It’s hard to think of an Australian chef – perhaps any chef – trying as hard as Sydney’s Josh Niland to make us think differently about fish. The Saint Peter and Fish Butchery operator is a great lover of pescatarian proteins, and has been arguing for years that there’s just too much unnecessary fish wastage here and around the globe.
“It is an increasingly pressing problem, without easy solutions,” he writes in the introduction to his insightful new book Take One Fish: The New School of Scale-to-Tail Cooking and Eating, which is out tomorrow, July 28. “But what’s key is challenging the system by shifting the focus towards valuing diverse species and all parts of their edible components. My priority is to maximise the yield from one single fish, which I firmly believe should not be seen as something we only take the fillets from.”
It’s the follow-up to his first book, The Whole Fish Cookbook, which in May 2020 took out the major Book of the Year award, as well as the Restaurant and Professional category at the US James Beard Awards – the Oscars of cookbooks. (Niland was the first Australian to win the James Beard Book of the Year Award.) It also picked up a bunch of other accolades.
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As with that book, plus the eateries he runs with partner (and wife) Julie Niland, the pioneering fin-to-scale chef is on a mission to show the world there is much more to a fish than its two fillets. “There is a minimum of 90 per cent delicious potential in each and every fish in good condition, a number that represents nearly double the commonly accepted yield. What does that mean? Well, ultimately, for every fish caught we can generate the yield of two. So, one less fish is caught, effectively doubling the output of fish for the world.”
In Take One Fish, he uses 15 species to show how people can be creative and transform even the oddest bits into amazing dishes. There are 60 creative recipes to emphasise this argument and help build confidence around using more than the fillets. The idea is you “take one fish” and cook it in many different ways.
Recipes include the Saint Peter custard tart with a caramel made from sardine garum, or fermented fish sauce. There’s also salt-and-vinegar whole coral trout; a swordfish pie made with its bone marrow; and a fish burger made with boneless bass-groper collars (the meat behind the gills).
Take One Fish: The New School of Scale-to-Tail Cooking and Eating, published by Hardie Grant, is out Wednesday July 28. Buy it here.