Over the course of the last year, I’ve enjoyed seeing, catching, preparing, sampling and indulging in an glistening array of incredible seafood. Ever one to contemplate my doings, I’ve looked back at 2015 and picked out a few gems from a year that’s seen me travel from a shivering March market in Peterhead, to a balmier and gently bobbing Mounts Bay in Cornwall and the many points in between, where I have, again and again been overwelmingly impressed, not only with the quality of fish and shellfish I’ve seen and caught, but the undeniable and deep-seated passion that accompanies them from net to plate.
So given that with the becalming lull in festive proceedings that’s descended twixt Boxing Day and New Years Eve, I thought the time was only meet and right, to savour once again, three of my favourite fishy flavours that I’ve been so priveliged to have enjoyed during the last twelve months.
To make full use of individual qualities and to give them equal esteem, I decided to produce a tempting and mouthwatering selection of festive canapés that mark the season and for those of you whose seafood passion also involves the story of their journey, then these three wonderful fruits of the sea come with their own tale.
First up had to be Chris Wightman‘s stunningly delicate and uniquely smoked, Coffee Cured Salmon. I know I’m a little biased, as he’s also a great friend, but to be quite honest as Smoked Salmon goes (and I’ve consumed an awful lot) this really is up there with the greats. The process as described in my original post of last year (Smoked Salmon Restyled) leaves a glossy and firmish texture, allowing for very precise slicing and a flavour of such pronounced subtlety, that once tasted, leaves an enveloping and involuntary smile across ones face, which I now use as a yardstick for all seafood that I sample.
To appreciate the unique character of this product, requires minimal fuss and attention, so very simply set atop one of my wife’s homemade blinis with the mearest hint of soured cream cementing it to the base, gave for me, due credit and a sensational appreciation of not only the fish, but the artisan skill and craft of the curing and smoking process.
Earlier this year, as described in the hugely-enjoyable-to-write post, Fishing For The Future, I traced the journey from sea to fork of the langoustine or Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus), as caught by Jimmy Buchan, aboard his twin-rig trawler Amity II (PD177). During my research, I learned not only about the story surrounding this sweet-flavoured and much exported crustacean, but also much about the incredible work done by Scottish fishermen in the conservation of North Sea and Atlantic white fish stocks securing a viable future for their industry.
The Amity Brand langoustines that Jimmy catches are individually frozen and packed, displaying date, method and area of catching, ensuring ultimate traceability. They are a truly fantastic product and one that I’ve now grown to love having sampled their exquisite and delicate tang at the Buchan Braes Hotel.
Shellfish of this quality are like the smoked salmon, better eaten without complication, so for the next element of my festive trio, I decided to revert to my childhood once more and morph the langoustine into its very British form, of Scampi, coated minimally in home baked breadcrumbs and lightly sautéed in some garlic butter, before serving with a dollop of hand-whisked mayonnaise, although frying in a little olive or rapeseed oil and serving with freshly made aioli would work equally well.
The succulence of these fish combined with the slight crunch of the breadcrumbs is a great paring and backed up by the garlicky tones, give a sensational flavour that produced prolonged sighs of satisfaction around the Warner table.
I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to visiting Peterhead again in 2016 and to further sampling these magnificent creatures and closer to where they’re landed!
Finally to compliment my canapé threesome, I just had to involve what I would describe as my ultimate seafood and any regular visitors to my pages will have long since realised, a mild and not unhealthy obsession. Our native lobsters, I’m afraid, still hold me in a rather nostalgic and epicurean rapture. Their flavour, their naturally engineered beauty and the locations of their coastal habitat, when combined with locally crafted methods of capture and the diversity of cuisine associated with them, defines what an artisan fishery should epitomise. True traceability, responsibility and sustainability. A creature fished in accordance with tradition and care, which like the scallop and the oyster acts as a benchmark for the health of our seas.
So, where to go for my fix of Homarus gammarus?
Well, in recapping on the year it could really only be Cornwall and time for more misty-eyed reminiscence on the wonderful morning I spent fishing in the company of Kevin Penney, out in Mounts Bay, aboard his Under 10 metre boat “Bess” FH 32. A memorable day which I strongly desire to repeat in 2016. For those who wish to relive the account, all is revealed in “A Dreckly Morning” which also appeared in a shortened version, in the recent November edition of “The Skipper” magazine.
For this recipe obviously I chose to use Dreckly Fish-caught lobster meat, although of course fresh lobster from any UK shore would be as good. (Just not American or Canadian! ).
Potted lobster then, lavishly forked onto freshly baked crostini or served with sourdough toast, complimenting and completing my canapé triumvirate of seafood in great style. Using the same recipe as potted shrimps or crab, the meat should be suitably chopped or teased apart before placing in a ramekin and adding the clarified butter, cayenne and freshly grated nutmeg mix that will set unctuously amongst the flesh when chilled.
Heaven on a plate, served with a glass of bubbles and lashings of good cheer!
So as the tide of 2015 slowly recedes, my best wishes go out to all, for a fruitful and prosperous New Year.
Especially though to our fishermen, be they Over 10’s or Under 10’s, trawlers or netters, potters or liners, all are vitally important to the longevity of our coastal communities and selfishly, without whom I would be unable to think, write and talk about seafood as I do. I’ve met many this year and never fail to be impressed by their dedication, commitment and passion in an industry, constantly harried and subjected to continual and monstrous scrutiny, never mind the daily danger and trauma that comes at Mother Nature’s behest.
I applaud you. May I get to meet many more of you in 2016.