This very cold-water fish now thrives in sunny Dorset, says Samways’ Mark Machin
Until the remarkable Hans Hoff decided to trial them in his Houghton Springs fish farm in the east of the county, the Arctic char was, as the name suggests, not native to Dorset. Thankfully, Hoff’s gamble paid off, as char, if you have not yet tried them, is one of the finest flavoured fish available to us.
The taste is not hugely dissimilar to a lean trout or wild salmon, although it is cleaner on the palate, and the texture reminds us of sea bass, the king of the sea. It is a versatile fish, suitable for curing, smoking, and poaching (as they do in Scandinavia), but here we simply pan fry the fillet, because the skin is by far the crispest skin that I have ever tried.
If you are looking for something quick for a summer evening, why not try a char ceviche – dice the skinless char into 1cm cubes and marinate inlime juice, olive oil and a little sea salt. Leave for half an hour and serve with fresh garden herbs.
Recently audited by the Marine Conservation Society, who have awarded Arctic char a green rating of 1, recommending char as an excellent sustainable choice.
Winterbourne Arctic Char with Asparagus and Wild Garlic
1kg Arctic char filleted and pinned
1 bunch of asparagus
500g wild garlic leaves and their flowers
800g new potatoes
1 clove garlic
Extra virgin olive oil
1. Blanch the washed potatoes in salted water with the clove of garlic and a spoon of olive oil until just cooked.
2. Trim the asparagus and steam for a few minutes to your liking (roughly 3-4 minutes).
3. Carefully wash the garlic leaves and lightly cook in a pan with olive oil and a small pinch of salt.
4. Season the char and place in a hot non-stick pan, skin side down, with a spoon of olive oil. Apply slight pressure to the char to keep the skin in contact with the pan.
5. Cook the char 75% skin side, you will see the flesh turn white around the edges, at which point, turn over and turn off the heat.
6. Serve the char on a bed of the prepared vegetables. Goes great with a dry cider or sparkling wine.