WELL SEASONED

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Here you can find a collection of our thoughts, reports and ramblings together with some fun things we find along the way. We try to update the blog at least once a week and more often during busy periods so make sure you check back regularly..

By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Jul 11 2017 02:04PM

Last weekend, in glorious sunshine, Russ did a demo at the Dorset Seafood Festival. Centred around Weymouth harbour, the festival is a celebration of all things fishy and although squid was on the menu for the demo, we took the opportunity to hand out our very first piece of official marketing material for the Well Seasoned book.


This recipe for razor clams features in the book's February chapter but you might still be able to find some clams on your fishmonger's slab, so we thought we'd share it with you.


Enjoy (and keep an eye on the blog for more sneaky previews as we approach March 2018)!


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RAZOR CLAMS WITH HERB CRUMB, LEMON AND PARSLEY BUTTER


These are a little fiddly to prepare but for this particular recipe all the prep can be done in advance so it will take the pressure off! Once the clams are steamed open, the meat will pull easily from the shell and the inedible parts can be cut away. Lay the clam flat on the board with the rounder end to the left, cut this off close to the dark sac. Lift the frilly wing up and slice off the cylindrical piece of meat with the pointed end. Now trim the wing away from the dark sac. Scrape off any odd bits of sand as you go. Now the meat can be sliced into half centimetre pieces ready to use. If you're unsure at any point, the internet has plenty of useful videos on fish and shellfish preparation.


Serves 4 as a starter


For the clams

1kg live razor clams, thoroughly washed

75ml white wine


For the butter

50g unsalted butter

½ lemon, grated zest only

1 dsp lemon juice

freshly ground black pepper

reduced clam cooking liquid

1 dsp chopped flat leaf parsley


For the crumb

1 tbs olive oil

1 clove of garlic, smashed

40g day old bread, preferably a rustic loaf, torn into pieces.

1 tbs chopped flat leaf parsley


Method

Before you start cooking the clams, have a roasting tin of ice ready to chill them as soon as they are cooked.


To cook the clams, heat a large casserole or sauté pan that has a tight fitting lid. When really hot, drop in the clams and pour in the wine. Put the lid on immediately and steam over a high heat for 1 minute until the clams are open. Use tongs to drop the clams onto the ice. Pass the cooking liquid through a fine sieve into a small clean pan and reduce until syrupy. Allow to cool. Prepare the clams as described above and then chill the sliced meat for a few minutes.


Beat the butter together with the lemon zest, juice and a few grinds of pepper. Gradually beat in the clam cooking liquid, checking for seasoning as you go. The liquid will be salty so stop when the butter is well seasoned. Add the parsley and mix in the clam flesh.


Select eight of the largest and best looking shells, give them a scrub and then place in a pan of water and bring to the boil to sterilise. Drain and dry off. Allow to cool.


For the crumb, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a small pan and add the garlic. Cook, turning frequently, to make a garlicky oil. Don't let the garlic go beyond golden or it will start to take on some bitter notes. Blitz the bread with the parsley, garlic and oil to make coarse breadcrumbs.


To serve

Fill the clam shells with the buttery clam meat and top with the breadcrumbs, grill under a hot grill for 2 minutes until bubbling and golden. Serve immediately with lemon wedges and bread for mopping up the juices.


By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Jun 11 2017 08:00AM

One of our favourite early summer outings is a trip to the south coast to dive for scallops.


In truth, the plump, sweet and succulent scallop isn't strongly seasonal and can be enjoyed most of the year round but, since they spawn during the later summer months, June provides the optimum compromise between their reproductive cycle, some slightly warmer coastal waters and suitably calm weather needed for scuba diving.


The highly-selective and labour intensive operation of diving for scallops is about as sustainable as you can get. Suitable specimens can be plucked from the seabed, 30m below the surface, and everything else is left completely undisturbed. Dredging, the alternative and most common method of harvesting scallops, is much less selective. Dragging a steel jaw along the seabed can cause considerable disturbance, damaging important habitats and dramatically reducing biodiversity.


