An Organic Chef Goes Fishing

Publish date:
Updated on

British organic chef, cookbook author and activist Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall takes viewers on a series of sustainability-minded fishing trips this month on Sundance Channel’s The River Cottage Treatment: Gone Fishing!, which premiers tomorrow night. 

Here’s the three-part episode guide (Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT):

March 2: “Channel Islands”

Fearnley-Whittingstall sails to the Channel Islands, between Britain and France, to fish out—and cook up— deliciously sustainable alternatives to the United Kingdom’s imperiled seafood mainstays: cod and haddock. 

Joined by local anglers at various spots, he catches and dines on an array of underrated and sometimes obscure fish, including pouting, gurnard and garfish. 

But the open sea isn’t the only place to source marine goodies. On the island of Alderney, Fearnley-Whittingstall discovers the fine, eco-conscious eating available from seaside rock pools.

March 9: “Hebrides” 

Fearnley-Whittingstall heads to Scotland’s Hebrides Islands, where the sea and food it provides have shaped life for generations. 

On the sparsely inhabited island of Rona, he goes fishing with Caretaker Bill, who has run out of his frozen fish reserves and is awaiting the annual return of the area’s mackerel. After a close look at the woeful state of Scotland’s iconic fish, the wild salmon, Fearnley-Whittingstall tries out a traditional Scandinavian cooking method on salmon raised without chemicals by a local farmer. 

He later box-fishes for langoustines with two brothers; bargains more work-for-food with their father, who cultivates mussels; dives for scallops and razor clams with local enthusiasts; and visits a fish-and-chips shop on the Isle of Skye, frying up batches of beer-battered pollock for a clientele accustomed to the increasingly scarce haddock.

March 16: “The West Country”

Fearnley-Whittingstall wraps up his fishing adventure in the West Country, in England’s southwest. 

In Cornwall, he joins a family of fishermen to lay gill nets for the local sardines known as pilchards, which have rebounded from a near-total population collapse. 

Further inland, he sees symbiotic farming in practice on neighboring organic farms—one grows watercress; the other, rainbow trout—and prepares a sumptuous lunch using both bounties. 

At a hub of England’s commercial fishing industry in Devon, Fearnley-Whittingstall ventures out on a beam trawler with a skipper who has devised methods to make his catch more selective and less harmful to fish and the ocean floor. 

He brings a load of cow manure to his final stop: a fledgling organic fish farm in Devon, where a couple is raising a species beloved in Asia and largely dismissed in Britain: carp. After returning home to River Cottage, Fearnley-Whittingstall and the River Cottage Canteen chef host the U.K.’s first public tasting of farmed organic carp with a two-course meal. 

Photo courtesy of Sundance Channel

Related Stories