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Coastal catch . . . simple, delicious food from the sea

PUBLISHED: 11:52 15 July 2014 | UPDATED: 11:52 15 July 2014

Sardines by James Barber, head Chef at the Brudenell in Aldeburgh.

Sardines by James Barber, head Chef at the Brudenell in Aldeburgh.

Charlotte Smith-Jarvis meets three Suffolk chefs who have made it their speciality

Pascal CanevetPascal Canevet

Pascal Canevet, Maison Bleue, Bury St Edmunds

This year Maison Bleue celebrates 15 years of creating fine fish dishes for the region’s diners. The restaurant – listed by Travellers’ Choice as among the top ten British restaurants for fine dining in 2013 – is co-owned by Pascal and Karine Canevet and Regis Crepy, who also owns The Great House in Lavenham and Mariners in Ipswich.

Chef Pascal grew up in Quimper in Brittany, and completed his training in Douarnenez, 25 km north west on the Atlantic coast.

Ben Hegerty ,Head Chef at the White Lion and James Barber, head Chef at the Brudenell in Aldeburgh.Ben Hegerty ,Head Chef at the White Lion and James Barber, head Chef at the Brudenell in Aldeburgh.

“You can do a lot of things with fish,” the chef says. “I like the texture of fish, it’s much more fine than meat and I believe if you cook it very simply, it will always be good, as long as you’ve got fresh fish.”

At Maison Bleue fish arrives daily from Suffolk and Norfolk, as well as from Cornwall and Scotland. Pascal is picky about what he buys.

“All my scallops come in live here from the Isle of Skye and the langoustines come also from Scotland, live to me. I want everything, all the lobsters, all the mussels, everything live.

“It’s so I’m sure about the quality and I can prepare them the way I want, and the meat is more firm.

ben's fish dish white lionben's fish dish white lion

“If you take a langoustine that’s already dead, it has the ‘vein’ inside the tail – this ‘vein’ destroys the tail so the meat gets softer and softer which is not nice, elegant or tasty.”

The menu at Maison Bleue is quite complex, but Pascal recommends people new to cooking fish to begin with a fillet of cod or salmon.

“Choose something fairly deep, because if it is overcooked a little, it should still be moist inside.

“Fish can get very dry very quickly. With a deeper fish, you have a bigger margin.”

Pascale’s top tips for choosing fish

Q: Is my fish fresh?

A: Look in their eyes. They need to be absolutely clear. If there is a bit of smoke in the eyes the fish is not fresh. Look on the back of the head of the fish – if the gills are red it proves the quality of the fish. Also the meat needs to be firm.

Q: How can we tell if fillets of fish are good quality?

A: The skin should be nice and shiny. Check the colour of the flesh – sea bass needs to be beautifully white.

Ben Hegarty, The White Lion, Aldeburgh

“A wide variety of white fleshed fish are available year-round from the beach 
huts in Aldeburgh. Cod, haddock and skate, to name a few, are some of the delicious fish that appear on the menu at The White Lion.

“White fish lends itself so easily to delicious fusions of flavours and is just amazing with a little bit of butter, fresh parsley and lemon. White fish is an excellent choice as it is high in protein but low in fat. I have many favourite sauces to put with it, but one in particular is prawn bisque, rich and full of flavour. Or if you wanted to go down the Asian route, you could try soy and lemongrass broth.”

Ben’s Asian Broth

50ml soy sauce, 1tbsp sesame oil, 75ml sweet chilli sauce, 75ml cold water, ½ zest and juice of lime, ½ stick lemongrass, 2 lime leaves, ½ red chilli (all finely chopped), 1 garlic clove and a small piece of ginger (both grated), small bunch coriander, 1tbsp sesame seeds toasted.

To finish: peeled and sliced carrot ribbons, sliced radish and spring onion, chopped pak choi, two sea bream fillets, two handfuls of fresh noodles, knob of butter

James Barber, The Brudenell, Aldeburgh

“My passion for the sea began as a young boy. My grandfather owned a beach hut on Felixstowe beach. We would spend most Saturdays during the summer playing on the beach, paddling in the sea and gorging on battered cod and chips.

“I think when done correctly, fish and chips is my favourite food, possibly because of the comfort it brings and my childhood memories. I love cooking with fish and shellfish, keeping it simple. It’s about the freshest and best ingredients shown off to the max.”

James’ grilled sardines, garlic butter, parsley breadcrumbs, tomato and black olive ragu

6 sardines butterflied, 125g garlic butter, 50g parsley breadcrumbs, 75g ragu

Serves two or more if you cook more sardines.


Mix the broth ingredients and warm in a pan. Pan fry the carrots, radishes, pak choi and spring onion until soft.

Pan fry the bream for 3-4 minutes on the skin side. Turn over, remove from the heat and leave to cook through for two to three minutes. Add a knob of butter and leave to stand. Blanch the fresh noodles in hot water then drain and mix into the broth and add the vegetables. Serve with the fish on top.

Garlic butter: Mash together 500g butter, juice of ½ lemon, 10 peeled cloves of garlic, ½ tsp Maldon sea salt, pinch cayenne and 1/4 bunch of fresh parsley. Roll up in clingfilm and reserve in the fridge.

Tomato ragu: Saute ½ sliced onion in 3tbsps olive oil until softened. Add ½ tsp chilli flakes, 1 tsp cumin, 3 bay leaves, 1 cinnamon stick, a thumb of ginger, peeled and grated. Cook until you can smell the spices then add 1 crushed garlic clove, 4g sea salt and 1 tin chopped tomatoes. Cook for 30 minutes then add 250g pitted black olives.

Parsley breadcrumbs: In a food processor blitz ½ bunch curly parsley, 1 crushed garlic clove, 250g day old white bread, 1 dsp olive oil


Bring the garlic butter to room temperature.

Dip the sardines one by one in the butter to coat both sides, then dip in the breadcrumbs. Fold the sardines from head to tail and secure with a cocktail stick.

Place sardines in the oven at 160C for about five minutes until the crumbs colour.

Heat the ragu until piping hot and portion on to plates, serving the sardines on top drizzled with a little extra virgin olive oil.

Fishy treats

For great fish and chips in Suffolk try:

Aldeburgh Fish and Chips, Aldeburgh www.aldeburghfishandchips.co.uk,

J’s Fish and Chips, Martlesham www.jsfishandchips.co.uk

The Codfather, Sudbury www.thecodfathersudbury.com

Fishnchickn, Ravenswood, Ipswich www.fishnchickn.co.uk

Fish Dish, Felixstowe www.myfishdish.co.uk

A better batter

Tempted to make your own fish and chips? You’ll need a foolproof batter recipe – this one never lets me down. Make sure you let it rest for a little while before using and use a catering thermometer to get your oil to 180C.

Mix 80g cornflour, a splash of cider vinegar, 200g plain flour, a couple of good pinches of sea salt, and a bottle of Adnams, Calvors, Greene King IPA or any other local beer.

Why is seafood good for you?

The majority of the human brain is fat, and lots of that is Omega 3. Research has linked a diet high in fish to contributing extra Omega 3 and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) to our bodies, aiding brain and eye development in children, and supporting brain, eye and heart function in adults.

Some studies show that Omega 3 can help alleviate the symptoms of mild depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Seafood contains essential nutrients such as selenium, zinc, iodine and potassium.

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