Fruits of the Sea

I do hope, like me, you find this pic of an open scallop truly exquisite and not suggestive of something coughed up on the pavement after a night on the Majors. A trophy from last Thursday at Mahon Point Farmer’s Market, it tasted every bit as delectable as it looks.

The English Market and, in particular, its tremendous fish stalls may be the envy of much of the rest of the country but my increasing commitment to eating local, sustainable produce wherever possible means I am buying more and more of my fish more or less directly from local fishermen. Two of my primary and most regular sources are O’Driscoll’s at Mahon Point Farmers’ Market on Thursday and Stephen Joyce at Douglas Farmers’ Market on Saturday. I still purchase in the English Market but almost invariably opt for fresh, locally-caught produce.

The O’Driscolls are Oli and Sean, brothers from Schull and the fourth generation of their family to be involved in fishing. Their fish is all locally-caught, sustainable and, where possible, line-caught. It is always beautifully fresh but the downside of their business philosophy is they are very much at the mercy of the vagaries of weather and fisherman’s mojo – there’s no bulking out stock with a trip to a fish merchants for frozen imports. Somedays, there might be no more than four or five varieties of fish available. Somedays, if the weather has been too bad to even venture out, there’s a stall-shaped hole down at the market and a lot of gloomy pescatarians milling around with faces more mournful than a monkfish.

Which is why last Thursday was a fish-lover’s Christmas almost four weeks early – a plethora of fish (hake, monk, haddock, cod, sole, turbot etc) and crab claws, squid (very rare for the most part this year) and, joy of joys, scallops in the shell.

Me and the scallop have a thing. We mightn’t see each other too often over the course of the year but when we do it’s Dom Perignon and hot tubs in the penthouse suite all night long. That spark, there from the moment we first met, never seems to have left.

Although I like to keep it simple with my shell-clad amour, on Thursday night we had them seared with capers, sage and lemon served with wasabi mash potato and chilli and honey roast beetroot. I had it wolfed down before you could squeal ‘F-stop’ so apologies for the lack of pics.

Squid are cleaned out and in the freezer while last night we had the financial foundations of my cardiologist’s next summer holiday – crab claws baked in nearly half a pound of garlic butter followed by the mussels in white wine and cream. (And just in case we didn’t quite ‘ring the bell’ on the cholesterol-ometer, washed it all down with a boat-sized hunk of melting Vacherin Mont D’Or cheese from Iago’s in the English Market, a glistening, unctuous ooze that made a mockery of pleas of satiation and proves that I remain a commited European not above the occasional foray into the import market.)

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