Why don’t more of us eat Ireland’s maritime delights?
A bowl of mussels is a cheap and nutritious dish, something that we should all eat regularly
Mussels are delicious and easy to cook. Photograph: iStock
Summer always makes me yearn for shellfish, even if rain dominates the Irish skyline. There’s something about sitting down to a bowl of steamed mussels while staring out to sea. It still makes me wonder why so many of us on this island have yet to experience many of our maritime delights, such as oysters, mussels, clams or langoustines.
Speaking recently to my aunty Anne, who lives in Dublin, I learned that she had yet to eat a mussel or an oyster. Will we be perpetually cast from the ocean, continually to feed upon the land? Is our land just too good?
Considering that a bowl of mussels is a cheap and nutritious fast food, why is it more of us don’t eat them regularly?
Here’s how to cook them: fry a little onion and garlic in some butter and oil. When the onion is soft, add the mussels with some water or white wine and cover. About two minutes later, you’re ready to go. Discard any that haven’t opened and eat the rest.
To this basic method, you can add many things: coriander and coconut milk, cream and tarragon, cider and dillisk. Mussels are a great vehicle for any flavour. They can even be cooked in sea water.
Furthermore, anything you can do with mussels, you can do with clams. What about clams with chorizo with fino sherry? Begin cooking in the same way as described above, with the onion and garlic, but add diced chorizo (Gubbeen is a nice Irish one from west Cork). After a minute or two of frying, add the fino and clams and cover the pot. I like to finish the dish with some chopped parsley and a little lemon. Get some crusty bread to soak up the remaining juices.
Langoustines, which we call Dublin Bay prawns (though they’re not from Dublin Bay and they’re not a prawn), are another largely ignored shellfish when it comes to the Irish diet. We seem to prefer the soft shell prawns from hotter climates, such as South America or Asia. It’s worth giving these little lobsters a go, and they can be cooked the same way as the mussels and clams. It’s all about steaming in whatever liquid you prefer.