La Figaro Foodies

Seafood chef Mitch Tonks with Devon sailor Henry Bomby on The Rockfish

Seafood chef Mitch Tonks with Devon sailor Henry Bomby on The Rockfish - Credit: Archant

Seafood chef MITCH TONKS knows what he’d be cooking and eating if he was sailing with Kingswear yachtsman Henry Bomby who’s currently mid the Solitaire du Figaro - a multi-stage super yacht race

Spaghetti con fritti

Spaghetti con fritti - Credit: Archant

When Henry and I chat about racing, he talks about tactics and wind shifts and the struggle with long legs with little or no sleep and my mind thinks of the places he is sailing in to and the food that is on offer on the many points he will visit. The Channel and the Galician coast has some of the best seafood in the world so for this reason alone I would live to be his crew, apart from the fact that deep down I would secretly love to have been a racing yachtsman myself.

Stage 1 from Bordeaux - Henry’s first port of call was Bordeaux and I have to say the oysters from this region are the finest in the world,. My favourites are the fine de claire; we serve these regularly at the Seahorse with a few chopped shallots, capers and sweet vinegar, which works well as oysters from Bordeaux are typically saline and utterly delicious. The very best fine de claire are taken from the sea and laid in clay bottom pools called ‘Claires’ which are fed by rain and salt water. The oyster feeds on the rich nutrients in the water., changing the flavour. They really are fantastic and a good enough reason to visit Bordeaux. Of course there are many recipes for oysters but none better then with just a few finely chopped shallots, a little vinegar and black pepper.

Mitch would cook lobster when the boat stops at ???; here is his lobster calderetta

Mitch would cook lobster when the boat stops at ???; here is his lobster calderetta - Credit: Archant

Stage 2 from Sansenzo - Galicia is famed for its Seafood but for sailing it must be hard, as the Atlantic rollers end their journey crashing into the cliffs creating a real hazard in the night especially if it’s windy when Henry would need to have every sail up that he can get his hands on! Perhaps the most famous food from the region is the percebes and the octopus. Percebes are very strange looking shellfish only found here. Men risk their lives to gather them from under the crests of crashing waves as the tide recedes for a minute leaving the perceives uncovered. They taste good - very good- but for me the octopus is better. I like it grilled or braised but cold in a salad is also good. My recipe (opposite) is from our new Seahorse book.

Stage 3 from Cornouaillie - All along the Northern French coast there are small boats working pots for crab and lobster. The fast flowing water of the channel means the shellfish here is in great condition and tastes fabulous. Brittany is famous for its hospitality and food; my good friend Richard Bertinet the baker hails from there and what a cook he is. The food is generous and warm and part of the way of life there. I have eaten some of the best shellfish I’ve ever tasted here - it was on a fruits de mer platter and I just recall how the winkles, mussels and whelks tasted so much of the sea and how juicy, salty and sweet the lobster was. I would picture being in a seaside restaurant with a pile of shellfish in front of me looking out at the Figaro start line with Henry crossing first.. I think one of the best ways to eat lobster is grilled on the barbecue with garlic butter. Simple!

Stage 4 from Torbay - Torbay is home to Brixham - the capital of Britain’s seafood coast. What a treat to welcome all the skippers from the race to Rockfish and show them the great seafood we have here, Rock oyster, lobsters and especially our crab...its the best in the world! Granted the French have better oysters but we have better crab, a debate that could go on long into a bottle of Ricard. When Henry arrived in Torbay we were well into Mackerel season, a fish that has soared in popularity and so no longer a cheap option, and why should it be? It is one of the best eating fish in the sea and I think people have really discovered that. The best way of getting fresh mackerel is to catch your own. Pop down to Brixham Bait and Tackle which has all the gear. This tagine recipe is so easy to make, I often do it on the beach and enjoy the sunset at the end of another fine day here in paradise.

