“The Northumberland coast is one of the prime locations for langoustines and we have some of the best product anywhere in the world landed right here in Amble.”
There is real passion in Julia Aston’s voice as she sings the praises of the Northumberland fishing port.
The trawler fleet may be a shadow of its former self due to EU quotas and competition from abroad but Julia says Amble, where fortunes were once made from the North Sea’s bounty and the nearby coalfields, can still hold its head high.
Sadly, few outside the town at the mouth of the River Coquet either know about or appreciate the quality of the seafood being landed at the UK’s ‘Friendliest Port’.
That is about to change.
Julia, who is director of Amble Development Trust, and her team are preparing to shout about their town’s and the wider Northumberland coast’s fishy credentials.
The publicity campaign will begin at The Journal’s Taste of the County on Bank Holiday Monday, May 25, when the Northumberland Seafood Centre lays out its stall alongside scores of other North East artisan producers.
Visitors to Journal Taste’s seventh tie-in event as part of the Northumberland County Show, at Bywell in the Tyne Valley, can experience a sliver or two of the coast in the country.
Wet fish will be on display along with lobster pots and nets. There will be seafood cookery demonstrations and the chance to discover how people can support the area’s fishermen.
There will also be an opportunity to find out more about the innovative new Northumberland Seafood Centre, which is due to open at the end of May.
Set within Amble Harbour Village – one of the co-sponsors of this year’s Journal Taste of the County along with Arch, the Northumberland Development Company – the aim of the seafood centre is to put local fish on local plates.
Part visitor attraction and part fishing business centre, where exhibitions and regular cookery demonstrations with well-known North East chefs will be held alongside a Flying Fish Auction (more on that later), the social enterprise has received two years of financial backing from the Government’s Coastal Communities Fund as well as Northumberland County Council.
Amble Development Trust will then take on responsibility.
Seafood brokers have been appointed to add value to the daily catches still landed at Amble and other coastal communities in Northumberland. Any profits will be ploughed back into the local fishing industry.
Andrew Gooding, one of the seafood brokers, will man the stall on Monday.
Food lovers will be able to sign up for the Northumberland Seafood Centre’s soon-to-be-launched Creel Fish Club, a vegetable box-type scheme delivering less popular, seasonal species like pollack, gurnard, hake and sand dab.
There will be information about Ugly Fish, a new range of T-shirts featuring some of our less attractive seafood and designed to appeal to youngsters.
And, of course, Andrew will have details about the crazy Flying Fish Auctions, the first of which is scheduled to be held at the Northumberland Seafood Centre on May 29 as part of the Amble Puffin Festival, where, as the name suggests, fish will literally be thrown through the air and caught in a net as people bid for it!
As if that wasn’t a novel enough selling point, the auction will also be a ‘lucky dip’ with bidders unaware of exactly which fish they are buying.
If that seems too much of a gamble, customers will still be able to buy fish in a more conventional fashion from the seafood centre.
The aims of all this are to add value to the catches being landed by the Northumberland coast’s fishing fleets and to raise Amble’s profile.
Julia says: “Ninety nine per cent of the catch being landed by Amble’s day fishers – that’s vessels under 10m in length – goes straight on to wholesale vans and is exported.
“Northumberland Seafood is an exciting new initiative for the county designed to support our inshore fishing fleets, put more local seafood on local plates and take some of the strain off overfished stocks.
“Many people are unaware of the array of delicious local, seasonal and sustainable seafood caught off the Northumberland coast and we’re really excited to be launching for the first time at The Journal’s Taste of the County event.
“It is a fantastic showcase for some of the finest food and drink produced in our region and we’re proud to be a sponsor in 2015”.
Seafood recipe cards will be available – and there will be ample opportunities in The Journal Taste marquee to pick-up many of the other ingredients needed to dish up a delicious, seasonal meal.
Swallow Fish of Seahouses and Julian’s Veg are among this year’s stallholders, alongside new names to Taste of the County like Hammond Charcuterie, the Geordie Banger Company, Ludovici, with their home-made Italian limoncello aperitif, and the Stateside Treat Emporium.
Taste of the County is held in support of The Journal’s own ‘buy, use, eat local’ campaign which is promoted through the paper’s Saturday food and drink section as well as in the monthly Culture magazine.
The aim of the campaign has always been to champion the region’s top quality artisan food and drink producers. Linking up with the Northumberland County Show is an ideal way to tell the farm-to-fork story.
As always, the County Show will be serving up its own delights with showjumping, a parade of hounds, Tyne Valley Big Band, livestock classes, a bird of prey display, chainsaw carving, zoo animals and a strongman competition.
That’s not to mention Cumberland and Westmoreland wrestling, a free climbing wall brought by the Army Recruitment Team, live music, local crafts, more than 300 trade stands selling everything from cakes to combine harvesters and demonstrations of horse shoeing, stone walling, spinning and weaving, bee keeping and stick making.
Seen as the highlight of the agricultural year in Northumberland, Monday’s event promises to be a fabulous – and tasty – family day out.
The Brownie Bar
The Cherry Tree (Durham)
The Chirnells Farmhouse Kitchen
The French Oven
Geordie Banger Company
The Gluten Free Kitchen
Grants Butchers Ltd
Hallsford Farm Produce
Hebridean Liqueurs, North East
The Honey Store
I Love Pies Me/Charlie’s Country Kitchen
Kathryn Brown Cupcakes
Loopy Lisa’s Fudge
Mad Jam Woman
Northumberland Cheese Company
Northumberland Sausage Company
Northumberland Tea Company
Shaw Meats Ltd
Stateside Treat Emporium
Swallow Fish Ltd/Berwick Shellfish Co.
Truly Tempting Chocolate
Wheelbirks Ice Cream
TASTE OF THE COUNTY sponsored by Amble Harbour Village and Arch, the Northumberland Development Company
DATE: Bank Holiday Monday, May 25, 2015
TIMES: Gates open at 9am and the show closes at 6pm
LOCATION: Bywell, Stocksfield, Northumberland, NE43 7AB
TASTE MARQUEE: Over 40 food and drink stalls
TICKET PRICES: Bought in advance, £12 per adult, £3 per child (four to 16 years), £30 family ticket (two adults and three children). See website for more details.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: On the Northumberland County Show website at www.northcountyshow.co.uk