Kevin Tickle lands on BBC Countryfile as he puts Windermere Charr back on the menu
Forest Side’s Head Chef, Kevin Tickle, is campaigning to revive Windermere Charr as a viable delicacy for the future by putting this forgotten Lake District icon back on the menu.
Windermere Charr is classed as a “Forgotten Food” by the International Slow Food Movement, and Kevin has pledged his support for the once endangered species, whose fish stocks were damaged by over-fishing with nets in previous decades.
A native of Cumbria and keen angler, Kevin is famous for his ‘sourced from the doorstep’ cuisine, inspired by the Lakeland landscape. Fishing and foraging is central to Kevin’s cooking style in his role as Head Chef at The Forest Side, and his aim is to revive the endangered Windermere Charr by using the delicious fish in his kitchen.
Kevin will be introducing Windermere Charr on the menu at the Forest Side, as stocks are gradually recovering, now all net fishing has been banned from the lake. Campaigners are working to recover fish stocks naturally, as restocking the lake might endanger sub species of charr not found elsewhere.
The BBC’s popular programme Countryfile air a Lake District Special on Sunday 17th of September, including a feature on the plight of the Windermere Char, where Kevin is filmed creating a delicious BBQ recipe using the fish.
“Charr is part of the region’s rich food heritage, and it offers something unique to a menu. When people come to the lakes they want to “eat the view.” My food comes from the Cumbrian landscape, not just in raw produce terms, but the ethos, essence and experience is defined by the lakes, hills and valleys.”
“Reinventing a dish using charr that had origins in the 15th century is exciting, it proves the link between lakes and the plate is timeless. Seasonality is key, charr must only be sustainably line-caught and we must respect breeding seasons.”
“Only a handful of fisherman, about 10-12, fish for charr on Windermere and the skills and knowledge need preserving. I want to learn these skills as they inform my cooking,” explains Tickle.
“Securing the future of Windermere charr is essential; we hope the introduction of char on our menus will strengthen interest in the protection and heritage of this once famous delicacy.”
History of Charr as a food:
Mrs Beeton (1861) said the ‘largest and best kind is found in the lakes of Westmoreland, and, as it is considered a rarity, it is often potted and preserved.’ There are many early references to char as a delicacy: it was sent in barrels to the royal court in the 15th century and mentioned in the form of pies in the 17th century.
The pie was the first method of preserving the char. Surviving correspondence form the Restoration period tells of giant pies sent down to London to give exiled Cumbrians a taste of home, or to persuade politicians of the worth of an applicant’s cause.
However, around 1670-80, they substituted pottery for pastry—and potted char was born. Potted Char was so highly appreciated that it warranted its own special ‘Char Pot’. The “broad, thin Pots” were produced by the Liverpool Delftware factories from the early 18th century. Made of tin-glazed earthenware, these 9 inch diameter flat bottomed dishes were traditionally painted with 5 encircling fishes.
Larousse described Char as “the finest and most delicate of fresh-water fish”. Its flesh can range in colour from pale pink to red and is, richer and more delicate than trout. Early recorded recipes give instructions for long, slow cooking over several hours which suggests they would have been placed in a bread oven, taking advantage of the residual heat after baking. The finished dish called for copious amounts of clarified butter to form a preserving seal, in much the same way as potted shrimp.
The fishery was in decline by 1860, due to over-fishing by netsmen, a practice that is banned today, allowing stocks to recover.