Somewhere, over a rainbow, there’s a country full of little folk, with little cares, and little money, but lots of green fields in which to fatten their cattle and buckets of cream to milk off the land and plenty of stout to swill about.
Eh, hang on, isn’t that at the end of a rainbow?
Well it sure as hell ain’t in Kansas, which is where my recent correspondence from a very nice Irish-American journalist originated. Regular readers may remember she wanted to know what we’d be cooking on “St Pats” day, not to mention how we’d be dolling up our table settings and what sort of parlour games we’d be entertaining ourselves with. I gave as good advice as I could muster.
Well, the piece is written, and now the good folks of Kansas City know all about my little Irish blog, which tickles me nicely. If you’d like an insight into how the Irish food scene looks from the outside in – albeit with a bit of input from myself and fellow food writer Georgina Campbell – then you might like to follow the following link: http://www.kansascity.com/2011/03/05/2691680/add-authenticity-to-a-st-pats.html
Sounds good eh? Bacon and cabbage, and world-class cheese with Robert Ditty’s oakcakes, and a well-made Irish coffee. Sounds like the basis of a smashing dinner, or long lunch. So thought me and my co-hosts for our Paddy’s Day luncheon.
Indeed, there’s a loin of smoked bacon from Crowes farm in Tipperary already lying in waiting for its long soak ahead of the big day (picked up in the legendary Ennis butchers in Rialto). And a box of Ditty’s oatcakes picked up from Fallon & Byrne’s today. Sadly they were sold out of my favourites which are beech-smoked by Frank Hederman – but my second favourite, the Gubbeen cheese flavoured version, will do the job nicely. They were also sold out of Sally Barnes’ Woodcock Smokery smoked mackerel, which is the finest I’ve ever tasted. (And I consider myself something of an expert in the area of smoked mackerel appreciation, eating an inordinate amount of it – mashed on toast with a squeeze of lemon for breakfast; mixed with creme fraiche, citrus and herbs for a lunchtime spread or a party dip; broken into salads for supper. I even heard tell of someone putting it in risotto with Pernod – thanks Ivan via Aisling!).
Anyway, I happen to have stored away in my fridge a juicy looking side of Burren Smokehouse salmon (whose smoked mackerel gives Sally Barnes’ a run for her money!) so I didn’t have to go chasing fish around the city today. I brought back said side of salmon from a recent visit to the Burren, for the launch of an exciting new eco-tourism network of which several of my favourite foodies in the area are members – namely Birgitta Curtin of the Burren Smokehouse, and the good folk at Gregan’s Castle, which is only the most exciting place to eat in the whole island of Ireland right now. (While down in the hood, I also shared afternoon tea in Father Ted’s House with some unlikely company, but that’s another day’s story.)
Today I thought I’d use the upcoming festivities as a good excuse to hop on my bike at lunchtime and go seek out some local sustainable fish to salt in place of cod for croquette starters. Kish Fish is one of Dublin’s most reputable mongers, and I picked up five fat fillets of gurnard for less than a tenner. Pollock, or blossom as it’s locally called, was an alternative but gurnard’s fuller flavour won out.
My final port of call was my favourite veg shop in the city. Evergreen’s sturdy free brown paper bags proclaim themselves as a Quality Greengrocer. By quality, they mean choice (You want mushrooms? Well, do you want portobellos, Paris browns, fresh shitake, girolles, pied de mouton, pied bleu?) as well as value (their fresh herbs are some of the best and the cheapest going) but also the kind of service that you just don’t get much of anymore. Ever time I go in, I come out smiling, amazed by the staff’s utterly authentic enthusiasm for what they do. Next time you’re passing Wexford Street, drop in for an apple and see if it doesn’t do your soul good.
And if you’re gonna cook up a feast this Paddy’s Day, maybe take the time to seek out your local equivalent of Kish Fish or Evergreen.
While you’re at it, have a think about how our local bounty of what is some of the best produce in the world would look to you should you don a pair of green-tinted glasses. I believe they’ll be all the rage in Kansas this coming Thursday.