fish such as salmon, steelhead trout, trout, lumpfish, whitefish, and other species of sturgeon.
Caviar is considered a luxury delicacy and is eaten as a garnish or a spread. In 2012, caviar sold for $2,500 per pound, or $3,000 to $5,500 per kilo.

 

 

According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, roe from any fish not belonging to the Acipenseriformes species (including Acipenseridae, or sturgeon sensu stricto, and Polyodontidae or paddlefish) are not caviar, but “substitutes of caviar.” This position is also adopted by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, the World Wide Fund for Nature,[9] the United States Customs Service, and France.
The term is also used to describe dishes that are perceived to resemble caviar, such as “eggplant caviar” (made from eggplant or aubergine) and “Texas caviar” (made from black-eyed peas).

 

 

The four main types of caviar are Beluga, Sterlet, Ossetra, and Sevruga. The rarest and costliest is from beluga sturgeon that swim in the Caspian Sea, which is bordered by Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan. Wild caviar production was suspended in Russia between 2008 and 2011 to allow wild stocks to replenish. Azerbaijan and Iran also allow the fishing of sturgeon off their coasts. Beluga caviar is prized for its soft, extremely large (pea-size) eggs. It can range in color from pale silver-gray to black. It is followed by the small golden sterlet caviar which is rare and was once reserved for Russian, Iranian and Austrian royalty. Next in quality is the medium-sized, gray to brownish osetra (ossetra), and the last in the quality ranking is smaller, gray sevruga caviar.
Cheaper alternatives have been developed from the roe of whitefish and the North Atlantic salmon. In the wake of overfishing, the harvest and sale of black caviar was banned in Russia in 2007 but resumed in 2010, limited to 150 kg (330 lbs).

 

 

In the early 20th century, Canada and the United States were the major caviar suppliers to Europe; they harvested roe from the lake sturgeon in the North American midwest, and from the Shortnose sturgeon and the Atlantic sturgeon spawning in the rivers of the Eastern coast of the United States. Today the Shortnose sturgeon is rated Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List of endangered species and rated Endangered per the Endangered Species Act.
In 2009, Iran was the world’s largest producer and exporter of caviar, with annual exports of more than 300 tons, followed by Russia.
However, the ban on sturgeon fishing in the Caspian Sea has led to the development of aquaculture as an economically viable means of commercial caviar production. Italy has begun to produce farmed caviar and is now one of the largest producers in the world. Caviar Court, in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, was established in 2001 and began harvesting caviar in 2007. It produced about five tons per year in 2011 and is building a larger facility in Abu Dhabi hoping to produce 35 tons by 2015. In Spain, a fish farm called Caviar de Riofrio produces organic caviar. In Canada, a sturgeon farm called Target Marine Hatcheries is now the first producer of organic caviar in North America called “Northern Divine”.

 

 

Black Beluga caviar

Black Beluga caviar

Over-fishing, smuggling and pollution caused by sewage entry into the Caspian Sea have considerably reduced the sea’s sturgeon population.
In September 2005, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service banned the import of Caspian Sea Beluga caviar to protect the endangered Beluga sturgeon; a month later, the ban was extended to include Beluga caviar from the entire Black Sea basin. In January 2006, the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) supported an international embargo on caviar export. In January 2007, this ban was partly lifted, allowing the sale of 96 tons of caviar, 15% below the official 2005 level. In July 2010, Russia and some other CIS countries restarted the export of caviar. The 2010 quotas allow for the export of three tons of beluga, 17 tons of sevruga and 27 tons of osetra. In September 2010, Kazakhstan launched a state monopoly brand, Zhaik Balyk, from the Kazakh word for the Ural River. Under the CITES agreement, Kazakhstan was granted the right to produce 13 out of the 80 tons allowed up until February 28, 2011.

 

 

Commercial caviar production historically involved stunning the fish and extracting the ovaries. Another method is extracting the caviar surgically (C section) which allows the females to continue producing roe but this method is very painful and stressful for the fish and is illegal in some countries. Other farmers use a process called “stripping”, which extracts the caviar from the fish without surgical intervention. A small incision is made along the urogenital muscle when the fish is deemed to be ready to be processed. An ultrasound is used to determine the correct timing. This is the most humane approach towards fish that is presently available but not all farmers use it due to the lack of knowledge in this field.

 

 

In Scandinavia and Finland, a cheaper version of caviar is made from mashed and smoked cod roe (smörgåskaviar meaning “sandwich caviar”) sold in tubes as a sandwich spread, however this Swedish “Felix Sandwich Caviar” can not be called “Caviar” in Finland. Instead it is called “Felix Roe Paste”. When sold outside Scandinavia, the product is referred to as creamed smoked roe or in French as Caviar de Lysekil.
A sturgeon caviar imitation is a black or red coloured lumpsucker caviar sold throughout Europe in small glass jars. A more expensive alternative sold in Sweden and Finland is caviar from the vendace. In Finland caviars from burbot and common whitefish are also sold, however they are not sold as “Caviar”, since the word “Caviar” is exclusively reserved for sturgeon roe.
There is also a kosher caviar made of seaweeds.

