Catch of the day: Eight frozen fish put to the test

THERE’S no question about it, fresh fish cannot be beaten for flavour and texture. And for good value either.

Catch of the day: Eight frozen fish put to the test

By Roz Crowley

THERE’S no question about it, fresh fish cannot be beaten for flavour and texture. And for good value either.

Fillets or chunks of fresh fish can be cooked in the oven just as easily as any of these frozen versions and will cook quicker too.

Why would we buy them? Readily available in supermarkets, they can have tasty coatings of flavoured breadcrumbs or batter. However, we can easily freeze ends of bread to make crumbs and mix with fresh thyme or curry powder for superb flavour.

Most of all, consumers I interviewed liked the lack of bones and skin.

Salt content of samples we selected was never over 1%, a welcome finding. Carbohydrates on average were 12% which amounts to about 18g per fillet for both breaded and battered. Fats (added in all versions so they can cook in the oven) were three times higher in battered versions.

Fortunately, all brands can be cooked in the oven, which avoids further fat and kitchen smells.

Use the oven economically by baking skinny chips at the same time. Watch for ‘fished sustainably’ types of labels. Those who use fish from sustainable sources usually put it on the label.

Dietitians advise that we eat fish twice a week, apart from pregnant women who should avoid large oily fish.

Given the cost and added fats, perhaps it’s best to keep the best of these handy for stormy weather ahead.

M&S chunky breaded haddock fillets 600g €9.50

At 63%, this had the highest fish content of today’s samples. The quality of the fish was best too, tasting fresh, and with a succulent texture. The coating of wheat, rice and rye flours, oatmeal and sunflower oil was light and tasty. 12.6% fish protein was found in most samples. You get what you pay for — good prepared food is costly.

Score: 9

Dunnes Store Battered Haddock Fillets 600g €3.60

Haddock of 55% delivers 11.5% protein, with the rest a batter of maize and wheat flours, palm oil, mustard powder, rapeseed oil and rusk. “This tastes cheap, but I like it. It’s like a fish and chip shop fish”, said one taster and all agreed. The best of the two battered varieties tasted.

Score: 7

SuperValu breaded cod fillets 450g €2

Tastier than many, with mustard powder, white pepper, garlic and onion powders in the crumb coating, this has 55% succulent cod delivering 12% protein. Good for this price.

Score: 7.5

Lidl InisMara breaded cod fillets 300g €2.79

Two cod fillets have 55% cod and 11.5% protein and are decently chunky, with the breadcrumbs including mustard powder, rapeseed oil, white pepper, garlic and onion powders for flavour. One taster detected a slightly floury aftertaste like fish fingers, with the seasoning slightly overpowering the fish.

Score: 7

Young’s Gastro 2 Lemon & pepper fish fillets 300g €2.50

These pollock fillets from Alaska are coated in wheat and rice flours, rapeseed oil. 58% fish delivers a decent 13.3% protein. Liked by adults only, the taste of lemon flavouring was thought to be a bit synthetic. One taster liked it a lot and brought up the score.

Score: 6.75

BirdsEye Extra large breaded fish 320g €5.50

Two fillets comprise 55% Alaskan pollock provide 12% protein. The fillets looked big enough, but when cut open all the edges and ends were all breadcrumbs, adding bulk.

Nice flavouring of turmeric, mustard and salt. Certified sustainable seafood MSC is admirable, but the price is very high. A couple of locally fished fillets this size in a market/fishmonger would cost much less.

Score: 5

Donegal Catch chunky cod Atlantic fillets 500g €5.50

No mention of sustainability of this box of fillets produced in Britain by Green Isle Foods, which is based in Co Kildare. A decent 62% cod amounting to 14% protein has garlic, onion and mustard powders in the breadcrumb coating, but not zinging with flavour or freshness.

Score: 6

Tesco 4 battered cod fillet portions 500g €1.69

Cod here is 52% with 12.1% protein, coated in wheat and maize flours, sunflower, rapeseed and palm oils (no mention of sustainable oil sources, though the fish is certified sustainable seafood), mustard powder, yeast extract, flavouring, yeast. A slightly nutty taste to the batter which was heavy, but the fish had some flavour. Produced in Poland using cod in NE Atlantic which could mean as far as Iceland.

Score: 6

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