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The swordfish meat has a very delicate flavour, meaty and mild. Swordfish, also known as broadbills, is an oily fish similar to tuna, chunky meat without bones. Find out how to know if the swordfish is fresh, what cuts to buy and how to cook them.
It is a very popular dish worldwide, often sold in the form of steaks, usually grilled.
Unfortunately, like tuna, it has been overfished with illegal mesh nets, resulting in several restrictions being put in place over the past number of years to preserve the fish stocks worldwide. If you want to know more about this fish, you can read a very detailed article on Wikipedia.
It has been fished since ancient times with a harpoon, a method mentioned by Homer in the XII Book of the Odyssey.
In the straits of Messina, they are fished with a special boat called Feluca, which has been used for more than 500 years.
The Feluca has a very high tower and a very long bridge.
The high tower is used to locate the fish.
When a swordfish is spotted, a fisherman with a harpoon stretches at the end of the long bridge to harpoon the fish.
The long bridge is used to catch the fish before it is warned off by the noise of the boat and swims away.
However, this method has also raised numerous concerns as the fish caught in this manner suffer a long and exhausting death.
Although, it is claimed by some that it is better for marine life since it does not involve any bycatch
By and large, they are now mostly caught using hand-lines which are left in the sea by the fishermen with a transmitter attached, so it can be easily recovered.
They are positioned in the sea by the fishermen with bate attached and left there for about 2 days.
Nevertheless, even this method has its downside.
If the fish is caught soon after the lines have been put in place – it will be trapped on the line for 2 days putting up a fierce struggle, eventually dying.
Protecting it from overfishing
So, if you want to buy swordfish meat to eat there are many elements to consider, I would recommend the following:
- Make sure that it has been caught by professional and responsible fishermen.
- Buy it in moderation, buy it fresh.
- Make the most of the swordfish meat using all parts.
How to know if the Swordfish meat is fresh
I grew up spending my summers in the South of Italy where swordfish are caught locally, so I am used to eating it fresh.
Being conscious of the endangerment of this species, I only buy it when I know it has been caught locally by professional fishermen. I will not buy it if it has been frozen,
I can fully appreciate its freshness and make the most of swordfish meat.
There are 4 signs to recognise if a swordfish is fresh:
- The Eyes: Look at the eye, you will see a white ball fallen deep inside the eye? This is a sign that it is fresh. When frozen, the white ball surfaces to the top
- The Gills: They should be light pink in colour. If not, it means that the fish has been struggling and suffered, for example, if caught using hand-lines, and left there for 2 days
- The Skin: If fresh, the skin will discolour when in contact with the metal of the table.
- The Blood: Once the fish has been cleaned and cut into pieces, there will be fresh blood left on the table.
What cut of swordfish meat to buy and how to cook it
The swordfish is usually cut into 3 main parts:
- The tail: The tail is cut into wheels; they will weigh about 2 kg each. I prefer to cook it in the oven, it is easy to prepare and very practical for dinner parties – each wheel feed at least 8 people!Baked Swordfish Wheel:To keep the meat moist, the wheel is cooked in the oven but covered with aluminium foil and at bain-marie (the pan is immersed in water).You will have beautiful juices from the fish and you can serve with potatoes or rice that will absorb the flavour.
- The stomach: The stomach is moister and can be cut into small slices. It is mostly grilled or barbecued, I prefer to cook it in the oven with breadcrumbs either flat or rolled.Grilling tends to dry it too much, while the breadcrumbs help retain the moisture.Swordfish steak in the oven Swordfish braciolette:
- Neck and top fin: The neck and top fin are not clean cuts, therefore, contain many cartilages, however, the meat is full of flavour as it has more fat in between. It is half the cost of the steak, and perfect for making a swordfish ragu. I gently stir fry it until the meat separates easily from the bones, and use it to make:Pasta with Swordfish ragu
What to serve with swordfish
As its meat is very delicate and fresh, I like to serve swordfish with a nice salad seasoned with extra virgin olive oil and lemon. For the wheel and the stake you can add as side dish an Italian potato salad and grilled summer vegetables.
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