How to cook a beach BBQ for 100, and throw a party on an island
The Inishturk Island, Turkfest method
The BBQ at Inishturk with Myles Lamberth of Shells Cafe in Sligo. Photograph: Allen Kiely
My friend Fionn Kidney has been visiting Inishturk Island just off the coast of Mayo since he was a little kid. For the last five years, Fionn has curated a party on the island called Turkfest. The first year 30 people came and last weekend it grew to its capacity of 150, tripling the population for a weekend. To make the party happen, he has brought in friends to work as a core production and curation team, including myself.
Turkfest is not really a festival. It’s more of a gathering of 150 friends and friends of friends. It’s a non-profit crowd-funded party, kind of like a wedding without the main couple. Throwing a party on a remote island off the coast of Mayo is about as challenging as event management can get. To be able to pull off a BBQ on the beach on a Friday night, we needed to enlist expertise from Jane and Myles Lamberth (right) of Shells Cafe in Sligo, and Joe Macken and Colm Keane of Jo’Burger.
Burgers and sausages are yummy but we knew local lamb cooked over fire on the beach would be spectacular. There are more sheep than people on Inishturk (it is home to just 58 permanent residents) so we sourced two hoggets (a little older than lamb and a little younger than mutton) from sheep farmer Mikey O’Toole, who sent them off to be processed by Durkan’s Butchers in Louisburgh. They butterflied one hogget whole and then filleted the second hogget into steaks and joints for cooking over coals.
The hoggets sailed back with Jane and Myles on the morning of the BBQ, and they set up their spit at 2pm on An Tranaun Beach. Myles is from South Africa and had an idea of the best way to cook the lamb. He drew up a plan for his spit which he brought to a welder in Sligo. It was a combination between the South American Asador style and a cross-style spit used in Myles’s native South Africa. He used charcoal from the Irish Artisan Charcoal company, assembled the spit on the beach, and basted the lamb with a brine rather than a marinade, as a brine can withstand the heat of an open fire whereas a marinade burns.
“People associate BBQ with meat,” says Myles, “but there are so many amazing things you can do with vegetables too.” Jane and Myles cooked whole cabbages and butternut squashes, doused in a buttery sauce and wrapped in layers of tin foil, right on the coals. We also had delicious kale and quinoa burgers, donated by Irish food company Strong Roots.
In our crew house Colm Keane and his kitchen assistant Anna Jacob were making gorgeous summer salads and sauces and halloumi skewers.
The BBQ kicked off at 7pm with a DIY Inishturk crab claw bar, caught by local fishermen and cooked by Phylomena Heaney, Mary Ann O’Toole and Helen Heanue. We served them on the rocks with sauces made by Rachel Collins and slices of delicious soda bread from Becca’s Bakery in Westport. Lamb and salads were served right on time at 8pm with drinks served literally on the rocks of An Tranuan by Louise O’Reilly and Marc Bereen.
For 24 hours before the BBQ dinner bell rang, Conor Wilson, Catherine Biggs and her brother Graham Biggs were down on the beach building a stage using lobster pots, sourced from local fisherman Pete Flaherty, and sponsored by Hennessy.
As the lamb cooked throughout the day, Jane and Myles took breaks by swimming in the waters of An Tranaun. At one point, a dolphin swam up to say hello. “I challenged myself a bit by doing this,” says Myles. “I think if you want to do something, even if you’re afraid to do it, like if it’s a big party on the beach and you’re afraid it might rain or whatever . . . just do it. Use the internet as a resource to figure out how to cook over fire. Make the most of the short summer we have in Ireland and think about holidaying more in Ireland. It’s beautiful here.”