Davidstow’s Catch of the Day
There is nothing quite like getting up early to see a sunrise, and there is certainly no Cornish sunrise quite like the view you get looking out over the working fishing port of Newlyn. Newlyn is a thriving fishing village on the south coast of west Cornwall and sits between Penzance and its charming neighbour Mousehole. With stunning views across Mount’s Bay towards the majestic St Michael’s Mount illuminated on the horizon under a band of grey, Newyln is a very special place to visit. The sheltered harbour is crowded with small fishing vessels, crab pots and sailing boats – it’s a hidden gem worth celebrating on our culinary tour of Cornwall, a village preparing to share Cornish treasure with the world. The sleepy, early morning experience of visiting Newlyn is a bustle and a blur. Full of the muffled noises from boats unloading their haul into the local Fish Market nestled on the quay and from there transporting their iced catch to the fleet of waiting trucks, shipping fresh fish around the country. Gulls patrol the sky searching for leftover bait in pots and the world awakes.
The romantic view of Newlyn and bewitching glimpse at its fishing heritage doesn’t reveal the harsh realities that fishermen face everyday, nor how badly this hard-working industry has been struck by the Covid 19 crisis, but before the first coffee of the day, it’s easy to get caught up in the golden light, drifting clouds and dreamy vantage point over-looking such a beautiful port. It’s no surprise that the famed Newlyn School was drawn to the village from the 1880s until the early twentieth century. This colony of artists of fell in love with the fantastic light and were fascinated by the fishermen’s working life at sea and everyday harbour life. In Newyln, I feel you get a real sense of the Davidstow way of life and can experience firsthand that taste takes time.
This month, I want to cook up another Cornish meal that celebrates Davidstow cheddar and the other great ingredients from around the county. The seafood from Cornwall is prized by chefs around the UK as some of the very best in the land and although I’m biased I think that the fish landed off the coast of Cornwall is some of the very best in the world. Over-fishing has lead to many problems but nowadays the smaller boats fishing out of Newlyn have found a good balance landing lesser known species that are slowly gaining in popularity. I often enjoy cooking some Megrim or Cornish Sole as it’s known down here, or a fillet of Pollock over the more popular cod and haddock.
The Cornish sardine is another fantastic fish that is particularly famous in the legendary Star Gazey Pie from Mousehole, just round the coast. It was here that many years ago, in a time of local famine and hardship, a fisherman went out in a storm and came home with a huge catch that saved the village. The whole village then cooked a massive fish pie with the fish heads poking out of the top of the pie’s pastry gazing at the stars. I’ve cooked star gazey pie a few times myself and I love the taste and celebrating the story, but for me a proper fish pie for the family needs a decent layer of cheesy potato on top.
The notion of cooking a homemade pie may have slightly gone out of fashion in recent years, but it’s fair to say that nothing relieves stress like a large slice of pie. This Cornish fish pie recipe uses the special 24 month aged mature Davidstow Cheddar and a pinch of saffron to celebrate our Cornish gold.
CORNISH FISH PIE
250g Cornish fish – pollock, megrim, whiting, sea bream
100g cold water prawns
4 Eggs, hardboiled
1 tbsp capers
2 bay leaves
1 leek, finely chopped
1 onion, diced
1/2 fennel, finely chopped [optional]
100ml white wine
1 tbsp chopped parsley
Pinch of saffron
Pinch of sea salt
500g Potato, boiled
100g 24 month aged mature Davidstow Cheddar, grated
CORNISH FIE PIE
- Preheat your oven to 180˚C. Then start by preparing your fish pie mix in a large saucepan. Melt the butter and add in your leeks, fennel and onion. Stir and soften for 5-10 minutes and add in your flour.
- Cook out the flour and stir well to form the base roux for your pie and then add in your wine to deglaze the pan. Follow with your saffron and milk and stir until your sauce thickens and is silky and smooth. Next add in your bay, capers, prawns and Cornish fish. Cook on a lower temperature for 10 minutes and then allow to cool. Season to taste and stir through your herbs.
- Transfer to a pie dish and add your hardboiled eggs cut in half. Leave in the fridge whilst you make your mash.
- In another pan boil your potatoes and mash with butter and a little milk until smooth. Season to taste and stir in half of your grated Davidstow cheddar.
Spread your mash over the fish pie mix and then add the remaining grated cheddar. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the top of your fish pie is golden.
- Serve with peas and steamed vegetables.
James Strawbridge is the author of The Artisan Kitchen and Davidstow Cheddar’s Cornish development chef.
The seafood from Cornwall is prized by chefs around the UK as some of the very best in the land and although I’m biased I think that the fish landed off the coast of Cornwall is some of the very best in the world.