In a nutshell: These superb whole garfish, AKA needlefish, simply topped and tailed then tinned in sunflower oil are a real delicacy. Individually line-caught in the Bay of Biscay and preserved by Arroyabe, a renowned Basque Country family firm.
For centuries, the Basque coast of northern Spain has been home to a thriving fishing industry. It was here, in the little port of Bermeo, that Rufino Arroyabe set up a canning business, back in 1898.
It is during the autumn and winter that the boats catch the prized garfish. Anyone who has been to a Spanish fish market will recognise this species – with its distinctive long, pointy snout and emerald green bones when cooked, it's not for nothing that it's also called needlefish.
Taste-wise, it's an oily fish, similar to the sardine and mackerel. Like these, it's a rich source of the omega-3 fatty acids that play a vital role in heart health and which the body can't make by itself, so must get from food.
For centuries, garfish has been enjoyed in the villages that fringe the Cantabrian coast.. All around Spain, it is also a prized fish served straight from the tin in tapas bars and restaurants too! Now you can try it, too.
How to use:
- Slices of toasted sourdough topped with garfish fillets make a simple and simply delicious lunch. Soft-boiled eggs and pickles optional.
- Perfect as a dinner party starter placed straight on the table seasoned with some black pepper and lemon.
Details: Garfish in sunflower oil; 160g tin
For centuries, the warm waters of the Gulf Stream have shepherded shoals of tuna to the Bay of Biscay, on the 3,000-mile journey from their spawning grounds in the Sargasso Sea. And for just as long, they’ve been caught by Basque fisherman during their June-to-November season. For the past 120 years, the best of this catch has been preserved by Arroyabe, a family firm from the fishing port of Bermeo. As well as tuna, they preserve anchovies, cockles and garfish – also known as needlefish, due to their long and pointed snouts.
At each stage of the production process, Arroyabe employs production methods that would be familiar to the firm’s founders. Tuna, for example, is caught the original and best way using rod-and-line, a low-impact method that doesn’t damage the seabed or capture other species, as would happen with trawling.
As you would expect, all its products are certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
The fish is then hand-prepared by skilful and experienced workers who carefully select the best pieces to use. Most are packed in olive oil, which enhances the fish’s smooth texture and savoury flavour. Some are packed in water, which brings down the product's calorie count, while some are packed in escabeche – a pickle sauce of oil and vinegar, a traditional method of preserving fish that was used before the advent of sterilisation.
Whichever you choose, you can be sure of the quality. For decades, Arroyabe’s seafood has been widely appreciated in its homeland, where it graces the menus of the Basque Country’s restaurants, txoko clubs and pintxo bars. Now you can enjoy it at home.