Delicious fish dishes in the canteen
There is still little fish on offer in Norwegian canteens. Researchers have now developed new, attractive dishes as ready meals in order to stimulate consumption.
Fish is healthy and contains many essential nutrients. Nevertheless, surprisingly little fish is served in Norwegian canteens.
“People want to eat fish, but in comparison with meat the selection in the catering sector is poor,” says Researcher Jan Thomas Rosnes at Nofima Mat in Stavanger.
In the InnovaFish project he and a group of researchers have studied how to improve the sale of fish. The scientists developed dishes from saithe, more precisely the low-priced products that are not normally used for canteen food. The actual delicacy is the loin, as it is pure fillets without any skin and bones.
“We wanted to use the parts that are normally block frozen once the loin has been removed. If we succeed, it is a win-win situation because the value of the raw material will increase and the meal will become more affordable,” says Rosnes.
The consumers have spoken
The researchers questioned a group of Chefs and consumers, and the response was they wanted the fish to be served in a state that they comprehended it was fish they were eating. In other words, no deep-frying or baked fish mince.
The researchers then asked the consumers via an online questionnaire what shape the piece of saithe should have – round, square or narrow? The fish consumers preferred the shape that resembled loin as a fillet. When it came to vegetable dishes to be served with the fish, they preferred mashed turnips or sweet and sour vegetables.
The final study took place in two canteens and the dishes were well received. On a scale of 1 to 9, the fish received a score of 5-7.
“It’s rare that anyone jumps for joy because of saithe so we regard this as a good result,” says Rosnes.
Saithe has potential
The InnovaFish project is financed by the Research Council of Norway through the Food Programme and the Fishery, in conjunction with the Fishery and Aquaculture Industry Research Fund (FHF), the Foundation for Research Levy on Agricultural Products Research Fund and the Norconserv Foundation.
This is an interdisciplinary project involving Nofima researchers from both the green (vegetables) and blue (fish) sectors. They have been assisted by experts from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and the Culinary Institute of Norway, as well as a broad group of industry participants.
Rosnes believes the poor selection of fish at canteens may be attributed to the fact that fish is expensive and difficult to prepare.
“Meat is far easier as it tolerates long periods in heated trays, while fish has a tendency to crumble up and appear less appetising. We are reliant on expensive fish species in order to ensure today’s preparation.”
This product has a long shelf life as it is supplied frozen. It is packed fresh and only requires a heat treatment before the dish is served.
“It is clear that the fish loses some qualities when it is frozen, but on the other hand it maintains a stable quality,” says Rosnes.
“We have received positive feedback from the fish producers. It now remains to be seen if any put this into practice.”
The researchers believe the menu selection that functions for saithe can also be adapted for other fish species, such as salmon and cod.