The slow summer months of 2020 have brought a mixed bag of sunshine, showers, and even thunderstorms to our shores.
As they say, if you don’t like the Outer Hebridean climate, then just wait a minute...
While unseasonably wild winds can often keep those in the fishing industry held fast in harbours, the changeable weather has been the least of their worries during these uncertain times.
Our island home has long held a deep connection to the seas which surround us, and making a living from our waters has been a calling passed down through generations of Hearaich (and Scalpaich!)
So, despite globalisation and mass-market ingredients, we’re delighted that there is still a deep love for our local and sustainable seafood from the country’s best cooks and chefs.
We recently caught up with local skipper Neil Maclean, owner of ‘Seas The Catch’, who helps bring some of the finest of creel-caught shellfish to great restaurants across the Scottish Highlands and Islands.
Their working ways have had to change significantly during the current COVID crisis with many regular customers being forced to close their doors to the public. As Neil explains…
‘2020 has been a challenging time for the hospitality industry and this has meant we have had to alter how we operate to include offering more deliveries to people just cooking at home.’
Like many of us, this family business has moved quickly to adapt and overcome in these unusual times, but their main goal remains clear…
‘Our aim has always been to promote Hebridean shellfish, which we believe is some of the finest in the world!’
The majority of the catch here tends to be exported to the continent, but Neil and his two cousins, Stewart and Iain, work extra hard to keep local markets well supplied.
From langoustines, or simply prawns as they are more commonly known in Harris, to velvet crab and lobster, the Seas The Catch customers always know the provenance of their product.
As Neil tells us…
‘Traceability and sustainability are always at the forefront of what we do, meaning that all of our produce is caught from creel fishing boats only and our scallops are hand-dived for.’
Their sea-wares are shipped to customers in freshly cut seaweed and chilled on ice. Each box is labeled with information on which boat landed their produce and the area it was caught in.
The new business environment has also created exciting collaborations including a partnership with Masterchef Finalist Chef Dean Banks, owner of Haar Restaurant in St Andrews…
“During lockdown, Dean started a nationwide delivery of his ‘Haar At Home’ and has been offering a box called ‘Best of Land and Sea’ which we're proud to say includes our lobster."
“And Gordon Kidd, chef and owner at Cafe One One Two in Nairn, has also been using our produce for seafood takeout meals which has been really great.”
In making a success of things during these uncertain times, the Seas the Catch team believe their shellfish selection boxes, delivered direct to your door, are here to stay.
So, like all good Harris fishermen know, reading the sea is more essential than ever, and it’s great to see entrepreneurs like Neil capably navigating these changing tides and times.
HARRIS CRAB TOM YUM SOUP
by Gordon Kidd, Cafe One One Two, Nairn, Scotland.
Make the crab stock. Heat a saucepan on a high heat. Add vegetable oil and fry your crab shells hard for a few minutes, breaking them down with a wooden spoon. Add your chopped tomatoes and fry for another 2 minutes, then add 2 litres of water. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve and set aside.
For the soup, put a clean saucepan on a high heat. Add 50 ml vegetable oil then add the paste and a pinch of salt and fry for 10 minutes, stirring continuously, until the paste is fragrant and doesn't taste raw. and 1.5litre crab stock, bring to the boil, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine sieve.
Return the soup to the heat and add the juice of 1 lime, 2 tablespoons fish sauce, 2 tablespoons sugar and a good pinch of salt. Taste the soup, adjust the seasoning accordingly. It should taste sweet, salty, hot and sour. Now add the prawns, mushrooms and spring onions. Gently bring to the boil and add your crab meat, cherry tomatoes and coriander and serve immediately. Serve in bowls with coriander.
FOR MORE RECIPES PLEASE VISIT OUR SEAFOOD PROJECT.