Seasonal Suppers: Taking the best chefs west to the edge

We steamed oysters in Cong, cooked mussels over Killary harbour and ate seaweed in Mayo

Mussels on a beach in west Ireland: “We have some of the world’s best produce.” Photograph: iStock

Mussels on a beach in west Ireland: “We have some of the world’s best produce.” Photograph: iStock

 

Two weeks ago, as part of Food on the Edge, I took many of the best chefs in the world out to Connemara, in order to show the wonderful produce and land of the west of Ireland. We often think of Irish food in terms of decades or centuries, but food has been eaten in Ireland for thousands of years and what we do now still reflects our ancient ancestors eating habits.

We steamed oysters out in Cong, cooked mussels over Killary harbour, smoked venison and lamb, and ate fresh seaweed from the coasts of Mayo.

Pierre Koffmann, the French man who taught the British how to cook (they were his words), was astounded by the wealth and diversity of our shellfish: razor clams, prawns, oysters, mussels, lobster . . . I could go on. We ate them simply. Cooked over open fires, by ancient fjords and mountains that mirrored our pleasurable delight in nature’s rich bounty.

This is Irish food, I thought. A cuisine based on the produce of its land cooked in the most minimal fashion. Irish food is the summation of food in Ireland, its past and present, regardless of nationality or ethnic identity.

Sashimi with Irish fish

Sixty chefs huddled in to see Junichi Yoshiyagawa, a Japanese chef living in Galway, prepare the most beautiful sashimi with Irish fish: raw tuna and scallops. I never thought I would see the day that I would tell a group of illustrious chefs that this was Irish food. But it is!

Fish does not need to be cooked. For too long we have over-cooked our salmon and cod, eating it with our sour, drab faces. The future is now and that future is for an Irish cuisine that embraces food practices for other nations in order that it can give the best to its own wondrous produce.  

Massimo Bottura. Virgilio Martinez. David Kinch. Jock Zonfrillo. Matt Orlando. These are some of the world’s best chefs. They came to Ireland, to Galway. To eat our food. They loved every moment. Let us now have the confidence to accept that we have some of the world’s best produce. Go out and cook it.

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