Tempting fish dishes in the canteen
There is still little fish to be found in Norwegian canteens. Researchers have now developed attractive new saithe dishes to stimulate consumption.
Fish is healthy and contains many essential nutrients. More and more people are therefore including fish in their diet. Even so, there is surprisingly little fish to be found in Norwegian canteens.
“People want to eat fish. But compared with meat the selection is poor in the catering sector,” explains Jan Thomas Rosnes, a researcher at Nofima Mat in Stavanger.
He has been working with a group of other researchers on the “InnovaFish” project to investigate how to improve the sale of fish. The researchers created dishes using saithe, or more specifically the low-price parts of the fish that are not normally used in canteen food. It is the loins that are normally used, the premium fillets without skin or bone.
“We wanted to use the parts that are normally frozen into blocks when the loins have been removed. If we succeeded, we would have a win-win situation, increasing the value of the raw material while producing a cheaper meal,” explains Rosnes.
The consumers have spoken
The researchers asked a group of chefs and consumers, who expressed their desire that fish should be presented in such a way that it was clear it was fish they were eating. No deep-frying or baked fish pastes, in other words.
The researchers then used an internet survey to ask what form the piece of saithe should take. Round, rectangular, or narrow? The fish lovers preferred a shape that resembled loin, like a piece of fillet. To go with it, they preferred pureed root vegetables or sweet and sour vegetables.
The final survey was carried out in two canteens and the response was good. On a scale of 1 to 9, the fish scored 5 to 7.
“Saithe isn’t one of those fish that normally gets us excited, so we think this is a good result,” says Rosnes.
Saithe has potential
The “InnovaFish” project is financed by the Research Council of Norway through the Food Programme, together with the Fishery and Aquaculture Industry Research Fund (FHF), the Foundation for Research Levy on Agricultural Products (FFL), and the Norconserv foundation.
The researchers are from Nofima and they have collaborated right across professional and technical boundaries, including both the green (vegetable) and blue (fish) sectors. They have also drawn on the expertise of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Gastronomic Institute and a wide-ranging group of participants from the industry.
Rosnes believes the poor selection of fish in our canteens is due to fish being expensive and difficult to prepare.
“It’s much easier with meat, which can be kept warm for a long time in trays. Fish has a tendency to crumble and seem less delicate. We depend on the more expensive types of fish, because of the current methods of preparation.”
The product has a long shelf life because it is supplied frozen. It is packed fresh and only needs to be heated before serving.
“Obviously, the fish loses a little quality when it is frozen, but on the other hand the quality remains stable,” says Rosnes.
“We have had very positive feedback from fish producers,” he adds. “Now we have to see whether any of them will actually launch the product.”
The researchers believe that the menus that work for saithe will also be suitable for salmon and cod.