To celebrate the lunch of British Tourism Week Brighton Pier kicked off on Saturday with a congathon. Over 300 people lined up to conga up the pier and back down again. It turned into a fun filled afternoon – the goody bags handed out to the participants were stuffed with sweets toys and coupons for free rides, donuts and ice creams so that visitors could smile the delights of the pier whilst they were there. Entertainment laid on before and after the conga included a Juice FM DJ, dancers and a donut eating competition along with several Joogleberry acts, bands, singers – including Elvis – dancers and hoop star Jo Mondy.
Students from St John’s School and College for pupils with learning disabilities and staff from Brighton’s Hotel du Vin went on a day out to meet some of the local food producers who supply the Hotel. Hotel du Vin staff have formed a special relationship with the St Johns special needs students. After meeting up at the Hotel du Vin we all trooped out into the brilliant sunshine and met Dave our bus driver with his Brighton & Hove buses luxury coach.
Our first stop was the Brighton and Newhaven Fish Sales dock in Hove, where Kier showed us around the Fish market building, including a trip into the freezer room. Worth going in just to feel how warm it was when we came out! One of the students, Jamie, is doing an NVQ in catering and was particularly keen to get to grips with fish handling. Much amusement was caused by HdV’s Kristina, who although happy to hold a live lobster, felt that a crab bore far too much resemblance to a spider, but being game she did give it a go.
With a little guidance from Hotel du Vin’s head Chef Rob Carr the students shopped for ingredients for the meal we would eat later – lovely fresh plaice fillets and mussels. We had our fish course ingredients, time to see what the meat and veg might be. So back to the bus, which had a handy little fridge compartment to store the shopping in. To the tune of ‘Ten Green Bottles’, some assistance from Chef’s 4 year old son Ashton and assorted Toy Story characters, we set off out into the country to Horram and Redlands Farm. We were so lucky with the weather, and the mood inside the bus was just as sunny and warm with laughter and jollity.
I took the opportunity to have a chat with Dale, who with her colleague Claire were the teachers accompanying the five students on the trip, to learn more about the school and students. St John’s is an independent specialist school and college, working with learners who have complex learning disabilities. Students are taught life skills and supported by St John’s up to the age of 21, when they are helped to make the transition to independent living where possible or return to the care of their parents/carers and the support of social services. It is not an ideal situation, but Dale tells me good news in that the new college principal is looking at extending the age the students can attend St John’s to 25.
Phil, Henk and Alison extended a warm welcome and delicious freshly baked sausage rolls to us when we arrived at Redlands Farm, then gave us a tour of the animals. First up were the horses and ponies, one of whom caused great hilarity when he stuck his tongue out at Grant Callaghan, HdV’s Deputy General Manager. After the calves were fed it was the turn of the sheep. We headed out into the field with a bucket of food and were soon surrounded by woolly mums and their new born lambs. Avoiding the mud on the way back was a bit of a tricky business, but we made it safely back to the barn. Here we met up with some tiny lambs which were only an hour old. Chef gently helped Ashton hold one of the lambs, then one of the students, Nathan, bravely had a go followed by Jamie, who took it very seriously, and Anna who adored it. HdV’s Kristina definitely prefers lamb cuddling to crabs, as her coworker Erika agreed!
There was time for a quick game of football in the yard before the serious business of shopping for dinner took place. We crowded into the little farm shop to choose from the home grown and local produce on display. The veritable cornucopia got our mouths watering and it wasn’t long before Phil was weighing out fat pork and hop sausages, while Henk sliced sirloin steaks and Chef added a few pigeon breasts to the shopping list. Topping it off with one of Alison’s home baked Dutch Apple Cakes and a fine array of local preserves and condiments we headed back to the bus, with Phil shouldering a large sack of Maris Piper potatoes for us.
Back in Brighton we said a fond farewell to Dave, our trusty chauffeur and headed into Pub du Vin laden with our purchases. Whilst the rest of us settled back with a round of soft drinks from the bar Rob disappeared to put his Chef’s hat on and cook up our feast. And what a feast it was: golden mountains of chunky chips, crisply breadcrumbed plaice fillets, mussels in a rich wine sauce, succulent sausages and steaks, and the more exotic pigeon breasts accompanied by tender little green peas. It went quite quiet for a while as we all tucked in to the feast apart form the odd murmur of approval, and was even quieter after rounding it off with a slice of apple cake topped with fresh cream. Replete and happy after a splendid day out.
A Big ‘Thank you’ for a fabulous day out goes to the St John’s School and College students: Jamie, Tom, Nathan Anna and Tim; to their teachers Dale and Claire; to Keir and the staff at Brighton & Newhaven Fish Sales; to Henk, Alison, Phil and the animals at Redlands Farm; to the staff at Hotel and Pub du Vin Brighton – especially Grant, Phil, Erika and Kristina and last but not least – Brighton & Hove buses and driver Dave. Lets do it all again soon!
Whelks. The subject caught my attention one Sunday afternoon when Jim Partridge from Shoreham explained on Radio 4 how his company is one of the largest exporters of whelks in the UK.
Keen to find out more, on a drizzly, overcast morning I met a cheery Jim who whisked me round to the harbourside where the freshly caught whelks were being landed. The day’s catch was weighed – an impressive 28 sacks (about a metric ton) – before transportation to Kings Lynn, where they are cooked, shelled, frozen and shipped to South Korea which considers them a hugely popular delicacy.
The smaller-than-I-imagined fishing boat had two crew and I asked Matthew Pullen who was busy unloading, to describe a typical day.
“No two days are ever the same. Today we started at 5.30am and returned at 11.15am, however other days it very much depends on the tide and the wind”, says Matthew.
Matthew fell into fishing seven years ago at the tender age of 14 and is clearly passionate about his work, even though he says the best bit is coming home!
Owner Jim explained that whelk fishing is extremely environmentally friendly.
“The pots are all made from recycled plastic bins, the prey in the pots are dead crab left over from market or fish offcuts, and the boat is low on fuel – it only travels an average of three miles offshore.”
The passion for all things fishy hit Jim when he was just 3 years old. Originally he wanted to be a farmer but a family friend took him fishing and, he tells us, he “was bitten by the fish bug, for which there is no known cure, even though it’s one of the most dangerous jobs in the country”.
The UK eats very little shellfish, which is a shame considering we have a sustainable food source on our doorstep, including whelks, winkles, lobsters and crabs.
According to the Shellfish Association of Great Britain, shellfish provide protein, vitamins and minerals, are low in fat and are a wonderful source of the Omega 3 fatty acid. Shellfish is an excellent choice for meeting the human body’s daily protein needs, with the added advantage that it is highly digestible as it is more readily broken down and absorbed than protein in red meats and poultry.
Whelks in particular come top of the nutritional traffic light scale – three greens (fats, sugars) and only one orange (salt).
Jim’s favourite way of eating whelks is boiled with a chilli mayonnaise sauce or sliced finely and stir fried with prawns and noodles. Why not try for yourself and buy direct from Jim’s fish and seafood shop in Shoreham – you really couldn’t get your whelks any fresher!
Jim’s shop is La Poissonnerie, Brighton Road, Shoreham by Sea, BN43 6RE, telephone 01273 933 406.