Fancy grilled lionfish?

By | Category: Travel news

fish dishes from St Lucia. Image © Chris Willan

I like many other people, thought that lionfish were poisonous. So why would you eat them? Why would chefs be encouraged to serve them on the menu? Will guests accept them and be prepared to eat them?

It appears that the flesh isn’t poisonous, only the spines. Therefore, if handled and cooked properly, you should be able to eat them safely. But they are “poisoning” the coral reefs in the Caribbean and have been been for five or six years.

Apparently, lionfish in the Caribbean are invasive and  not only are they reducing native fish stocks around the coral reefs thus reducing the number of fish that can be caught by locals, they are having an effect on the reef itself.

St Lucia thinks it has a solution. For some years it has been trying to persuade fisherman to catch lionfish and sell them to restaurants. Fewer lionfish around the shores of St Lucia means more native fish, less damage to the reef and more fish available for fisherman. It seems a win-win solution providing holidaymakers and locals can be persuaded to eat lionfish. And not too many fisherman suffer from accidentally pricking themselves on the spines. And more lionfish is being eaten so it looks as though the St Lucia campaign may work.

A restaurant called Grills in the Florida cities of Melbourne and Port Canaveral advertises on its website that it will pay top dollar for divers who are willing to take the risk and bring them lionfish. They say they have already removed 29,000 tons of lionfish from the reefs. Their preferred method of cooking is to par fry them coat with a sweet and sour sauce and then broil them. And they give advice on how to handle the lionfish, useful for those that are prone to accidents when gutting safer fish! Back on St Lucia, any number of restaurants  actively promote lionfish on their menus.

How long before, Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsey and others come out with cookery books with titles like “Roaring lionfish treats” or “Fish recipes that roar?” Will the pre-eminent fish chef Rick Stein be asked to do a mini-tv series on cooking with lionfish? Will the recommended wine to go with the fish contain a dose of serum in case a spine has been overlooked?

And what do you do with all these poisonous spines you’ve removed. Do you have a spine collection tin to put out for the dustman?

If you can eat lionfish what about jellyfish? Irish beaches are being plagued by them this summer. Does St Lucia have any cooking suggestions for those?

Is this too adventurous for me? Should I stick to cod and chips from my local chippie! Or will I be trotting along in the years to come and asking for lionfish and chips twice?

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