Now, had we written this post a few years ago we'd definitely have urged you to stick exclusively to "hand-dived" or "diver-caught" scallops. And that is still largely the case - if you ever find yourself doubting the mantra that fresh British seasonal food is best, try a fresh South coast hand-dived scallop and compare it to a foreign, frozen, supermarket one. It's an embarrassing Round One, knock-out of the foreign contender and victory to the eco-friendly home-grown heavyweight.


But supporters of the dredging industry point out that scallops live in naturally sparse areas of sand and gravel that are routinely disturbed by waves and tidal action in any event. They also say that certain dredged fisheries (such as the Rye Bay fishery) have been producing good numbers of scallops for decades without any decline in number or quality – a sign that they can’t be doing that much damage.


It is at least a partly-convincing argument and it's only fair to point out that the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has recently rated some dredged scallops as sustainable on its Fish to Eat web resource. King Scallops from Shetland are rated 2 on its sustainability scale - the same as diver caught scallops from other regions. The MCS says that, in some case, the effects of dredging can be mitigated by rotating the areas that are dredged as well as using smaller, less powerful dredgers and lighter weight gear.


Dredged scallops are, unsurprisingly, considerably cheaper that their more carefully handled cousins and with some now rated as similarly sustainable, it's hardly reasonable to expect everyone to stick to the priciest option. There are plenty of other arguments in favour of diver caught, not least the quality of the product (dredged scallops tend to be grittier and have damaged shells) and we still always buy them, but it's a slightly harder call than it once was and one which a combination of your wallet and conscience will need to make.


Scallops should be cooked simply and quickly to enjoy their sweet, succulent flesh.


By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Mar 7 2017 09:00AM

The cool, clear waters of the UK provide the perfect growing environment for one of nature's tastiest aquatic treats - the mussel.


This beautiful, blue bivalve can be found growing on most parts of our rocky coastline and harvesting some yourself is one of the most rewarding foraging experiences you can have.


Traditionally, you should only collect mussels in months with the letter ‘r’ in. The rule of thumb (which applies to most shellfish) is actually a shorthand way of saying that it's best to avoid shellfish during the summer months and there is some good science behind the principle. All shellfish tend to accumulate certain toxins that are found in (perfectly natural) algal blooms which tend to be at their peak during the warm weather. If you buy your shellfish from the shops there's no need to worry since all stocks are regularly checked for toxins but it does mean that March, before the warm weather arrives, is a good time to go on the hunt.


Pick the larger mussels – not only will they make for a better meal but they will have had chance to breed, keeping the population healthy. The plumpest specimens will be found below the high water mark on rocky beaches so check a tide table before you visit then get down there with your wellies and a good sized bucket. On the journey home, keep your catch cool with a damp tea towel.


When it comes to cooking, mussels need just a few minutes to steam open so they're the perfect convenience food and a rich reward for all your hard work.


If you look out the window and think it's too cold for a trip to the beach (and let's face it, March often is) then get down to the shops. Either wild or rope grown mussels are fine (three quarters of rope-grown mussels in the UK are now classified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.) They are excellent value and you'll find them in any good fishmonger during the season.


By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Feb 26 2015 12:34PM

Most commonly-foraged species of shellfish and crustacea have a minimum legal catch size. It’s dead easy to work out what the legal limit is – you just have to check the EU statute then the supporting UK legislation and then the local fisheries regulations! Unfortunately for the amateur forager, this patchwork of regulation and regional variations has led to very a confusing mish-mash of laws. Add to this the fact that it's not always obvious which measurement you should be taking and you've got a recipe for a fine from the local fisheries officer.


If you're planning a beach foraging trip this Spring (which, let's face it, you definitely should be) and would prefer to avoid getting your collar felt by the local fish police, you might want to take a copy of this handy size guide with you. We've looked at all of the regulations and rounded up to the highest number so you won't go wrong.


Happy foraging!

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