All posts by christiane

Reading Goes Hand in Hand with Camping

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According to an article published on the BBC website today, the average British household has 138 volumes on its shelves, less than half of which have been read,  “It is a kind of peacock-feather display,” says the writer and critic John Sutherland.

Well now, we all have a few volumes gathering dust on the shelves, but this fact was a little depressing to us at Wild Hare, especially since we have been busy planning our pop-up campsite at Hay Literary Festival.

Reading goes hand in hand with camping – whether it’s round the fire with a hot chocolate, under canvas with a maglite, or at the crack of dawn by the light of the sun, so we are especially excited to say we will be pitching for the first time in the town of books in May this year.

Watch this space for more information, and in the meantime, open that forgotten novel at the bottom of the pile in the living room…

 

An Island in a Loch

A night sleeping under the stars on an Island in a loch in Scotland.

the canoes
It was a days canoe out there and the same back. Freedom.
 canoes and a fire box We cooked chilli from scratch on the firebox, with wood we transported in.chillie

Things taste so much better when you go to that much effort.

Pacific Banh Mi.

Pacific Banh Mi.

BanhMiBeach

Banh Mi are a culinary mongrel. Most cuisines are littered with them, especially those of colonial decent, but something special happened when the French and Vietnamese threw their cuisines in the same hat.

 

Ho Chi Minh City has a ridiculously high concentration of perfectly buttery and crisp croissants and the dish Bo Kho seamlessly throws together beef or lamb, yellow bean paste, potatoes, lemongrass and green beans, to be eaten with a warm, freshly baked baguette. The Vietnamese were doing fusion food ever before it became a confusion.

Their greatest hit, though, is Banh Mi. The freshest, tastiest sandwich you could ever imagine stuffing into your face. The term actually refers to the bread, the baguette to be precise, but has come to mean the sandwich as a whole. In a perfect example of necessity being the mother of all invention a Vietnamese genius one day took a French baguette and stuffed it with an array of ingredients at hand. It’s delicious, flexible and easy to eat. No wonder it took off.

 

The Banh Mi usually contains prawns and some form of pork, which could be roast pork belly, grilled sausage or a coarse pork pate. It should always have cucumber, coriander, mayonnaise and an element of chilli.

It can get seriously messy if you overstuff the baguette but that just makes the beach the perfect place to eat one. Drop some? Who cares? The seagulls certainly don’t. Spill chilli mayonnaise down your front? Have a swim.

 

I like eating and I like beaches so it’s no surprise that I should seriously enjoy eating on the seashore. Crab curries, whole mackerel poached in seawater, Devonshire scones and mussels cooked on a driftwood fire have all been some memorable favourites.

Luckily for me, my partner also shares this, the simplest of pleasures. We are lucky enough to live on a paradise island in the South Pacific so beaches are ten a penny.

BanhMiBeachSteps

I wanted to seriously luxe up our Banh Mi so instead of prawns, I opted for crayfish or spiny lobster. Regular lobster, crayfish or indeed prawns would all be just as enjoyable and I omitted any pork element to save and savour the delicate flavour of crayfish.

 

Most chefs would have you believe that the first job of this recipe would be to get your snorkel on and free dive for the crayfish.

I bought mine from a very nice Chinese man at the central fish market who sang while repeatedly dipping his net into the large tank of crayfish as I chirped my chorus of “no, a bigger one, a much bigger one’

 

Your first job is to cook the crayfish and if you’ve bought a live one, which I hope you have, that means killing it. I put mine into the freezer for twenty minutes. That puts it into a state of deep, hibernation like sleep. Then I drop it into a very large pot of boiling, salted water. The bigger the pot the better and if you’re near a beach, salt water is the best cooking medium for shellfish there is. Perfectly seasoning it every time.

For an average sized crayfish or lobster of around 500g you want to give it seven minutes cooking time.

