Tag: sustainable diet

If you’re a meat-eater or flexitarian, then a good case can be made for switching out farmed meat for wild game. Eating wild game can be better for our health than eating regular farmed meat (it is very low in fat and cholesterol) and can be better for the environment. It can also offer great value for money and is often more flavourful. The punchier flavours of many game meats matches perfectly with winter and the heartier dishes that many of us gravitate towards at this time of year – which also coincides with open season on the majority of game species and therefore its availability to us consumers.

two braces of pheasants

What Counts as Wild Game?

Gamebirds such as pheasant, partridge and grouse (to name a few), waterfowl like ducks and geese, and rabbits, hare and the various species of deer (‘ground’ or ‘fur’ game’ – the mammals) all count as game. It is legal to shoot these species in the UK, but many of them have closed seasons when it is illegal to shoot them to allow them to breed, raise young, and migrate between their breeding and over-wintering grounds. The open season is the period of time within which they can be shot, and this is when wild game is most readily available. Some game species are farmed either directly for consumption (venison) or for organised shoots (gamebirds) – this is game meat, but not wild game and so whilst it may well carry the same flavour, eating it does not have the lower environmental impact that wild game does.

When Is Wild Game Available?

In England and Wales, the majority of gamebirds and waterfowl (certainly the most popular and readily available) have an open season from between the 1st of September or the 1st of October, and the end of January. There are some exceptions, and you can see the full table here. There is technically no closed season on rabbits and brown hare on private land in England and Wales, however there are date restrictions on moorland and in any instance it is only legal to shoot them between December 11th and March 31st which effectively creates a season for these ground game species.

The open season for wild venison depends upon the species and differs for male deer (stags or bucks) and female (hinds or does). In Scotland, stags or bucks can be taken year-round. Through winter and into early spring from November 1st through to March 31st, is open season for hinds and does. Roe deer bucks can then be taken between April 1st and October 31st creating a year-round season for roe deer. For red, sika and fallow deer, the stags or bucks have an open season from August 1st through April 30th, so for these species there is a closed season through late spring and into summer.

The British Association of Shooting and Conservation has tables showing the open season for all wild game in different nations of the United Kingdom on their website. In short though, if it’s winter then wild game will almost certainly available.

Where Can I Buy Wild Game Meat?

You can ask your local butcher about wild game meat, although be sure to specify wild rather than farmed if that is important to you. In Cornwall we are fortunate to have suppliers such as Duchy Game (at Pelean Cross, just outside Ponsanooth) or you can look online for a supplier local to you or who sells online.

roast partridge and apple with creamed cauliflower

Game Recipes

If you are interested in learning how to prepare and cook game animals, then our Game Workshop (the next one takes place on Thursday November 23rd) is a great course to give yo the confidence, skills and recipes to add wild meat to your winter repertoire. Over the years, several game recipes have been shared on our Foodie Blog, from game terrine to “posh” venison kebabs. Take your pick from the links below, and give wild game a go this winter!

Roast Partridge And Apple With Creamed Cauliflower

“Posh” Venison Kebabs

Pan Fried Venison Loin With Chocolate And Chilli Sauce

Game Terrine

posh venison kebab

One billion people around the world rely on fish and seafood as their primary source of protein, with 3.3 billion getting at least 20% of their animal protein from fish. Fish and seafood are incredibly important not only for people’s diets but also for many people’s livelihoods, however the scales of sustainability aren’t always balanced and so sources and stocks need to be carefully managed and we need to consume consciously if we are to avoid catastrophic collapses. This recipe is all about helping you to do that – it’s a quick and delicious meal using tinned sardines that ticks the boxes for great value, sustainable and local fish.

