Food & Drink
Cardigan Bay Fish
In a perfect world, all seafood operations would be like Cardigan Bay Fish. Here’s how it works: Len Walters and his son Aaron run a couple of traditional fishing boats out of Cardigan. They bring the catch back home to Mandy Walters, who prepares everything and sells it from her house and at local farmers’ markets.
“It’s all caught within 10 miles of Cardigan,” says Mandy. “There’s crab and lobster all year round, and in the winter it’s 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 – whatever’s around on the day.”
Her husband Len has a coracle licence and son Aaron has one of only three remaining licences to use Seine nets, introduced by French monks at St Dogmael’s Abbey almost a thousand years ago. The pair work on the Teifi estuary to catch salmon and sewin in the hours of darkness.
It’s a way of life that’s rooted in ancient tradition. But Mandy Walters is also a very modern businesswoman. She’s developing new products to sell to a new generation that sometimes finds seafood a bit daunting. She’s also on a crusade to teach people about the fantastic fresh seafood that abounds on our coastline, doing regular fish demonstrations and school visits.
“The farmers’ market movement has been great for us,” she says. “I think people are fed up with the big supermarket chains, and they want to actively support smaller producers like us. But we need to help customers, too. You need to give them ideas and tips to show that it isn’t hard. 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.”
Mandy has been on Welsh Government-organised trade trips to London and Ireland, and to workshops run by the Welsh Seafood Cluster. At one event, the subject of the Great Taste Awards came up. It’s the food and drink ‘Oscars’, organised by the Guild of Fine Food. More than 12,000 products are entered each year, to be scrutinised by a team of 500 judges.
“I hadn’t ever thought of entering, but they said, ‘You should have a go.’ So I did. They helped me with the application, gave me some advice on how to write it, and off I went. I entered three products – dressed crab, potted crab and mackerel pate – and I won stars for all of them. It’s great for your confidence, because it shows that you’re doing something right. And it helps sales, too, having that ‘Great Taste’ sticker on your produce.”
You can buy Mandy’s award-winning products – alongside whatever else Len and Aaron have landed that day – at farmers’ markets in St Dogmael’s, Cardigan, Mumbles and Aberystwyth. You may bump into Mandy at fairs and festivals like the Abergavenny Food Festival, too.
There are also new products in the pipeline, says Mandy: “I’m developing a crab bisque. That’s my next project. I also want to do more workshops and get more people aware of what we’ve got on our doorstep. We’ve got such fantastic seafood here.”