EVEN when Natasha Hughes tries to have a night off cooking fish her friends and family often have other ideas.
And with the rise in popularity of eating fish - and the advent of social media and the internet allowing people to order fresh deliveries of all the sea has to offer the mum-of-two and her fisherman husband are currently riding a huge wave of success.
Many fish fans will already know Natasha and Kevin as for many years they ran Hughes Fish Shop in Head Street.
Stocked to the gills with the fish Kevin caught himself and a range of others sourced from the highest quality fishermen across the country the shop was a mainstay with a large number of customers until the couple made the difficult decision two years ago to close it.
Natasha says they were faced with a changing high street and a difficult decision.
“The lease came up and we were looking at signing for another ten years and we just looked at how the High Street was changing and we just did not think we could commit to that long.
“The way people shop is changing and we were finding customers were not always there so we decided to move online.”
Having been operating from home earlier this year they decided to set up a permanent premises from which to make their deliveries, choosing a unit in Waldegraves Lane, West Mersea.
Fish caught by Kevin is prepared by Natasha who prepares online orders - any time of day or night.
“We have been overwhelmed with the response since we officially launched from the new unit.
“It has really taken off and as a result we have even fitted it out as a shopfront so people can also come in and buy and we are hoping to open that within the next couple of weeks.
“But the main business is delivery. We deliver all over Essex and by far the way people really like to order is on Facebook.
“It has been an extremely valuable tool because we can share pictures of the fish and also the seafood platters and then they share with other people and we are getting just an unbelievable number of shares.
“I put a photograph up of one of our seafood platters the other day and it must have been shared a few thousand times since then,” explains Natasha, who delivers to people’s homes every Wednesday and Friday.
“Being able to put things up straight away on the Facebook page like videos and photographs is so immediate.
“If you go to a friend’s for dinner and they serve you one of my seafood platters and tell you where they got it, you will probably forget by the time you got home but when it is in front of you on a social media site you can pretty much order one if you want to straight away.
“When we had the shop I did lovely displays and put all the fish out in the window but you could never guarantee the shoppers would come and see it but this way they do,” she says.
As well as fish orders, which are fulfilled by Kevin but also from the trusted suppliers the couple have always used, and seafood platters Natasha bakes and sells 25 to 30 of her signature smoked salmon quiches for delivery each week as well as around 150 fish cakes.
All of her ingredients are fresh and as locally sourced as possible.
“The eggs are all free range in the quiches and I grow all my own herbs in our garden to use.
“Because we are always using it, they replenish themselves all the time. We have parsley and thyme and mint, which we put in our drinks too, and lemongrass.”
Natasha explains people are often surprised when she tells them what she does for a living.
She says: “I am very girly, I have my nails done and like to look nice so when I am out and meet new people and they ask me what I do and I tell them I am a fishmonger they are often taken aback.
“I never really had any formal training but when I met Kev he was always asking me to try new fish and I just got really into trying new things and also creating recipes for us to try and for other people,” she explains.
Natasha has since undertaken all the necessary qualifications in order to produce food and having honed her skills began to put together recipe cards for shop customers to try.
“People often do not know what to do, they feel a bit intimidated and that might put them off trying certain things so I just started giving suggestions and we even put a recipe book together too,” she says.
The couple don’t tire of fish - even when they are on holiday.
“Even when we go away we like to eat the fish they have on the menu and we also will always go to the fish market if there is one.
“We were in Morocco recently and although it wasn’t really a tourist destination we went to the market to look. We both just love seeing how they do things and the different delicacies you can get.”
And her friends never tire of being served fish.
“I will often say if they come round that I won’t do fish but they always end up asking me to do this particular dish which is sort of our treat, a spciality of mine involving a creamy sauce, like moules mariniere but I use clams, monkfish and smoked haddock in mine.
“Another of our friends always cooks meat so we get a good balance that way,” she laughs.
And while the online business is keeping her busy, she says she is delighted with how it has taken off.
“I find I am picking up orders as late as 11pm at night but I love it. We are trying to get people to order on-line but sometimes they do it on Facebook and I honour them.
“We have a comments box as well so you can let us know if you want to make changes, like on the fish platter.
“These are by far one of the most popular things with customers but some people want to leave or add in certain things and we can always do that for them. I like it when we get to put things like lobster on there,” says Natasha.
- Find Hughes’s Fish Company on Facebook and go to hughesfishcompany.co.uk/ to place any orders.