JP McMahon: How a salad brought me back to McDonald’s on the Long Mile Road

I’m not a fan of fast food but that doesn’t mean I’m beyond learning from it

‘Acidity is acidity, whether it’s in a Big Mac or hand dived scallops with last year’s pickled elderflower’

‘Acidity is acidity, whether it’s in a Big Mac or hand dived scallops with last year’s pickled elderflower’

 

You never know when your forgotten food memories are going to emerge, much like Proust and his Madeline.

We also don’t where they’re going to take us. It could be back to your grandmother’s house baking brown soda bread, her hands touching yours, or to a Christmas meal long ago when three generations of the same family all sitting down together to enjoy turkey and ham. 

Food memories don’t always have to be monumental. Recently making a winter salad with some pickled gherkins, I was transported back to McDonald’s on the Long Mile Road. We used to be taken there for a treat in the 1980s.

It was as close as I got to fine dining until I began working in restaurants in the mid-1990s. 

Those who know me or read this column will know I’m not a fan of fast food but that doesn’t mean I’m beyond learning from it or also appreciating the food memories it gave me. Acidity is acidity, whether it’s in a Big Mac or hand dived scallops with last year’s pickled elderflower.

Speaking of pickles, I’m looking forward to the new season of wild food. The three-cornered leek flowers are nearly up and I see online that wild garlic has popped up in Cork. The wait in Galway is nearly over. 

But don’t despair! Beetroot and venison are still in season. We had a nice tapa of roasted beetroot with black pudding and venison in Cava last week. 

’It was as close as I got to fine dining until I began working in restaurants in the mid-1990s’ Photograph: iStock
’It was as close as I got to fine dining until I began working in restaurants in the mid-1990s’ Photograph: iStock

Roast your beetroot and peel. Cube and fry in a little oil with some diced black pudding. If you like throw in a few pine nuts or raisins and deglaze the pan with a nice Sherry vinegar.

For the venison, season your loin with salt and sear in a really hot pan. Add some butter and thyme and then baste. Transfer into the oven and roast to your liking. I think medium rare is best for venison. If you like add some spices, such a juniper berries or a cinnamon sticks. This will give it a nice perfume.

Now, just the wait for those wild herbs.

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