Clam poaching

Not to be mistaken with gentle simmering shellfish this is the midnight ransacking of remote beach bounty.

Although it is not illegal to harvest shellfish for personal consumption, strict food safety regulations make it an offence for molluscs to be gathered from unclassified fisheries to be sold for profit.

New regulations

The Gangmasters’ Licensing Authority (GLA) was set up after 23 Chinese cockle pickers drowned at Morecombe Bay and following the prosecution of another gang using Romanian immigrants on Skye and another using Chinese workers on the Dee Estuary.

Clamming restrictions

The regulations introduced include minimum catch sizes for clams, defined periods when clam digging is allowed and the kind of equipment permissible. Claming in some areas is forbidden entirely.

The Ecologist has revealed that gangs of poachers, run by gang masters, regularly target wild shellfish stocks on English, Welsh and Scottish beaches. Workers in transit vans park on low tide beaches at night dig for the lucrative molluscs and keep them in chill boxes before delivering the catch to waiting traders selling to restaurants, pubs, caterers, markets and wholesalers.

Harmful bacteria

Poole Harbour, in Dorset, has abundant stocks of shellfish in what is Britain’s largest natural harbour. There has been an escalation in illegal clam harvesting in recent years, with large quantities of clams dug from areas where the practice is illegal because the water there contains bacteria harmful to humans.

Didums

Harbour authorities have mounted a number of enforcement operations in recent years and brought several prosecutions but the Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authority (IFCA) said ‘We’ve nine officers and 1000 square miles [to police], all year around. Protection officers have been threatened, buildings attacked and patrol boats sabotaged during efforts to combat the problem, with parts of the harbour regarded as being off limits for enforcement officers without police protection‘.

Traders

Gangs can harvest 100 kilos, or even a tonne a day and clam merchants have paid up to £1000 per tonne in the past.

Major fish traders on the south coast are suspected of accepting clams on a ‘no questions asked’ basis. Others are believed to ‘order’ shellfish and lay on the appropriate transport and chilling equipment.

Exposed

In north Wales and the north of England – enforcement bodies say shellfish is an increasing income source for organised criminals and the authorities know the gangs involved — it’s hard to hide a convoy of 4x4s on a low tide beach.

In the Dee Estuary, Merseyside and the Wirral illegal harvesting is a growing problem. In Lytham gang workers even had to be rescued by emergency services after getting into difficulties. In Scotland there have been prosecutions for illegal clam harvesting on the Isle of Sky.

10 ton haul

‘We’ve had 80 people out there, with 4×4’s and quads,’ a Mersey Port Health Authority representative said. ‘We get reports of between 10 and 15 tonnes being carted off the beach at a time.’



During one audacious session in August 2010, more than 50 workers in a convey of 4x4s took away 10 tonnes of cockles from Wirral.

In Teeside, gangs of Chinese migrants have regularly been digging cockles from beaches in Hartlepool Marina and surrounding areas. Much of this illegal shellfish is believed to be sold ‘through the back door’ to local hotels and restaurants.

Clam seizures

One vendor at London‘s world famous Billingsgate Market, which sells to London’s top restaurants, was earlier this year found to have, on four occasions, taken delivery of clams harvested from unclassified Littlehampton and Rustington shellfish beds.

The authorities observed the poaching, the transit and the sale of the clams all the way to Billingsgate. 

One environmental health officer involved in the case said ‘They were doing this to put cash in their pocket, it’s a bit like the scrap metal taken from railway lines’.

You’re nicked

The agency has brought 12 prosecutions, suspended 15 licenses and seized 20 tonnes of illegal cockles in one recent year alone.

Health warnings

Shellfish are frequently associated with instances of food poisoning, especially so when eaten raw or undercooked, as molluscs filter seawater to feed and, if the waters are dirty, the molluscs ingest viruses and bacteria that can be harmful to humans.

