DOORSTEP FRESH Padraig Gannon of Croagh Patrick Seafoods farms mussels and oysters in Kilmeena. Pic: Andrew Downes
It’s an old rule of thumb that shellfish is best eaten in the colder months of the year, during the months that contain the letter ‘R’. That’s from September through to April, so January is the perfect time to eat oysters.
Admittedly, they are not everyone’s cup of tea. I’ve been at food festivals where local oyster producers have given out free samples to raw-fish newbies willing to have a go. The brave taster is usually given a small oyster with a drizzle of chili Tabasco sauce or lemon juice- then down the hatch! Usually there is a round of applause from the bystanders.
But oysters are one of those foods that catch you by surprise. The first time, yuck. But you might try again. And suddenly you are waking up in the middle of the night just craving an oyster!
Plucked from Clew Bay
Last autumn, on a miserable and cold Sunday morning, we went on a shellfish tour in Kilmeena at Croagh Patrick Seafoods, run by Padraig Gannon.
Twenty-five years ago, a friendly French tourist in a campervan pulled up near the Gannons’ house and introduced himself. Padraig told him he was farming sheep and cattle but was limited by the amount of land they had. “Why don’t you farm mussels and oysters on the sea shore surrounding your house like we do in Brittany?” the visitor enquired. The rest is history.
The day we went on the tour there were three families; ourselves, coincidentally some neighbours, and a family of internationals on holiday. A few foodie couples joined us.
Padraig explained the process of growing shellfish and took us for a long shore walk to illustrate how it all works.
Before we set out on the walk, Padraig gave us all a sample of oysters – indigenous Clew Bay natives and introduced Pacific oysters. He shucked them raw – on the shore – without dressing, and even the kids tried them. Divine.
After the long walk, everyone was starving. The Gannon’s invited us to a lunch in an outdoor structure with long tables and benches. The hospitality was exceptional. Hot mussels straight from their shore. Two types of homemade brown bread for dipping. Oysters. Smoked salmon. The most delicious lemon and coffee cakes.
You can try Padraig’s oysters in many local restaurants. Or buy them yourself either directly from Padraig or from SuperValu Westport.
There are many videos on the internet to show you how to shuck an oyster. You can have them plain, but I love them with this Asian twist.
What you need
- 12 oysters
- A very small clove of garlic, grated or crushed
- Thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, grated finely
- 1 tbsp of light soy sauce
- 2 tbsp of mirin
- 3 spring onions very finely chopped
- 1 finely chopped red chili
- Bunch of chives, very finely chopped
What you do
Shuck the oysters. Mix all the ingredients – chives apart – in a bowl. Drizzle the dressing over your oysters. Garnish with the chives then serve. Simple as that!
The Cabot family live and work in Lanmore, outside Westport. Fresh, seasonal foods are their passion, from country markets to growing, making and selling. They love cooking and eating at the kitchen table, while Redmond and Sandra are kept on their toes with children Penny and Louis. Here they share their favourite recipes.