The festive season is upon us, with many of us busily planning the ultimate Christmas feast. Some like it hot, some not. With the abundance of BBQ classics and cold cut meats, seafood is a refreshing alternative to the copiousness of red meat consumed over the Christmas period. Take a visit to your local fish market to stock up on the freshest supplies, with Veronica Papacosta giving her top tips on how to navigate the seafood markets this busy period.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO TRY SOMETHING NEW
Want to try something new this Christmas? If you don’t like surprises when you have a house full of guests coming for lunch and always wanted to roast fresh clams on the BBQ, or marinate and wok toss some fresh calamari – make sure you have a test run a few days before the big day.
It’s no secret that prawns, oysters and lobsters are the most popular seafood on the Australian Christmas table, however here are a few of my favourite seafood secrets for Christmas:
Clams, Mussels and Vongole – A big bowl of molluscs make a wonderful centrepiece. BBQ, wok toss or roast in a paper parcel, they are relaxed, easy to cook and delicious. Perfectly paired with an ice cold beer.
Moreton Bay & Balmain Bugs – Bugs can often be overlooked when lobsters are around, however the cooked Moreton Bay or Balmain Bug is a favourite on the Papacostas’ family Christmas table. They are usually sold already cooked so ask your fishmonger to split them in half for you, then simply pop them in a large bowl and watch your friends and family devour them. The flesh pops out easily with a fork so they are easy to eat.
Whole fish – Christmas isn’t complete without a big fish in the middle of the table! Look for sustainable, Australian fish such as a whole Huon Tasmanian Salmon, which you can buy fresh on Christmas eve. Salt baked, oven roasted or straight on the BBQ, a whole salmon is versatile and goes a long way with your guests – not to mention is an aesthetically appealing centrepiece for a Christmas banquet!
ASK THE EXPERTS
There are plenty of off the shelf options for customers when buying seafood but the reason that customers shop at a local fish market is for the service. Cooking tips, how to choose and prepare your seafood purchase is knowledge that all good fishmongers will take the time to share with you. Find a fish market with good service and then make it your one stop shop for all things seafood.
Vendors’ have passion for their produce, so they enjoy educating consumers and taking the time to answer your questions. Timing is important and as you can imagine, Christmas Eve isn’t the best time to ask loads of questions as they’re simply too busy. Best to visit your local fishmonger a few days before Christmas eve with all of your seafood questions. This means that on Christmas Eve you can pop in, pick up your seafood and be home in no time at all.
PRE-ORDER YOUR SEAFOOD
If you’d like to secure your seafood spread but don’t want to fight the hectic Christmas crowds, all reputable fish markets will be accepting pre-orders. Most fish markets will take orders from early December for pick up or home delivery – tell the fishmonger what you want, place a small deposit and turn up on 24th knowing that what you want will be ready and waiting. For those who are time poor, you can skip the fish markets altogether and purchase a delicious fresh Huon Salmon fillet from Tasmania which can be delivered straight to your door (to most Australian residences) within seven days.
PICK YOUR MOMENT
If you want the ‘full experience’ and would prefer not to pre-order, then pick your shopping time wisely in order to avoid the crowds. Every year, most people want to get in early and get the best deals, hitting up the local fish market between the busy hours of 7am and 9am. To ensure you beat the morning rush, I recommend that people shop after 11am, that way there are still plenty of produce but you miss the crowds!
FOLLOW YOUR NOSE
Christmas Eve has to be the easiest day of the year to pick fresh seafood for a very important reason. Fast moving produce guarantees that you are going to get the freshest seafood available, as it won’t be sitting on the shelf for very long. Even though fish markets are busy on Xmas Eve, it doesn’t mean all vendors are not still competing for your business, and competition means bargains. Keep on the lookout for good Christmas specials and nab a quality deal with gorgeous lobsters at the Sydney Fresh Seafood for $20.00 each!
DON’T BELIEVE THE PRICE HYPE!
Every year you will hear that seafood prices will skyrocket on Christmas Eve. In my 30 years of working in the seafood industry, I have never seen this happen. Yes, demand is high and yes, the pressure on supply of seafood is intense but you should not expect to pay any more than 10% increase on normal seafood prices.