Vermillion bosses launch charity seafood cookbook

The Seamark business is well known in Manchester for both its headquarters in the east of the city as well as for being responsible for probably its most expensively built and designed restaurant – Vermillion.

Now the global business is taking both the story of its success and the recipes which grace the plates of the restaurant to new audiences with a book that’s just been published to raise money for charity.

Called ‘Seamark bringing fruits of the ocean to your plate‘ the 150 page book is a mixture of business history and cookbook with enough food photography to make it a coffee table read.

The early pages detail the Ahmed brother’s ‘story of determination’ in building a business which is today a £150m operation.

“In 1984, with a £100,000 credit facility, the brothers set about capitalising on Britain’s growing taste for seafood and began importing prawns from their home nation of Bangladesh.”

Then we move onto recipes from Vermillion which starts with a useful glossary of spices and herbs used in Thai cooking. There’s easy to follow instructions on dishes which many people will already be familiar with eating such as as tempura prawns, salt and pepper squid or salmon tikka.

But there’s some more unusual dishes too including several pages on spicy salads and a black prawn curry recipe from a Thailand’s northern jungles where coconut milk isn’t used.

Some of the ingredients might be tricky to source outside major cities but largely they include items such as oyster sauce and Kaffir leaves which are easily found in supermarkets or online.

I’m looking forward to trying out the Nile perch with Thai pepper sauce which uses green peppercorns and includes instructions for a butter rice accompaniment.

* The book costs £9.95 with all proceeds going to the Iqbal Ahmed Foundation which was set up to help people in developing countries through education, training, housing and healthcare. At present it can be purchased from the website and should be in the Amazon store in coming weeks.

France, a land of sauces, Sandra and seafood

“What is that I enquired” pointing at the unfamiliar words on the menu. Pointy language being somewhat a speciality I’ve developed over the years having less than a schoolgirl grasp on French.

“It’s pike” the restraunteur helpfully translated “a freshwater fish, pike – you know it?”

Ah, pike. In that instant a whole world of assumptions flooded into my head. Pike – a vicious  predator which seeks out other smaller fish for snacks; a huge, dirty great river monster – maybe they even have teeth, like sharks? I’m really not sure about that but, when we used to live afloat on the UK’s canals and rivers, they were often spoken about it in feared terms.

I couldn’t quite reconcile my preconceptions  with the French word for the same thing ‘sandre’, like Sandra, a name that doesn’t conjure up anything more ominous than a middle aged lollipop lady or someone who might help out at a day centre or make a nice cup of tea.


So I had to give it a try. The picture above is what arrived at the table. A fairly innocuous looking while fleshed fillet simply grilled. See, no teeth.

The texture was not dissimilar to seabass but the flesh was white like a sea fish. As far as flavour goes, not at all strong and certainly no sign of anything remotely muddy going on. It was delicate and pleasant served with a pretty strong, creamy vanilla sauce.

Ah……. the sauces. Last week in Brittany was our first visit to the region for more than 20 years and sauces is something that will remain with us. In fact they remain with the dining experience rather too fully.

Maybe it was  because we were in very rural locations rather than refined city eateries, but just about everywhere we went, the food was lavishly, richly sauced. From the  oven-baked gratins to roasted meats – everything accompanied with rich creamy sauces. It made me realise how used to low, or at least lower, fat menu styles we’re now accustomed to in Britain.

I know I’m risking the wrath of one the great culinary nations here, but it did seem somewhat overkill. With such fantastic produce the general tone of many of our meals could have been lighter. IMHO 😉


Still, you can’t beat the variety and care shown in even the humblest cafe….the freshness of the produce and the attention to detail on absolutely everything served from pizza to simple salads.

With seafood and fresh air aplenty, there was certainly nothing to complain about.

Brittany remains a region of feasting and relaxation, a true holiday and discussions about the finer points of sauce-making will, I’m certain, seem a long way off with my next visit to whichever train station fayre I encounter now I’m back at work.