Tut tut Heston

In 2009, the Michelin-starred Fat Duck restaurant, owned by celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal, had to close after more than 450 customers became ill with norovirus. Raw oysters and clams were later identified by the Health Protection Agency as being the main source of the contamination.

Testing

Brussels insists waters used by the fishing industry for commercial shellfish harvesting and shellfish cultivation are regularly tested for bacteria and viruses. Argyll and Bute environmental health department is responsible for this information around the Treshnish Isles, Gometra, Ulva and Staffa.

So, when wild camping on a remote uninhabited wilderness island beach far from the mainland, remember the clams you caught were inspected by a little clipboard toting man behind a desk in Brussels – for your safety.

Home smoked wild mackerel and homemade pasta with peas

This healthy recipe contains lots of nutrients, is full of flavour and packs slow release energy good for glucose hungry expeditioners.

Smoking fresh fish* on the beach is a good way of preserving a catch for the ongoing journey whilst dried pasta stores well for long sea journeys.

One we prepared earlier

Making pasta is an uncomplicated process and enables one to closely scrutinise the ingredients of the food we consume. Our pasta is made from organic flour free from bleach, preservatives and insecticides. The pasta is then dried and stored for stowage in the sea kayaks for expeditions to remote islands, coves and beaches. The process is described here – making home made pasta

The process of smoking the mackerel used in this recipe is equally simple and is described here – smoking mackerel in the wild

Ingredients

  1. 175g of pasta
  2. 100g frozen peas
  3. 125g smoked filleted mackerel
  4. 3 rounded tbsp Greek yogurt
  5. 2 rounded tsp horseradish sauce

Method

  1. Boil the pasta in a large pan of boiling water, adding the peas for the last 3 mins. Meanwhile, flake the wild-smoked mackerel and set aside, then mix the yogurt with the horseradish, salt and pepper.
  2. Drain the home made pasta, return to the pan and stir in the wild-smoked mackerel and yogurt, letting the heat of the pasta warm the sauce.

Serve

Season with a pinch of parsley some black pepper and parmesan shavings 


*The term fresh fish is of course relative. On the high-street, at supermarkets and in city restaurants fresh fish really means days old so, when patiently waiting for your number to be called at the fish-counter, be ready to ask where your fish is from and how many days ago it was likely caught. Supermarkets invent terms to suit their needs and, as a discerning consumer, it really is your right to challenge nonsense. At Octane we have therefore made a new, differentiated and entirely transparent definition – Ocean-fresh. Simply put, it means caught and eaten same-day.

See ocean fresh calimari caught, cooked and served in under an hour

Alone at sea

Aleksander Doba, trailblazing wilderness expeditioner and 67-year-old Polish adventurer, proved age is just a number by kayaking solo 6,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean.

Doba set off in October 2014 from Lisbon, shored in Florida six months later and, on his arrival, was greeted offshore by a flotilla of sea kayakers who joined him for his last leg in. It was the longest open-water kayaking expedition ever across the Atlantic and was voted by National Geographic as the 2015 People’s Choice Adventurer of the Year.

Kayaking world first

The Polish explorer departed from Lisbon in 5 October 2013 with the plan to paddle 5,400 miles across the Atlantic‘s widest point to arrive in Florida mid-February 2014. By the time he had finished he had traveled a 7,716-mile transatlantic journey, in his 23-foot kayak called Olo. Unexpected weather and equipment failure forced Doba to add an extra 1,300 miles and two extra months onto his journey. No one had ever kayaked across open sea for this length of time or distance.

Fighting the elements

Doba averaged about 30 miles per day and, when the temperatures were too high, he paddled at night. Indeed, once he was out of sight of shore, he found paddling more comfortable naked.

Loopy lupe

Doba fought with 30-foot waves and wrestled winds and currents that pushed him in loops around Bermuda adding 40 days to the crossing. Three times, Doba paddled hundreds of miles, only to get pushed back by winds and currents, he beat off a shark with his paddle and he ate flying fish landing in his boat.

Maverick expeditioner

Not bad for a man who considers himself a tourist on the water and who didn’t start kayaking until the age of 34 – he did no training for the crossing.

Campfire cooking – shoreline crab linguine and wild garlic

This is a Hebridean pimped version of the Italian favourite so it can easily and quickly be knocked up on a remote shoreline or cliff top.

The original Italian version of this recipe uses a rocket garnish which I normally replace with wild ramsons garlic picked fresh from the shoreline. Attempting to keeping rocket or any other loose leaved salad garnish fresh in the hold of a sea kayak during the heat of summer is only to end in disappointment.

Catching the crab is an entirely separate affair. These underwater battle tanks have strong opinions regarding being taken from their sea bed home – click here to see how to catch a brown crab.

Red pesto (Feeds 4)

– 500g of sun-dried tomatoes, in oil
– 100g of garlic purée
– 20ml of lemon juice
Salt
Pepper
– 500ml of olive oil
– 250g of pine nuts, toasted

Emulsion

– 2 carrots, cut into matchsticks
– 1 onion, sliced
– 3 celery sticks, sliced
– 1 leek, green leaves only, sliced
– 500g of butter
Salt
Pepper

Pasta

– 300g of linguine
– 5l of water
– 200g of table salt

To serve

– 1 red onion, thinly sliced
– 2 spring onions, thinly sliced
– 4 cherry tomatoes, halved
– 50g of wild garlic
– 1 tbsp of crème fraîche
– 10g of pine nuts
– 1 lemon
– 50g of white crab meat, picked and cooked
Olive oil
Vegetable oil
– 1 red chili, sliced at an angle
– 50g of chopped flat-leaf parsley

 

  1. Pesto. Blitz a third of all the ingredients apart from the olive oil with pestle and mortar until a paste forms. It is best to make the pesto in three batches, so only use a third of your ingredients at a time
  2. Slowly pour a third of the oil into the mortar and blitz. Repeat these steps until all ingredients are used then set-aside
  3. For the emulsion, melt half the butter in a hot pan until it starts to foam. Add the carrots, onion, celery and leek, season the mixture and cook until golden brown. Fill the pan with cold water and bring to the boil
  4. Simmer this vegetable stock for 20 minutes, then strain off the vegetables. Return the liquid to the heat, whisking in the remaining butter until smooth and emulsified
  5. To cook your pasta, bring 5 litres of water to the boil in a large pan and add the salt. Separate the pasta as you drop it in and leave to cook for about 4–5 minutes. Strain off the pasta and add a little olive oil to stop it from sticking together
  6. Add a little vegetable oil to a hot sauté pan and add the red onion and spring onion. Once golden brown, add pine nuts and sliced chili. When pine nuts have begun to colour, deglaze pan with 50g of your vegetable emulsion
  7. Squeeze in juice of half a lemon and bring to boil. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of red pesto with the crème fraîche and mix thoroughly. While sauce is coming back to boil, drop the linguini into a pan of boiling water to heat up
  8. Once sauce thickens, add parsley along with drained hot pasta. Toss in pan to ensure pasta is well coated
  9. Using tongs, twist pasta to give it shape and place in a bowl. Sprinkle the white crab meat over the top along with the cherry tomatoes and rocket, then finish with a final splash of olive oil and lemon juice

This pasta recipe is a wonderful source of slow release energy carbohydrate suitable for long paddling stints across open water.


Octane offers gastro wilderness expeditions and, employing Octane’s Eight* methods of sourcing wild food for the pot, we eat the world’s best food, ocean fresh**.

*Octane’s Eight is our philosophy. We believe our travelling guests, being closest to the world’s wildest fresh foods, might quite like to eat the world’s wildest fresh foods.
1. we line fish, 2. we lobster pot, 3. we spear fish, 4. we sea forage, 5. we land forage, 6. we stalk, 7. we seed the sea, 8. we seed the land. Why is it campers and ramblers feel obliged to consume biltong, baked beans and instant coffee?

