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If you live in these parts, and are into such things, you will probably have heard about a little seafood restaurant down an alleyway in Falmouth called the Wheelhouse. Despite actively shunning publicity, it is booked for months in advance and seems to get choice mentions regularly in the media as a den of great awesomeness. Last week, finally, a table had my name on it*.

When restaurants become this desirable, a whiff of pretension can creep in – a subtle revelling in the lack of available tables, or complacent service, contributing to a feeling that we should be so lucky. But despite my tentacles being out, I found the mellow, candlelit scene to be a down-to-earth pleasure. Don’t get me wrong, the Wheelhouse is certainly confident – waitresses take a seat and chat assuredly about the merits of spider crab, the size of mussels and seasonality – but thankfully it is still eager to please.

So, you might ask, what’s the biggie? Well, the story is this: Read the rest of this entry »

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nathan outlaw book

Chef Nathan Outlaw’s star continues in the ascendant with the imminent publication of his first cookery book entitled Nathan Outlaw’s British Seafood – it’s out in May but I got my mitts on a preview copy and can report that it’s a beautiful blue hard-back tome with full-colour, full-page pictures of every dish.

Refreshingly free from the lifestyle shots and smug backstory that have become part and parcel of the celebrity chef cookbook (do I need a full-size picture of your daughter/you on a boat with that turbot recipe? Without meaning to be harsh, no, I’m afraid I don’t), it focuses with precision on the food – how, when and where to source British seafood, and methods of preparation and cooking.

The recipes are divided pragmatically and usefully into fish type – flat white fish, round white fish, oily fish, smoked fish and shellfish – and are characterised by Outlaw’s trademark lightness of touch and clever simplicity. Tempting for summer are the cured brill with pistachio dressing, pink grapefruit and pickled chicory – his take on ceviche – the cured mackerel and gooseberry jam roll, and a mussel and saffron quiche with fennel and rocket salad.

The foreword by Rick Stein, who employed Outlaw in his younger cheffing days, pays tribute to the honesty and simplicity of his food, and the “utterly charming, self-effacing man who seems somewhat perplexed about the fact that he has two Michelin stars because he says it’s only simple cooking.”

Nathan really is Cornwall’s favourite adopted son.

Published 10 May by Quadrille, £25. www.nathan-outlaw.com

The Cornish sardines stacked on counters in Newlyn fish shops at the moment are a spectacular bargain: five for £1. Fresh, meaty, good for you, supplies not about to expire. Pan-fried, slice of lemon, sprig of parsley – delicious.

That is all.

Bon weekend!

www.cornishsardines.org.uk

porthminster beach cafe, st ives, cornwall

This piece of culinary art, my friends, is a morsel of almond-battered cod cheek with salted grapes, darjeeling tea gel and wild sorrel. I loved it so much that I ended up dreaming about it.

We are in the midst of Cornwall Spring Feast, a county-wide foodie shindig celebrating the joys of the local larder. The main shtuck is the one-price-fits-all special menus (£14 for two courses) in all participating restaurants – even the Outlaw’s Grill. But the county’s headlining chefs are also hosting a few special events – opportunities to perform culinary cartwheels outside the parameters of the daily menu.

When the opportunity arises to see young Australian chef Mick Smith of the Porthminster Beach Cafe perform culinary cartwheels, it’s one you Read the rest of this entry »

mitch tonks

I have to admit my other incentive to go fish-shopping in Newlyn, beyond an attempt to be worthy, was to use my sparkling new fish app by seafood supremo Mitch Tonks – the world’s first comprehensive fish and seafood cookery app.

At £2.99, this is the most expensive app I’ve bought (ahem, actually it’s the only one I’ve ever paid for, so you could say I’m more of a Fat Booth Lite kind of girl) but for your money you get a slick app, giving you vital fishy stats, yield, fat content, seasonality, tons of crystal-clear how-to videos on scary things like filleting, descaling etc, and access to a growing bank of Tonks recipes.

I interviewed Mitch Tonks last week Read the rest of this entry »

newlyn cornwall

Like hundreds of thousands of others, judging by the rocketing sales of sustainable fish species this week, I found the points made in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Fish Fight programme very compelling.

