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Dogfish for two: recipes for every season

Martha Lane

With green eyes, unblinking, dogfish patrol the shallows. Slender and small, acting like a fish rather than the shark they are. Their mouth is set back but still houses teeth. When the lightning comes, the creatures retreat to deeper water. Pace the seabed. They weather the storm while the turbulence around them vibrates the ocean, whips up the surf, spits it onto the sand. Bruising the beach.


Spotted like a leopard, like a sandpaper leopard. They have been known to wrap themselves round fishermen’s arms, rake themselves down until the men cry out. Those who take it home to their wives call it Sweet William. Males have graspers to keep hold of the female during mating. Mating season lasts all year round. 


Tastes like cod if you fool yourself hard enough. 
 
Recipe one: Grilled dogfish and bruschetta. Rapidly rising air on a summer day can trigger the development of thunderstorms and tornadoes, even when no one expects it, even when the morning started sunny. These flashes of violence are easy to ignore when most days pass calmly. This is the perfect dish to enjoy before the turbulence sets in, serve with something chilled.

Chop tomatoes, a salsa rhythm. Undulate the hips, a tide ebbing and flowing. Plum, yellow, beef and cherry. Anemones glistening.

Capers, pellets of sea glass – shards eroded until smooth. 
Red wine vinegar.
Toasted pine nuts and basil leaves.
Toss ingredients in a bowl, a rockpool glinting under olive oil.
Should smell sweet, maybe a little sour.
Slice ciabatta. Rub with garlic clove, swirling movements. Undercurrents.
Grill fish-steaks – already skinned on a sun-drenched deck by tender hands hoping to impress. Leave on the griddle pan long enough to get scorch marks. Brand it.
Eat on the stoop, showing off your catch to the neighbours, notice the setting sun bleed its colour onto the water. 
 
Recipe two: One pot roast. Best for autumn, when the waves chase each other onto the shore. Washing away the day’s footprints, out of step with one another. This time of year enjoys temperate seas, when surface water is at its warmest. But you don’t have to dive deep before the cold takes over.

Slice a red onion. It’s purple, of course. Remember the lilac bouquet, smell wafting down the aisle. 
Peel and chop the potatoes, thud thud thud, quick like a headboard knocking. Tumble them in, hit the dish like the boat engine starting.
Hack the fish with a cleaver, skinned roughly on the beach, rinse off the sand. Impressions no longer important.
Salt, crystals stolen from the sea. 
Pepper, nutmeg, paprika and lemon juice. Spice and citrus spritz. Grated coral on a sandy ocean floor.
Drizzle oil.
Roast for an hour. Baste lovingly and serve. Best eaten together, looking out the window to where the sea kisses the horizon. Pretend you don’t notice the swell, the white horses gathering. Heavy hooves galloping under a murky sky. 

Recipe three; Stew. A real winter warmer. Storms now wreak havoc. It’s easy to get swept away. This dish takes time, retreat to the kitchen.

Prepare the dogfish as quickly as possible. Graze knuckles and palms. Sharks piss through their skin so the flesh stinks of ammonia if not removed straight away.
Soak in milk.
Herbs. Fistfuls of coriander and parsley. Chop in time to the rain that beats against the window. Like the pounding of fists. Put to one side, forget until later.
Slice one red onion, purple of course. Think of lilac flowering just below the eye. Don’t cry.
Stop crying.  
Chop tomatoes and garlic. Slide them into the saucepan, slimy seeds tossed like jellyfish on a riptide, garlic slices life buoys too late to the wreck.
Olive oil. A slick. 
Turn the dial, hear the gas click. A boat engine stuttering. 
Heat until the tomatoes begin to break down, a bloody pulp.
Wait for bubbles, let a knob of butter lose itself on the waves. Add the fish. 
Discard the milk, a tsunami down the drain.
Season with salt, pepper and paprika. Sweet or hot, mood depending.
Slice stale bread and fry until golden. Keep an eye on it, turns acrid with a blink.
Place bread in a bowl. Ladle the stew on top. Smothering. 
Sprinkle with herbs, seaweed drifting on a red sea.
Eat in silence as the clouds swirl and high tide approaches. 
 
Recipe four: You call it a huss burger.
Spring knocks on the door. Storms are less frequent as the sun takes up more of the sky, rays reaching corners untouched for two seasons. Damage sustained during winter is visible to all that care to see. The catches are few and far between now, most of the days fishing are spent crunching cans against thighs. When one is stupid enough to take the bait it’s easy to feel the poor blight deserves to be battered.
Whisk flour, salt, paprika, and beer if you can find it, fizzy water next best, tap water more likely.
Slap thick cutlets into the paste. Colour of limpet shells. 
Drop into smoking oil, barely notice its splashes.
Push between two slices of bread and serve with wilted lettuce.
Eat separately. 
Watch the boats moored in the harbour, buffeted and beaten.

Martha Lane is a writer from the North East of England. She began writing flash while shielding from Covid and is drawn to tales of family, nature, and grief. She is working on a collection about parenthood and pregnancy loss. Her flash has been published by Perhappened, Reflex, Bandit, Briefly Zine, and Free Flash Fiction among others.

Tweets @poor_and_clean. martha@thepcdriver.co.uk