**The term fresh fish is of course relative. On the high-street, at supermarkets and in city restaurants fresh fish really means days old so, when patiently waiting for your number to be called at the fish-counter, be ready to ask where your fish is from and how many days ago it was likely caught. Supermarkets invent terms to suit their needs and, as a discerning consumer, it really is your right to challenge nonsense. At Octane we have therefore made a new, differentiated and entirely transparent definition – Ocean fresh. Simply put, it means caught, prepared, cooked and eaten same-day.

See ocean fresh in practice with the post ‘Drive through calimari’ – ocean fresh calimari caught, cooked and served in under an hour

Grilled codling with pistachio pesto

It’s always handy to have a pot of sauce in readiness for any fish caught and I choose to keep pistachio pesto – an expeditioner’s green–sauced flavour wonder punch.

Others include horseradish and aioli but this is perhaps my favourite.

Ingredients

Pesto
– 1c pistachios, shelled
– 1c fresh basil
– 1/4c cilantro
– 2 garlic cloves
– zest of 1 lemon
– 3T grated parmesan cheese
– 1/4-1/2c olive oil
salt to taste

Halibut
codling steaks
olive oil
salt and pepper
lemon wedges

Method for pesto

– Finely chop all the ingredients and add to a pestle, using just 1/4c olive oil to start
– Mortar to blend and drizzle olive oil until desired consistency is achieved
– Store in an airtight container in cool place until ready to serve

Method for codling

– Rub codling steaks with olive oil, and season both sides with salt and pepper
– Grill on one side, about 5 minutes, then flip and repeat*
– Top with Pistachio Pesto and serve over mashed potatoes or rice with lemon wedges

*Cook until there is nice color on the steaks and the fish is just about cooked through (opaque), being careful not to overcook and dry out. The fish should flake easily with a fork. The time it takes for your fish to cook will depend on the thickness of your steaks and the temperature of your grill


Octane offers gastro wilderness expeditions – employing Octane’s Eight* methods of sourcing wild food for the pot, we eat the world’s best food, ocean fresh**. 

*Octane’s Eight is our philosophy – we believe our travelling guests, being closest to the world’s wildest fresh foods, might quite like to eat the world’s wildest fresh foods. 1) We line fish, 2) we lobster pot, 3) we spear fish, 4) we sea forage, 5) we land forage, 6) we deer stalk, 7) we seed the sea, 8) we seed the land. 

**Ocean fresh – the term fresh fish is of course relative. On the high-street, at supermarkets and in city restaurants fresh fish really means days old so, when patiently waiting for your number to be called at the fish-counter, be ready to ask where your fish is from and how many days ago it was likely caught. Supermarkets invent terms to suit their needs and, as a discerning consumer, it really is your right to challenge nonsense. At Octane we have therefore made a new, differentiated and entirely transparent definition – Ocean fresh. Simply put, it means caught and eaten same-day.

See OCEAN FRESH in practice – with the post ‘Drive-by calamari’ – ocean fresh calamari caught, cooked and served in under an hour.

Flaming banana banock

Sautéd sizzling banana in butter, maple syrup and cinnamon stacked over a pile of banock. Served with whiskey aflame

And, if that’s not enough dramatics, stand on the cliff-top with a set of bagpipes and play Mull of Kintyre waving your sporren to America.

A banana too far

Extra ripe bananas in a sea kayak’s stowage compartment are unwelcome. However, this recipe is one of my favourite ways to utilise them whilst making breakfasts noteworthy.

Banana state

There are two methods in producing this recipe and both are dependant upon the state of your banana as follows: If the banana is mushy it can be added to the pancake mix for whiskey flaming maple syrup over banana pancakes and, if the banana is in a respectable state, it can be dice-cubed for flaming whiskey sauté bananas in syrup over pancakes. 

