Where does your fish come from?

It’s all caught within 10 miles of Cardigan by my husband Len and our son Aaron. There’s crab and lobster all year round, and in the winter prawns and scallops, too. In the summer we get fantastic spider crabs, and we hand-line for seabass and mackerel, and whatever other fish we can catch. We get the odd bream, turbot, brill, mullet, skate - whatever’s around on the day. We’ve also got coracle licences on the River Teifi.

Len Walters holding his catch of the day
Fishing boat heading out in Cardigan Bay
Catching shell fish off the side of the boat
Len Walters fishing

What’s special about coracle fishing?

It’s a heritage way of fishing, and it’s a lovely method. Len and Aaron use a pair of coracles to drift down the Teifi at night, with the net in between them, and they catch wild sewin and salmon. West Wales Coracle Caught Salmon and Sewin have both got PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) status. There used to be hundreds of coracle fishermen on the Teifi, but there are only 12 pairs left now. We also use Seine nets to fish the pools along the river at St Dogmaels. Seine nets were introduced here by French monks at St Dogmaels Abbey almost a thousand years ago, but we have one of the three licences left.

Coracle fishing
Coracle fishing at night
Len and Aaron using coracles on the Teifi at night

What’s the difference between salmon and sewin?

They look quite similar, but there are different characteristics in markings, fin and scale count. Sewin is lighter in colour, and the flesh is more delicate than salmon. People in this area prefer sewin – it’s known as a Welsh delicacy - whereas visitors tend to know salmon better. But when you explain to them that sewin is another name for sea trout, they’ll always give it a go. In either case, wild fish is far superior to anything that’s farmed.

Mandy Walters of Cardigan Bay Fish has the perfect family recipe. The finest fish, caught this morning, and sold at Britain’s best farmers’ market.

Where do you sell your fish?

Local markets and restaurants, and I’m at St Dogmaels Local Producers Market every Tuesday morning, all year round. We started with just a few stalls about eight years ago, and now there are 20 regulars. We’ve won quite a few awards: we were named best in Britain in the BBC Food & Farming Awards. I also sell to local pubs and restaurants.

Mandy with her stall at the fish market
Mandy Walters, selling  produce at the fish market

Why is the farmers’ market movement so popular?

I think people are fed up with the big supermarket chains, and they want to actively support smaller producers like us. People are buying more from the fishermen, the butcher, the farmer, the maker. But we need to help customers, too. You need to give them ideas and tips. Some find a whole crab a bit daunting, so I’ll do crab cakes. Or I’ll tell them how to do a lovely crab linguine. If you give people a few tips, they’ll go away and try it, and they’ll come back for more.

You’ve won Great Taste Awards, too…

Last year I entered three of my products: dressed crab, mackerel pate and potted crab. I was overwhelmed by the results. I won two stars for my potted and dressed crab and one star for my mackerel pate, and the response has been brilliant. Now I want to create a Cardigan Bay crab bisque. There’s nothing like it on the market.

Mandy Walters, preparing crab meat- Cardigan Bay
Mandy preparing crab meat in kitchen
Mandy Walters preparing the shellfish

What’s the secret to cooking fish?

If it’s a good piece of fish, then plain and simple is best. It’s such a fresh product, so all you need is a bit of butter and lemon, either in a foil parcel and baked in oven, or pan-fried in butter. And the golden rule is, don’t overcook it.

What’s it like working with your husband?

We’re a good team. But in the summer it’s very hard work - we’re like ships passing in the night. Depending on the tide Len is out at sea fishing for 12 to 16 hours a day. Then as soon as it’s dark enough, he's out on the coracles until two or three in the morning, and he’ll do that day in day out.

Fishing village taken from the top of a hill
Cardigan Bay

What’s it like as a place to live?

Cardigan and St Dogmaels are idyllic places. It’s not at all commercialised here: we’re old-school. It’s very pretty, the people are really nice, the beaches are fantastic, and there’s loads to do. Cardigan Castle was refurbished recently and it’s done wonders for the town. The restaurant is called 1176 after the year that the first Eisteddfod was held there. Pizza Tipi is also very popular, it’s always jam-packed. The Ferry Inn in St Dogmaels has got a lovely terrace overlooking the river, and I really like a little café-bakery called Crwst that has just opened in Cardigan, run by a young local couple called Catrin and Osian. The cakes are amazing.

 

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