Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Celebrating local fish

The Stade Stewart Walton

The Stade: Stewart Walton.

The latest Little Hastings Fish Cook Book, the third, has just hit the shops, nursed into being by three St Leonards locals, Sally and Stewart Walton and Debi Angel. HOT’s Lauris Morgan-Griffiths asked Sally Walton how the books came about.

Sally, Stewart and Debi’s paths had crossed over the years in publishing circles and “We wanted to create something together. As well as the book we wanted to create the energy that you get at art school, that excitement when working against a deadline. We made up a deadline, we all worked intensely against it. It was exhilerating –  and we did it.”

Sally collected and edited the recipes, Stewart added his atmospheric illustrations of the fish huts, the Stade and, of course, the fish. Then Debi Angel pulled it all together into its distinctive design.

The project was a success, the book sold out and was reprinted three times. That was in 2009, the second followed in 2011 and the third, Sally explains, for some reason, “has been the most exciting. We love this one. We have taken some of our favourite recipes from 1 and 2 and added 40 new ones.”

The book is a local project in every way, being published independently by their own publishing company, Sea Saw Books. Sally and Stewart have lived in Hastings since 1992, Debi is  just in her seventh year … “a pup”.

Gurnard  Stewart Walton

Gurnard: Stewart Walton.

The venture grew out of their concerns about the problems the local fishermen were facing and a feeling of ‘use it or lose it’ about the fishmongers in the town.  Sally explains, “We wanted to inspire people to visit the beach, buy fresh fish, understand the difference and in that way support the local fishing industry. While also having a lovely time eating delicious, fresh sustainable fish!”

You don’t get that in supermarkets.

There are fantastic recipes for all types of local fish. There aren’t any from the fishermen but there are from the local fishmongers and restaurants – although one chef had to be carefully guided towards what was local and sustainable !

Whiting Stewart Walton

Whiting: Stewart Walton.

The book gives tips on buying fresh fish, frying, side dishes and sauces. Sally’s own personal favourite is Squid and Chickpeas with red peppers, fresh herbs, chilli and garlic. She loves it because “this is the kind of thrown together, visually stunning, rustic dish that completely blows everyone away.”

“Stewart would choose Stewart’s Mum’s Baked Fish with Lemon Mash and Debi’s would be Angel’s Top of the Rainbow Squid.

Lobster Stewart Walton

Lobster: Stewart Walton.

The Hastings fishing industry is important not only for the town but because it is sustainable and the produce is local and fresh. And not only are fish endangered, so is the local fleet. Quotas were originally introduced in a positive way to protect dwindling fish stocks. It’s a hard and dangerous way of  life, and the system is weighted dramatically against the small boats and in favour of  the big boats that have such large quotas that they rarely need to take them up. While the coastal communities struggle with the unrealistically small numbers that they are allowed to catch. And although the EU have now banned the shocking matter of discards, the quote system must become more flexible towards the small boats.

It is quite bonkers – you couldn’t make it up. And sad – as the local fishermen suffer.

So support local. Buy the book, be adventurous, experiment with fish and support the fish shops and the huts on the beach. We are lucky to have them.

 The book is dedicated to Graham Coglan. “Graham’s yellow boat RX60 was the lead boat of the Hastings fishing fleet. He sadly died last year after a short illness. He was part of the Hastings Fishermen’s Protection Society and a much loved and respected man.” RIP.

Book launch 17 December from 5.30 at St Leonards public house, London Road, St Leonards. The Little Hastings Fish Cook Book 3 costs £8 and is available at Waterstones, Made, Jerwood, Judges and Butlers Emporium in Hastings, SHOP in St Leonards and the de la Warr Pavilion.


Posted 12:32 Wednesday, Dec 10, 2014 In: Food & Drink

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