********** 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 ------------

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

~~~~~Potter’s Clay from Cornwall, Devon & English Caviar ~~~~~ Cornwall, Devonでの陶土の採集と英国産キャビア

Mr. Kazuya Ishida, a ceramic artist of Bizen, came to visit the UK to participate in workshop at the University of Oxofrd, as well as to prepare pieces to enter Ceramic Art London taking place in March. Aligning with his work schedule in Devon, I rented a car to drive down together to acquire materials for my pottery making.

A five and half hour journey from London, the usually a long and lone trip to Cornwall, was enchanted by tales of the potter, and in no time, we arrived at Nathaniel’s clay pit in St. Agnes. The historical mining spot is located on a hill that overlooks the ocean, and Nathaniel is the 3rd generation of soil mining business who currently operates alone to collect ceramic clay and sands for building constructions. Moreover, Nathaniel is a sole miner in the area of Cornwall and Devon, and coming to know him was a fortunate event brought to me by Maddy, as I had previously used clay unknown of its origin.

As the sunset closed in, we headed to Kigbeare Studio & Gallery, a Maddy’s Home in Devon situated in a depth of a grove, at the end of long drive through a country and woods; we barely found our way, only had Kazuya’s memory to lead us.

Maddy’s studio is home to many ceramic artist and wood craftsmen, and speaking of artists, a team led by Mr. Svend Bayer was coincidently in the middle of Anagama (kiln) making on the site during my visit. That night, we were served superb dinner prepared by all of Maddy’s family members. A beef roast of an indigenous bleed of cow from the area, with a side of assorted fresh vegetables, was cooked to perfection; it was a true gastronomy of home. A natural and gentle sweetness of tart made with home-grown berries was also exceptional.

The early-bird Kazuya was already up and about in the woods when I woke up the next morning. After Maddy gave us a tour of studio, we dug out clay from several mining points on the site. With morning frost, the ground surface was frozen, however we managed to collect sufficient clay for trials as we delved.

With a hearty bowl of soup to send me off, I said farewell to The ‘Maddys’ and Kazuya who continued with his ceramic making, and I moved closer to Exmoor to prepare for the following day.

The next day, I visited a producer of Exmoor Caviar, the first and the only caviar farm in the UK, whose products are already featured in great number of restaurants around London, only after few years of its establishment. Harry, the Operations Director, rushed over, just in time, to give me an introduction of the farm. Sturgeon, the source of caviar, consumes plankton found in mud as its principle food, therefore the taste of caviar significantly depends on the quality of water in the environment where the sturgeon grows in; While many caviars from Europe bares unmistakably rustic smell, the farm’s caviar is free from unattractive aromas, credits to abundant spring water from Exmoor that sandwiches the plantation with its flows where wild trout is seen swimming energetically in both strips of the river. The harvested caviar is only cured and finished with natural Cornish sea salt, and I was truly impressed by their standpoint towards sustainability of its natural flavours.

Potter’s clay from Cornwall and Devon, Cavier from Exmoor, the world is still full of unique indigenous materials and ingredients yet to be uncovered, and this trip had me realised once again the joy of such discoveries. 

備前の陶芸家、石田和也君がオックスフォード大学でのワークショップと、3月のCeramic art London出品のための作品製作のために渡英されました。彼のDevonでの活動にあわせ、レンタカーを借りて私の作陶に使う陶土の購入と採集に行きました。

ロンドンから5時間半、いつもCornwallに行く時は同じ道のりを一人でのドライブですが、今回は陶芸話が弾み、あっという間に陶土を採集しているNathaniel Clay pitCornwall St Agnesに到着しました。海の見える丘陵地に代々続く彼の採掘場はあり、彼は3代目で、陶土と建築などに使う砂を彼一人で採掘しているそうです。現在CornwallDevonで陶土の採掘は彼のところだけで続けられているそうで、今まで産地不明の陶土を使っていた私にとって嬉しい出会いとなりました。彼を紹介してくれたMaddyさんに感謝です。

その後、夕暮れ迫る中、DevonにあるMaddyさんの家、Kigbeare Studios & Galleryに向かいました。Devonの田園と林道を走り続けた奥の奥にあり、和也君の記憶を頼りにようやくたどり着きました。

Maddyさんのスタジオでは多くの陶芸家、木芸家が活動をしており、私が滞在中にも新たに敷地内にSvend Bayer氏率いるチームが穴窯を製作しているところでした。その夜はMaddyさんの家族総出で素晴らしいディナーを作ってくれました。地元に伝わるレアな血統の牛のローストと新鮮な野菜の付け合せは絶妙な火入れでどこのレストランで食べるより美味しい最高の英国の家庭の味でした。自家栽培のベリーを使ったタルトの自然な甘さも格別でした。



翌日は数年前に英国で始めて養殖を初め、現在ロンドン中の多くのレストランで使われているExmoor caviarの生産者を訪ねました。私の訪問あわせてディレクターのHarryが駆けつけてくれ、養殖場を案内してくれました。キャビアを採るスタージョンは土中の生物を主食とするため、水質によってキャビアの味も大きく左右され、多くのヨーロッパ産キャビアがどうしても土臭さが気になっていたところ、彼らのキャビアにはそれが無いことは養殖場を挟むように流れるExmoorからの豊富な湧き水のおかげだと改めて認識されました。どちらの川にも天然の鱒が元気に泳ぐ姿が見られました。彼らはそこで採集した卵にCornwall産の純粋は塩のみで仕上げており、純粋な味を守り続ける姿に感銘を受けました。