So much happening at the moment if I don’t send this newsletter now it will be lost forever. Two weeks ago we took a press and chef trip to the Faroes, to experience first-hand what a fantastic place the Faroes is but more importantly what an amazing salmon farm our Var fish comes from.
For some it was with trepidation that they boarded a small plane at Staverton airport, but good weather and a fair wind meant that fears were almost completely allayed once we were in the air. It was all go and once we arrived, we were whisked off on a boat trip to one of their farms and then on for a trip around their amazingly dramatic coastline. Caves and cliffs that drop almost vertically into the sea are common place here. We finally disembarked at a remote magical island that could so easily have been the back drop to the film set for Lord of the Rings. This uninhabited island with just one house was where we were entertained for the rest of the evening with a combination of great food and stories about the Faroe Islands' history and culture. At about 11pm it was decided all good things must come to an end and our boat was called to pick us up. As it doesn’t get dark at this time of year, we were able to watch our boat approach the island, a tide and wind change meant our chances of leaving by boat were dashed. A cosy night on the island for fourteen of us now looked likely but our hosts were better connected than we gave them credit for, and we were soon boarding a rescue helicopter to get back to the main island …… all very James Bond and exciting.
Having almost 24 hours of daylight means you can pack much more into a day as we proved the following day. At 7.30am we were off to the salmon farm’s harvest location, where we were able to witness the unique method and system they employ to harvest the fish with minimum stress. The fish’s welfare is their primary concern and something they were keen emphasise at every stage of the farming process. Then it was on to the hatchery where the salmon eggs are hatched and the salmon fry are reared in tanks. Even at this stage they are made to swim against a current that will prepare them for their transfer to the sea. We then had a quick lunch before we set off for the packing station to see the fish being graded and packed. They believe in minimal handling of the fish and almost every task here is performed by machine including a robot for stacking the boxes on pallets at the end of the line. Then we split up, the girls went off to do some cooking and a photo shoot, while the ruffy tuffy boys decided it would be fun to go out to a fish farm in a force 6. We had to kit up in survival suits which proved to be a good move as we all got absolutely soaked. It really gave us an insight as to how extreme conditions can get here and this was only a force 6. By now it was time for pre-dinner aperitifs and with the strongly fancied Estonian football team due to play the Faroe’s that night and we were surprised to find we appeared to be the only drinkers in town.
Our hosts had laid on a leaving dinner for us at a small old historic house overlooking the sea where we were treated to some traditional Faroese cuisine interspersed with singing and dancing. The meal did not feature puffin seagull or whale meat, but we were served an island delicacy of 7-month air dried lamb - something of an acquired taste I suspect.
We also learnt that in the Faroes they call it the land of "maybe"’ because the weather changes so quickly and has such an effect on everything they do. If you say to someone shall we meet tomorrow for lunch they will invariably reply &quo;maybe&quo;
Reflecting on the past 48 hours one couldn’t escape the effect the sea and the weather have on the people of the Faroes and how in touch with nature they live. The islands are dependent on fish farming for a large part of their income, and while realising mistakes have been made in the past one couldn’t help feeling that fish farming, the Gregersens brothers’ way, means fish farming in the island is in safe hands. Our hosts toasted us bringing good luck to their football team who smashed Estonia 2-0 and in true British fashion we celebrated the Faroe success into the early hours of the morning.
The following day we wearily dragged ourselves of to the airport for departure. Helena Poulakka from Skylon was invited to sit with David the pilot in the front of plane and we heard him invite Helena to take the controls for take-off, she declined and we all breathed a sigh of relief in the back. It wasn’t long before we were all back safe and sound at Staverton airport and our Faroe adventure already seemed a distant memory.
Helena had asked me if we could supply her with Var salmon for a dish she wanted to do for the Skylon restaurant at the ‘’Taste of London’’ show last week. With 39 restaurants competing and a judging panel led by Rene Redzepi from Noma we were thrilled when Helena was presented with the silver medal for her dish of ‘’warm smoked Var salmon, verbena jelly pickled cucumber and sweet rye’’ at the awards ceremony last Wednesday. Again in true British fashion we celebrated into the early hours.
Our award-winning Var fish is now available to all, anyone interested in a fresh or smoked product do not hesitate to give me a call.