********** Yoshinori Ishii Executive chef of Japanese restaurant UMU in London ******************

------------------ 英国の日本料理店 UMU 総料理長 石井義典 のつれづれなる話 ------------

Friday, 31 May 2013

Elvers(Glass eel)fishing Gloucester  シラス鰻漁

London opened up an another opportunity for me and allowed me to get to know Mr. Dai, a chief of smoked goods merchant (i.e. salmon, eel, etc.) and also a supervisory figure among a group of fishermen specialising in elver fishing – a type of young eel I had been searching for quite some time to acquire.  I made a detour on my way home from Cornwall and stayed in Ross-on-Wye, a small but deeply historical town located on River Wye in Herefordshire. During daytime, I have enjoyed fishing Atlantic salmon and trout at beats of River Wye owned by Mr. Dai, while experiencing and observing Britain’s traditional elver fishing at night before its season comes to an end.     
Mr. Dai’s facility attracts significant number of licensed fishermen to bring in captured elvers one after another throughout the night, which then will be temporarily gathered in a large-scale vessel designed for its exclusive use. Eel is already aged two by the time it finishes travelling a river upstream, nonetheless it will not have fed on bait and survives the long journey by obtaining sufficient energy from nutrition stored in its stomach since it was a larva. The captured elvers are, then, accustomed to be fed cod roe within the vessel  before being transferred to farming facilities located all over Europe.
When I arrived at the fishing spot, I was truly surprised by how classic the fishing method employed was. A net with approximate length of 30 inch (the biggest size allowed by the regulation) is laid at ankle high to simply scoop up the elvers pushed to the shore by waves triggered by changes in a tide, which occur twice daily at morning and night. The net is constructed based on profound consideration, and all equipment used, including a structure of wooden frame for a net designed to safely hold captured elvers, are handmade by each fisherman.
Elver fishing in Japan, where single glass eel is now priced at markets for almost £3, is facing endanger due to uprooting of all elvers caused off the shore by an use of a huge-scaled four-armed scoop net. While being shocked by the old-fashioned technique still used at fishing site in the Britain, I realized the obvious advantage and its necessity in order to preserve the nature.
When a question popped out from a fisherman regarding to my culinary experience with elvers, my answer was a poor one, only having to have few back in Japan, also at very high rate. After hearing the story of my lack of opportunity despite constant search for elvers at various locations, such as Spain, he began heating up a pan over an open-fire. Bacon and its lard would be the first choice, but instead we fried hand-carried sausages as substitution and used melted grease as cooking oil. I expected to try only a bite considering its high value, nonetheless he generously poured everything we had caught during 4 hours worth of fishing since sunset into the heated pan. A lightly sautéed delicacy, possibly priced more than few thousands Euro at fine dining restaurants, carried a unique month-feel within its complex flavor. For the unexpected and extremely privileged experience I was given, I want to say thanks again to Mr. Dai and all other fishermen.
Additionally I was filled by a sense of satisfaction for being able to land an Atlantic salmon for the first time in my personal fishing life. Again, I would like to thank everyone I had met during this amazing trip.
以前から私が探し続けていたElvers,シラス鰻漁をしている漁師の取りまとめ役であり、サーモンや鰻などの燻製を作っている業者の親分であるDai氏とロンドンで知り合い、Cornwallからの帰る途中、Ross on WyeというWye川沿いにある歴史的街に滞在し、日中はDai氏の所有するWye川のビートでアトランティックサーモンや鱒釣り、夜中にシーズン終了間直の英国の伝統的なElversフィッシングを見に行きました。
彼の所有する施設にはライセンスを持った釣り人が夜通しに獲ったElversを持ち込み、専用の大型タンクに一時的に入れられます。川を昇ってきた時点で鰻は2歳だそうですが、まだ一度も餌を口にしたことがなく、卵から得た、お腹にためた栄養だけで長い航海をするそうです。タンクの中でしばらく慣らされた後、Cod Roe(鱈の卵)を餌として与えられ、餌付けされた後、ヨーロッパ中にある養殖施設に送られるとのことでした。

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Cuttlefish fishing in Cornwall紋甲烏賊漁、早春のCornwall

For a brief period of 2-3 weeks, cuttlefish comes to the coast of Cornwall during its spawning season. Cuttlefish, in comparison to other members of class Cephalopod such as squid, has never been favoured in Great Britain, thus has neither been particularly cherished at markets. The fact that cuttlefish, if in its freshest condition, carries extreme sweetness and great texture, very pleasant on tongues, is often overlooked.
At Umu, we began receiving cuttlefish caught by fishermen of Cornwall, with which also an invitation to come and experience the fishing first-handedly. As updating and reassuring continuous practise of special fish preserving skill was too on my to-do list, I decided to visit Cornwall once again, only this time was in early spring.
Bright yellow colour of fields of tender-stem broccoli and deep green of fresh verdure, Cornwall in this gorgeous season of prosper was surrounded by colourful wild flowers and botanicals blooming in profusion. Only weather was being its usual imperfect self.
A technique used for cuttlefish fishing involves sets of trap – a cage one female cuttlefish is pre-captivated in before being laid down – into which attracted group of cuttlefish is lured towards. Unfortunately the trap on this particular day failed to capture any cuttlefish, leading us to practice gill net fishing instead. The final number of cuttlefish captured at the end of the day was, however, more than enough to completely cover us in its ink during performing removal of guts right there on the boat.
Additional entertainment I was privileged to come across was insightful tales told by the captain of the boat called Mario, a born and raised fisherman from Galapagos.
The next day, I took up the duty of preparing dinner to help Dylan and his wife Mutsuko who busied themselves for their pop up store at the farmers market. Using fish that had been freshly landed off the boat and vegetables I’d gotten from the market, I cooked a selection of 5 dishes. 15 cups worth of rice, mixed with sumptuous amount of crabs, were emptied in such a blink that I was stunned by the speed.

If I were able to deliver a sense of joy by my cooking to the family who by supplying the top quality fish makes us happy on daily basis, even if it was only the slightest, would have been my great pleasure.   


Friday, 3 May 2013

Pottery work in Shepherd Market 作陶生活その後


The development of my challenge to replace all tableware at Umu with my own works of ceramic, although has almost been a year since started, is still far from completion.
During the long, miserable winter in London, I spent most weekends facing potter's wheel, moreover I found myself doing the same during the weeks whenever time suited. Nonetheless the hardship of progressing the ceramic-making parallel to providing service at the restaurant cannot yet be triumphed.
However, the gradual rise in number of supporters has been definitely allowing the challenge to move forward.

"Kabuto-bachi", a thick porcelain bowl I am focusing on at the moment, specially for tofu and lobster dish preparation, has wider opening rim than those I used to work on. I cannot deny the struggle in experimenting with the new style, yet few are already becoming in shape.
The stage of unglazed kilning has completed, thanks to Ms Midori Aoshima of M Ceramics. The following step of mixing glazes, combining with familiarising with a new kiln, is still requiring number of trials, but prototypes are expected to be finalised shortly. Needless to say, I am very eagerly awaiting to meet them.
Together with Ms Midori, I have visited London Ceramic Art Show not long ago. Familiar faces from previous year's show filled the venue, but inspiring nature was still present all the same. In addition, I enjoyed the new discoveries which I only could acquire with the experience I gained through touching British clay with my own hands.

M ceramic の青島みどりさんが素焼きをしてくれ、次のステップとしての釉薬の調合と新しい窯で試行錯誤しています。もうすぐテストピースが出来てくるそうでとても楽しみです。