Filleting, Skinning and Pocketing..Oh My!!



Good afternoon my lovely readers.

Reflecting on 2 years ago has made me remember why I love being a fishmonger, and in fact never want to be anything else other than a fishmonger or at least, work in any other trade.

2 years ago this very moment that I type, the small group of us were sitting in the cafe just beside Vin Sullivans. How on earth we managed to eat, or even the inclination to eat makes me wonder. We’d gone into Vin Sullivans  (and it was true, I never noticed the smell as we went in) put on our whites and went to the prep room.

The first fish we prepped was Whole Mackerel, both single filleted and butterfly filleted. And once I realised that all of us felt a little nervous, my hand managed to stop shaking!! Then we prepped Whole Lobster and Whole Crab. No matter how cute I thought they were it was definitely no time to feel for them!

Then it was time for what I thought would be my nemesis. Whole Plaice. We went through the skinning process, with the very patient Chris. It felt quite good to skin a whole fish but managing to leave it whole. The fresher the fish the more difficult it is to skin whole as the flesh wants to keep hold of its skin abit longer. Then it was time to fillet.

I got so frustrated with it!!! Either the knife would go through the flesh and skin or it’d end up with bone attached. It was a good job that we were in a seafood suppliers with enough fish on hand. Chris told me not to worry, the filleting Whole Plaice would be included on the final exam but I had 16 weeks to practice. I decided it was my nemesis! When it came to pocketing it seemed a little easier. Pocketing involves removing the skeleton, leaving the fish still whole, so it can be stuffed with herbs etc.

Looking back on that it makes me smile. On my final sign off exam I still wasn’t happy with it, but one day it just seemed to click into place and a few months later I was competing in the Flatfish Category at The Fish Craft Championships, where it involved skinning, filleting and pocketing flatfish!!! Even I had to admit I’d improved.

We went for our lunch, with the enticement of preparing Whole Squid and Octopus when we returned. As Chris was demonstrating, he looked at one of the girls. Green was not her colour! She sprinted to the ladies loudly exclaiming “out of my way, I’m gonna be sick!!”

We went back to our hotel and we sat in one room in almost silence. The intense concentration had worn us out.Then we looked at each other and just laughed!

We talked about what we’d done and we had to admit we were proud of ourselves for what we had achieved and how much we had to work on when we returned to our stores. None of us really wanted it to end. The final day was to be how to set up fish counters to greatest effect and that will be the subject of my final blog on my fishmonger training.

Again, thank you to all who take the time to read my fish witterings!




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