SHARKS IN PERIL. Recipe: Pesce in Pastella – fish in batter

In the weeks before Christmas, I received an email headed Sharks in Peril. It was sent by Tooni Mahto, Marine Campaigner from The Marine Conservation Society and was a call to action to reduce shark fishing. The gruesome practice of catching sharks purely for their fins was a special focus of Tooni Mahto’s message.  Having watched documentary footage of sharks being hauled on deck and having their fins hacked off, before pitched back into the sea to writhe and drown, I can’t imagine how anyone could sit down to relish shark fin soup.
Many shark species are listed as endangered by all of the conservation associations. And shark is caught and sold under a variety names, the most common being “flake”, which disguise what is really on sale. Many seafood customers are not aware that Fish and Chips shops, especially, use shark, sold as flake for their battered fish. King George whiting and flathead tails are a sustainable and better tasting alternative to ‘flake’. Even before I knew “flake” was actually shark, I never liked the taste.
In Italy, shark is called pescecane (fish/ dog) but it is also called squalo, however it also has other names (palombo, verdesca, smeriglio, vitella di mare) and Italians like the rest of the world may not know that they are eating shark or an endangered species.
From Slow Fish, Italy:
I pescecani non sono una minaccia per gli uomini, sono gli uomini che minacciano (e pesantemente) i pescecani!
Sharks are not a threat to men, it is men who threaten (and heavily) sharks.
The Sharks in Peril email came with an invitation to cut out the shape of a globally endangered hammerhead shark, and within the shape to write a message, which could be sent to the Australian Government. The photo above is my best effort to get the message across.
The following quotes have come from the Sharks in Peril Appeal and I hope that it will motivate you to look at their website.
Walking into a supermarket or fish and chip shop the last thing you would expect to see is an endangered species for sale. There would be outrage if tiger, whale or panda were being sold. But you will find globally endangered hammerheads available, right here in Australia. 
Every year a staggering 100 million sharks are caught and killed across the globe. 
Huge consumer demand for shark fins and other shark products has made sharks among the most valuable fish in the sea.
As silently as sharks slip on to the menu, their numbers slip towards extinction.
While more and more nations are giving their sharks sanctuary, here in Australia we’re finning,, filleting and battering them into oblivion. 
But this isn’t a distant problem in a distant ocean. Australian fisheries catch hundreds of thousands of sharks each year, sending shark meat to our supermarkets and fish shops and contributing hundreds of tonnes of fins to the shameful international trade in shark fin. Inconceivably this includes tens of thousands of sharks caught from within the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef including endangered species like the scalloped hammerhead.
N.B. If you have a copy of the first AMCS guide there are some changes to the classification of particular species of fish.

Batter is called pastella in Italian and this particular one is mainly used to coat vegetables and fruit before frying, Using a heavy type batter is common for fish in Australia, however Italians generally use a much lighter batter to coat fish before frying ( light coating of flour or dipped in beaten egg first, then fine breadcrumbs).


Recipe  from L’Artusi, La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiare bene (Pellegrino Artusi).

100g plain flour,1 tablespoon of  extra virgin olive oil, 1 egg- separated, salt to taste, and  a little water.

Combine egg yolk with other ingredients (add as much water as necessary) and make a thick batter.
Rest for 2 hours.
When ready to use add beaten egg white (stiff).

Dip fish in batter and fry.



4 thoughts on “SHARKS IN PERIL. Recipe: Pesce in Pastella – fish in batter”

  1. Ciao Marisa,

    mi chiamo Amalia e sono di Napoli, dal 1984 non vivo piu’ in Italia, e sono passata per tante citta’ e continenti. Attualmente vivo a Portland nell’ Oregon, dove gli italiani sono ben pochi e i negozi che vendono provviste italiane sono scarsi. E’ molto difficile qui sulla West Coast ricreare le ricette della mia tradizione perche’ spesso mancano gli ingredienti fondamentali.

    Dopo aver lasciato l’ Italia ho vissuto per 15 anni a Londra dove era facilissimo trovare quasi tutto importato dall’ Italia, nonche’ verdure fresche dal Mediterraneo o Turchia, e pesci simili ai nostri. Invece su questa costa del Pacifico il pesce e’ del tutto diverso, chi ha mai mangiato il salmone (anche se e’ certo buonissimo) in Italia se non come una cosa esotica?
    E qui si trova in abbondanza non solo salmone ma halibut e merluzzi giganti che io non so neanche come cucinare; e invece polipo, calamari e seppie sono considerati ancora con sospetto…
    Ma pare che tu in Australia abbia meno difficolta’ a trovare del buon pesce che si puo’ adattare alle nostre ricette del Sud!
    E apprezzo e condivido il tuo appello a rinunciare alla pesca dello squalo.

    Mi piace tutto il tuo blog, io amo le ricette che non parlino solo di ingredienti ma anche di storia e cultura (ho una laurea in antropologia, e per me il cibo e’ una profonda parte delle culture umane). Sto pensando anche io di scriverne uno sul cibo e sulla mia condizione di emigrante continuamente alla ricerca dei sapori perduti…


    1. Amalia, salve e piacere.
      Si in Australia trovo questi tipi di pesce: sarda, cefalo, merlano, passara, pesce San Pietro, triglia (ma non è molto conosciuta), aguglia.

      C’e` il tonno e il pesce spada ma` non sono pesci sostenibili.

      Calamari, seppie e polpi, non piacciono a tutti in Australia.
      Uno si adatta con il tempo.

      Io ho pure scritto un libro “Sicilian Seafood Cooking” (pesce e verdura) e. mi sono divertita (pero` ho messo 8 anni!).
      Ti potresti divertire con un blog scritto dall’ Oregon.

  2. Thank you, Marisa, for this enlightening post re sharks and the fact that they are sold under fake names. I’ll be on the lookout…

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