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Huss - what's that? A lucky dip

"Although huss is nutritious, low in fat and easy to digest, it is not very highly prized." The Silver Spoon

It's a fish. Moreover it has a lot of names. Palombo is its name in Italy - my lucky dip book is The Silver Spoon (more about that later), Rock salmon in England, Dogfish there as well - and guess what - Flake - i.e. Gummy shark here in Australia. So fish and chips and yes, it is cheap in the fish shops and yet not considered gourmet enough to eat. I mean I never buy it, though I am often tempted. It's cheap and it looks pretty appetising. I'm not actually sure why I don't buy it. Maybe somebody very early on said something derogatory about it. Maybe because it's a kind of shark.

Actually I think all those names actually refer to similar and related fish but they all seem to be sharks of some kind or another - small sharks not the great white or indeed anything similar. About the size of a large salmon I think. They certainly don't all look the same. Flake (Gummy shark) doesn't seem to have spots for example.

Technically speaking you are not supposed to be able to sell a fish, cooked or raw, as flake unless it is actually gummy shark or a New Zealand related fish called rig. But alas, particularly when it comes to buying cooked fish - like your average fish and chips - I do not think there is a law that says you have to. As a result other fish is sometimes substituted. Basa which seems to be imported is an example of a substitute. Apologies, but I'm really not sure whether fresh fish sellers absolutely have to be accurate in their labelling but I think they generally are. The problem is you see that the substitutes might be either farmed basa from poorly managed overseas fisheries or endangered species like school shark, or fished using unsustainable practices, that endanger the fish and other marine life, such as sea lions. Indeed if you go to the website Good Fish, subtitled Australia' sustainable seafood guide, you would think that there is virtually no fish that you can eat safely - both from a health and an environmentally responsible point of view. However, other sites seem to suggest that Australia's fisheries' record is actually pretty good and that gummy shark in particular is sustainable. So maybe I should buy some next time I get to the Queen Vic Market. When will that be I wonder? Although, of course, I can also buy it in my local supermarket. I don't ever buy fish and chips - unless I'm on holiday - when will that be again too? So that's not a problem.

The other main advantage, and something I don't think I knew, is that shark does not have bones. It has cartilage instead. It is also always sold filleted with the skin off because apparently the skin is really difficult to remove. So another two reasons for buying it.

And the last one is what you can do with it - so much - which brings me back to Palombo - and how to cook it the Italian way. I'm assuming that the name 'huss' that The Silver Spoon gives it is an American term, although I guess it could be English. I don't remember huss though.

I should say that the facing page I turned to contained two recipes for hake - and tempting they look as well - one in a shallot sauce and the other fried and finished in a delectable sounding Italian kind of vegetable sauce. But I'm ignoring these, because I was intrigued by 'huss'. Obviously a fish - but what fish?

The recipe confronting me was for Palombo alle verdure - Huss with vegetables is the translated title. It's sort of fish stew. I could not find a recipe online - well not the same one, but I found a couple of photos of dishes with the same name, that I think would be similar:

Basically you fry together in olive oil, onions, aubergine, carrots and zucchini, add tomatoes, cook for 10 minutes, add fish on top, season and cook for 20 minutes. Almost fish cooked in ratatouille. Couldn't be simpler. It reminded me of a Greek fish stew I make occasionally - Psari plaki, which is one of those unpromising, very simple things that turn out to be utterly delicious. And I'm guessing that this recipe would be the same. I'm also guessing that it is one of those infinitely variable dishes, with the vegetables changing according to what you have in your fridge at the time.

I cheated a little, because I was curious and turned the page to find three more vaguely similar recipes - the first with celery, in which the fish is fried and then cooked with celery, basil, chilli and tomatoes and finished off with olives. The second is a gratin of fish layered with potatoes and covered with béchamel, and the final is for fish covered with green tomatoes, onion and oregano. Season, drizzle with olive oil and cover with breadcrumbs Also baked in the oven.

We don't eat enough fish in our household. I vowed to eat fish at least once a week and I have sort of tried, but not enough. Next time I do fish I might buy some flake and try one of these recipes.

The book will be tomorrow's post.


As you can see, almost in the middle of nowhere a small exhibition of 'art work' from a child I'm guessing. The 'exhibits' were quite a few feet apart - out of view of each other. The coloured dots are sequins. And then there were the sheep.


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