Globe-trotting gastronomy: Giant crabs and peerless pork pies in Yorkshire's Filey Bay


When my parents left me a small modern house near the North Yorkshire resort of Filey, in early 1997, my instinct was to sell. I had been living in south London for 25 years and the 500-mile round trip made it unfeasible as a weekend retreat. But before selling, my wife and I decided to use the house for a long summer holiday. At the start of our break, we received a surprise invitation to share a house in Malibu. It may seem insane to reject such an offer but, as we walked on the sand of Filey Bay with the North Sea crashing ashore in great breakers, my wife said, "How could it be any better?"

A couple of miles inland, we discovered the glorious Yorkshire Wolds, which subsequently lured David Hockney from California. A third reason why we still have our North Yorkshire house 15 years later: the startling excellence of the local foodstuffs from this surf'n'turf setting.

We began our exploration by feasting on the crabs and lobsters caught in the pots of Filey's tiny fishing fleet, crustaceans so sweet and succulent that the majority are exported to the shellfish-obsessed French and Spanish. I can think of few foods that taste better. At the height of the summer glut, prices can tumble. Three crabs for £1.50 is not unknown and you occasionally get "wingless wonders" (lobsters that have shed a pincer) for around £2.

Another incomer, Giorgio Alessio of the acclaimed La Lanterna restaurant in nearby Scarborough, was so delighted by the maritime harvest that he bought a licence to use the town's wholesale market. "The fish is not just good, it's amazing," he enthuses with Piedmontese brio. "Because it comes from inshore boats, it is as fresh as you can get anywhere. Cod comes ashore bright-green. We also have wonderful silvery sea bass. The flat-fish season has just started – brill, turbot, Dover sole. Halibut will be with us soon. Then there's ling – a beautiful, solid fish. Local squid is very good-quality, so much more tender than the Mediterranean. We get crabs as big as dustbin lids."

Like the intensely flavoured spider crabs, almost all the little velvet crabs go to the stew pots of northern Spain, but Alessio corners a few for a pasta sauce that the novelist Kathy Lette once extolled as "an orgasm for the mouth".

Summer brings catches of wild salmon and sea trout making their way up the east coast. Available in rare profusion last year, the big, sleek trout are more delicate in flavour than wild salmon, but as cheap as farmed salmon. Alessio froths like a boiling pan that so much of this maritime haul is exported. "It's so frustrating. We have wonderful fish but people don't know about it. They ask if it comes from blinkin' London."

Carnivorousness is deeply engrained in Yorkshire folk. The local beef is as good as you get anywhere. It accounts for around 70 per cent of sales in Adrian Colling's small butcher's shop in Filey. "I buy cattle at Malton livestock market and it is slaughtered at a small local abattoir. We hang meat for up to a month." Colling hands over his joints with a reassuring guarantee ("A lovely bit of sirloin – would you like some fat with that?") and recipe tips. He once used a side of beef to give me a seminar on obscure cuts.

Local pork is equally outstanding. The meat for London's Ginger Pig chain comes from near Pickering. Yorkshire has a limitless appetite for pork pies. If you like pies with cured (pink) meat, the best are warm from the oven at Glaves Butchers in the village of Brompton outside Scarborough. Their irresistible allure means customers tend to get a spurt of hot juice down their shirts despite being warned at time of sale. The best pork pies with uncured (grey) meat are made at Bullivant's farm near York using home-grown pigs. Filled with luscious chunks of pork, these splotchy domes are sold at farmers' markets in Driffield, Malton and elsewhere – but get there early or the pigs will have flown.

After discovering the splendid game of the area, we whiz up the A1 in winter, salivating at the prospect of pheasant and grey-leg partridge for £4.50 a brace. Sometimes a knock on the door provides even cheaper game (£0.00) though we have to do the plucking. I'm sure many other places in Britain have similar gastronomic riches – Orford in Suffolk is particularly well-endowed – but we find new treats with each visit. Top among recent discoveries is Yoadwath Mill Smokery run by Andy Stewart, who produces the best smoked salmon I have ever tasted from an isolated valley outside Kirbymoorside. With treats like this – and I haven't even mentioned the fish and chips fried in dripping – we have no plans to flee this cornucopia.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas