Surf and turf – done the right way

Great pairings include pork with shellfish, prawns with rhubarb, and cockles and lamb

Mussels with bacon

Mussels with bacon

 

Generally when I think of “surf and turf”, I am brought back to those horrible moments of Irish dining in the 1990s when restaurants thought it a good idea to pair monkfish and beef fillet together – a catastrophe for land and sea that did nothing to further our domestic food culture. It seems we could not decide what to eat so we just mixed both and hoped for a gastronomic result. I hope we are beyond this now. 

This is not to say all combinations of land and sea are not a good thing. Pork pairs well with shellfish: think of mussels and bacon or chorizo and surf clams: two simple dishes for a cold October evening. Fry off a little onion in oil and add your diced bacon or cooking chorizo. Cook for a minute. Add a little cider or white wine and bring to the boil. Add mussels or clams and cook until opened. Chopped parsley to finish. These are excellent dishes to get people to eat more shellfish. 

More unusual pairings of land and sea include prawns and rhubarb. I’m talking here of our beautiful Dublin Bay prawns matched with a little poached rhubarb and sour cream. It can work well as a salad or a small starter. 

Cockles and lamb also work well together. In particular, that salty lamb we get on the coast, like Connemara mountain lamb or Achill Island lamb. I love the combination of mountain Lamb with cockles and foraged sea vegetables such as sea beet and samphire. 

It doesn’t have to be a fillet or rack or lamb. You can just roast off a boned leg or shoulder (ask your local butcher to do this for you). Season with sea salt and milled nori and roast for about two hours, depending on your cooking preference (50 for rare; 60 for medium; 70-plus for well done: use a cooking thermometer). Cook the cockles as above and add the sea vegetables in at the last minute. Spinach or chard work as an alternative. Allow the lamb to rest and then slice diagonally, holding the bone in your hand. Serve sharing style with the cockles and sea vegetables. 

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