The Causeway Lass is a fishing boat that operates from the harbour in Portrush.
Richard Connor has been skippering the boat for 21 years now and recently added the Causeway Maid to his fleet.
I was out on the boat last week filming for a programme going out on BBC NI during the week of the British Open in July.
I swim in the sea off the North Coast most days but it was a real treat to see the coast from a different perspective. The back of Dunluce Castle is particularly magnificent viewing from a boat. It’s so dark and dramatic, perched precariously at the side of the cliff. Charlie Adjey who works as a guide on the boat is a font of knowledge on the geology of the rocks and cliffs around the coast. Never mind the fish, it would be worth the trip alone to hear his stories about the myths and legends around the area.
The waters around our coast are full of sustainable and delicious fish. Ling, mackerel, gurnard, megrim, Pollack and even cod are in abundance. One of the fish we caught last week was a cuckoo fish. It’s the most beautiful specimen with deep blue and yellow markings. You rarely see these varieties on menus with restaurants choosing to serve salmon and seabass instead. There is no commercial bass fishing permitted in our waters and if you select these fish from a menu the chances are they’ve been farmed in Turkey or Asia. Similarly salmon will have been farmed in Scotland. My chef friend Brian McDermott, who owns the Foyle Hotel in Moville allows the fish side of his menu to be dictated by the local fishermen. If they catch monkfish or hake then he puts it on the menu. It’s a simple, economically viable option that others should follow.
Fish is not a cheap option in supermarkets but if you go to the source you can pick up bargains. St George’s market in Belfast has a whole side of the building dedicated to fish sellers on Friday and Saturday mornings. You can pick up whole shellfish like crab, lobster and langoustine alongside flat fish and mussels. One of the things I like to buy is local clams when they’re available. They’re cheap and make a fabulous accompaniment to pasta. Personally I don’t like all the shell action amongst the noodles so after cooking I poke them out of the shells and make a sauce with the cooking liquor. The first recipe this week is for cod cheeks with a clam and bacon sauce. Shellfish and bacon are brilliant together – the saltiness of the meat is the perfect foil for the sweetness of the fish. Cod cheeks are cheap but they’re easily cooked and are tender and delicious.
A well made fish soup is something comforting and nourishing for any time of year. At the base of any good soup is a good stock. Fish stock only needs to cook for about half an hour and provides masses of flavour. My version has the addition of aromatics like ginger and lemongrass and is finished with cream for a silky touch. Add sustainable local firm fish like monkfish, hake, ling or pollack.
If you want to catch your own fish go to fishportrush.net for details of fishing trips on the Causeway Lass including one where you catch the fish and have it cooked for breakfast afterwards. Couldn’t get fresher than that.