So compelling, in fact, that I didn’t even mind him repeating them a billion times in the space of half an hour (sign of bloody good point)! In the notoriously complicated territory of fish and seafood – where ‘the right thing to do’ is an elusive concept to anyone who isn’t personally monitoring fish stocks – keeping it clear, simple and repetitive seems crucial to the campaign’s success.

So for this cause, I didn’t mind being a cliche and trotting off to sunny Newlyn this morning in search of an ‘alternative’ species of fish for dinner. I came home with a fillet of coley for £2 – an alternative to the over-fished cod to which the Brits are so attached.

(Oh and if you’re looking for Read the rest of this entry »

When you review restaurants, as I have done on and off for ten years for Time Out in London and recently Cornwall, it is always slightly scary to sing high praises about a place or dish out a damning report on the basis of one trip.

So, even though a chef is only as good as his last meal and all that, I was pleased to see that Observer restaurant critic Jay Rayner had made it all the way to “a gnarly old building at the skinniest end of Cornwall” to write about Kota in Porthleven, as a year ago I stuck a red star on it in the Time Out Guide to Devon & Cornwall.

“I’d be happy to declare this the best Asian food in Cornwall but the distinct lack of competitors renders it a rather hollow statement; instead, I’ll just say that Kota is quietly superb,” is what I wrote. So what did Mr Rayner make of it?

Despite expecting “the fishing-village shtick: food that went from surf to plate with little interference” (fair), Rayner found that: “There is an awful lot happening on the plates here. Ingredients from a lot more than 810 miles away are chucked at the dishes, culinary traditions co-opted with enthusiasm. There is a kitchen here which has yet to meet an ingredient it doesn’t like, and for the most part it works.”

Now I want to go again, you know, just to double-check that review. Read Rayner’s full review of Kota here.

Kota restaurant, Harbour Head, Porthleven, Helston Cornwall TR13 9JA. 01326 562 407. www.kotarestaurant.co.uk

I’d like to share with you the “interesting” results of a fishing and sushi-making escapade on the coast of South Devon at the weekend. When it comes to sushi, pollock and wrasse aren’t the first fish that spring to mind – nor for that matter are crudely cut pieces of fish served on plastic plates on a distinctly unminimalist camping table but that’s by the by. When the fish has come straight out of the water, anything is fair game. Very fresh fish is almost odour-free (the fishy smell comes as it decomposes) and fine to eat raw.

So, with a few wrasse and pollock duly reeled in off the rocks, we filleted it and sliced it up, and served it ceremoniously with wasabi, pickled ginger and soy sauce.

Here’s how it unfolded in pictures. In words, the verdicts were variously: ‘mmm… lovely’, ‘a little mushy in texture’, ‘oooh much nicer than I expected’, ‘I prefer salmon’, ‘the presentation needs work’, ‘you can’t just chop up a fish, serve it up and call it sushi’.

mackerel cornwall

via wiki

The fat of the land I can’t say I had really thought much before about the fuel potential of chip fat – and then in one week I hear about two Cornish businesses running on the stuff. The new Place Ferry (from St Mawes to Place) is powered by waste chip fat (provided by local businesses – nice) and this week I took one of Newquay’s biotaxis, running on an eco-friendly biofuel.

God knows there’s enough fish & chip shops in Cornwall to oblige! Does this mean that if I fuel my body regularly with fish & chips that I am technically being very green? If necessary, I can up my intake.

Mackerel crisis It really isn’t easy being green when it comes to eating fish – there is next to nothing left on the OK list. Still, I’ve always been glad that the humble but delicious mackerel is on there (along with gurnard), so that is what I buy – and occasionally attempt to catch (low success rate – the fish stocks are totally safe with me). So this Times article about the ‘mackerel war’ made rather grim reading…

Cornish wallabies Finally, everyone say ‘aaaaaah’ for these zoo escapees seen strolling about in Cornwall – a long way from the outback.

OK, actually, sorry you’re going to have say ‘aaaaaah’ again for this dancing dolphin snapped off Porthtowan. I saw some dolphins do a turn at the weekend off the coast near Zennor but this guy caught a really high jump (& he deserves it for getting up at 5am).

p&c january header: artist’s studio Newlyn

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