Sunday, 14 June 2009

Fishy Times

The view from our house at dusk

I've just returned from a week in Cornwall. We stayed 2 miles outside of Padstow, in a converted lifeboat house. We first stayed here a year ago and the house is absolutely stunning. This year, myself and only two others of the original party returned with 5 friends, and the response from everyone else upon reaching the house was overwhelming. I'd forgotten how great it is; there was much shrieking, "oh my god!"-ing, and general excitement.

One thing we didn't manage to do last year due to choppy seas was to go mackerel fishing. On our first day, we booked it in. Of course, when the time came it was raining, but undettered, we got our raincoats on and hiked into Padstow. After all, we survived the torrential downpours of Bestival; what's a bit of light rain?

The sea was pretty choppy and one of our party turned a slight shade of green. We stopped once to chance our luck, but as none of us caught anything we moved on. Suddenly, people were catching fish left right and centre. One of us even caught this hapless crab (above) - it just hung onto the weight and wouldn't let go. More the fool him.

Typically, since I was bouncing around with excitement about the trip, I was the only one to not catch any thing at all. Luckily my mates caught 28 mackerel between them, so we had a plentiful haul. After a pretty harrowing descaling and gutting session, the mackerel were ready to be cooked.

The mackerel were then stuffed with lemon, liberally oiled, seasoned with salt and pepper and cooked on a hot barbeque until the skins were crisp. Simply served with a salad, these were beautiful; the fruits of my mates' labours and delicious to boot. We even convinced my fish-disliking housemate, who caught the most, to give them a try. She liked it, and thus we crowned her Fish Queen of the week.

Unfortunately the crab fared less well. We stuck him in the freezer for half an hour before dropping him (yes, we also named him - Crab C. Nesbitt) into rapidly boiling water. He seemed fine when he went in, but when he was cooked we found he'd dropped his claws and when we prised the shell open only brown water poured out of it. Given that we had no internet access or 'phone signal and none of us had ever cooked crab before, I gather we must have cooked him wrong which is a real shame. It could also have been his 2 mile journey home in a plastic bag.

Nevertheless, the claws were delicious; the meat was sprinkled with black pepper, spread on two slices of heavily buttered toast... divided into squares for 8 people. Still, you can have too much of a good thing, right?

20 comments:

ginger@dinnerdiary.org said...

Sounds like a great week, I love Padstow. I don't envy you the filleting and gutting of 28 mackerel though, good work!

Su-Lin said...

That's a lot of mackerel! And they look mighty delicious on that grill. Shame about your crab though...not sure what happened there...

Kavey said...

Beaaauuuutiful!
We've been BBQing last two evenings and the spoils have included some lovely sardines, just done completely plain. So lovely!

Lizzie said...

Ginger - I confess, we made the boys do the dirty work...

tehbus said...

I dont eat crab but according to my dad, you never freeze crab. I dont know the finer details, just dont do it!

Krista said...

Was the crab already dead when you threw him in? I think it's okay to freeze lobsters and slow them down, but I remember my uncle always stabbing the crabs to kill them before they went in the pot. I think you want to stab them and drain any excess water out first. These are all just hazy memories though...

Sounds like a great trip!

Helen said...

I went sea fishing as a child and all we caught was pollack. As this was about 20 years ago, no-one was eating pollack so the fisherman just threw them all back saying they were 'a waste of time'. Mackerel on the other hand is right up there with my fave fishes - especially BBQ'd. Sorry to hear about your crab :(

MsMarmitelover said...

Great post!

boo said...

Looks like a great holiday, the accommodation sounds amazing. I always go a severe shade of green on boat trips! I love mackeral, can't get any fresher than catching them yourself (or not)!

Martin said...

BBQ'd fish = big nom, so simple and so incredibly tasty. Very jealous of your fresh catch, my sympathies for the crab!

gastrogeek said...

"Crab C Nesbitt" - genius. I love it!

Ollie said...

Crab C. Nesbitt! Amazing.

What a lovely post. I'm sure the fish were stunning.

DoUgLaS bLyDe said...

Wonderful. Wish I'd been there, although I would have made YOU do the dirty work! (or at least tried to make you).

pigpigscorner said...

That's so fun! I love padstow esp Rick Stein's fish and chips =)

Helen Yuet Ling Pang said...

Hurray for Cornwall and mackerel! I've gutted many for BBQs, a real messy business. And you caught a massive crab too!

Food Urchin said...

I'm off to the IoW in couple of weeks time and hope to get some mackerel fishing in, never fished before though so I hope to catch at least one more than you did!

Shame about Crab C Nesbitt, he had so much potential.

Lizzie said...

Krista - it was stil alive when I threw him in, although he was a bit sleepy. Next time i'll go the stabbing option...

rich said...

Cornwall makes for a superb holiday. It's an awesome place, beautiful and mysterious in equal measure. The place is loaded with myth and legend, and is blessed with some of the most stunning beaches in the UK.

I must admit to being a little disappointed with Padstow - much, much too busy and a real trial with a kid in a buggy. I witnessed an altercation between a tourist on a bike and a local in a car, which ended in the local using the most foul language I've ever heard - real clamp-your hands-over-the-kid's-ears stuff. It was quite incredible and put me off Padstow for good. That and the fact that the whole town appears to be owned by Rick Stein.

Padstow aside, Cornwall is magnificent, and that seafood is part of the reason we'll be back there soon.

Wine Splodge said...

Sorry to hear about your crab, he looked like a beauty, if a bit dim.

In Jane Grigson's Fish Book she says:

"Even sea water needs extra salt. An egg should float in the brine. Use about 175 g salt to 2.25 litres of water. Put in the crab and bring it to a simmer. Give it 15 mins for the first 500 g, 10 mins for the second, third and so on. Remove from the pan to cool".

I've used this recipe and it works a treat. She doesn't stab the crab first, a skewer though the hole on it's underside is supposed to kill it and stop the claws falling off when it cooks, but I've had mixed results.

Next time you could visit Newlyn and check out this shop. They sell whole just cooked crabs for peanuts... well almost.

http://www.crabmeat.co.uk/shop.htm

Two of the biggest, sweetest crabs I've ever eaten came from here.

PS
do you need to scale mackerel?

Lizzie said...

WineSplodge - we attempted to scale one but found they didn't really have many scales. Thanks for the info, very helpful.