 

 

Given its high price in the West, caviar is associated with luxury and wealth. In Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, caviar is commonly served at holiday feasts, weddings and festive occasions. In Russia, both sturgeon roe (black caviar) and salmon roe (red caviar) are popular.
Sturgeon-derived caviar is not eaten by Kosher-observant Jews because sturgeon possess ganoid scales instead of the usual ctenoid and cycloid scales (see Kosher seafood). There is a discussion of its status in Halacha, since the scales will come off if soaked in lye; however, this does not apply to every roe-yielding fish species.
The Ja’fari school of jurisprudence that predominates in Twelver Shia Islam also stipulates that seafood must have fins and scales. Thus most observant Twelvers do not eat caviar even though majority Twelver Iran is a primary center of the sturgeon-fishing industry and the world’s largest exporter of caviar.

 

 

The Caspian Sea had not always been the only source of caviar. Beluga sturgeon were common in the Po river in Italy in the 16th century, and were used to produce caviar.
Cristoforo da Messisbugo in his book “Libro novo nel qual si insegna a far d’ogni sorte di vivanda”, Venice, 1564, at page 110, gave us the first recorded recipe in Italy about extraction of the eggs from the roe and caviar preparation “to be consumed fresh or to preserve”. The writer and voyager Jérôme Lalande in his book “Voyage en Italie”, Paris, 1771, vol. 8 page 269, noted that many sturgeon were caught in the Po delta area in the territory of Ferrara. In 1753 a diplomatic war broke out between the Papal States, governing the Ferrara territory, and the Venice Republic about sturgeon fishing rights in the Po river, the border between the two states. From about 1920 and until 1942 there was a shop in Ferrara, named “Nuta” from the nickname of the owner Benvenuta Ascoli, that processed all the sturgeons caught in the Po river for caviar extraction, using an elaboration of the original Messisbugo recipe, and shipped it to Italy and Europe. The production was sporadically continued by a new owner until 1972, when sturgeon stopped swimming up the Po river.

 

 

Trout roe with bread

Trout roe with bread

Caviar is extremely perishable and must be kept refrigerated until consumption. Pasteurized caviar has a slightly different texture. It is less perishable and may not require refrigeration before opening. Pressed caviar is composed of damaged or fragile eggs and can be a combination of several different roes. It is specially treated, salted, and pressed.
Although a spoonful of caviar supplies the adult daily requirement of vitamin B12, it is also high in cholesterol and salt. 1 tablespoon of caviar (16g) contains:
* Calories: 42
* Fat: 2.86 g
* Carbohydrates: 0.64 g
* Fibers: nil
* Protein: 3.94 g
* Sodium: 240 mg
* Cholesterol: 94 mg

 

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Fish of the Week – Turbot

September 3, 2013 at 8:42 AM | Posted in fish, Fish of the Week | 2 Comments
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Turbot

Turbot

The turbot (Scophthalmus maximus) is a species of flatfish in the family Scophthalmidae. It is a demersal fish native to marine or brackish waters of the North Atlantic, Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.

 

 

The word comes from the Old French tourbout, which in turn is thought to be a derivative of the Latin turbo (“spinning top”) a possible reference to its shape. Early reference to the Turbot can be found in a satirical poem (The Emperor’s Fish) by Juvenal, a Roman poet of the late 1st and early 2nd centuries A.D., suggesting this fish was a delicacy in the Roman empire.
In the UK, Turbot is pronounced /ˈtɜrbət/ tur-bət. In the US it is pronounced /ˈtɜrboʊ/ tur-boh (the French pronunciation of “turbot” is [tyʁbo]).
In Turkey, where the fish is popular and expensive, it is called “Kalkan” – “shield” – due to the fish’s resemblance to the item. Instead of a smooth skin, Kalkan (Scophthalmus maeoticus), which is from the Black Sea, has small spikes on both sides; it is considered a subspecies of the Mediterranean Turbot (Scophthalmus maximus).

 

 

The turbot (Scophthalmus maximus) is a large left-eyed flatfish found primarily close to shore in sandy shallow waters throughout the Mediterranean, the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea and the North Atlantic. The European turbot has an asymmetrical disk-shaped body, and has been known to grow up to 100 cm (39 in) long and 25 kg (55 lb) in weight.