For the pancakes

– 1 cup flour
– 1 teaspoon baking soda
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 2 eggs
– 1 1/4 cup buttermilk
– 2 tablespoons melted butter
– 1 ripe banana, mashed / diced

For the syrup

– 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
– 3 tablespoons butter
– 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
– 3 tablespoons Whisky

To make banana pancakes

– Heat a non-stick* griddle or skillet over medium heat
– In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add the eggs, buttermilk, melted butter (and mashed banana). Whisk until the batter is combined
– Using a cup for consistently sized cakes, scoop batter into preheated pan
– Flip the pancake when the bottom is golden and bubbles form on top, about 2 minutes per side or until cooked through. If your cakes brown before being cooked through, turn your heat down a notch. Repeat with remaining pancakes
– Serve the pancakes with whisky syrup (instructions below)

To make syrup

To a small saucepan over medium heat, add the syrup, butter, and cinnamon. When the butter is melted and the syrup begins to bubble, add the whisky. Simmer steadily for 60 seconds to allow the alcohol to cook off. Remove from heat and serve the hot, dark, buttery, boozy sauce poured over a giant stack of banana pancakes – a little piece of banach banana breakfast heaven.

*Note: I use a non-stick skillet for pancakes and I do not grease the pan with butter or oil, because I have found that I get prettier, more evenly-coloured pancakes when I do not grease the pan. However, if you are using a griddle or skillet that is not non-stick, I recommend greasing the pan for easier flipping

All in a roe – 5 campfire supper ingredients when the fish aren’t biting

Spaghetti with bottarga, pistachio and lemon zest is perhaps the biggest flavoured of all quick-cook suppers using dry packed ingredients.

Bottarga is an Italian cooking staple never cooked, being used instead very simply, as a topping. Think of it as being not unlike parmesan in character: strong, savoury and also fishy and can be used as a final touch to enhance many simple foods, such as scrambled eggs or risottos. Often mixed to a paste with olive oil it is used on bruschetta as a paste.

You say bottarga

There are many variations of the name – botargo, buttariga, boutargue, poutargue – but all are recognisable as stemming from the same Arabic root, bitarikh which is an ancient, sunbaked ingredient belonging to the Mediterranean coastline.

I say botargo

With Phoenician roots 3,000 years ago, it is now found in north African, Greek and Provençal food, but is most often associated with Italian cooking, particularly that of Sardinia.

Bottarga

However you choose to call it, this rich amber-coloured mouthwateringly savoury ingredient is also wonderful served in thin carpaccio–like slices drizzled with olive oil as an appetiser or grated over a simple pasta with a tomato based sauce. Personally I prefer bottarga of mullet as it has a more delicate taste, but that of tuna is fuller–flavoured and both are ‘Sardinian gold’.

Either way this recipe can be completed in 8–12 mins, the time it takes to boil the pasta. Recipe serves two.

Ingredients

– 200g of spaghetti (and salt to cook)
– 100g of good quality bottarga
– 50g of crushed pistachios
– extra virgin olive oil
– 1/2 a lemon, juiced and peeled in thin strips (no pith)

Method

– Cook spaghetti in salted water 8–12 mins
– Grate the bottarga in a bowl and season with olive oil, pistachios, lemon peel and lemon juice (mix with sufficient quantity of oil to dress pasta)
– Drain spaghetti al dente
– Sauté spaghetti in the pan with the mixture of pistachios and bottarga
– Serve and garnish with another sprinkling of pistachio

To serve

Sit back, soak up a shoreline sunset and relax in the knowledge you are joining a Phoenician fisherman’s tradition of 3,000 years — the bottarga brings deep umami flavour, the pistachio and pasta are packed with energy and all pack dry in a rucksack — a perfect food to eat whilst contemplating when the fish may bite.