Since the time the Vikings roamed the seas, the annual arrival of skrei (pronounced ‘skray’) has been cause for celebration. From the Old Norse for ‘wanderer,’ skrei is a delicacy and source of modern culinary inspiration.
Norwegians consider skrei as a special gift from the seas as it enabled the Norse people to live far north in lands which would otherwise be uninhabitable during the long, dark winter. Vikings dried the fish and brought it on voyages as a source of nutrition and to use as currency along trade routes.
After years spent growing strong in the feeding grounds of the Barents Sea, Norwegian Cod in the prime of life head southward, returning to the Norwegian coast spawning grounds in search of a mate, earning it’s nickname of Valentine’s Fish, due to its quest for a mate and the time of year it arrives, which is January and February.
While more than 400 million Norwegian Cod migrate each only around 10% of those caught will qualify for skrei branding, where the dorsal fin is tagged, the rest are returned to sea. The Norwegian Cod fishery is not only the largest, it’s also one of the most organized and strictly regulated cod stocks in the world. All skrei is Marine Stewardship Council certified, with strict catch guidelines that ensure a healthy fish population.
Straight from the cold, clear waters of Northern Norway the skrei season lasts four-months in the early part of the year from January to April and is available from all UK Wholefood stores and quality fishmongers.
Michelin-star chef Michel Roux Jr comments on the fish saying, “Skrei is a versatile ingredient with lean, firm white flesh that lends itself to both modern and classic dishes. The biggest inspiration for me as a chef is seasonality, and that includes the forthcoming skrei season. The delicate sublime taste of skrei cod is second to none. It is a truly sustainable fish that with a unique legacy, which adds value to an already extraordinary product. As a chef I always insist on the finest ingredients and skrei never disappoints. I am proud and honoured to be an Ambassador for what I consider to be one of the finest products of the sea.”
Thanks to its epic journey through icy and dark waters, skrei is lean and rich in protein, vitamins and minerals, which makes it a hugely versatile, healthy and wholesome food, caught in its prime and in perfect condition. Skrei has firm flesh, with obvious fat lines defining the large bright white flakes, which melt away during cooking. The fish can be prepared in a variety of ways and can be enjoyed both raw and cooked.
To be classified as Skrei the fish needs to be caught fully-grown as a large mature cod before it has spawned (approx. five years old). It needs to be in pristine condition, with no scratches, bruising or injuries. It’s packed by trained staff within12 hours of being caught and stored on ice at a temperature between 0° and 4° Celsius. It’s third-party quality controlled by the Fishery Sales Organisation and approved sustainable by Marine Stewardship Council. Whole, fresh Skrei is required to have the Skrei brand fastened to the forward dorsal fin and put in a branded Skrei box.
Skrei has firm flesh, with obvious fat lines defining the large bright white flakes which melt away during cooking. The fish can be prepared in a variety of ways and can be enjoyed both raw and cooked. Delicious as a ceviche; firm textured and sweet, or try just lightly curing it and serving thinly sliced with olive oil, lemon, dill and sea salt as a mouth-watering starter.
For a main course, why not try brining some of the loin, then roasting and serving with a little braised fennel and anchovy. With such a delicate, yet full flavour to the meat, the fish can be served simply, with nothing more. After just a short time in the oven, the muscle and fat between the flakes will melt away and you can just push each one off with your fork.
For a more traditional approach, serve Skrei simply with boiled potatoes and steamed carrots – letting all the flavours of the fish do the talking. And if you are feeling adventurous, the classic way to prepare Norwegian Skrei is called ‘Mølje,’which is a simple, popular dish. To prepare this dish, in separate pots, poach the fish, liver and roe in lightly salted water; then serve with boiled potatoes. Skrei tongue and roe are considered by many to be a prized delicacy.
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