Being a blogger with a website really brings in some crackers – last month I was invited to Revolution De Cuba for a Brunch, last week I was invited to Wagamama for a taster press night and last night I took on a Seafood Masterclass right here at Lodge Farm Kitchen – Cookery School.
About a month ago I was contacted by Stripe PR company to be part of the ‘Fish 2 A Week’ programme sponsored from Seafood UK, in association with Billingsgate fish market (and cookery school) along with Jane Devonshire (Master Chef winner) writing some of the recipes.
The idea was to attract parents and children along to an interactive cookery session to encourage families to eat the recommended 2 portions of fish a week, including 1 oily fish – like sardine, mackerel, herring, salmon, tuna or sprats etc. The health benefits are enormous fish is packed with nutrition, while being relatively low in calories without the saturated fats meat and dairy has – winner – winner fishy dinner.
Six cookery schools were picked from around the country and Lodge Farm Kitchen was chosen as the one to represent this area good ole East Anglia. After all seafood is easily accessible here from the smoke houses of Lowestoft and Clay, to the Essex estuary for whelks & eels, to the Suffolk oyster beds, the North Norfolk plump mussels and the haul’s of fish landed in to Lowestoft and Yarmouth – oh, blimey I nearly forgot Cromer crabs & the mammoth lobsters caught just of our shores, let alone the cockles on our flat sand plains – we really are spoilt for all things fish, including samphire for the perfect Norfolk marriage.
So, there I was at 4.15 last night waiting for the learners to arrive, with a fridge full of delicious fish to show the crowd. The photographer arrived – kind of took over the kitchen, dismantled my fish posters and rolled down the blinds to avoid light pollution on his shots but we ignored him and let him get on with his thing.
Then came the 5 parents with their 5 children – they all whipped on their Free ‘Fish 2 a Week’ aprons and posed for an array of shots, holding an assortment of fishy delights by their little tails.
I then began to show how to skin, fillet and prepare, as well as recognise a variety of fish including Smoked Mackerel, Cod, Haddock, Herring, Bream, Sea Base, Salmon, Squid, Shell on Prawns and some smoked Haddock. Everyone helped out, it was like having our own fishmonger!
We used the shells for a stock, knocking up an ever so tasty Bisque – soup or sauce, both so delicious. I then went over a few simple 10-15 minute meals like Mackerel pate, Teriyaki, Smoked Haddock Rarebit, Cod en papiette and so on – – –
We then finished with a full hands-on Sushi making workshop, tasting some sashimi as we went and using a chosen selection of raw fish, mackerel pate, prawns & cucumber to knock them up.
Everyone went home watered, fed and full of fishy facts, grasping their souvenir apron and a recipe sheet.
I must admit my hands did smell a little fishy afterwards – it reminded me of when I worked for the ‘Joy of Food’ Project, we were giving a demonstration at the Royal Norfolk Show, I was the chef in charge of making a sardine dip for everyone to try – – my hands smelt very fishy!
Then who should walk past but ‘Prince Harry’ – only to shake my hand, ‘I’m sorry I said, with a cheeky little smile ‘my hands are very fishy’– he chuckled back as he was whisked away.
“Danger, Danger, Mad Lowestoft fisher women”!!!
My chance to talk to a Prince and I tell him I smell of fish!!!!
Anyway, moving on – –
My ancestry is firmly rooted in the fish industry both my grandfather and great grandfather were skippers. My great-great grandad owned his own fishing boat. My great Auntie mended the fishing nets in the war and my Nana Elsie full of fish facts helped out at a fresh fish shop in her retirement years – – – all in Lowestoft, the most southerly place in the whole of Great Britain – where I was born in 39 Marine Parade, just after my family had enjoyed a fish supper!
So, I was brought up with copious amounts of free fish and tales of the sea.
Fishing has changed a lot now it’s all massive boats dragging it all up from the sea beds in million pound boats – we’ve evolved, technology improved, demand is great and profits have to be made – its big business.
Back then you could walk from boat to boat right across Lowestoft harbour – Herring was the main catch, but over fished, which caused a massive decline in the 60’s & 70’s, crippling the fishing industry of Lowestoft.
My nana would tell me that all they ever eat was fish, in those days you could take your own fish to the fish & chip shops and they’d batter it for you for a penny, along with a penny worth of chips and free scraps.
Herring girls would come down from Scotland to work, packing the herring in to barrels, layered with salt which were then shipped all over the world.
People like my great Nana Flo would rent a room out to them for extra money, every breakfast & every night they would cook herring for themselves.
Nana Flo was married to my great grandad, ‘Black Eye Soanes’ he was an infamous skipper, seen with a bowler hat on several local films fishing out of Lowestoft. He was a right ‘Rumun’ – notorious to work for but he knew the waters for the best places to get a good catch, deck hands wanted to work for him – the more fish the better the wage.
Fishing was a dangerous occupation back then, more so than now, my Grandad Ken couldn’t swim, in fact he was terrified of the water – one night while out on a trip, there was a massive storm, a boat went down, he could hear them shouting for help, but by the time they got close the boat had sunk and no one had survived, they had to drag the dead body’s out of the water.
It must have been a tough life – working in the cold, wet weather, with the wind and the constant turbulence of the boat – catching sleep only now and then with the noise of the engines forever in the background.
I simply couldn’t do it – I have absolute respect for our fishermen, although its simpler now, with a tad more comfort and better working conditions on bigger boats – it still isn’t easy, far from it.
And the worst thing, is we live on an island and don’t eat much fish, only 1 in 3 will eat fish fingers while a whole proportion of people will only eat battered fish from the chippie – if it wasn’t for the great British Fish and Chips, who knows what would happen to our necessary sustainable industry.
And who do I meet at the fish counters of Britain – old, folk – I’m hardly ever stood next to young-ens, when I’m waiting for the fish monger to slice me of a succulent piece of Salmon – we really do need to get home cooks in to cooking seafood – it’s so easy.
We export a massive chunk of our fish – – 75% while we import 60% for us! Something to do with EU rules, of course that’s all going to change & who knows what will happen next – –
But one things for sure – there are plenty of sustainable fish to go around, we have a fabulous fishing industry that get it bad enough so we really do need to be eating at least 2 portions of fish a week for health, survival and tradition.
After all our world is covered in 70% water and in those seas, are over 20,000 species of seafood – – delicious, edible, nutritious, morsels of tender easy to cook loveliness.
Fast food at its best.
By Zena Leech-Calton ©