CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Somerset Life today CLICK HERE

Hooked!

PUBLISHED: 09:18 22 November 2007 | UPDATED: 14:56 20 February 2013

Nick Fisher and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on the open seas

Nick Fisher and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on the open seas

I'm at River Cottage HQ, about 10 miles south of Chard. Locations don't come much more idyllic. It's deeply rural and, by the look of it, untouched by modern agribusiness. The buildings - cottage, barns, outbuildings - look as if the...

I have arrived in the middle of a demo. Nick Fisher has just shown an enthralled audience how to fillet a mackerel - a mackerel, by the way, which the assembled students have just caught in Lyme Bay, six or seven miles away. Nick makes it look dead easy. A lady is invited up to have a go and manages to do quite a decent job. There is real knowledge being passed on here, yet the atmosphere is far removed from the classrooms of my youth, being relaxed, chatty and fun.


Nick's demo over, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall appears - he has been filming elsewhere on the premises - to talk about the technique of gravlax and its application to mackerel. First he explains the history of this method of preservation. Hugh, as everyone familiar with his TV appearances will not need telling, is a born communicator, and in that delightful laid-back way of his he goes on to show how the method has been refined to become a recipe. It's all very hands-on and there are lots of opportunities to taste and comment.


Later, over lunch - delicious mackerel, what else? - I talk to Hugh and Nick about their upcoming book 'The River Cottage Fish Book' and begin by asking them how they came to write it. Hugh, it seems, was a great fan of Nick's Channel Four fishing series 'Screaming Reels', and he sought out Nick with a view to collaborating on something fishy for TV. They became friends, and over the years they fished together, talked a lot and eventually decided to do a book together.


"We wanted to do something more than another recipe book," explains Hugh, who now lives just over the Dorset border in Somerset. "We wanted it to be a celebration of fish and we wanted it to deal with things like the ecological and moral issues of fishing."


I put it to them that were it not for fish and chips, the nation would hardly eat much fish at all. "The book aims to change that. We try to take the fear out of handling and preparing fish," Nick replies. "There's a lot of pleasure and satisfaction to be had from being able to gut and fillet fish, for instance, and there are a hell of a lot more fish out there than cod."



Hugh and Nick became friends, and over the years they fished together, talked a lot and eventually decided to do a book together



Fast forward a month and I have a copy of 'The River Cottage Fish Book' hot off the press. 'Wow' is a word I can't recall ever having used in connection with a cookery book before... until now. The book is a masterpiece. It contains more than 250 pages of recipes, but it is much, much more than a book of recipes. For starters, it's encyclopedic in size, running to some 600 pages. It's wide-ranging in its scope - when, for example, did you last read a fish cookery book that dealt with the ecological and political issues raised by modern, industrial commercial sea-fishing? Or one that that looked at individual species - we are talking sea fish, shellfish and freshwater fish here - in such detail, that the herring, for example, gets around 2,000 words.


As for Hugh and Nick, make no mistake about it, these boys know about fish and they know how to write about fish. They are enthusiasts for fish and that enthusiasm comes over in the writing.


I'll finish by making a prediction. 'The River Cottage Fish Book' will win all the awards going for the year's best cookery book. If it doesn't, I'll give up eating fish. Just kidding. If it doesn't, the judges should though. BY STEPHEN SWANN

0 comments

More from People

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The first woman to win a F3 class race at Brands Hatch, Bath-born Jamie Chadwick is on a new racing mission

Read more
Wednesday, October 24, 2018

“Calor’s generosity means that we can give a new lease of life to our village hall.”

Read more
Wednesday, October 24, 2018

“Calor’s generosity means that we can provide the children with a much-needed outdoor space to learn, helping to truly enrich their curriculum.”

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

England football manager Gareth Southgate has made our columnist feel proud of his country

Read more
Monday, October 1, 2018

Musician Stewart Copeland relives his Somerset school memories with Bernard Bale

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Toby Buckland is hosting his second Harvest Festival event at Forde Abbey this month. Catherine Courtenay spoke to two of the gardening stars lined up for the speakers tent

Read more
Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Tinnitus sufferers are being invited to use a new online, sound matching tool to help better understand their type of tinnitus and the potential treatments available to them.

Read more
Friday, August 17, 2018

Tony Blackburn is enjoying one of the most enduring careers in music. To think that Somerset played such a part in the amazing story of one of Britain’s top radio DJs

Read more
Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Britain has always been at the mercy of the sea and the Bristol Channel is particularly hazardous with fierce tides, shallow banks and dangerous low tide mudflats, as Andrea Cowan discovers

Read more
Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Vanessa White is totally at home when she strolls through the centre of New York or Paris but the former Saturdays singing star still finds her place of birth quite breathtaking. After all – she was born in Somerset, says Bernard Bale

Read more
Friday, June 15, 2018

We know we love our coast, but what do the celebs make of it? We find out...

Read more
Friday, June 15, 2018

Somerset toasted the success of Jenson Button when he was crowned king of the F1 track for 2009, so stand by because there is a new budding driver revving up – and he is from our county too

Read more
Friday, May 25, 2018

One of the biggest British vloggers, three of the best UK comedians, a Formula One World Champion and an award-winning author – the towns and rural retreats of Somerset are a breeding ground for talent

Read more
Wednesday, May 23, 2018

We talked to chief audiologist at The Tinnitus Clinic, Mark Williams, who discussed causes, symptoms and treatments for tinnitus and hearing loss. Here’s what to do if you have ringing in your ears

Read more
 
A+ South & South West

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy


subscription ad


Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search