“Ireland has long had some of the best raw ingredients in the world” says Aoife Carrigy. As a food writer and co-author of the new Ard Bia Cookbook, this is one lady who knows what she’s talking about. She shares her love affair with Irish food and a smoked trout recipe flavoured by the Burren.
Living on a small green island with an abundance of rain to keep the land fertile and the seas awash with pristine fish has always had its benefits. We Irish take grass-fed beef for granted, we nonchalantly export seafood that has the rest of the world salivating, we wonder why no-one else can make butter quite as well as we can. But lately we’ve been waking up to just how lucky we really are.
One of the joys of embarking on any kind of food adventure in Ireland is that while we still have those wonderful raw ingredients to work with, we also have more and more world-class artisan food producers to call our own. These people are taking those excellent ingredients and adding their own magic. The revolution in Irish farmhouse cheese-making – which was born in the late 1980s, struggled with growing pains in the 1990s, and came of age in the more recent noughties – bravely lead the way for experimentation in other areas.
When I began to write about food full-time just seven years ago, I couldn’t have imagined that the likes of McGeough’s air-dried lamb or Goatsbridge trout caviar or Highbank Orchard apple syrup would soon become typical Irish produce. Today these take pride of place alongside traditional treats of old-fashioned fresh-blood black puddings, cold-smoked salmon and unfiltered farmhouse honey. These innovations have been inspired by looking beyond our home-grown traditions and borrowing the best bits from other cultures. We live in a global village where local food cultures no longer exist as isolated outposts but as dynamic hubs. Looking outwards helps us appreciate what we have to play with on our doorsteps.
And so, on the cusp of its 10th birthday, when restaurateur Aoibheann MacNamara of Ard Bia at Nimmos asked me to help capture her Galway restaurant in a cookbook, I jumped at the opportunity. The community of food lovers that make up Ard Bia’s staff and customers revel in the accessibility of brilliant produce from and its neighbouring counties as much as they relish using exotic touches inspired by travels to India or the Middle East.
Think Juniper-cured sea trout with bergamot barley risotto, or Galway mussels cooked with Gubbeen chorizo, homemade harissa and orange. Dillisk scones studded with Mount Callan cheddar cheese, or buttermilk and poppy-seed pancakes drizzled with Highbank Orchard syrup. Hot whiskeys flavoured with foraged rosehip cordial, or elderflower prosecco.
This is the kind of modern Irish cooking I want to have eating out and cooking at home. These recipes sum up just how spoilt we are today, when we can play pick’n’mix with exciting new flavours, foreign techniques, traditional know-how and our home-grown bounty.
When we have produce this good at our disposal, we can do as little or as much as we feel like to dress it up and transform it.
Sometimes it is enough to sauté some spuds with some smoked trout and serve it with fresh leaves and a burst of sunshine in the way of some lemon aioli. It’s my recommendation – and recipe – for today anyway.
Burren Brunch of Smoked Trout, Potato and Landcress with Lemon Aioli
This brunch dish is pure west of Ireland. Ard Bia use smoked fish from the in Lisdoonvarna, County Clare, and dress it with Steven Gould’s exquisite landcress grown in Corrundulla, just outside Galway city. You can try it with smoked mackerel and watercress for more robust flavours.
4–6 large eggs
16–20 new potatoes
1 tbsp butter
2–3 tbsp rapeseed oil
2–3 butterflied fillets of smoked trout
250g / 10oz mixed peppery leaves (landcress and mizuna are great)
2 handfuls each parsley and dill, chopped
for the lemon aioli:
1 egg yolk
1 whole egg
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
250ml / 8.5fl oz rapeseed oil
250ml / 8.5fl oz sunflower oil
1⁄2 lemon, juice only
- Bring a pot of water to the boil, add the eggs and boil for about six minutes for large eggs.
- Then plunge into cold water to arrest the cooking, peel and halve. The yolk should be just set but still moist. If you prefer it runny, cook for a minute less; likewise if your eggs are smaller.
- Cover the new potatoes in plenty of cold, salted water and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook gently until a knife slides easily through. Allow to cool, and quarter.
- To make the aioli, beat eggs, mustards, vinegar and garlic together with a tablespoon of water in a food processor (or in a bowl with a whisk). With the processor still running gradually drizzle in the oils. It is important to take your time at this stage so that the mayonnaise doesn’t split. Once the mix begins to thicken, the oil can be added a little faster.
- Finish by adding a little lemon juice at a time, checking until the desired taste is achieved. Season and loosen the aioli with a little warm water if the consistency is too thick, and refrigerate until ready to use.
- In a medium frying pan melt a large knob of butter over a medium heat and add a splash of oil. When good and hot, add the potatoes and cook for a few minutes to gently brown, then flake the smoked trout into the pan and mix well. Season lightly, as the trout can be salty.
- Just before removing from the heat, throw in the landcress and herbs and toss it all together to wilt the leaves a little.
Serve with the boiled eggs, halved, and a good dollop of aioli.
Tip: Eggs have an air pocket between the outer shell and inner membrane, which expands as the eggs age (which is why stale eggs float in water). Pricking an egg’s base before boiling allows hot air to be released without the shell cracking, and will make the egg easier to peel.
Our blog has a wonderful range of Irish recipes to suit every appetite!