The Seafood Riches of Morecambe Bay

Updated on 01 June 2018 | 0 Comments

The vast sweep of Lancashire's Morecambe Bay offers seafood lovers plenty of rich pickings

We Brits have for too long had a culinary inferiority complex about our native seafood. Chefs like Rick Stein and Mitch Tonks have redressed the balance somewhat, making the most of what our coast and seas have to offer. And few places have more to offer than Morecambe Bay.

Potted Shrimps

Start with the big one in terms of fame, the tiny one physically, potted shrimps. Like many delicacies they’re best treated simply: brown bread, a slice of lemon, and the shrimps in their spicy butter make a perfect teat-time treat. Mark Smith, manager of Morecambe’s renowned producer James Baxter & Son explains the simple secret of their marvellous potted shrimps: “We’re a family run business, seventh generation, we do things traditionally and we don’t compromise in any way on quality.” Mark wouldn’t divulge the secret recipe, but then Marco Pierre-White who used them in his Great British Feast got the same response.


morcombe bayCockling is done by hand here, far gentler than dredging. The result is fewer cracked shells and a premium price, but the trade is not without danger as the 2004 tragedy when 23 Chinese cockle-pickers died in Morecambe Bay showed.

We know them best as street-food served by seaside stalls, little pot-fulls doused in malt vinegar. The foreign buyers who take most of the catch will find nobler uses, but then so do Welsh cooks making the best of their cockle beds – cockles and eggs a British classic: boil the cockles briefly, open them then remove, wash and dry the meat. Fry in bacon fat then stir in and cook through enough beaten eggs to make a meal but not mask the seafood.

Plenty More Fish in the Sea

The shrimps and cockles appeal to piscine appetites as much as ours, attracting a huge variety of fish to the bay. Traditional gill-net fishermen Paul Gavaghan and John Hancock supply local chefs, walking their nets a mile or more across the muddy sands when the tide is out to stake them, returning at the next low tide for the catch. “Chefs love big bass and mullet, but flatties like dab and flounder that were unfashionable are becoming popular too,” says Paul.

And Variety in the Chippie too

It’s not just high-end chefs who love the bay’s variety. Alastair Horobin manages the Seniors chain of sustainably sourced chippies in the Blackpool area, their Thornton shop recently named British fish and chip shop of the year: “We buy plenty from Fleetwood market including locally caught plaice, dabs, witches and gurnard. You might not think of dabs as right for our business, but they’re a sweet-fleshed fish and a couple make a good-looking plateful.”

Is there anywhere else in Britain to better Morecambe Bay’s seafood wealth?

These links may be of further interest

Seashore foraging tips

Sustainable fish

A top fish restaurant


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