 

 

Turbot is highly prized as a food fish for its delicate flavor, and is also known as breet, britt or butt. It is a valuable commercial species, acquired through aquaculture and trawling. Turbot are farmed in France, Spain, Portugal, Romania, Turkey, Chile, Norway, and China. Turbot has a bright white flesh that retains this appearance when cooked. Like all flatfish, turbot yields four fillets with meatier topside portions that may be baked, poached or pan-fried.

 

 

 

 

Baked Turbot

 

Serves 4

Ingredients:

4 serving-size portions of Turbot
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
4 pats of Light Butter
Ground White Pepper, to taste
Hungarian Paprika, to taste
Sea Salt, to taste

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Lay the turbot fillets on a baking sheet or baking dish. Drizzle with lemon juice, then sprinkle with white pepper, salt, and paprika. Lay a pat of butter on each portion – you can break the butter in smaller bits if you like.
Bake at 400 degrees until the fish is cooked through – about 20 minutes. Serve hot garnished with a bit of lemon.
Slice the remaining 1/2 lemon into wedges and serve it with the fish.

Fish of the Week -Bream

March 18, 2013 at 7:56 AM | Posted in fish | 1 Comment
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The common bream, freshwater bream, bream, bronze bream or carp bream, Abramis brama, is a European species of freshwater fish in the family Cyprinidae.
The common bream lives in ponds, lakes and canals, and in slow-flowing rivers.
It is now considered to be the only species in its genus. The common bream’s home range is Europe north of the Alps and Pyrenees, as well as the Balkans. It is found as far east as the Caspian Sea, the Black Sea, and the Aral Sea.

 

The bream is usually 30 to 55 centimetres (12 to 22 in) long, though some specimens of 75 centimetres (30 in) have been recorded; it usually weighs 2 to 4 kilograms (4.4 to 8.8 lb).
It has a laterally flattened and high-backed body and a slightly undershot mouth. It is a silvery grey colour, though older fish can be bronze-colored especially in clear waters. The fins are greyish to black, but never reddish.

 

The common bream can easily be confused with the silver or white bream (Blicca bjoerkna), in particular at the younger stages (see picture). The most reliable method of distinguishing these species is by counting the scales in a straight line downwards from the first Common bream (Abramis brama)ray of the dorsal fin to the lateral line. Silver bream has fewer than ten rows of scales, common bream has eleven or more. At the adult stage the reddish tint of the pectoral fin of the silver bream is diagnostic. Like other Cyprinidae, common bream can easily hybridise with other species, and hybrids with roach (Rutilus rutilus) can be very difficult to distinguish from pure-bred bream.

 

The common bream generally lives in rivers (especially in the lower reaches) and in nutrient-rich lakes and ponds with muddy bottoms and plenty of algae. It can also be found in brackish sea waters.

 

The common bream lives in schools near the bottom. At night common bream can feed close to the shore and in clear waters with sandy bottoms feeding pits can be seen during daytime. The fish’s protractile mouth helps it dig for chironomid larvae, Tubifex worms, bivalves, and gastropods. The bream eats water plants and plankton as well.
In very turbid waters common bream can occur in large numbers, which may result in a shortage of bottom-living prey such as chironomids. The bream is then forced to live by filter feeding with its gill rakers, Daphnia water fleas being the main prey. As the fish grows, the gill rakers become too far apart to catch small prey and the bream will not then grow bigger than 40 centimetres (16 in). If a common bream is malnourished it can develop a so-called knife back: a sharp edge along its back.

 

The common bream spawns from April to June, when water temperatures are around 17 °C (63 °F). At this time the males form territories within which the females lay 100,000 to 300,000 eggs on water plants. The fry hatch after three to twelve days and attach themselves to water plants with special adhesive glands, until their yolk is used up.
Because of their slender shape the young fish are often not recognised as bream, but they can be identified by their flat bodies and silvery colour. At this stage the fish are still pelagic, but after a few months they acquire their typical body shape and become bottom-dwellers. By three to four years old the fish are sexually mature.

 

They are fished both commercially and for sport.
However bream do not often fight as hard as some other species native to the UK, and owing to their flat disc shaped profile, once tilted to one side are relatively easy to bring to the bank. Common baits for bream include;
* Sweetcorn – 2 or 3 grains hair-rigged is an effective method.
* Maggot – Again hair rigging maggots can produce bream, or 2 to 3 maggot straight on the hook.
* Boilies – these can produce bream as long as the boiles are smaller, in a variety of flavours.
All three methods can be fished using a paternoster rig, and cage feeder with the bait, for example sweetcorn fixed inside using groundbait plugs, or maggot feeder when fishing maggots.

