Suf­folk on a plate

Stephen David serves his catch of the day

EADT Suffolk - - INSIDE -

This month, as al­ways, I’m re­ally in the mood for seafood. It’s healthy, tasty and flex­i­ble, more or less suit­able for ev­ery meal and oc­ca­sion.

Sim­ple lunches call for de­li­cious lo­cal shell­fish, steamed or boiled for a few min­utes, ready to dip into rich gar­lic but­ter, or home-made may­on­naise, per­haps com­ple­mented with some blanched shore veg­eta­bles, such as sam­phire or sea purslane. All you need is a colour­ful salad, or dressed leaves, and a warm loaf fresh from the oven.

Spring means early le­mon or Dover soles, with but­tered new po­ta­toes and the first ten­der as­para­gus spears. Sum­mer is all about a seafood bar­be­cue. In win­ter a zingy seafood curry is hard to beat.

Al­though we have good, in­de­pen­dent fish­mon­gers all over the county, their shops are be­com­ing harder to find. Ris­ing whole­sale fish prices, in­creas­ing rents and wages, com­bined with com­pe­ti­tion from su­per­mar­kets, mean it is only re­ally vi­able for the busier, larger ones to con­tinue in busi­ness.

But I urge you to sup­port lo­cal fish­mon­gers in pref­er­ence to the ma­jor su­per­mar­kets. Their prod­ucts might not be as cheap as what’s on of­fer in the big stores, but that lit­tle bit ex­tra is well worth the ef­fort.

Re­mem­ber, a good fish­mon­ger’s shop should never whiff when you walk in. Fish should only smell fresh, so if you come across a stinky fish counter, then it’s sell­ing stale pro­duce and should be well avoided.

One of the best fish­mon­gers lo­cally is Chris Wight­man’s Max­imus Fish Shop near

Sax­mund­ham. The sim­ple frontage be­lies the in­ter­est­ing range and high qual­ity of fish and shell­fish show­cased on ice in­side, as well as his awe­some ar­ray of home-smoked seafood.

The Wight­man fam­ily’s fish­ing her­itage and links to the Suf­folk coast go back four gen­er­a­tions. Chris first worked aboard his fa­ther Terry’s boat, the 60ft for­mer trawler Sem­per Vic­to­ria, in 1992, on leav­ing school. Then, in 2004, he and his broth­ers bought the Max­imus, a pioneer­ing long-liner boat, and one of the few new ves­sels to dock in Low­est­oft in re­cent decades.

But Chris saw a pos­i­tive busi­ness op­por­tu­nity in the prime qual­ity of their catch, and in the strong en­vi­ron­men­tal mes­sage of fish be­ing caught on baited hook, rather than in harm­ful trawler nets. First he ex­per­i­mented with sell­ing di­rect to the pub­lic at events such as the Alde­burgh Food and Drink Fes­ti­val. See­ing the en­thu­si­as­tic de­mand, he swapped his fish­er­man’s life on the ocean waves for one on dry land as a fish­mon­ger. Ten years ago he opened a brand new fish shop at the Blyth fam­ily’s des­ti­na­tion Fri­day Street farm shop, just off the busy A12, west of Alde­burgh.

Good fish­mon­gers, such as the Wight­mans, do all they can to fo­cus on day boat fish, long-lined or drift-net­ted, prefer­ably lo­cally. They com­ple­ment this with fish not from East Anglian har­bours, but care­fully sourced from other UK ports fur­ther afield. A visit to Max­imus Fish, to meet Chris and buy his seafood, is well worth a trip out, if you don’t live in, aren’t al­ready vis­it­ing this part of east Suf­folk. Ice packs are given free for the jour­ney home. You’ll find him on the A1094 road to Alde­burgh, where it meets the A12 just north of Farn­ham and Strat­ford St An­drew.

To cel­e­brate the de­lights of lo­cal Suf­folk fish, I share here one of my sta­ple seafood recipes, a sim­ple crisp-topped fish pie, straight­for­ward for a mid­week fam­ily sup­per, per­haps mix­ing in car­rots and pe­tit pois peas for a one-pot dish, but also per­fect for an au­tumn din­ner party. Try it glammed up, re­plac­ing the po­tato mash with pureed cele­riac and cauliflower, and sprin­kled with gre­mo­lata (finely-chopped le­mon zest, gar­lic and flat leaf pars­ley), along­side roasted Jerusalem ar­ti­chokes, pur­ple sprout­ing broc­coli and braised fen­nel.

Max­imus Fish, Fri­day Street Farn­ham, near Sax­mund­ham IP17 1JX , max­imus­fish.co.uk

Macken­zie-David Events Event di­rec­tor Re­becca Macken­zie, chef-di­rec­tor Stephen David

T: 01986 893991 re­becca@macken­zie-david.co.uk

ABOVE: Chris Wight­man, owner of Max­imus Sus­tain­able Fish­ing, at his shop at Fri­day Street Farmshop.

Suf­folk fish pie

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