Cornish Sardines and Pilchards

Cornwall has a long history of fishing for pilchards – small silver fish that we now call sardines that are caught as shoals in inshore waters. Historically, fishing boats would row out and lay a large wall of netting around a shoal of fish and then draw it in. The catch was then pressed for oil and the fish salted and laid in barrels for transport in the fish cellars that can be found in so many of Cornwall’s old fishing villages. These days fishing boats encircle the shoals with a ring net (a modern take on a purse seine net). How sustainable sardines are depends on where they are caught, but one of the most sustainable fisheries where fish stocks are actually increasing, is the Cornish fishery that catches fish in the Celtic Sea and English Channel. According to Cornwall Good Seafood Guide there are
14 vessels (all under 15m) fishing for sardines in Cornish waters. All of these boats belong to an organisation called the Cornwall Sardine Management Group and through this the Marine Stewardship Council has accredited the fishery. CEFAS (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science) carries out a survey every year and stock levels of sardines in our area appear to be healthy and improving.

tin of cornish sardines

The Benefits of Tinned Fish

Fish, particularly oily fish such as sardines, are a great source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids as well as protein. Tinned or canned fish provide just the same amount of these and have the same nutritional values as fresh fish. The benefit of canning fish is that they have a really long shelf life. The fish are processed then sealed in an airtight can, sometimes in a sauce, and the can is heated to make it sterile which also cooks the fish. Tinned fish can have a shelf life of anywhere between 1-5 years and can be eaten straight of of the tin or used in a recipe like this.

tinned sardine and tomato pici

Tinned Sardine & Tomato Pici Pasta


200g semolina flour
100ml warm water


Pici pasta (or any string pasta)

1 tin of Cornish Sardines (or any MSC certified tinned oily fish)
Handful of cherry tomatoes
1 pinch of chilli flakes
3 cloves of garlic
½ tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
Fresh basil

Pangrattato (optional)


You can use shop-bought dried linguini or spaghetti. But if you want to make the pici, in a bowl weigh 200g semolina flour, add a pinch of salt and drizzle of olive oil then pour in 100ml of warm water. Combine and then begin to knead until pliable and soft like playdough. Wrap and put into the fridge for at least 30mins. Without adding any extra flour, roll the dough out into a 1cm thick round. Next, cut the dough into ¼ inch thick strips. Make the Pici – One at a time, roll each strip out on a clean work surface to resemble thick spaghetti. The pasta needs enough grip to roll so don’t add any flour or you won’t be able to roll it out. Place each piece of rolled out pici on a tray or separate area dusted with flour or semolina to stop them sticking

Heat a saucepan or high sided frying pan. Then with a little veg/rapeseed oil put the cherry tomatoes in. You’re looking to blister and burn them! Don’t be shy. While they are frying, finely chop the garlic
When the tomatoes are nicely charred and beginning to break, turn the heat down, drizle a little olive and add the garlic. Season.
Add the tinned sardines, oregano and vinegar. Gently simmer for 7-10mins. Season with black pepper and the chilli flakes. The sardines will provide enough saltiness.
Boil your pasta until al-dente then add that to the “sauce” with a little pasta water. Cook and incorporate.
Serve with torn basil leafs and pangrattato. Enjoy!

tinned sardine and tomato pici with pangratata

A few weeks ago, we paid our friends at Padstow Lobster Hatchery a visit to learn more about these incredible crustaceans, and the conservation work being done to ensure that stocks remain at sustainable levels. It was a fascinating day.

Lobster is a delicacy, both because of its sweet and succulent meat and because of the price tags attached to them. That price tag is well deserved; lobster are wild creatures and the specimens that end up on people’s plates in European restaurants aren’t farmed, or fished; they are trapped in baited pots by fishermen in small boats who have an intimate knowledge of the coastal waters in which they fish. It’s a game of tempting and trapping a wild and wily creature, and it is hard, skilled, and often dangerous and uncomfortable work.

the mary d fishing boat returning to Port Isaac harbour

Padstow Lobster hatchery sits on the waterfront of Padstow harbour on the Camel Estuary. It is a marine conservation, research and education charity with a popular visitor center where the general public can learn about the lifecycles of lobster and the pioneering work that they do to conserve and regenerate native lobster populations. The aim of the lobster hatchery is not to stop people from consuming them (I’m not sure they’d have welcomed us as they did, if that was the case!), but to work to restore and maintain the wild population at a level that is healthy and acknowledges and allows lobster to continue to be caught and consumed in sustainable numbers.

chef rupert cooper talking to chris weston at  padstow lobster hatchery

Why Do Lobsters Need Protecting?

