Open your senses to summer
It was great to see so much local produce on display at Taste of Westport at the recent Westport Festival of Music and Performing Arts. Even in such hard times as these, there is definite progress towards a greater appreciation of local produce.
People are growing to understand that local food has less distance to travel to you, should be fresher, retains and promotes local economies and skill bases, and gives a sense of pride and well-being to countless small producers.
It is now affecting the ‘big economy’ as well: Look at how much Super-Valu buys and promotes local produce. It was great too, to visit the new Connacht Gold Co-op in Westport and drop into the new cafe there, The Gold Leaf, run by Newport lady Terri Fitzpatrick. There she has delivered an entire menu with local produce, from Walsh’s butchers to Jack ‘n’ Eddie’s sausages. Great to see, and it shows you how you can source locally with imagination and deliver the very best too.
Now, after all that pontificating, let’s look at what can be drummed up easily with that lovely local produce.
Pan-fried cod with bacon and minty peas
Great fish is available now – you don’t have to use cod. Find out where you can get your local bacon.
The seasonal marriage of peas and mint is special this time of year. The colour match of white fish with seasonal greens is a winner – never forget the importance of colour in cooking. The summer mint fragrance infused with sweetness of roughly mashed peas opens your senses to summer nuances, while the salty crispness of local bacon bits creates flavour pods all over your plate.
What you need
- Cod/white fish for four
- 300gm peas (frozen is ok!)
- 6 leaves mint, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp crème fresh (or yoghurt or cream)
- Sprinkle of chicken stock
- 3 strips local bacon
- Olive oil
What you do
Add your peas into boiling water and bring back to the boil. Sprinkle the touch of stock and continue to cook for four minutes, then drain. Using a fork, lightly mash the peas, add chopped mint and crème fraiche. Season to taste. On a hot pan with olive oil, lay down the fish pieces skin-side down, unfurling them slowly and deliberately, like you are unveiling a winning hand against the devil himself. Then don’t pick, prod or move fish for a minimum of three mins. Cook until skin crispy – maybe another two minutes. Now you can either take out fish if you feel it’s cooked all the way through, or do what I’d do, and add a dash of water and immediate cover with lid just to broil steam for another minute and half. Then throw in your chopped bacon and fry till well cooked. Hand squeeze half a lemon into the hot pan – this will de-glaze it and lift all those lovely cooking flavours so you can transfer them to the plate
If you want to go the whole hog with serving, then press the minty peas into a ramekins or round shallow cup, then upturn it in the centre of a white plate, lay your fish skin side down over this, and sprinkle your bacon bits with whatever juice there is around the plate.
You can add some freshly boiled broad beans to the recipe if you like, they are coming in season and your vegetable shop should be able to locate these soft, furry pods for you.
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.