A few Sundays ago I was inspired to take some pictures of the ice truck and the setting up process on a Tesco fish counter. I thought they might be of interest to you readers. As Sunday 29th March was the last working day for me before my eight week sabbatical (boy was I excited!) I thought about this proposal and took a few more. Here is how it is before the fish get taken from the fridge and placed attractively on the iced up counter.
The ice is created by an ice making machine in the corner of the fish counter. Two trucks are filled during a working day and stored in a cold store at the back of the shop. It can take from 7.30am to 3.30pm to fill both trucks approximately. The following morning the fishmonger tips the separate buckets on to the metal display area and creates a depth of about four inches across the counter. A plastic separator keeps the smoked fish away from the fresh and prevents cross contamination.
This picture below is the fully iced counter before the ice is compacted down using a cutting board as a weight. The smoked area is then lined with finoplas (like cellophane) to prevent the smoked element leaking through into the fresh and to keep the smoked fish from getting ice burns.
Other skinless fish like salmon portions and tuna steaks also sit on sections of finoplas for the same reason as the smoked. As a live product the bags of mussels must also be placed on finoplas otherwise they could freeze and die. Similarly, any products like fish pie mix and fresh squid and raw prawns that are contained in small square metal bowls must be buried up to the rim in ice to keep a constant temperature throughout the day. We don't have many cooked items on the fish counter but things like the cooked crabs must be kept completely separate from the raw products.
The fish is then arranged attractively on the counter and various duties like date checks, delivery records, safe and legal records and daily reductions are carried out. During the day the whole fresh fish such as the whole salmon, sea bream, sea bass, mackerel, sardines as well as the fresh oysters and mussels are sprayed with ice water every twenty minutes to keep them moist.
Of course the fishmongers, Paul, Cherie and myself help the customers in their fish choices through our knowledge and training. We all have the ability to clean the fish (take scales off, fins off, take guts out and wash) and to fillet the fish if needed. Alan our other butcher helps out too when needed. During the working day we work hard keeping the preparation area hygienic and clean. This can be hard when certain messy fish are on offer! Salmon scales are the worst. They get everywhere!
At the end of the working day whoever is on the fish counter will pack all the remaining fish away in the fridges behind the counter, get rid of waste, clean up and remove all the ice from the display unit by dumping it in the sink with hot running water to dissolve the ice. There is also a water tap on the counter which releases a fountain of cold water on to the empty ice. The metal and plastic dividers all get scrubbed with hot soapy water and rinsed clean.
Children seem to find the fish counter fascinating and one night a small boy asked if the water streaming done the almost empty counter was coming from the sea! Bless.
As Sunday evening arrived I did my usual professional job, got cleaned down and clocked off at 5.15pm. As I went out of the side door of Tesco I let out a little yelp of freedom and grinned all the way home. Already this week I have been working at my writing and have four plays to see and review this week alone. Plus I have been coming up with some great ideas for this food blog. See you in eight weeks maybe Tesco safety shoes and hat. Enjoy your own relaxing time in my locker.