 

When done, don’t be tempted to plunge it into cold water to speed it’s cooling process; it is not a green vegetable. The shock of the cold water will most likely toughen the flesh and almost certainly waterlog it. Instead, allow it to cool naturally at room temperature. This advice applies equally to crab, lobster and langoustine. Your supper will be all the sweeter for it.

BanhMiPrep5

Crayfish Banh Mi for two.

 

One live crayfish.

One fresh baguette.

Mayonnaise (I prefer Kewpie)

One lime.

One tablespoon of fish sauce, squid brand if available.

One tablespoon of olive oil.

One teaspoon of palm sugar or soft brown sugar if unavailable.

One fresh green chilli, shredded and soaked in ice water for an hour or two.

Two spring onions, shredded and soaked in ice water for an hour or two.

A handful of coriander leaves, roughly chopped or torn.

A half a handful of mint leaves, roughly chopped or torn.

Five or six Vietnamese mint leaves, also roughly chopped or torn.

Two handfuls of crisp, crunchy leaves such endive or iceberg lettuce.

Half a handful of red peanuts, toasted and smashed to smithereens in a pestle and mortar.

One beach, empty of all other people and preferably with one setting sun.

 

 

Cook your crayfish as per the instructions above, allow to cool then remove the meat from the shell and chop, dice or slice as per your preference. Season with a little salt but not too much, remember, it was cooked in salted water!

BanhMiPrep6

Slice your baguette down the middle as if it were a hotdog bun, liberally apply mayonnaise and fill with the crayfish meat.

 

Juice the lime and mix together with the fish sauce, olive oil and sugar, toss the rest of the ingredients together in this dressing and stuff into the baguette on top of the crayfish.

 

Cut the baguette into two equal or unequal portions depending on your dining partner.

 

Eat, enjoy, swim. Repeat as necessary.

 

 

BanhMiAnt

Travelling Dining Room

When you are luck enough to have a camper van, even the freezing cold weather can’t stop a Wild Diner!  A private beach, Porth Iago on the Lleyn Peninsula, provided the perfect back drop for a small celebration and the van provided the perfect shelter from the bitter wind.

We sipped on cold glasses of fizz while the chef cooked up a storm on his stove and rain lashed against the window.fizz flying boy

A quick jump around in the sand dunes and back to the van for quesadillas.

over view Meanwhile, chef has an amazing pot of garlic prawns cooking to have with tonnes of parsley and crusty bread and butter. the chef and his pot<a href=”http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/11899223/?claim=jz83h6tjejn”>Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

Atlantic Fruit de Mer. Of sorts.

If you travel to the North West of Europe, you reach Eire and if you travel to the North West of Eire, you reach County Mayo.

In the far North West of County Mayo is Achill Island and to the North West of Achill Island there is a small, secluded beach at the end of a winding mountain road. Hemmed in on three sides by steep, lush green slopes. It is called Keem Bay and it is my favourite place on earth.

AchillBeachView2

From this beach I have watched dolphins, whale sharks and seals. I have pushed off in my bobbing curragh to catch mackerel and coalfish. I have drunk the crystal clear water where it springs fourth from the rocks at the beachhead. Hugh Falkus, angling writer and filmmaker, was once shipwrecked off of Achill while fishing for whale sharks and washed up on this very spot.  A school friend of my father’s dragged him, half dead, from the surf.  I have seen it in every one of it’s many moods and every single one of mine.

 

When serious matters need serious contemplation, it is to this place that I always come.

I have eaten many meals here and this is about one of them.

 

I had travelled back from the South Pacific to look after some engagements that needed attention. One of them was a gathering of world leaders who needed to eat with upmost political correctness and minimum press scrutiny. I’m fairly experienced in situations like these and so I was roped in to what was to become a very strange week indeed. One of the stranger parts was being given a bottle of Presidential champagne by Barak Obama as thanks. A gift as memorable as this should have a suitable memorable occasion.  It had to be Keem so as soon as the last security checkpoint was cleared, my partner, Jenn and I would travel to Achill to meet the family, put faces and places to the names and generally show off the strength and fibre of my DNA.

champagne

 

Because of its position, jutting out into the Atlantic and the resulting attendance of the Gulf Stream, the seafood to be had here on Achill is some of the best in the world.

