Here in Ireland, we really struggle with ‘original Irish recipes’. Any discussion on traditional cuisine usually ends up in a culinary cul-de-sac with everybody agreeing that bacon and cabbage is the high point while boxti and coddle bring up the rear. A ‘pint of plain’ being the tipple of choice to accompany most everything. It’s not very inspiring. The principal reason for the lack of traditional culinary diversity is tied to our history. We were, for a long time, a peasant nation, doffing our caps to our masters while eating potatoes to survive. We barely subsisted on small holdings while absentee landlords from across the pond extracted what wealth the country had.
Just in time for the Chinese New Year, I could have titled this “Extremely Easy Oriental Part 1”, had I thought about it a bit more. At the risk of paraphrasing Jamie Oliver, this is a 30 minute meal. In this instance, the 30 minutes includes eating time. The star of the dish is the tamarind. On a recent trip back to Ireland, my brother who lives in Dar es Salaam, brought me a supply. Not that Dar is in the Orient. But, it’s easier to find there than here.
I love a bit of authenticity. Particularly so when it comes to my kitchen equipment. So when it came to getting my hands on a paella pan, I did my research. They are a shocking price here in Dublin. So, reluctantly, as you can guess, I got on a plane and flew to Spain. Now, there really is no point in seeking out the ‘real deal’ on the Costa del Sol. One is more likely to be served roast beef with Yorkshire pudding than any traditional Spanish dish down that neck of the woods. No, I took myself to the beautiful village of Cadaqués, on the north-east coast. The village was home to that creative genius and surrealist, Salvador Dali. What better place to buy one’s cookware?
“Sous Vide. What’s that?” “Is that some Spanish stuff?” “Boil-in-the-bag. Like they do on Masterchef”. Such were the reactions to my introducing Sous Vide to the cohort of the Great Unwashed that fronts as ‘my friends’. I did have a debt of honour to repay. So I needed to cook some Sous Vide Salmon and present it as well as I possibly could.
A long while ago, I cooked a squid risotto. That time, I carefully preserved the ink sacs to blacken the rice and to add some extra flavour. This time, I managed to buy a couple of sachets of squid ink. I was planning to do something very tasty to try to convince Eldest Daughter (ED) that not all shellfish and crustaceans are revolting. She was living with the memory of a bad shellfish experience and was pretty appalled by the thought of anything in or out of a shell. I had my work cut out.
Around these parts, one hears tell of “The Full Irish” when describing the perfect breakfast. For those of you not in the know, the Full Irish consists of two rashers of bacon, two sausages, two eggs, two pieces of black pudding and two of white pudding, tomato, mushroom, baked beans and a couple of slices of toast. Everything bar the beans and toast gets fried in oil. It really is a case of heart clogging quantity over quality. Nothing better after a night on the beer. The perfect hangover cure, they say.
I wanted to cook something Oriental. I had a yearning for something hot and spicy. My issue was I had two pieces of cod to cook. So I decided to try a little experiment and to cook something Oriental(ish). That is something using Oriental and Western ingredients cooked in a Western(ish) way. If the dish were a person, we would refer to it as being of mixed race. That is if it is currently politically correct (fashionable) to use such terms.
I rarely have a swipe at my fellow bloggers. There are enough ignorant savages out there ready to have a go. So I really should not wade in. But, I do need to get this off my chest before we start. Some bloggers will sell their souls and prostrate themselves for a bit of unearned product. The mere mention of “free samples” gets them to forget their principles, their integrity and their independence. Shame on them.
I told you recently that the last thing the world needs is yet another risotto recipe. I lied. That was before eldest daughter returned, from a break on our wild Atlantic shore, bearing gifts. Gifts of Sea Spice! That and the Kerry crab catapults this otherwise ordinary dish into the extraordinary and onto my Ireland’s Greatest Ingredients list. “Sea Spice?” I can hear your busy little mind at work “What is Sea Spice?” I hear you ruminate.
Warning to the weak of stomach: This post contains some pretty gory bits. Read on at your own risk.
Somewhere around 25 years ago, I was out having a few pints with “the lads”. We were socialising in Goggins of Monkstown, our then favoured haunt. The conversation was wide-ranging and often great ideas would be tabled for decision or debate. One such notion was to hire a boat from Bulloch Harbour so we could catch a few mackerel. Everybody agreed that this was a worthy venture and a couple of nights later, three of us took the trip to Dalkey, negotiated with Joe and took out a small open boat, complete with Seagull motor and hand lines.