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Dipped into the fish section of the newly published Lettercollum Cookbook twice over the weekend and came up with two beauties! And matched them with two lovely white wines from Supervalu.
Enjoyed the Moncrieff Show from the Midleton Distillery on Friday afternoon; no shortage of whiskey and tasty canapes, even wine. Still, ever mindful of the next meal, our first call on the way out was to the Ballycotton Seafood shop on main street and here we bought some scallops and cod.
The scallops, an impulse purchase, were done this time, not with bacon, but with black pudding. The black pudding was really good but a bit on the strong side for the shell fish and I think the Truly Irish bacon is a better match!
The cod was deliberately bought for the Lettercollum Recipe: Grilled Cod with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Basil. It is the kind of dish we've made lots of times on holidays (easy to get the basic ingredients). Indeed, Karen Austin’s book says “this recipe is great in summer and very quick to make”. But the result, with the super fresh cod, was also excellent on the last Friday of November.
With its light gold colour and fresh aromas, you get to like this one immediately. Fresh and fruity, it is quite intense on the palate, lively and lovely, and with an ample finish. It is the perfect match for simple fish dishes, including this one and the one below. Very Highly Recommended. Lovely label too! Rias Baixas is an area in North West Spain, around the Atlantic city of Vigo. Albarino is its dominant grape, also the easiest to pronounce!
Suquet de Peix. Tasty in any language!
We were soon back in Midleton, this time for the Saturday Farmers Market and joined the queue at O’Driscoll’s Fish stall, again shopping for a Lettercollum recipe, this time the Suquet de Peix, better known around here as Catalan Fish Stew!
We got a bag of fish bones from O’Driscoll’s to make the fish stock and also Monkfish (you may also use Hake) and mussels, the other main ingredients. Onions, red peppers, garlic, waxy potatoes and tomatoes, even a drop of brandy, also feature in this very tasty dish.
Karen says they first came across it in Cadaques on the Costa Brava, the town where Salvador Dali lived for most of his adult life. “Essentially, it’s a one pot dinner but a great dish for entertaining as the basic stew can be made and then left aside until the guests arrive when you can reheat the stew and pop the fish in. It is served with a parsley and almond picada - a sauce similar to a pesto”.
It turned out very well, thanks to the chef de cuisine here.
Macon Lugny Les Coteaux des Anges 2013 (Burgundy), 13.0%, €10.00 Supervalu.
This is an excellent Chardonnay from the home of the variety. There is even a village called Chardonnay, not too far from Lugny. Like Rias Baixas, most production here, in the Mâconnais part of Burgundy, is on a small scale. Again, the match was a good one and the wine is highly recommended, especially at the discounted Christmas price.
Colour is a light honey, really bright, and the white fruit aromas hint at peaches, nectarines, apples, a little citrus too. No shortage of inviting flavour on the palate, concentrated fruit, crisp but with a good weight and a long finish.
The Lettercollum Cookbook, by Karen Austin, is widely available in bookshops nationwide (including Waterstones and Bradley's) and in the UK . Great too that it is printed in Ireland by KPS Colour Print. It is published by Onstream in Cork and available online here.
Our Treat From Lettercollum Cookbook First of many!
Delighted to meet author Karen Austin at her book-signing in Waterstones last Saturday. Editor (and publisher) Roz Crowley was meeting and greeting and doing the introducing. Karen was hoping the new book, the Lettercollum Cookbook, would get people back into the kitchen and cooking for themselves, especially now that there is so much much great produce available in Ireland.
I did my best to assure Karen that her book, packed with easy to follow recipes, would not be left to gather dust on the shelf in our house and I told it would be dog-eared before long, all the while nibbling her much sought after chocolate and hazelnut cake. No point in putting that promise on the long finger - indeed, I already had my ingredients on the bag!
A few hours later, we began our first project, her Beetroot, Caramelised Goat’s Cheese and Pumpkin Seed Salad. Got a couple of rounds of the creamy St Tola cheese at On The Pig's Back while the beets came from Sandra and Joe Burns’ farm stall at Mahon Point farmers market.
