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Book Review: The Practical Encyclopaedia of Fish and Shellfish


By Kate Whiteman
RRP  $24.99 | ISBN 978 184476 6130| Soft back 256 pages
First Published November 2008

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Just in case you are wondering, don't be put off by the price being in dollars - the weights and measures in the book are in imperial and metric.


Despite having a very large cook book collection, many of which include fish recipes, I really wanted a single book which covered everything to do with fish and shellfish, including information about individual fish and seafood plus other general information.


I happened across this book on Amazon and as it wasn't that expensive,  given the description and the word "encyclopaedia", I decided to buy it blind.  I am so glad I did.


Not only does it have over 100 recipes but it also has sections on buying, preparing and cooking fish,  identification of fresh fish, smoked and salted fish, tinned and pickled fish, shellfish and seafood. 


In Detail

After a brief introduction, there are a few pages covering equipment - from basic scissors to fish smokers - all of which have accompanying photos and full descriptions. Next  comes a comprehensive section about buying, preparing and cooking fish and shellfish. Just about everything you will ever need to know.  Once again there are numerous accompanying photos which are really helpful to clarify processes such as preparing whole crab or lobster and filleting or skinning fish, especially for the less experienced cook.


The next section is entitled "A catalogue of fish and shellfish" and in the intro it states "This chapter is designed to help you identify the fish and shellfish you may find on the fishmonger's slab and give you an indication of how it can be cooked".  It does a lot more than that, with each specimen featured having information about the family it belongs to, habitat, other names, buying, cooking and alternatives.


The chapter is divided into several sections to enable the reader to find what they are looking for easily namely, sea fish, freshwater fish, dried and salted fish, pickled fish, canned fish, smoked fish, fish sauces and pastes, crustaceans, gastropods, molluscs and other edible sea creatures - most with a full colour picture.  As well as covering the more common fish/shellfish, it also features items which readers may never have heard of or seen such as sea squirt.

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The recipe section is divided into several chapters i.e. soups, starters, mousses, pates & terrines, salads, everyday main courses, pasta and rice dishes, light and healthy dishes, elegant dishes for entertaining and sauces for fish and shellfish. 


Every recipe has several colour photos showing various stages of the preparation and cooking, a short introduction/description and nutritional values which include calories, carbs, fats, sodium and proteins. Many also have a "cook's tip" or "variation".


All in all a good range of recipes from around the world, suitable for all sorts of occasions and for all skill levels, using practically every type of cooking method, including classics such as  Bouillabaisse and Lobster Thermidor  to modern Asian Fusion recipes.


If you want to broaden your knowledge about fish and shellfish or improve your fish cooking skills, this is the book for you. I am very pleased to have added it to my collection.


   By Florence Sandeman, Editor/Publisher



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