Not your average St Patrick’s Day dinner: Lobster rolls and oyster gratin
Jess Murphy: These recipes make the most of Ireland’s superb seafood
Jess Murphy’s lobster rolls
As a New Zealand gal, I love the absolute Irishness of St Patrick’s Day. I invest heavily in St Brigid’s crosses and Tayto sandwiches and admire swimming in the sea in winter – all great celebrations of Irishness. Yes, back home we have Waitangi Day, Anzac Day and a load of traditional ceremonies going back thousands of years. But at no time do all our farm machinery and postal vans take to the streets in a parade like they do here, and that’s a shame.
And so to the St Patrick’s Day dinner. What to have to honour the day? There’s nothing wrong with bacon and cabbage, but Ireland has some of the best seafood on the planet. What better centrepiece for the day that’s in it than lobster fresh from the Atlantic, caught in pots all along the west coast.
Irish oysters are very highly regarded: some of the most famous restaurants in Europe serve oysters from Galway. The flat native Irish oyster grows naturally on tidal seabeds. Rock oysters, aka gigas, or oval-shelled Pacific oysters, introduced a few decades ago because of a decline in the native stock, are popular too. Oysters can be expensive if you have them in a restaurant, but if you crack them open at home they are way more affordable. All it takes is a good knife, a thick cloth and a bit of practice.
The most charming thing I found when I moved here first was how, at the first glimpse of sunshine, all the auld lads would swarm the nearest garage forecourt in search of a choc ice to eat in the car. They have been somewhat replaced by the 99s in recent years, but I’ll always be a choc-ice fan. There’s nothing more Irish than that.
If you find yourself with leftover lobster mayo, you can serve it as a starter or light lunch over some iceberg lettuce, 1970s dinner party style.
400g cooked lobster meat
Juice of 1 lemon
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
1 small bunch of flat leaf parsley or dill, finely chopped
½tsp mustard powder
½tsp ground white pepper
½tsp fine sea salt
Few drops of Tabasco sauce
4 brioche buns, crusty baguettes or hot dog buns sliced down the middle
100g butter, melted
First, empty your lobster meat on to a tray and quickly pick through with your fingers, removing any cartilage or shell. Now place it in a large mixing bowl with the mayo, lemon, celery, herbs, mustard and seasoning. Add the Tabasco to taste; if you like it hotter add a few drops more.
Brush the buns with the melted butter. Using your oven grill or a frying pan, toast the buns lightly, so they have warmed and slightly browned. Fill the rolls generously with the lobster mixture. Arrange on a serving dish or platter. Garnish with lemon wedges and a few more pretty fronds of dill.
OYSTER AND WILD GARLIC GRATIN
Oysters are synonymous with slurping, so by and large avoided if you’re trying to be graceful. With this recipe you can now enjoy your oysters without having to worry about embarrassing yourself in front of your hot date.
1 dozen oysters
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 shallot, finely minced
2 bay leaves
100ml dry white wine
200ml double cream
100g Pecorino Romano, finely grated
100g panko bread crumbs
1 bunch wild garlic, finely chopped
Fine sea salt
Coarse black pepper
In a saucepan, melt the butter on a medium heat. Add the garlic, shallots and bay leaves. Saute for two or three minutes, until the shallots have softened. Pour in the white wine and cook for a further two minutes. Now add the double cream and simmer for another five minutes on a low heat. Keep an eye on it: it can bubble over quite quickly.
For the crumb, mix together the Pecorino, panko and wild garlic. Season with salt and a generous pinch of black pepper.
Open the oysters using an oyster knife and a protective glove or a very thick tea towel. Hold the tea towel in your hand, then cup the oyster in the tea towel; this should protect you if the knife slips. Once open, gently bring the knife along between the oyster meat and the shell to dislodge. This makes for more elegant eating.
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. On a baking tray, arrange the oysters evenly around the tray. Spoon the cream sauce on to each oyster, being as generous as you like. Sprinkle the wild garlic crumb on top. Carefully place in the oven for 10-12 minutes, until browned and bubbling.
Serve straight away with crusty bread and wedges of lemon if you like.
HOME-MADE CHOC ICES
At Kai, our restaurant, in Galway, we like to keep our decorations simple: maybe chocolate sprinkles with sea-salt flakes or toasted coconut. Don’t be limited by that, though: you can use edible flowers, Smarties or crushed Oreos, perhaps, or just have them plain. You’ll easily find the wooden ice-pop sticks in craft stores and art shops.
500g good-quality vanilla ice cream
350g good-quality dark chocolate
3tbsp coconut oil
6-8 popsicle sticks
Line a straight-sided loaf tin with cling film. Allow the ice cream to soften a little, then using a rubber spatula fill the tin with the ice cream evenly. Freeze for two hours, then tip out the cream and cut into 1cm-thick slices. Put a popsicle stick in each block (about halfway in and halfway out) and place on a parchment-lined baking tray. Return to the freezer overnight.
Gently melt the chocolate over a double boiler, stirring occasionally. Add the coconut oil and remove from the heat. Remove the ice-cream blocks from the freezer and dip each one into the chocolate coating.
Decorate as desired and return to the freezer on the parchment-lined tray until ready to serve.