Something Fishy

Our ferry is tomorrow (Sunday) at around midday. Once again we’ve made for our favoured and brilliantly run campsite in Neufchâtel-en-Bray, Normandy. It’s an easy 2½ hour run to Calais from here, providing we don’t run into any bouchons (traffic jams). There’s also a very good Leclerc supermarche on the doorstep where we can stock up with booty and fuel. Unlike some, we don’t load ourselves up with ludicrous amounts of booze – it simply is more trouble than it’s worth – but it’s nice to bring back a few things that are less than common in the UK, such as Calvados.

We also try to treat ourselves to a decent last supper to commiserate. In common with most French supermarkets and street markets, the Leclerc in Neufchâtel-en-Bray has a very good fish counter. The counter must be 5 metres long and well stocked both in terms of quantity and variety. The same is true in Spain: huge fish counters with large amounts of fish. If an English supermarket actually has a fish counter, it tops out at about 2 metres and has a restricted selection that tends not to glisten with freshness. This, of course, reflects the British public’s approach to fish. Many Brits are still in the battered cod or nothing category. Rick Stein has done a great job improving our attitudes but there’s still a way to go.

Being adventurous eaters, we occasionally have difficulty resisting the unusual. Regrettably, given the lamentable fish supply around much of the UK, “the unusual” in fish terms covers an awful lot of perfectly edible species. Naturally, in a nation given to tucking into snails and frogs’ legs, the situation is far better. Here, there were some excellent looking grondins (gurnard) but they are relatively readily available at home or, at least, in Cornwall. However, my eyes were constantly drawn to a handful of orphies (garfish). These long, thin pipe-shaped fish are one of Darwin’s more curious creations. They are cooked in England – the eminent Mr Stein has a recipe for them -but I’ve never seen them available. Their party-trick is that their bones, which start off as normal white-looking fish bones, turn bright blue when cooked. Seriously, bright blue. I couldn’t resist. Their other benefit was that they were dirt cheap, about €3.50/kg.

GarfishI managed to gut and prepare them chez Guillaume and pan-fried them with some good ol’ garlic, not wishing to unpack the BBQ on the last night. Our plates looked particularly messy after our feast and our hands were decidedly greasy so I’m afraid the blue-bones picture didn’t happen. Sorry!

We’ll have to go back and do it again.

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