A bucket of prawns

So I have just spent a weekend in the Cottage with my Dad and two brothers-in-law.

We more or less survived and came out of it all still talking to each other. Although there was a moment late into Friday evening/ Saturday morning after Whiskey had been drunk and another bottle of red was in the process of being opened and the voices around Trump and Brexit hit a crescendo when that could have been thrown into doubt. Fortunately whatever doubt there might have been was gone on the Saturday morning as the sun came out and a petrol driven hedge trimmer put in an appearance.

The highlight of the weekend came an hour or so after breakfast (bacon and black pudding) that Saturday morning. I had washed the dishes and for a moment looked unemployed. That didn’t last for long and I was given the job of ridding a wall of ivy. This was one of those jobs were there a fine balance to be had between doing the job at hand (i.e.removing ivy) and complete disaster  (i.e. removing those last bits of ivy that were in fact holding the whole wall together and to have it collapse on top of me).

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Tommy’s red van at the head of the pier. I left the wall to it and went over to say hello. We talked for a while and he then got out of the van and led me to the doors at the back. From there he extracted an older plastic paint container stained with the history of many years of fish. It was full of prawns, shrimps and Dublin Bay Prawns. he wouldn’t take anything for them and so I turned my mind from the wall to lunch.

We had had some Dublin Bay Prawns the previous evening – split and slathered with olive oil, garlic and chilli and roasted. We needed something different for lunch. There had been complaint as to the lack of mayonnaise the previous evening and so the solution presented itself. The sun was out so we would have the prawns cold with garlic mayonnaise.

The large silver pan was filled with water from the rock pools and put onto boil and I went to work with a couple of eggs and some olive oil.

The egg yolks were mixed with squashed garlic and oil was added as the twin blades of a mixer conjured it all up into a thick heavy garlic sauce.

By the time it was ready the water was boiling. I had found half a dozen crab claws amongst the prawns so they went into the water first for a good ten minutes. They were fished out and refreshed under cold water as the Dublin Bay Prawns cooked. They only needed a couple of minutes before being fished out going through the same process as the crab claws.

The prawns went next and took less than a minute to cook.

All was then arranged on plates and we ate them with bread, the garlic mayonnaise, pints and good wine.

It was a very good lunch. Almost as good as the sunset.



Smelly cheese

I am not sure what Veronica Steele would have made of the consternation that was caused by one of her cheeses this morning by the kitchen on the 5th floor of the office. I had bought a small round of Milleen and somehow the smell lingered longer than I intended.

There have been times when I have thought that rather than bringing the odd box of Irish fudge into the office after a trip to Ireland I could bring a small round of good cheese, cut it into bite sized pieces and leave it in the kitchen for people to help themselves.

But after this morning I am not so sure.

It was probably my fault. The cheese had been bought from the supermarket in Schull Sunday morning. I wasn’t buying anything else and it fitted fine in my jacket pocket so I slipped it in there and promptly forgot about it.

Even on quietest day in Schull Hacketts will be open for lunch and there will be open crab sandwiches. So we slipped around the table under the window that looks out over the bar so as you order the second round it can be handed through without the need to lift backside from seat to go fetch.

We ordered and then ate our open crab sandwiches and then someone had the bright idea to ask for a plate of cheese and bread together with another pint. That came as well and all was good in the world apart from the music which was the Eric Clapton Unplugged album. There was a time I thought I might like Eric Clapton but it only last a very short while and with the benefit of hindsight I realise the bits I did like had Duane Allman along for the ride. Eventually someone was deputised to ask if there was anything else other than Eric Clapton.

It transpired that there was but sadly it involved Noel Gallagher. Even now, 24 hours later, the clash and thunder of an unnecessary Champagne Supernova can be heard in my mind’s ear.

All the time the small round of Milleen stayed snug and warm and gathering some history in my pocket.

After lunch we were in a car and back to the airport. Replete with crab, pints and cheese I fell asleep on the backseat in such a way so as to exert almost maximum pressure on the Milleen.

It was only when we got to the airport that I put my hand in the pocket only to pull out the slightly warm, very flat cheese and which had already started to give off the smell of a rank farmyard. I found somewhere more suitable for it and wrote it off for tomorrow’s sandwiches.

By the time I came to make them this morning it had started to take on a smell of its own, deep and giving and redolent off a jockey’s underpants after a two mile chase.

Once in the office this morning the sandwiches were placed in the fridge. Twenty minutes later I was asked if they were the cause of the smell which had apparently emptied the fridge of everyone else’s lunch and was about to consign mine to the bin.

I had to confess that this was indeed my cheese. It was rescued from the fridge and swaddled in plastic bags until lunch when it was eaten with pleasure.

Not many people spoke to me for the rest of the day.

At home there is a lot more cheese in the fridge to go!

A second hand Noma

Just over three years ago I wrote about a second hand storm in Ahakista. The weather brought a large part of the beach, seaweed and stone, onto the lawn and there were stories of the waves coming in over the pier and the the spray blotting out the lights. I wasn’t there for so had to imagine the force of it tucked up at home in Birkenhead. Fortunately The Cottage stayed dry.

This last weekend I have had to endure on a second hand basis a meal being had in one of the best, if not the best, restaurants in the world.

The eldest daughter was in Copenhagen for the weekend and I suspect more by luck than design had manage to book a table  at Noma for lunch on Saturday, a week or so before it closes for good.

Over the course of Saturday afternoon we were treated to a stream of photographs showing the food they were eating.

There was something slightly cruel with how they kept popping up as I worked in the kitchen to make rice to stuff into peppers. At least they didn’t have roast chicken as good as the one I ate later on that Saturday evening.


Cooking again from The Farmer’s Market

Maybe it is because it is February but yesterday’s Farmer’s Market seemed quieter than usual. There were less stalls and fewer people milling around. But the chicken man was there so I bought a good sized one to cook in the evening. He assured me he would be back in April.

One of the butchers was selling a couple of lamb kidneys which were difficult to resist. They are now in the fridge in the basement where I will no doubt forget about them. A different butcher was selling some stewing mutton so I invested in that to turn into an Irish during the week. As I write it occurs to me that the kidneys could go into the stew?

From the butchers I moved on to a veg man and bought a paper bag full of mushrooms and ten or so slender pink stems of  rhubarb that looked too pink to leave behind. If we didn’t eat them I could always turn them into pink vodka.

We ate the mushrooms, chicken and rhubarb that evening.

The mushrooms went on toast. Chopped garlic was cooked in olive oil before the mushrooms were added. They were given plenty of salt and pepper and then stirred until they started to collapse in on themselves. I then stirred in some more garlic, a squeeze of lemon juice and chopped parsley. They were tipped onto a large white plate and we helped ourselves slithering them over our toast.

In the meantime the chicken had been covered in too much paprika and dumped into a hot oven for an hour together with some peppers that had been stuffed with rice.

We had those with patatas bravas and a thick deep yellow garlic mayonnaise and rocket salad.

The rhubarb was cooked until soft with a squeeze of orange juice and a couple of spoonfuls of sugar. We ate it with ginger biscuits.

We then put ourselves to sleep with lumps of Lancashire cheese and too much red wine listening to Rod Stewart.