Monday, 10 May 2010

The Stolford Mud-Horse Fisherman

Views across Bridgwater Bay from Stolford

The Boy was on a mission. We set off into the Somerset levels in search of a fabled fisherman that he had first heard of on the Beeb's Coast programme. Armed only with the name of the hamlet where he was based, we drove for only thirty minutes from where we live to Stolford on the coast of Bridgwater Bay in Somerset.
Here resides the last remaining mud-horse fisherman in Britain who works the mud flat on his wooden sled. Adrian Sellick comes from a long line of mud-horse fisherman and you will see him out all year round. There's something incredibly romantic about the thought of him casting himself out in all weathers and venturing out into the bay on his home-made drift-wood contraption. He tends to his nets, strung between posts driven into the mud, which trap fish as the tides turn. On the day that we went, the chiller in their tiny garage-cum-fishmonger was still packed with fish. Brendan, his Father and a former mud-horse fisherman, now runs the shop and shows me a handsome bass as long as my arm which could be mine for a mere £12. It could easily feed eight or ten people! We choose a lovely looking mullet instead which is a more reasonable size (though still a feast!) for two at a bargain £3. As he expertly guts, scales and washes the fish, Brendan tells us how the fish aren't even 24 hours out of the water - and you can tell how fresh they are, simply by looking at them.

I feel surprisingly proud that this tiny family business is still running, mainly I think down to the support of the local community. Though labour intensive, the practise is extremely environmentally friendly and much kinder to the seas that the common methods of fishing used today. We hurried home to make the most of our fresh fish and cook up a real treat.

Adrian and Brendan Sellick of the Stolford Mud-Horse Fisherman can be contacted on 01278 652297.

Mullet - primed and ready to go into the oven

Mullet en papillote with fennel, chilli and lemon

You will need:
1 mullet, gutted, scaled and washed
1 head of fennel
1 lemon
3 springs of rosemary
1/2 chilli
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 glass of white wine

- Preheat the oven at 190C
- Slice the fennel, lemon, chilli and garlic
- Unroll and cut enough baking foil and parchment to go around the fish (if you have a long fish, like we do here, roll out two lengths and fold to join together). Lay the baking parchment on a kitchen counter and then lay the foil on top.
- Lay slices of fennel in the middle of the foil in a mound and place the fish on top
- Stuff the cavity of the fish with the rosemary sprigs, lemon, chilli and garlic
- Bring the foil and paper up and around the fish to seal leaving a small gap at the top of the parcel (about the size of a small fist). Into this, pour the wine and seal firmly.
- Place on a baking tray and bake for 25 minutes. Resist the urge to open the foil and check how it is doing. The fish will cook in its own steam and juices so opening it won't help! Eat when the flesh is opaque and falling off the bone.

2 comments:

Sublime Monkey said...

I tried this recipe, worked a treat. Never steamed fish in that fashion before but it was deliciously succulent. Used Hake fillets as alternative to Mullet. My only comment is that I dint think the fennel added that much to the final flavour and perhaps another vegetable might be better suited to basting in there.

Anonymous said...

A good 3 pound mullet filleted then baked in butter pepper and salt with a splash of ozzo rap it in tin foul to steam in the taste sum good crusty bread butter and fresh water crest will beat any bass hands down will feed 4 for about a fiver? Snoow ha tiss proper grub.

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