A few weeks ago while looking into training opportunities within the fishing industry, we came across Seafood Cornwall Training‘s website and the range of courses they run in conjunction with Seafish, the national seafood authority. We were lucky enough to be given a place on their Fish Filleting and Introduction to Fishmongery one day courses, so today we went west again, although this time only as far as Camborne, to Cornwall College where the Fish Filleting course was being run.
We started at 9am and finished at 4pm and learned A LOT. Our course today was brilliantly taught by Annie Sibert, who has been working as a fishmonger in Cornwall for the past twenty five years. She now runs her own seafood school, My Fish Kitchen, in Mawnan Smith. Simon and I were both really looking forward to the course, if a little apprehensive about our skills. We both thought we knew how to make a reasonable job of filleting, albeit to a standard nowhere near acceptable by proper professionals. We knew we had a lot to learn, but neither of us had any idea of quite how much.
We started by filleting and skinning whiting, following a skillful demonstration by Annie, which made the process of producing two beautiful, clean, skinless fillets look effortless. Needless to say, it wasn’t. Neither was filleting plaice, head on or off. Every time I got to the end of the process and was faced with something the right shape and size, but with lots of meat still on the bone, or else with a bedraggled looking fillet in front of me. Or both. By lunchtime Si and I were feeling a little bit despondent. I had forgotten that feeling of concentrating so hard on something, putting in maximum effort and finding that you’re still hopeless. It was a bit like me and maths GCSE, except this time I was really interested. After lunch we started by single filleting gurnard, and despite a disastrous first attempt I started to feel like I was getting somewhere, and I managed the skinning fine. The next task was preparing sardines, and again I felt like I was making progress. Finally we had to take one enormous hake, and produce three neat and equal steaks, two tail fillets and two boneless loins. Chuckle. Annie left us for a few minutes to get on with it. I looked at the enormous fish in front of me and considered the fact that I am often incapable of cutting neat and equal slices of bread. I would blame left-handedness, but Simon has no such snags. Was this really going to work? I had visions of me finishing with a few hacked at scraps and a fish head in front of me, covered in scales and shame, but a lot of concentration and many deep breaths later, I managed it. Or at least a respectable version of it. As did Si, and we were delighted to find that we had both passed the course. We have a lot of practice to do, but we both feel sure that with time and experience we will be able to do this well, and are very grateful to Annie and Seafood Cornwall Training for today.
We left with the most enormous box of delicious looking fish, and after consulting Rick Stein in the car (not literally), we grabbed a few ingredients, invited some friends round for dinner and feasted on our efforts, with escabeche of sardines, baked hake and roasted tomatoes and grilled plaice with chilli, garlic and thyme. Yum yum.