Making a lobster pot with willow using traditional methods

I’ve been working a few lobster pots for a couple of years now to catch lobsters to cook for ourselves and friends and always wanted to make my own pots.

Andrea bought me a course with a local fisherman in Gweek for Christmas to learn how to make them.

My soft hands struggled a bit as they’re more used to a keyboard than working willow but learning from an expert craftsman was a real joy and in no time I’d grasped the basics and had my first pot completed with a lot of David’s help.

Early stages of the build with the mobile jig

The willow is sourced locally on The Lizard just a few miles away from home although some of the thin and stronger gold whithies come from Somerset.

I have a bit of work to do making some tools and a jig and will be making the rest of my pots in the next few weeks, ready to start fishing early in the new season.

One of the toughest bits, the cross over stitch
More tough work on the hands
Almost there, the pot bottom being woven

As most of my time is spent with new technology and computers, it was great to get to grips with some ancient crafts, there’s only a small handful of people making pots using this method and they’re not getting any younger, hopefully I’ll be able to help keep the craft alive for years to come and I’m really looking forward to working them in our local waters.

I’ve yet to weight the pot and rig it but I’ll cover that in a blog later in the year.

Home Smoked Kippered Herring (Kippers!)

My second favourite way to eat fish for breakfast (a close second to Smoked Haddock and poached egg)

Sadly although I do a lot of fishing, we rarely catch decent sized Herring and therefore I’m always on the lookout for them in local fishmongers, recently I’ve found a good supply of local (Cornish) Herring in a supermarket in Falmouth.

I really don’t like buying kippers as I’m never 100% sure of the method used to smoke them and they’re so easy to do yourself and taste fantastic.

I start by buying the most fresh fish I can find, always whole fish, at the moment they’re about £5 per Kg.

When I get the fish home, I butterfly them as soon as possible.

My filleting skills are OK but I’m no pro, I tend to use a strong pair of scissors to cut through the top of the mouth through the top of the head and then use a sharp filleting knife to cut right down one side without cutting into the belly.

Once the cut is done (I prefer the traditional method of leaving the head on), unfold the fish to reveal the guts and gills, pull both out.

Butterflied Herring

I do them all in one go and keep the freshly cut fish in a bowl and then pull out the innards all together and rinse all the fish.

Prepare a simple 70% brine solution (232g of PDV salt to 1 litre of water) by mixing cold water and the salt – I prefer PDV salt for most curing I do as it is cheap (about £15 for a 25Kg sack delivered from Amazon).

Depending on the number of fish and amount of brine, either place all the fish in the brine in a bowl or in a strong food grade polythene bag.

Keep the fish in the brine for an hour and a half, keep in the fridge during the brining.

Once the brining has finished, pour away the liquid and wrap the fish in towels and put back in the fridge over night (don’t wash off the brine).

The next day, first thing in the morning, I prepare the smoke house (you can do this in a BBQ with a cold smoke generator). Ideally you want to cold smoke the fish for 24 hours.

Herring hanging in the smokehouse next to some Salmon

I hang the fish on the wire rack in the smoker and pass a wooden skewer through the gills to hang them vertically which helps the moisture drain out.

Choice of wood for smoking is personal preference and the traditional method is 100% Oak but I usually make a blend of 70% Oak, 20% Cherry and 10% Beech.

Keep the smoker going for 24 hours if you can or if you can’t keep it going over night then a bit of gap in between smoking won’t cause you a problem.

Once the fish is smoked the kippers are ready! You probably won’t be able to resist eating one immediately but the flavour develops if you can leave them a few days.

I tend to vac pac them straight out of the smoker to keep me from getting into trouble and smoking the whole house out, you can pop them in the freezer then too and they stay in better condition if vac packed.

There’s not much that can go wrong and you’ll end up with the best kippers you’ve ever tasted at a fraction of the price you’d pay for commercially produced kippers.

Smoke me a kipper, I’ll be back for breakfast!

Catching, Preparing and Cooking Squid

I love eating squid, but only when it’s spankingly fresh!

In Cornwall this year we’ve been very lucky with the season starting in October and lasting well into the New Year.

Catching squid is fairly easy when there’s squid in the bay, you only need some basic tackle.

Although it is possible to catch squid from the shore, it’s more reliable to catch them from a boat even though the marks that we fish are just a few hundred yards off shore.

I’m lucky enough to have access to several boats in addition to our own, if you’re in Cornwall then I recommend Anglo Dawn in Falmouth.

Andy (Skipper of Anglo Dawn) with a brace of squid

If you’re onboard a charter boat then the skipper will tell you everything you need to know.

I use my small slow pitch jigging rod and a fancy reel but you can fish with the cheapest of rods and reels.

The tackle couldn’t be more simple, just a 3oz weight on the bottom and two or three squid jigs (the cheap ones from Trago do the job). I prefer to use very small pink jigs that I get when on holiday in France and Italy, you can get them over there in most tackle shops and from Decathlon.

Some people like the ones with built in flashing LEDs and if the water is a bit murky then tie on a starlite, whatever you do you don’t need any expensive gear to catch fish.

The technique is also simple, drop the gear to the bottom, wind up a few turns and then put the rod in the rest and let it fish itself, you’ll soon know when you’ve got a squid on as the rod tip will pull down and throb, pick up the rod, reel in the squid slowly and net them with a landing net, just watch out for a squirt of ink!

Pop the squid in a bucket and get your gear back down there as when they’re biting things can go crazy.

Cleaning and preparing is very easy, once you’re home, pop them in the sink and reach up into the mantle and pull all the guts and tentacles out

You’ll find a quill down one side, pull that out and discard

Cut off the tentacles just below the eyes and make sure you remove the beak.

I like to take the out skin off the main body and one side of the wings.

Cut the squid up into rings or strips and separate the tentacles into twos or threes.

Give everything a good wrinse and then pop all the squid into a large polythene bag, add some plain flour, plenty of black or szechuan pepper and a good handful of sea salt.

Close the bag and give it a good shake so that all the squid is coated, leave it to rest for 20 minutes or so, this gives the flour time to go a bit soggy.

Fill a pan with extra virgin olive oil to about 1-2 inches deep and heat until just before the oil starts to smoke.

Put the squid in in batches and fry both sides for just a minute or so, then remove and put on kitchen towel whilst you do the rest.

If the squids are a bit on the large size, score each side with a knife, it doesn’t matter if you accidentally cut through. This will make the squid less chewy.

Shallow fried salt and pepper squid with roast potatoes and salad