Karen says: "If you are lucky enough to be able to get your hands on some golden beets or striped chioggia beets as well as the regular type, your salad will be all the more beautiful". Well, our beets weren’t quite as colourful as those in the photo* in the book but were delicious.
Just as we suspected, this turned out to be a gorgeous dish, a perfect combination of beets, honey, seeds, and cheese and the dressing was also outstanding. Well worth trying on your own. Now what will we do next?
* The fantastic photos in the book, widely available in bookshops nationwide and in the UK (including Waterstones and Bradley's), are by Arna Run Runarsdottir. Great too that it is printed in Ireland by KPS Colour Print.
I like the freedom and flexibility afforded by Karen Austin, the author of the just published Lettercollum Cookbook. The book tends to the vegetarian but there is no preaching, no straight lines to follow. Quite the opposite. Plenty of flexibility and there is a chapter on chorizo, another on fish.
Karen and her husband Con have been operating in West Cork for the last thirty years and that remarkable story, progress from a crowded dilapidated old mansion to their own walled garden plus an ever so popular shop in Clonakilty, the Lettercollum Project, is told in a couple of pages early in the book.
Not detailed in the book is the couple's input to a recent Cork/Beirut collaboration. Here, along with Sally Barnes of Woodcock Smokery, they took part in ‘Make Food Not War’. This included cooking with war widows in Tripoli, helping them create dishes that can be sold in the markets, a step towards freedom.
Author Karen having fun with her two sons, Darren (left) and Ronan
both professional jugglers.
The freedom in the book that I’m talking about is of a different kind. For instance, in talking about a vegetarian Leek, Sweet Potato and Spelt Soup, she says: “If you have a chicken carcass handy, throw it in”. In a Seafood Chowder: “if you don't like mussels, add more fish”. In a Potato and Chorizo Tart you are invited to try Puy Lentils instead of the potatoes. Her recipes are not straightjackets, though the likes of myself would probably do well to pay close attention to the basics!
The book is well laid out, not cluttered, with some terrific photographs of the food (my favourite is not of food though but the spread with the bird nesting boxes). Some beautiful salads in the first section, many of them for the summer time. But some too for these short days, including a Red Cabbage, Celeriac, Apple and Hazelnut Salad. And you also have the Asian Slaw, “equally delicious summer and winter”.
The New Potato and Smoked Mackerel Salad looks tempting. While it is perhaps, as indicated, one for sunny weather, methinks it would do just as well at this time of year, especially if using Fresh Hederman’s fish.
And speaking of freedom and flexibility in the kitchen, there is a Rooty Toot Soup. “This is a bottom of the vegetable basket type soup - just chuck in whatever you have.”
Sometimes, when on holidays in France we buy fish at the market. We don't want to do much cooking, and it usually ends up with cherry tomatoes. And, in the fish section, Karen has a very “quick to make” recipe here: Grilled Cod with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Basil. Just the job, for Ireland or wherever. Think we’ll be trying that soon.
Quite a few recipes for Chorizo and one that caught my eye was the Chorizo and Cabbage Paella. Lots of very good chorizo available locally nowadays.
Karen must be delighted to see the increase in the variety of local produce over the past thirty years and her Linguine with Tomato and Mozzarella, in the vegetarian chapter, would no doubt see many of us using the super fresh Toonsbridge Mozzarella. Here too, the Pindi Channa looks amazing, Karen referring joyfully to the “fresh, sweet explosions of the jewelled pomegranate seeds”.
There are recipes for a string of gorgeous savoury tarts and she details how you can make the Lettercollum savoury pastry (they have had many requests for it over the years). Of course, there is a Sweet Things corner. Recipes that got my attention here are her takes on Crême Brulée and also her Rhubarb Clafoutis.
Recipes too for Summer Fruit Jam, Sweet Pastry, and Peach Bellini. Quite a lot in this book for all seasons. Reckon the one in this house will soon have many dog-eared pages. The Lettercollum Cookbook (€21.00) is available at bookshops nationwide and also in the UK. Great to see that the book is totally "home-grown". It is edited by Cork journalist Roz Crowley, published by Onstream and printed in Mayo by KPS Colour Print. Well done to all concerned.