Darina Allen: Smoked Mackerel Pâté with Melba Toast and a mad fish soup

On each 12 Week Certificate course we all pile into a bus to go on a ‘foodie’ school tour, says Darina Allen.

We brainstorm about opportunities in food and visit some of the exemplars in the artisan and speciality food area. 

This Spring we started close to home with a visit to Shanagarry Smoke House to see the artisan process and taste Bill Casey’s delicious organic smoked Irish salmon. 

Then we headed to Mahon Point where the Thursday Farmers Market was already in full swing. What a market, a tonne of brilliant ideas and cheery stallholders passionate about the quality of their product. 

My new big find this time was Irena Tammik from Estonia who was selling her handmade rye sourdough from the community stall which is available for someone with a ‘new’ product to showcase each week. 

The table was proudly and beautifully decorated with an embroidered family cloth. She was wearing the traditional dress of her village. The little loaves of rye sourdough bread were absolutely authentic and delicious. 

Those who know this style of bread made all over the Nordic region, Estonia and surrounding countries were thrilled to find this almost ‘forgotten flavour’. 

For many Irish people, more familiar with soft white bread this may be an unfamiliar flavour but I urge you to try it. 

One slice of this nutrient dense bread will keep you going until lunch time and remember to wrap and slice thinly – it keeps for weeks.

We drove towards West Cork over the River Lee to the little village of Toonsbridge where Toby Simmonds of the Olive Oil Company and Jenny Rose Clarke bought the local creamery in 2009 and started to make Mozzarella. 

They now make pecorina vincenzo, occupato, cacio cavallo, halloumi, ricotta, scamorza, kachkeval and burratta (a cream filled mozzarella and fior de latte). 

When Toby and Jenny Rose moved to Toonsbridge, local people wanted to buy his cheese so they decided to open a ‘teeny weeny’ shop, packed with good things and a little café so people could relax and have a cup of coffee. 

They expected it to be very quiet but the reality was different so now it’s become a destination, people drive and cycle from far and wide for espresso and their pizzas from the wood-burning oven, topped with mozzarella from the creamery next door. It brings a new meaning to the word local. 

The Italian cheesemakers Franco, Guiseppe and Pierre from Campania gave us a demonstration of the intriguing process of mozzarella making. The renneting, the milking, the stretching and shaping must be done with exact precision. 

While we were enjoying our picnic, the gardener was putting a layer of rich compost on to Jenny Rose’s kitchen garden in front of the café where she grows lots of vegetables, fresh herbs and edible flowers for the café. 

Next stop was Macroom Oatmeal where Donal Creedon, fifth generation miller, produces richly toasted stone ground oatmeal and Macroom wholemeal flour in the time-honoured way, in the last stone grinding oat mill in Ireland. 

It is unquestionably a product of the utmost integrity – no better way to start your day. 

Michael Twomey’s butcher shop was our next stop (on the Main Street). Michael who is super enthusiastic about his craft explained his Wagyu beef breeding program and the ethos behind his three butcher’s shops.

Then there was a quick stop, at the much loved Castle Hotel in Macroom to hear about the reality of running a busy hotel in a country town.

Our final stop was at Cronin’s in Crosshaven, an iconic pub which everyone associates with great fun and great food and great music. 

Thecla and Sean and their children Denis and Joleen are constantly thinking outside the box, apart from the Mad Fish restaurant. They have a cinema club, Crafty Wednesday, Turf Thursday, Soul and Seafood. 

The Red Head festival which had been such a resounding success is on hold this year unless a red headed sponsor emerges. 

Thecla was one of the first students to come to our Pub Grub and Seafood courses in the early 1980s. They’ve also got a mind blowing whiskey list and a similarly impressive rum and gin selection. 

There’s an exhibition of Jolene’s pictures of Camden Fort on the walls of the Mad Fish restaurant - an inspirational family working together to create a multi-award winning business.

Thanks to each and everyone for sharing their knowledge and vision.

Denis’ Smoked Mackerel Pâté with Melba Toast

This is Denis Cronin’s super taste twist on a smoked mackerel pâté.

Serves 10 – 12

  • 350g smoked mackerel, skinned
  • 250g soft butter
  • 10 g fresh dill or fennell
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper
  • ½ teaspoon chilli powder
  • ½ teaspoon garam masala
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 soupspoon capers
  • Zest one lime
  • Lemon wedge, to serve

METHOD

Set butter aside till softened, also keep aside capers until the end.