In the late 1980s, Chief Fisheries officer and former fisherman Edwin (Eddy) Derriman MBE noticed that lobster catches and therefore populations were declining. The Scandinavian lobster fishery had seen a similar drop in the late 1960s and early 70s and the fishery ultimately collapsed, and Eddy was seriously worried that the same could happen in Cornwall. He put in place measures to manage the fisheries, and in 1998 he founded the lobster hatchery in an effort to conserve still vulnerable stocks and support wild populations of native lobster. The National Lobster hatchery was officially opened in 1998 and became a charity in 2004. Since its creation, the hatchery has released over 250,000 baby lobsters into the wild, and well over half a million visitors have visited the hatchery to learn about the sustainability issues associated with fishing, and in particular lobsters.

juvenlie lobster in a test tube being moved at national lobster hatchery in padstow

What The National Lobster Hatchery Does

The National Lobster Hatchery works to increase the survival rate of baby and juvenile lobsters, with the ultimate aim of ensuring a healthy and sustainable wild population that can withstand the pressures of fishing. A female lobster can carry between 4,000 and 40,000 eggs, however only 1 in 20,000 of these are expected to survive in the wild. Only approximately 0.005% survive to become adult lobsters. When they first hatch, baby lobster larvae are so small that they float in the water column and are essentially a type of plankton – meaning that they’re a food source for fish, jellyfish, anemones and even sea birds until they are around a month old and are large enough to burrow into the sea bed and find protection from predators.
To increase survival rates, the team at the NLH collects lobster eggs and raises the larvae until they are around three months old and large enough to have a much higher chance of survival in the wild, at which point they are released.
A number of local fishermen around Cornwall are licensed to land “berried hens” which are egg-bearing female lobsters. These lobsters have their claws bound with colour-coded tape to denote the fisherman who landed it (and to prevent them from fighting in the tanks) so that the lobster can be returned to the fisherman later for sale or release.

berried hen lobster with lots of eggs at the national lobster hatchery in padstow

“Lobsters take approximately seven years to reach adulthood, but the crucial thing that we capitalise on is the difference between being plankton as larvae, and being part of the food chain, and being a juvenile and being able to burrow.”

– Chris Weston, Senior Hatchery Technician
lobster larvae at the national lobster hatchery

The gestation period for a lobster egg is between 9 and 12 months, with the temperature of the water impacting how quickly an egg will hatch. Female lobsters lay their eggs under their tails between June and September, but the team at the NLH can control the volume of lobster larvae and juveniles that they are raising in the hatchery by controlling the temperature of the water in the “Maternity Ward” tanks that the berried hens are kept in. Colder water slows down development and extends the gestation period. They also hold lobsters in colder water during busy periods because slowing down their metabolism stops them from fighting so much so more lobsters can be accommodated within each tank. When we visited, Chris showed us one tank where hens were being kept in 11 degree water and another where hens were being held in 17 degree water to encourage faster hatching.

“We’re in constant communication with the twenty or so fishermen who we work with who are licensed to land berried hen lobsters, demanding different amounts of lobster at different times of year.  It depends on how full we are and how many lobsters we can handle, and therefore what stage of egg development, indicated by the colour of the eggs, we’d like them to land for us.”

– Chris Weston, Senior Hatchery Technician
chef rupert cooper talking to chris weston at padstow lobster hatchery

Most of the eggs hatch at night and it’s believed that lobster larvae use the moon to orientate themselves and move towards the surface of the sea – there is naturally more phytoplankton here (tiny plants) that the zooplankton (tiny animals, like the lobster larvae) want to feed on. For the first few hours after hatching the larvae are positively buoyant which helps them to get to the surface. At the hatchery, these buoyant lobster larvae are filtered out of the maternity tank and every morning they are collected from a holding tank and transferred to communal cones.

juvenile lobster at the national lobster hatchery in padstow

The communal cones are large aerated tanks and each batch of larvae will stay in there for approximately 16 days. The water is constantly moving to mimic their natural environment in the water column, and to minimize the chances of them bumping into each other – lobsters are carnivorous from birth and when they bump into something in the water column they will grab it and try to eat it, even if it’s another lobster larvae. Each brood is grown on in those communal cones through their first three stages of development, and once they reach the 4th stage – the point at which they are around 20mm long and look and behave much more like mini lobsters – they are moved into specially designed trays. These trays have individual compartments to keep the juvenile lobster separated (that cannibalism issue again!) and the trays are stacked in upwelling tanks so that the stage 4 juveniles can be fed and reared until they are around three months old and ready for release.

