A box of fish arriving by post sounds like a rather strange and potentially smelly concept. But the folks at Coast and Glen in Inverness are onto a good thing with this innovative online subscription scheme. Much like a veggie box you choose a frequency, value and state your likes/dislikes and voila - fresh Scottish seafood delivered directly to your desk or door. Made in the Sea by Scotland.
I was intrigued to see how the process worked and jumped at the chance to sample a box. Firstly the cost - you can opt for a £25, £35 or £45 box which can then be delivered on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis. The contents of your box is always a surprise - for me that's part of the fun. You can of course choose preferences from the "catch" list on the website but are encouraged to be as adventurous as possible in the first instance. Try something new and reduce the strain on popular species.
Fishboxes can be delivered to any address on mainland UK. You don't need to sign for it, just specify a safe place for it to be left if you're not around. My box arrived well packaged with no sign of any leaks or smells. The insulated pack contains a polystyrene box in which the fish are packed with frozen gel packs. My £35 pack contained Salmon, Turbot, Smoked Haddock and Haddock. All are vacuum packed and have come straight from the boat so are suitable for home freezing.
Pan Fried Turbot Fillets
Crispy Skinned Salmon with Seaweed Flakes
Smoked Haddock and Parsley Flan
I loved how you knew the provenance of everything in your box. Wester Ross Salmon and East Coast Turbot. I was secretly hoping for some lobster, crab or langoustine but alas not on this occasion. Time to cook up the contents of my box. The salmon was sprinkled with Mara Seaweed shony flakes and pan fried to produce a crispy skin. I'd never cooked Turbot before so kept it simple by coating in seasoned flour and frying in Mackintosh of Glendaveny Rapeseed Oil. Both variants of Haddock went into a delicious Smoked Haddock and Parsley Flan.
Having seen one end of the process it was time to visit the sharp end on a trip the the factory in Inverness. The fish is bought straight from Scottish fishing boats and markets mostly from Kinlochbervie and Shetland. Even the team don't know the contents of mixed boxes until they arrive in the factory ready to be filleted and packaged by hand. This also helps the fishermen as there is no pressure for them to catch certain species, helping to reduce fish being discarded at sea. Because the fish is sourced from smaller, independent fishing boats rather than deep sea trawlers that go to sea for weeks at a time, its not been held in the hold of a boat for a long time thus it has longer 'best before' dates.
Coast & Glen's owner Magnus used to be a fishermen, hence the sourcing of all the fish and shellfish is done from a fishermen's perspective. There's no waste in the factory either as the fish carcasses are used by the fishermen as bait or by chefs as stock. It was great to see first hand the whole process of the boxes being made up ready for dispatch. Customers have the option to add a note to their order for any special requirements and the hands on nature of the whole process makes it possible to accommodate such requests.
A seawater tank in the factory is home to live lobsters, crabs and oysters with the water being changed on a weekly basis brought in all the way from Cromarty. If you get any of these critters in your box fear not as there will be additional instructions. Everything else arrives portion sized, vacuum packed and clearly labelled with no scales or bones for you to deal with. Ocean to plate in less than 48 hours. That's pretty much as close to straight off the boat as you're going to get without putting on your wellies and waders.