Seafood Gossip 19th May

Posted on December 18, 2013

Seafood Gossip 19th May – Back in the fold….
I am now back in the fold of Billingsgate Market – just where I like to be!
I got back from my Scotland trip with a clear head and ready for a busy week. We delivered both Catch of the Day 1 and 2 this week and demonstrated at Selfridges again.
We also received our new delivery of elvers (baby eels) … Dai from The Severn Wye Smokery came by to set up our elvers tank and bought a wriggling mass of around 500g …  once fully grown they would harvest around half a ton!. We will elver sit: feed, clean and nuture them for a few months and like the last batch that we had for most of last year – they will then end up being released into the wild – in the hopes of helping increase the British eel population. Our tank is kept in the lecture room where it is warm, dark and quiet – ideal conditions for our ‘babies’ (Dai and I disagree as to whose babies they actually are… definitely mine whilst they lodge with us!).
The life cycle of an eel is THE most extraordinary adventure – involving lots of travel and challenges — they provide a great talking point for all our visitors – particularly about environmental and sustainability issues.
Billingsgate was a hive of activity this morning. Saturday is the big public day with many coming in to stock up on fish for the week ahead. It was hard work moving around today as it was packed!
Saturday is a busy day for the Seafood School too – Mastering the Art is our course today. I popped my head round the door earlier and the group were preparing some lovely black bream that Mike from James Nash got hold for me. They have made some wonderfully rich seafood stock and this is now being reduced down to form the basis of the Seafood Bisque Sauce. The group will take this home to serve with their grilled bream fillets along with a selection of other fish for the weekend.
For lunch they have Salted Alaskan Pollock Fish Cakes with Tomato and Chilli Salsa that Frances (the chef trainer who is teaching the group today) is demonstrating and then they are all going to cook pollock goujons for lunch – with home-made tartare sauce!
Any merchants who are still at the market at lunch time often wander past our doors inhaling the aromas of stock, sauces and soups that waft down the corridors – hoping for a quick lunch. Today, I sit in hope too!
Saturday is also the one day that I manage to catch up with all (too many!) those unanswered emails from the week and then bombard the administration team with more requests … they will like that on Monday morning, I am sure (it’s my day off!)
This morning I was on the market early, placing orders for the courses that we are delivering next week – our Sushi Class with Silla from Feng Sushi on Tuesday needs pristine fish. I placed orders with Paul (Mr Salmon) from J. Bennetts, the boys from Fawsitt Fish, James Nash and Sons and R&G Shellfish – that should keep Silla happy.
We run lots of shellfish courses at the school, and slowly we are seeing an increase in interest in learning how to prepare it – we are so lucky to have some fantastic wild and farmed shellfish harvested around our coast. I am preparing a display for the Shellfish Association of Great Britain’s annual conference on Tuesday next week (SAGB) – R&G, Bards and Ovenells (picking up a tub of oysters for the weekend in the process!) are sourcing this for me.
On the subject of oysters – I can’t get enough of them at the moment. My current favourites are West Mersea Oysters (Terry at Ovenells sells them). We did a tasting of rock (Pacific) oysters for the SAGB last year to help them with their published tasting guide – the flavour from one to the next can be extraordinarily different. Most people think of sea-water when it comes to oysters … but taste them like wine and look for flavours and you would be amazed to find lettuce, nuts, samphire, cucumber, grass, metallic (it’s a long list) and then decide on the level of umami (essence of deliciousness). Oysters filter nutrients through their system and it is amazing how diverse the taste can be from one area to another. They are also a good source of omega 3 – so make a great change to oil-rich fish.
There is no peace for the wicked…! I am not hugely popular at home as I won’t get a family Sunday again this week as I am off to Selfridges tomorrow to do a cooking demo in the food hall with Paula – as part of Project Ocean that they are promoting again this year.  We are cooking some dishes that we prepare for our schools programme … all designed to encourage children to enjoy more seafood.
We are the only ones left on the market now – all the merchants and market staff have left for the weekend and the market hall looks like the Mary Celeste… The merchants work unsociable and long hours here – and many looked exhausted this morning – but they will be back in full swing on Tuesday am (2am for most!).  I am locking up now and will try my luck in the kitchen for those pollock goujons!