juvenile lobster larvae in trays at the national lobster hatchery

Juvenile lobsters are released when they are large enough to settle on the seabed and burrow into it for protection. From their burrows they hunt for worms and other invertebrates, moulting several times as they grow. Lobsters are cold water crustaceans and grow slowly, taking around seven years to reach adulthood. When their carapace (the shell covering their head and upper-body reaches 90mm in length they are large enough for fishermen in Cornwall to legally land them – under that, or if they are “notched” (when breeding age adults have a notch cut in their tail to signal that they should be left as breeding stock) or are egg bearing females, then the fishermen must return them to the wild. Some lobsters that find their way onto diners plates are in the region of twenty years old; that’s why preservation of stocks is so critically important.

Chris and his colleagues at NLH release juvenile lobsters either from the shore (into rock pools), by tube release from boats in partnership with fishermen who have identified suitable release sites, or directly onto the seabed by divers. They have recently trialed a scheme, the ‘Lobster Grower’ project, releasing juvenile lobsters into a large enclosed pen at a site in St Austell Bay off the south coast of Cornwall, so that the development of released juveniles can be measured and analysed by re-trapping and measuring the NLH hatched lobsters at intervals.

young lobster with blue shell

The team at the National Lobster Hatchery estimate that through their work they are able to increase the survival rate of lobster larvae by 1000 times, so from 1 in 20,000 to a 1 in 20 chance of survival. Every year they aim to release around 50,000 juvenile lobsters into the wild. It’s inevitable that some of these will in due time be trapped and served up as somebody’s dinner, but they are realistic about what they do. “It’s not helpful to pit the local small boat fishermen against the conservation sector,” Chris told us, “Up to 95%, we want the same thing: we want a healthy population of lobster. Whether that’s for the ecosystem benefits, or so that some of them can be used for food is the last 5%. From our perspective, we want a healthy population of lobsters around Cornwall and the South West, but we understand that the pressures come from fishing and that there’s a massive market for them. If you take a step back and look at the broader scheme of things, lobster probably isn’t the worst thing that people have eaten. There are a lot more destructive forms of fishing so if people can’t eat lobster perhaps they’ll turn to something else that isn’t being careful managed or fished. If done properly and sustainably, it doesn’t have to be a terrible thing, but it’s a very nuanced topic.”

lobster and pollack aboard a fishing boat

As well as working with local fishermen to source egg-bearing females, the team at the National Lobster Hatchery also work with chefs and restaurateurs, and run a very successful fundraising partnership scheme called ‘Buy One, Set One Free’. Participating establishments simply include an opt-out customer donation of £1 onto every lobster dish sold, which goes directly to the National lobster Hatchery to enable them to raise and release baby lobsters back into coastal waters on customers’ behalf.

“You are not only offsetting a little of what’s been caught, but longer term it’s an investment in the sustainability of the fishery and your ability to get hold of and enjoy lobster.”

Clare Stanley, NLH Business Development Manager
lobster pot buoy and flag at sea

It’s pioneering schemes like ‘Buy One, Set One Free’, and the clearly forward thinking and determined nature of the NLHH’s founder and team that have allowed them to have achieved so much. There is no doubt that they’ve had a huge impact on local lobster populations, saving them from the threat of imminent collapse and providing ongoing safeguards for our fragile marine resources and the people whose livelihoods depend on them.
If you’re in a situation to be able to afford to order lobster from a restaurant menu, then please look for or ask them about the National Lobster Hatchery’s ‘Buy One, Set One Free’ scheme, consider donating via their website to support their work, and if you’re ever visiting Padstow then pay them a visit on the harbour side.

For our next article, and in full recognition of the fact that we’re a cookery school that sometimes teaches how to cook and eat lobster, we’re going to post a recipe for amazing lobster rolls. Eating lobster isn’t a bad thing, as long as you’re buying your lobster from a sustainable source (preferably a small day-boat fisherman, like Callum at Fresh from The Sea in Port Isaac who is one of the fishermen who works with the National Lobster Hatchery) and all thanks to the great work of the NLH ensuring that local lobster populations are healthy enough to support them being fished and consumed. Check back next week for that recipe!