First remove the skin from the smoked mackerel. Add the mackerel and the rest of the ingredients to a blender with the soft butter and whizz to a smooth paste.

Wash and roughly chop the capers and fold through the pate. Put the pâté in a service dish or in a small lined loaf tin. 

Serve with melba toast. Garnish with dill and lemon wedges.

Mad Fish Soup

We can all vouch for the deliciousness of this chunky fish chowder, no wonder it’s a famous speciality.

Serves 4 - 6 hungry people and tastes very good with homemade soda bread!

  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 large leeks, chopped
  • 3 large potatoes, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 4 sticks celery, chopped
  • Glass of white wine
  • 700ml fresh fish stock
  • 50ml brandy
  • Tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 300ml mussel stock
  • 100ml cream
  • Fresh fish pieces such as cod, salmon, monkfish, mussels or whatever you fancy

METHOD

First, sweat onions and garlic. Add the leeks and sweat for a further five minutes

Add potato, carrots and celery. Next add the wine. Boil up and cook for a few minutes until alcohol has evaporated. 

Now add the fish stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes until the vegetables are cooked. Add brandy, tomatoes, mussel stock and cream.

Now is the time to add your fish. The type of fish you are using will determine at what point you add them to the soup. 

Mussels, monkfish and salmon have firm flesh, and can be added at this point, they also add extra flavour. 

All other fish, such as cod, haddock, whiting must be added just before serving to prevent falling apart in the soup. Simmer for a few minutes to cook the fish thoroughly.

Serve garnished with a wedge of lemon and with a slice of traditional soda bread.

From Cronin’s Pub & The Mad Fish Kitchen, Crosshaven - www.croninspub.com 

Halloumi with Lemon Zest, Honey and Marjoram or Thyme

A delicious little snack or starter made in minutes

Serves 4

  • 4 pieces of Halloumi
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • zest of 1 organic lemon
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • honey - you’ll need about 4 teaspoons
  • 2-3 teaspoons marjoram or thyme

METHOD

Just before serving, slice the Halloumi into 7mm (1/3 inch) thick slices.

Heat a little oil in a pan or pan-grill. Season the cheese with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Arrange the Halloumi in a single layer on the pan and allow to sizzle for a couple of minutes on both sides. 

Sprinkle with coarsely chopped marjoram or thyme leaves.

Transfer each piece onto a warm plate. Drizzle with a little honey, grate on some lemon zest. 

Sprinkle with a few fresh marjoram or thyme leaves and serve as soon as possible with crusty bread.

Toonsbridge Burrata or Macroom Buffalo Mozzarella with Anchovies

Serves 4

  • 4 burrata or 4 buffalo mozzarella
  • 12 best quality anchovies
  • extra virgin olive oil

METHOD

Put a burrata or buffalo mozzarella on a plate, tear apart a little. Put 3 anchovies on top, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Serve with chargrilled sour dough or crusty bread.

Note: If the burrata is large, use a half cheese for each portion.

Hot tips

Oh My Donut: John Downey, past 12 Week graduate has opened Oh My Donut on 23A Washington Street, Cork, open Monday to Saturday from 10am - 8pm. Try Boston to Mallow or Lemon On, Smarty Pants.

Estonia Bread at Mahon Farmers Market: Next time you are visiting the Mahon Farmers Market check out Irena Tammik’s handmade rye sourdough.

Wild Food: The flowers of the blackthorn come before the leaves. The fruit are sloes, so make a note of where the profusion of white blossom is in your area so you’ll know where to gather the fruit to make sloe gin in Autumn.

Fit Foodie Workshop with Derval O’Rourke @ Ballymaloe Cookery School: This workshop is run by Derval O’Rourke, former world athletics champion,three-time Olympian, and number one bestselling cookbook author. 

Spend the afternoon, Saturday, May 6, learning how to balance food and fitness to live a healthier, happier life. During this workshop, you will learn how to make great tasting, easy and healthy recipes that can be enjoyed by the whole family. 

The afternoon includes a fitness session in the grounds of the Cookery School, is suitable for everybody and will take people of all levels through a fun and motivating session that you can replicate at home. 

This workshop is perfect for anyone that is looking for simple ways to eat well and keep moving. 

www.cookingisfun.ie for further information.

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