Reviewer says
Guide to Fish, Hilary McNevin | 2008 | AU

reviewed by JudithM

Guide to Fish: Choosing and cooking sustainable species
by Hilary McNevin
Publisher: Fairfax Books, Country: AU
ISBN: 9781921190988, Year: 2008
This review is the personal opinion of the reviewer.

Review

Following the standardisation of fish names in Australia in 2007, Hilary McNevin’s Guide to Fish is the first consumer-oriented book to offer a simple reference for the new names. Not just that, however, as this is a handy, modern guide to choosing and cooking fish. Across 208 pages, McNevin provides helpful information about sustainable species, buying and cooking tips, and also a great range of interesting, tasty recipes for each of the species presented.

The book starts with brief explanations of the core issues that the book addresses: sustainability, choosing fish, cooking methods and more. The author doesn’t lecture about sustainability issues, but simply presents the problems and encourages readers to “think twice before you buy [dwindling stock] wild species too often”. Some readers might object to the lack of proscription, expecting a stronger statement to not eat a wider range of species, but McNevin simply lays out the basic facts and says it’s up to the consumer to decide. She deliberately omits any information about severely depleted species in the body of the book, instead listing them on a “red list” (e.g. orange roughy, swordfish), while remaining species are categorised as green (ok; e.g. trevally, whiting, bream) or amber (think twice; e.g. wild barramundi, grouper, snapper). There is also a list of which fish are now being farmed.

Each of the fish is presented with a clear photo and brief details about season, fillet appearance, texture and flavour, cooking methods, and wine and beer pairings. Following this are a number of recipes, plus a list of good flavour combinations, and cross-references to other suitable recipes in the book which could be adapted to the fish in question.

Specific strengths of the Guide to Fish are the descriptions of the raw meat and bloodline appearance, food/drink pairings, and useful suggestions about which species of fish within the same family are sustainable (and can therefore be cooked in a similar way, whilst also protecting fish stocks). The recipes are clearly laid out and easy to follow. The book might have benefited from the inclusion of nutritional information for each fish and an index, while the section on microwaving fish overlooks the fact that appliances function at different strengths, so the cooking guidelines in that section won’t be reliable.

Although you could always wish for more detail, this book achieves what it needs to within its compact format. It suits consumers who are looking for accessible information and cooking ideas. People in search of more detail would need to turn to the two Australian Seafood Handbooks (Domestic/Imported Species), though these aren’t up-to-date with the new fish names.

This is an original review for The Gastronomer’s Bookshelf. The review was co-authored by Duncan Markham.
Main rating: 5 stars. Highly recommended
Visual appeal: Attractive
Suitability as a gift: Quite nice
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