It is a rare treat to eat any food in its terroir but to eat seafood on the shores from which it has been harvested is for me, the biggest yet simplest luxury.

With this in mind we gathered mussels, fetched oysters and bought smoked wild salmon and lemon soles from the tiny village fishmonger that has the most perfectly minute shop set up in their conservatory just a short distance from my favourite spot. I would cook them over a driftwood fire and we would eat them with my father’s boxty potato cakes all the while drinking the Presidential champagne.

AchillBeachHutEffect

We were the only ones on the whole beach, except for a solitary dog seal chasing bass in the surf and afterwards, as we were leaving, Jenn found a lump of amethyst lying in the sand, fallen from the quartz rich cliffs above.

Later we had it set in silver and a little bit of Keem Bay is always with us no matter how far I stray from my home in the far North West.

AchillBeachPot

Tony McNamara (Snr) and his fabled Boxty Potato cakes.

These are my father’s speciality. There is almost nothing that one cannot eat with them but they are especially good with smoked salmon, crème fraiche and capers.

In the family, he is famous for them and I had spent nearly twenty years as a professional chef pestering him for the recipe but of course there isn’t one. You have to be shown and whenever he made them I was never around.

Jenn asked him to show her how they were made the day she met my family. He leapt up and showed her straight away. I made sure that I watched too. It’s less of a recipe and more a guide but I suspect the vagueness is part of the flavour. It’s certainly part of the myth.

AchillBeachFire2

Take some potatoes, white, fluffy ones like Maris Piper. Peel and then grate them on the finest side of your grater, the one meant for hard cheeses like Parmesan but is mostly used for knuckle removal.

Put the potato pulp in a tea towel and squeeze most, but not all of the liquid out of them. Don’t be too cheffy about this or you will be dismissed as a pretend boxty maker as I was. A bit of liquid means a bit of starch and that is a good thing. Apparently.

When the squeezing is done, put the now semi dry pulp into a bowl and add some milk (a bit more than I expected), some plain flour (a bit less than I expected) and a little bit of salt. Mix in a clockwise direction, very slowly with a soupspoon. This last part could or could not be vital. I’ll leave it in in case it is.

For a very long time I was convinced it had egg in it and mashed potato. Or onion. It has none of these things.

When the batter has the consistency of thick yoghurt, heat the oldest frying pan you can get your hands on until it is very hot and add butter. Use exactly twice the amount of butter you think sensible. You’ll burn the first knob and have to wipe out the pan. You may or may not burn yourself here. If you do, your boxty will taste better.

Put three separate, evenly spaced dollops of potato mix into the sizzling butter and spread them out with the back of the soupspoon until they merge into one large, thin pancake, the size of your pan. If you do two dollops, it is incorrect. If you do one big dollop it is practically heresy.

When one side is done it will have started to colour and maybe even blacken a little around the edges, now you can flip it over. Even though you have a perfectly good spatula to do this with, you must use a fork and they take about half the amount of time to cook on the second side as they do the first side.

You can stack them up on a plate in a very low oven to keep warm as you prepare more but they will almost certainly be eaten (with more butter and salt) faster than you can make them.

If by some super human feat you manage to make more than are needed for immediate consumption, they can be reheated in a frying pan, under a grill or speared with a sharpened stick and toasted, marshmallow fashion over a driftwood fire on your favourite beach with someone you love very much indeed.

AchillBeachBoxtyJen

The last way is the best.

 

 

Words, photos and recipes by Anthony McNamara

Car Boot Broth

Valentines day.  North Wales.  The aftermath of a storm.  The only thing to do is have Lamb broth in the the boot of your car with two small children somewhere in Snowdonia.

Bleak and beautiful.in the boot broth on the mountain

Lamb Broth with Sweet potato, peas and mint, finished with olive oil and served with crusty bread.

Best served hot, can be hard in a sidewind.

rainy windowThen it rained.