Find out more about the National Lobster Hatchery here.

The role of what we eat in contributing to or helping to avert the worst of the unfolding climate crisis is increasingly well publicised.  When it comes down to what we can do as individuals, it is often cited as being as impactful as the other obvious lifestyle changes that we can make such as how we power our homes or travel.  It’s a complex issue, though, and definitely not as simple as many campaigners would have you believe.  You don’t need to switch to a completely plant based diet (although there’s nothing wrong with that), all you have to do is consider what you eat, how and where it’s produced, and make a few small changes.  It’s not a binary issue.  Reducing the impact of your diet on the planet runs through a lot of what we do here, albeit usually quite discretely (zero waste recipes or sourcing ingredients that are sustainable or from regenerative sources), and this article and recipe is no different.

In 2019 the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Plant and Health attempted to answer the question: Can we feed a future population of 10 billion people a healthy diet within planetary boundaries?  Their findings recommended changes to the diets of people all around the world in one way or another.  For inhabitants of Europe and North America, they recommended that a diet with less red meat and more dried legumes (such as beans, peas and lentils) would be better for personal health as well as the future sustainability of our planet and food systems.

“The Planetary Health Diet emphasizes a plant-forward diet where whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes comprise a greater proportion of foods consumed. Meat and dairy constitute important parts of the diet but in significantly smaller proportions than whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes.”

EAT-Lancet Commission

Autumn and winter are stew season.  From the warming spices of North African tagines, through cassoulets to casseroles and hot pots, this is the time of year when a big pot of hearty food provides comfort and warmth.


The Channel Island of Guernsey is within sight of the north coast of France, and the island’s traditional cuisine is a blend of English and French influences much like many other areas of the island’s culture.  Guernsey bean jar is a slow cooked bean-heavy casserole that dates back hundreds of years and takes obvious cues from French cassoulets.  These days it’s more of a novelty item on menus or is served up at special events and occasions on the island, but until the 1920s it was still commonly eaten for breakfast.  It was traditionally prepared by islanders at home in a ceramic pot (the “jar”) that was then taken to the local bakery after they’d finished baking for the day to be left in their cooling oven to cook overnight (usually on a Sunday) before being collected in the morning.  Like so many folk dishes, there is no set recipe and many families had their own versions, with recipes passed down orally or by demonstration.  As long as it contains beans, carrots, onions and a cheap cut of meat with the bone in (the bone helps to produce a rich, thick gravy), and is cooked low and slow, then it qualifies as bean jar.  It’s incredibly easy to make (perfect if you’ve got a slow cook pot or work from home and can put it on in the morning ready to eat for dinner), uses cheap and often unpopular cuts of meat that reduces waste (it’s a great one for nose-to-tail eating), and those all-important dried legumes that we all need to eat more of are the main ingredient.  Here’s how to make Guernsey bean jar.


200g dried haricot beans

200g dried butter beans

1 large onion chopped

2 carrots chopped

1 pigs trotter or a slice of shin of beef, bone-in

1 bay leaf

1.5 litres beef stock or water


Soak the beans overnight in water.

In the morning, put all of the prepared ingredients and about ¾ of the stock into a large casserole dish or slow cook pot.  Put a lid on or cover and put in an oven at 150-170°C for 6-8 hours.  Check the bean jar occasionally and add more stock or water as required to stop it from drying out and to produce a gravy.  Remove from the oven, take the bone (and any cartilage, if you used a pig’s trotter) and bay leaf from the stew, and adjust the seasoning before serving. 

As there is no strict recipe, you can use all haricot beans (just double the quantity), add more vegetables or potatoes, or make it vegetarian by omitting the meat and using vegetable stock.    

bowl of guernsey bean jar

*It’s worth noting here, on the environmental front, that haricot beans (the most popular pulse in the UK, because they are the beans in baked beans) are not grown commercially in this country.  Almost all of the beans in tins of baked beans consumed in the UK are imported from the US, Canada, Ethiopia and China.  Shipping dried beans is a very efficient way of freighting food (because you’re not transporting a large weight of water, and the good news is that new varieties of haricot bean are being bred to grow successfully in British sunlight.  Like I said in the introduction, the environmental impact of what we eat is a complex topic!

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