The end of the race at Dieppe - first founded as a fishing village this famous town in Normandy has great seafood. This is the channel and so the fast flowing water brings plenty of nutrients which in turn allows the shellfish here to grow. You are also in cider country so there is plenty of it and much ends up in the food. I like this simple clam dish (opposite) which I imagine fishermen cooking on their boats, with maybe a splash of cider added. Simple but delicious.

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Mitch Tonks lives in the fishing town of Brixham and runs the Seahorse and Rockfish restaurants in Brixham, Dartmouth, Torquay and Plymouth


Recipes taken from The Seahorse published by Absolute Press, £25.00, Hardback, Photography © Chris Terry

For further recipes visit

Stopping off in Sansenzo:

Octopus carpaccio with fennel, tomato & savory

Serves 4

1 octopus - choose octopus with two rows of suckers on the tentacles - they are usually frozen.

2 firm san marzano tomatoes

1 fennel bulb

a few leaves of savory (relative of rosemary)

glug of really good white wine vinegar

the best olive oil you can find

Pinch paprika

1/2 lemon

bay leaf

1 dried chilli

1 clove garlic

To make

Clean the octopus and remove the head and beak, leave the tentacles joined together and place in a saucepan with the chilli, garlic and bay leaf. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. You don’t need to add liquid as this will naturally be released from the octopus. Check it is tender using a very sharp knife - it should be very giving.

Remove, drain and dry then lay the tentacles on top of each other and roll into a cylinder in cling film. Chill well until set or place in a freezer for an hour. Octopus is very gelatinous and should hold together.

Very finely slice the tomatoes and fennel, toss with olive oil, salt, vinegar and savory. Slice the octopus very thinly and place on a plate. Sit the fennel and tomato in the centre then drizzle a few tablespoons of olive oil over the top of the octopus, before adding a few squeezes of lemon juice. Finally, sprinkle with smokey paprika.

Time Out in Torbay:

Mackerel Tagine

Serves 2

2-3tbsp olive oil

2.5cm piece fresh root ginger, chopped

½ red pepper, chopped

4 cherry tomatoes, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 mackerel, approx 350g, gutted and chopped into 5cm chunks or leave whole

Sea salt

Fresh coriander, finely chopped

40 black olives, optional

Squeeze lemon to taste

For the spice mix

1 tbsp ground allspice

1 ½ tbsp ground coriander

2 tbsp paprika

1 tbsp turmeric

2tsp ground cassia

1tsp ground cardamom

1tsp chilli flakes

To make

Mix all the ingredients for the spice mix together and store until needed in an airtight jar.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, add the ginger, peppers, tomatoes, garlic and onion and fry gently for 4-5 minutes, then add 1-2tsp of your spice mix. Add the mackerel, cover with water and leave to simmer for 7-8 minutes if chunks of mackerel and 12 minutes if whole fish.

Before serving, season with plenty of salt, then add the coriander, olives and a squeeze of lemon to taste.

Dieppe - Sailors’ clams

Serves 4 to start

1 kg small clams

olive oil

1 garlic clove, finely chopped, plus 1 whole clove

75 ml dry white wine

2 or 3 salted anchovies

handful of fresh curly parsley

handful of fine fresh breadcrumbs

freshly ground black pepper (optional)

bread to serve

To make

Wash the clams and discard any shells that are broken or that are open and do not close when sharply tapped. Warm 2 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan over a medium-high heat.

Add the chopped garlic and cook until it just starts to brown, then add the clams and give the pan a good toss to get them coated with the garlic and oil.

Add the wine and anchovies, cover the pan and boil for 3–4 minutes, or until the clams are open (discard any that remain closed).

Chop the parsley and whole garlic clove finely and mix with the breadcrumbs. Fry in a separate pan with a little oil until just crisp, then gradually sprinkle them into the clams until the sauce thickens slightly. Add some pepper, if you like, then serve over slices of yesterday’s bread or with fried bread.