Today James gives me a blast on winkles. A shipment arrived overnight and new employee Jilly is cooking them in The Fish Soc’s kitchen.
I can sense his enthusiasm for his subject and his total commitment to quality. He tells me there are hundreds of winkle suppliers, but his come from a very obscure place – Barra – one of the most peripheral of all the British Isles.
That can’t be very convenient! But one look at a map and the reason is obvious: located way out into the Atlantic, these waters are one of the very few in the UK which are 100% free from pollution. (This is an official fact which James stumbled upon after spending hours poring over an official report from The Environment Agency).
So, winkles? A big seller? “You’d be surprised. Winkles bring on a bit of a cringe factor – like snails. And golly you have to work hard for every morsel – stabbing and carefully removing the meat with a revolving action – not fast, not convenient. But the taste is unique and seriously moreish. Winkle fans are very committed. We have one customer who orders three kilos almost every week. All genuine foodies should give winkles a try.”
It’s not all about Winkles, of course. It’s not like we’re obsessed or anything (OK, maybe just a bit). James is also excited about an Apple & Fennel Jelly With a Shot of Sambuca. He’s just received a sample from the UK’s champion marmalade producer (a little company like us – called Cranfields) who have told him it’s a winner with fish. It’s going to be sampled very shortly.
Will Beirut get their 120 Caviar spoons? How fast will the winkles sell out? Will the jelly get the thumbs up? Stand by.