Hix On…Easter Feast Ideas

Easter is on its way but instead of roasting lamb, follow our food columnist Mark Hix’s lead and cook an alternative feast with fish and oysters instead…

Easter should be a time to celebrate and have some fun but what we tend to end up doing is buying lots of chocolate for the kids and ignoring the traditional Easter celebrations, or even having an Easter supper. The obvious Easter ingredients that spring to mind are lamb and eggs, but we also still have a bit of time to appreciatethe British native oyster before they go out of season. Our coastline has many fantastic oyster fisheries and possibly some you may have never heard of. Oysters used to be sold as street food on the streets of London in the 1800s, then pollution struck the estuaries in Essex, from where the oysters would be brought around the coast by sailboat to the London docks.

There is a bit of an oyster revival in London now and oyster barsare slowly popping up in the capital including at my own establishments. Sadly though, unlike in France we don’t tend to have the culture of eating oysters at home. That may well be partly due to the demise of the high-street fishmonger – it’s rare to see oysters proudly displayed in amongst other seafood outside shops and restaurants on the high streets.

This Easter I am planning a fish feast at home, starting with a selection of oysters and baking a whole fish with an oyster stuffing for guests to feast on down the middle of the table.

We are often a tad shy about cooking fish at home, but if you do happen to have a good fishmonger nearby, you can get him to completely bone a large fish like a cod or sea bass and leave the head on, so you can stuff it with a mixture of onions, breadcrumbs, herbs and chopped up oysters. Ask him to save the bones for you and if you don’t fancy serving the head to your guests use it with the bones to make a robust fish soup. This would make a wonderful first course for your alternative Easter feast.

‘This Easter, I am baking a whole fish with oyster stuffing for my guests to feast on’

The subject of fish is a controversial one though, and it often confuses the hell out of fish lovers exactly what you can and can’t eat because of over-fishing. The recent press about mackerel sent out the message that we mustn’t eat mackerel, which isn’t exactly the case. For me, factory ships landing catches over their quota and an innocent trip out on a mackerel charter boat are two very different thing. A dozen or so line-caught mackerel can go a long way to feed a crowd, simply grilled, or soused or cured in cider, and aren’t going to have an impact on our fish stocks. Eating mackerel from sustainable source will bring the profile of the humble mackerel up a notch or two – a species that can be eaten occasionally and enjoyed as it should be.