Food and wine
All our local producers are bursting at their seams now with produce from the Polytunnels: herbs, chives, fennel, oregano, rocket, sorrel, small turnips and broccoli, together with bags of mixed lettuce, are all coming to the restaurant every day. What a joy to enjoy delicious local lettuce full of texture and veins, packed with simple roughage to assist your gut.
Chef Peter cooked up a very simple dish of baked cod in a fresh herb and breadcrumb crust last week. Served with butter white wine lemon sauce it was a simple joy that showcased wonderful herbs full of vital ingredients for our bodies.
While descending from the Reek last week after an Arthur Guinness-inspired rash decision to climb it at 1.30am with Rowan Sommerville, I was struck by how beautiful the countryside looked under clear moonlight, and I was reminded that biodynamic food growers plant and harvest their crops by the cycles of the moon. If the moon has such an effect on our tides, could it also have some pull on the growing of plants? Like the sobering view of a new dawn rising in the North East I thought of food, and how the best food is the most natural and most simple.
Pan-fried fillet of lemon sole with pea and sorrel sauce
This recipe is good for a number of reasons. Lemon sole is relatively inexpensive at the moment, unlike it cousin, black sole; and sorrel is a fabulous green, full of flavour and character. Best of all, the dish is simple, looks super on the plate and tastes terrific.
> 1 lemon sole, filleted
> salt and freshly ground black pepper
> 75g/3oz butter
> 8 baby onions, peeled
> 1 shallot, finely chopped
> 1 sprig thyme, leaves only
> 75ml/3fl oz white wine
> 110ml/4fl oz fish stock
> 75ml/3fl oz double cream
> 110g/4oz peas
> 1 bunch sorrel, finely sliced
> Season the sole with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
> Heat a frying pan until hot and add a third of the butter to the pan.
> Place the fish into the pan and cook for two minutes on each side. Set aside and keep warm.
> Meanwhile, heat a separate frying pan and add another third of the butter to the pan, along with the baby onions.
> Fry the onions until golden-brown on all sides and tender – about five minutes.
> Heat another frying pan until just hot and add the remaining butter, chopped shallot and thyme.
> Cook for two minutes, then add the white wine. Turn up the heat, and cook until reduced by half.
> Add the fish stock to the pan and allow to reduce a little further. Add the cream and simmer for three to four minutes.
> Strain the sauce through a sieve and return it to the pan. Add the peas and sorrel and cook through until the sorrel is wilted and the peas are hot.
> To serve, place some sauce on each plate and arrange the fish on top. Spoon the onions around the edge and serve at once.
> Wine match Verus Chardonanay, €18.99 (Cabots).
Some wine with that?
One of the most misleading questions in the world of wine is to ask ‘What is your favourite wine?’. This is a useless question, pure poppy cock and as useful as asking which way the wind will blow today.
It’s a question I get asked all the time. Years ago, while in the first flush of wine knowledge, I would try to pick a favourite. The truth of the matter was always that different wines at different times were favourites. It was all about the people, the place, the vibe, the food, the craic, even the temperature.
Wines are like humans and full of difference, some smooth, some rough, some sour, some sweet. One may say you like Merlot, but if you think all Merlots are the same then you are living in cloud cuckoo land (say hi when you see me there). The highly praised Bordeaux Pomerol is 100 percent merlot grape but will be hugely different from a Chilean Merlot.
Mass production can achieve a more consistent taste throughout every year. But is every year the same? Ask any Mayo farmer and they will soon tell you the answer.
Mass production tends to mitigate against diversity as it seeks uniform tastes. In the world of wine we should be championing difference and diversity as we celebrate the rich tapestry of farmed produce, not prioritising sameness in taste and style. So there! Every year has its particular style. Maybe flares or basketball boots will come back into fashion one day. Let us enjoy them if they do.