Cookbook review: The Flexible Pescatarian by Jo Pratt

18th Mar 19 | Lifestyle

It's time to cook some fish, discovers Ella Walker.


With many of us cutting back on our meat consumption – for ethical and environmental reasons – plant-based diets are on the rise.

But what if you still fancy eating the odd mackerel fillet, love your crab, or have a not-going-anywhere devotion to fish pie?

Enter recipe writer, food stylist and author of The Flexible Vegetarian, Jo Pratt, whose new cookbook, The Flexible Pescatarian offers ways to make the most of fish and seafood, while presenting veggie alternatives, side dishes and more.

The book: The Flexible Pescatarian by Jo Pratt.

Who will love it? Those with a pliable approach to being pescatarian or vegetarian; home cooks who have run out of ideas for what to do with fish and seafood – pescatarian or not – and need some inspiration; and those who may be afraid of cooking with fish, who ought to be pleasantly surprised.

What is it trying to get us cooking? Fish and seafood in all their forms, and for all palates (that includes kids) and budgets. There’s a huge, comforting smoked haddock mac ‘n’ cheese, whole baked snapper with a zingy pineapple salsa, Lebanese fish kebabs with rounds of charred aubergine, a speedy prawn paella, a tart teriyaki mackerel, as well as numerous spiced stews and curries. Don’t expect plain fish steaks and rubbery prawns – there’s a lot more imagination going on here.

How easy is it to use? Nicely laid out, Pratt aims to minimise any fears around prepping and cooking fish (turn to page 166 for a full breakdown of what you need to know). She’s also very clear on buying fish that’s been sustainably sourced. The recipes themselves aren’t wildly complicated, but at times, you do need to be hot on your timings. The handiest passages are the ‘flexible’ additions to recipes, where Pratt recommends alternative seafood you could use, or explains how to turn a pescatarian dish fully veggie.

The best recipe is… The Cornish crab pasties – such a good idea, the classic steak option won’t get a look-in again.

The recipe we’re most likely to post pictures of on Instagram is… The Vietnamese BBQ salmon – it’s wrapped in newspaper that’s soaked in water, then popped on the grill. The whole process is photogenic.

The dish we’re least likely to try is… The home-made fish fingers. Who has the time when the ones from the freezer are so reliably good?

Overall rating: 7/10 – the recipes are solid and reliable, without being too worthy.

How to make Jo Pratt’s scallops with puy lentils, porcini and asparagus

(Serves 4)

20g dried porcini mushrooms
300g puy lentils
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic, peeled
3tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
200g baby plum tomatoes, halved
2tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
Juice of 1 lemon
Olive oil, for frying
12–16 fresh scallops
Bunch of asparagus (approx. 250g), halved lengthways if thick
Flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

scallops, asparagus and puy lentils from The Flexible Pescatarian by Jo Pratt (Susan Bell/PA)
(Susan Bell/PA)

1. Place the porcini in a small bowl and pour over 300ml of boiling water. Set aside for about 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, put the lentils, bay leaf and garlic in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil. Cover loosely with a lid and simmer for 20–25 minutes, until the lentils are just tender, yet still holding their shape. Top up the water if you need to during cooking, then drain, remove the garlic and bay leaf, and set aside.

3. Heat a frying pan and add the extra virgin olive oil. When hot, add the halved tomatoes and toss them in the pan until they take on a little colour. Add the drained lentils, the porcini and their liquor, the parsley and lemon juice, and season well with salt and pepper.

4. In a separate frying pan, heat a drizzle of olive oil over a high heat. Season the scallops with salt and pepper and put them in the pan, cooking over a high heat for about two minutes on each side, until they are nicely golden.

5. Remove the scallops from the pan, pour in a drizzle more oil and add the asparagus. Fry for a couple of minutes while you are plating up.

6. Divide the lentils between four plates. Arrange three or four scallops per person and a few asparagus spears on top. Finish with a twist of black pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Flexible option: As delicious as scallops are, you could swap them for some pan-fried cauliflower. For this, you need to cut a small cauliflower into fairly equal-sized florets. Heat a good drizzle of olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the cauliflower and cook for three to four minutes until deep golden. Flip over and continue to cook, shaking the pan until the cauliflower is browned, for another five to six minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve as you would the scallops.

The Flexible Pescatarian by Jo Pratt is published by White Lion, priced £20. Photography Susan Bell. Available now.

© Press Association 2019