Fish, Freeze, then Feast - Dan Gardener tells us about his fishing trips and making fresh sushi
PUBLISHED: 11:00 06 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:01 20 February 2013
In this June issue, Cornwall Life meets a man who organises boat trips to catch fish and make fresh sushi for his passengers on board
Fish, Freeze, then Feast
Lesley Double meets a man who catches fish to make fresh sushi on his boats trips
The best sushi and sashimi is made from the freshest fish. Sushi (raw fish served with other ingredients, such as rice or seaweed), and Sashimi (raw fish on its own) can be found in Japanese restaurants, whose chefs have to rely on the proximity of the sea and the skill of the fishermen to ensure that the fish they serve is as fresh as possible. What better, therefore, than to catch some fresh Cornish fish and, after brief chilling, eating it there and then? This was the idea that Dan Gardener came up with a couple of years ago.
"My wife Penny and I spent our honeymoon touring the Far East," explains Dan. Penny is a photographer and, while taking pictures of their trip, Dan spent his time fishing with the locals. "I love fishing," says Dan, "I remember going out with my father when I was a young boy, catching crabs and other fish in the Helford estuary." Fishing in the Far East was fun. "When in the Cook Islands, I would go out from 4am until 10am. We would have sashimi and sushi for breakfast and lunch, and then have tuna for supper. Fortunately we never got tired of it, and I learned so much from the local fishermen."
Back in the UK, Dan and Penny wondered what to do with their lives. They could have lived anywhere, working in a 'normal' nine-to-five job, but that didn't sound like much fun. Then Dan was left some money and, with that, they decided to move back to Cornwall. They currently live with Penny's parents in Mullion, from where Dan planned to fish. "I looked for a boat and, after six months, found just what I wanted in Liverpool," continues Dan. "It had actually started out in the marine department at Plymouth University, so I felt as if I was bringing it home, back to the South West." He spent some months sprucing it up and then, in June 2007, it was ready to be launched.
For a while Dan, often accompanied by Penny as crew, took locals and holidaymakers out for fishing trips aboard the Blue Pointer. Half days and full days were spent fishing for conger eel, ling, pollack, mackerel, rays, plaice and turbot. Passengers might see dolphins, porpoises, basking sharks, many different species of seabird and waterfowl, and the occasional sunfish or pilot whale, and a day trip could be punctuated by stopping off for a pub lunch. "But that seemed ridiculous!" says Dan. "We had all this lovely fresh fish on board, and then went ashore for food! Penny and I would often eat the fish we'd caught, so we thought we'd see if our passengers would be interested in trying it out for themselves." Not surprisingly, the suggestion that his passengers should eat their freshly caught fish was met with enthusiasm.
The sashimi trips mean that Dan spends longer out on the boat. Passengers catch their fish, which is immediately put on ice, and with the Blue Pointer anchored in the Helford estuary everyone learns how to prepare and serve the fish and then gets the chance to eat their very fresh lunch or supper. "We may catch gurnard, whiting, garfish or scallops. I think Cornish mackerel tastes better than any tuna you can catch or buy," says Dan. "Fishing for your supper is addictive, and our passengers seem to really enjoy themselves. Most people are keen to try it out. They may never have eaten sashimi before, but having caught their fish they are eager to have a go at eating it straight from the sea." Penny brings along dips, such as wasabi, soy and ginger, and a special dip of coconut and lime that the couple learned how to make in the Far East. It is quite a feast, and now Dan has plenty of returning customers who, having tried out his sashimi trips, are coming back with friends and relatives for another go.
I'm not the best sailor in the world, so I was delighted when Dan invited me to Mullion one evening to try out some of the fish he had caught. Spread out on the table was monkfish, John Dory and scallops, all beautifully prepared and as fresh as could be. Penny had made several dips for us to dunk our fish in. A complete sashimi novice, I was surprised how 'unfishy' the fish tasted and it was more solid and meaty than cooked fish. Dan and Penny discussed the finer points of the relevant fish, where they had been caught and the ingredients in the dips: wasabi is a paste made from the grated root of the wasabi japonica plant, and the sweet, pickled ginger, or gari, is eaten to cleanse the palate. Naturally low in fat and high in protein, the sashimi and accompanying dips were really delicious and certainly something I'd try again.
"Of course, I'll still be running the 'ordinary' fishing trips," says Dan. Passengers are picked up from either Helford Village or Helford Passage, or the river taxi can bring them to the boat. "The Blue Pointer can carry 11 passengers, or 10 if Penny comes along too. We can go wreck or reef fishing, specialist fishing for mackerel or bass for example, and I can supply rods, reels and tackle if they're needed. We have serious fishing parties, or people who want to come out just for fun and see what they can catch. I'm happy to do almost anything charter-wise, even wildlife-watching," Dan concludes. "But I'm really excited about the sashimi trips. I believe it's an original project here in Cornwall and, with people willing to try out new experiences, I think it could be a busy summer." Having tasted the goods, I have a feeling he may be right!
For further information contact Dan Gardner (07814 191921, www.bluepointercharter.co.uk.