How to turn fish cheeks into a festive skewer | Food

Conscious consumption is on the rise, with 43% of consumers who buy seafood now saying that sustainability is a key consideration in what they buy, according to recent YouGov research. But until seafood businesses transition towards sustainability, so they can offer us better choices, the Marine Conservation Society’s Good Fish Guide is my go-to when deciding what fish to eat.

Another approach to eating seafood sustainably is to eat cuts that would otherwise be wasted, such as in today’s festive-looking, zero-waste recipe. All good fishmongers will sell fish cheeks, or ask for the whole heads, remove the cheeks and make stock, curry or soup with the rest.

Monkfish and cod cheek rosemary skewers with guanciale

The sustainability or otherwise of seafood is a topic of hot debate, and many fish can be deemed sustainable or not depending not just on the species, but also on where and how it is caught. Monkfish and cod sustainability is notably tricky and varies a lot, but by eating the cheeks, we are eating sustainably because we are saving on waste. In fact, the cheeks are perhaps my favourite part of the fish, and I love pig’s cheeks, too, which in Italy they cure to make guanciale. Here, the two complement each other beautifully to make succulent, deeply flavourful skewers made from the parts that are usually wasted. Woody, homegrown rosemary works best for these skewers, but more delicate, shop-bought rosemary should work fine, too: just make a decent-sized pilot hole for them with a metal skewer first. And after you’ve eaten, save the leftover rosemary skewers for fish stock, or compost them.

6 rosemary sprigs
3 large monkfish and/or cod cheeks
(about 100g)
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus ½ tbsp extra for frying
1 garlic clove garlic
, peeled and cut into six slices
Salt and black pepper
6 thin slices
guanciale, or 3 rashers streaky bacon, cut in half and stretched out with the back of a large knife

Make six skewers by removing the bottom 2cm of leaves from the thick, woody of each rosemary sprig.

Put the leaves in a sealable container, addthe oil and sliced garlic, then season generously.

Cut the fish cheeks neatly in half, so you now have six scallop-shaped pieces, toss these in the marinade, seal and refrigerate for four to 24 hours; wrap the skewers and refrigerate until needed.

Using a metal skewer, pierce a pilot hole through the length of the fish cheeks, then poke a cheek on to the end of each rosemary skewer. Lay out the guanciale (or bacon, lay a garlic sliver on each slice, then wrap tightly around each fish cheek.

Put half a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and, once hot, lay in the skewers and cook for two to three minutes, or until caramelised. Turn, repeat on the other side and enjoy immediately.

The Guardian aims to publish recipes for sustainable fish. Check ratings in your region: UK; Australia; US.

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