HAPPY AS A CLAM Mayo’s natural bounty includes fresh clams.?Pic: Fotopedia/Benjamine Scalvenzi
Is it the cooking or the produce?
Is it the cooking or is it the produce that makes a meal? Which of these is more important?
Restaurants, particularly if charging a lot, may tend to stress the uniqueness of their individual cooking, their recipes, procedures, styles and emphasis.
At the farm-gate, however, these priorities are overturned. It matters only about the freshness and the honesty of the food. There is no dressing up. The barer and purer, the better it is for you.
A lot of things occur along the line from farm-gate to plate, adding extra value and pushing up the price. For me, I prioritise the importance of the farm-gate, the source, the integral quality. No amount of good cooking can reverse having a bad food source. Also the higher quality the source ingredients, the less work you have to put in to get the best out of them. Win, win!
Taste of Westport
These questions will all be in the mix at a special area called ‘Taste of Westport’ at the forthcoming Westport Festival of Music and Performing Arts. Highlighting the positive benefits of food production around Westport, this event will promote the excellent fish, shellfish, lamb and beef that are on our doorstep. There’ll be delicious mussels and clams, fabulous fresh Clew Bay mackerel, and lovely local lamb. Here are a few suggestions for what to do with them.
Classic Mussels and clams
Our indented coastline and pure Atlantic waters give us the perfect environment for growing shellfish. Everyone in Mayo should try cooking shellfish. It’s as simple as that! No need to boil them – just place them in a very hot pan and cover. When the mussels open up, stir and cook for another few minutes, adding whatever you choose for flavour – if you prefer a red sauce, go for tomato and maybe some chilli, if you like a white sauce, go for white wine and cream.
Simple Mackerel fillets
Last Sunday at Tully Bridge in Louisburgh, we sat down beside some burning sticks and on a metal plate we fried mackerel fillets caught earlier that day by Rose and her husband in Mulranny. We added a little butter and salt. The freshness was to die for. Pure nutrition, pure fresh from sea. You can taste fresh mackerel fillets caught the day before in Clew Bay at Taste of Westport. Can’t argue with that.
Slow-cooked Mayo lamb
We have some of the best lamb in Europe. Everyone has their favourite dish – it could be gigot chops, roasted leg or garlic and rosemary shoulder… the possibilities are endless. For more tips, chefs will be on hand at Taste of Westport to discuss their favourite ways of cooking super Mayo lamb.
My neighbour Pat Fitzgerald gave me a shoulder from one of his lambs, and I tried a new method with it. I sealed it in a baking pan on top of a gas stove, covered it with tin foil, seasoned it, and stuck it in a non-fan oven for three hours at 120 degrees. It was a stunning discovery – the most succulent lamb meat I’ve had recently. I’m sure the meat was a different structure from regular blast cooking, but for me, it opened up a whole new approach.
Red Cabot is interested in food, nature and small things. He sells his food at Westport Country Markets in St Anne’s Boxing Club, James’s Street car park, Westport, every Thursday, from 8am to 1pm, and Newport Street Market on Fridays, 11am to 4pm.