Fish of the Week – Bluefish

March 5, 2013 at 10:51 AM | Posted in fish | Leave a comment
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The bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix) is the only extant species of the Pomatomidae family. It is a marine pelagic fish found around the

Large bluefish, about 20 pounds

Large bluefish, about 20 pounds

world in temperate and sub-tropical waters, except for the Northern Pacific Ocean. Bluefish are known as tailor in Australia, shad on the east coast of South Africa, elf on the west coast, lüfer in Turkey, and similarly, луфарь/lufar in Russian. Other common names are blue, chopper, and anchoa. It is good eating and a popular gamefish.
The bluefish is a moderately proportioned fish, with a broad, forked tail. The spiny first dorsal fin is normally folded back in a groove, as are its pectoral fins. Coloration is a grayish blue-green dorsally, fading to white on the lower sides and belly. Its single row of teeth in each jaw are uniform in size, knife-edged and sharp. Bluefish commonly range in size from seven-inch (18-cm) “snappers” to much larger, sometimes weighing as much as 40 pounds (18 kg), though fish heavier than 20 pounds (9 kg) are exceptional.

 

Bluefish are widely distributed around the world in tropical and subtropical waters. They are found in pelagic waters on much of the continental shelves along eastern America (though not between south Florida and northern South America), Africa, the Mediterranean and Black Seas (and during migration in between), Southeast Asia and Australia. They are found in a variety of coastal habitats: above the continental shelf, in energetic waters near surf beaches or by rock headlands. They also enter estuaries and inhabit brackish waters. Periodically, they leave the coasts and migrate in schools through open waters.
Along the U.S. east coast, bluefish are found off Florida in the winter months. By April, they have disappeared, heading north. By June, they may be found off Massachusetts; in years of high abundance, stragglers may be found as far north as Nova Scotia. By October, they leave New England waters, heading south (whereas some Bluefish, perhaps less migratory, are present in the Gulf of Mexico throughout the year). In a similar pattern overall, the economically significant population that spawns in Europe’s Black Sea migrates South through Istanbul (Bosphorus, Sea of Marmara, Dardanelles, Aegean Sea) and on toward Turkey’s Mediterranean coast in the autumn for the cold season. Along the South African coast and environs, movement patterns are roughly in parallel.

 

Adult bluefish are typically between 20 and 60 cm long, with a maximum reported size of 120 cm and 14 kilograms. They reproduce during spring and summer, and can live for up to 9 years. Bluefish fry are zooplankton, and are largely at the mercy of currents. Spent bluefish have been found off east central Florida, migrating north. As with most marine fish, their spawning habits are not well known. In the western side of the North Atlantic, at least two populations occur, separated by Cape Hatteras in North Carolina. The Gulf Stream can carry fry spawned to the south of Cape Hatteras to the north, and eddies can spin off, carrying them into populations found off the coast of the mid-Atlantic, and the New England states.

 

Adult bluefish are strong and aggressive, and live in loose groups. They are fast swimmers which prey on schools of forage fish, and continue attacking them in feeding frenzies even after they appear to have eaten their fill. Depending on area and season, they favor menhaden and other sardine-like fish (Clupeidae), jacks (Scombridae), weakfish (Sciaenidae), grunts (Haemulidae), striped anchovies (Engraulidae), shrimp and squid. They are cannibalistic and can destroy their own young. Bluefish sometimes chase bait through the surf zone, attacking schools in very shallow water, churning the water like a washing machine. This behavior is sometimes referred to as a “bluefish blitz”.
In turn, bluefish are preyed upon by larger predators at all stages of their life cycle. As juveniles, they fall victim to a wide variety of oceanic predators, including striped bass, larger bluefish, fluke (summer flounder), weakfish, tuna, sharks, rays, and dolphins. As adults, bluefish are taken by tuna, sharks, billfish, seals, sea lions, dolphins, porpoises, and many other species.
Bluefish should be handled with caution due to their ability to snap at unwary hands. Fishermen have been severely bitten, and it can help to wear gloves. It a not good idea to wade or swim among feeding bluefish schools. In July 2006, a seven-year-old girl was attacked on a beach, near the Spanish town of Alicante, allegedly by a bluefish.

 

In the U.S., bluefish are landed primarily in recreational fisheries, but important commercial fisheries also exist in temperate and

Pan frying the fillets

Pan frying the fillets

subtropical waters. Bluefish population abundance is typically cyclical, with abundance varying widely over a span of ten years or more.

 

Bluefish is a highly sought-after sportfish (and restaurant fish in some places) that had been widely overfished across the world’s fisheries of this species. Restrictions set forth by management organizations have somewhat helped the species’ population stabilize. In the U.S., specifically along the seaboard of the middle Atlantic states, bluefish were at unhealthy levels in the late 1990s, but management resulted in this stocks being fully rebuilt by 2009 In other parts of the world, public awareness efforts like Bluefish festivals, combined with catch limits, may be having positive effects in reducing the stress on the regional stocks. Some of these efforts are regionally controversial.

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