JP McMahon: Give your next barbecue some mussel

It can’t always be steak and sausages – barbecued mussels, clams, oysters, prawns and lobster taste amazing

Barbecued oysters have a unique flavour. Photograph: iStock

Barbecued oysters have a unique flavour. Photograph: iStock

 

“I didn’t know you could cook them like that,” says the man with his deep south Dublin accent. I’m out in Ballyconneely, cooking oysters in the shell over a turf fire. When they pop open, they’re cooked, steaming in their own aquatic juices. The smell is amazing – peat smoke meeting the Atlantic sea, a true taste of Connemara.

It’s the first Connemara oyster festival, and at the launch people are enjoying oysters, mussels, clams and lobster, cooked by yours truly. The smell of the turf will always hold an impermeable place in my heart: does it not for all of us who grew up warming ourselves on simple turf fires? Unfortunately, we probably never thought of cooking shellfish over it. 

It can’t all be steak or salmon. How about oysters or clams? 

It saddens me that we never consider shellfish when we set up our summer barbecues. Mussels, clams, prawns, even lobster – all are amazing cooked on the barbecue. You don’t even need a pan, as long as the mussels don’t fall through the grill. They’ll pop open in their own heat and taste succulent. Of course, you can dress them any way you want after that, but barbecued shellfish has a unique flavour of its own. 

Langoustines cooked on the barbecue is another favourite of mine. Though the Spanish love sucking the brains (they are quite small), the Irish are less than eager to slurp down a prawn head. My daughters concur and are never impressed when I urge them to do so. 

While I’m not advocating a barbecue made up of shellfish only, I do think it’s a good idea that we turn more towards our seas for inspiration when it comes to cooking outdoors. It can’t all be steak or salmon. How about oysters or clams? 

Aside from shellfish, vegetables are another thing we should consider more often when it comes to the barbecue. But that’s for another day. If the next time you barbecue, you have shellfish instead of a sausage, then I’ll be happy.

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