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.
A quick jump around in the sand dunes and back to the van for quesadillas.
Meanwhile, chef has an amazing pot of garlic prawns cooking to have with tonnes of parsley and crusty bread and butter. <a href=”http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/11899223/?claim=jz83h6tjejn”>Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The last way is the best.
Words, photos and recipes by Anthony McNamara
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.
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.
Then it rained.
“Have you seen any night fish?” John Maybury of Fort Bragg, California enquired, “they follow day fish”. He was carrying what looked like a lacrosse stick and hoping to catch what we call whitebait, using a traditional Native American Indian method (the lacrosse stick). His catch was successful and so was mine! Moments before we had been interrupted by the intrepid fisher man, I had proposed to my girl. She said YES!
We were camping on California’s “lost coast” and I was hoping to find the perfect back drop for my proposal and I did…..we were standing on the edge of the Pacific Ocean when I asked my love to marry me. It was as though, for a moment, the setting sun wavered and rose again , ever so slightly, over the horizon. An unexpected few moments at the end of the day. The whole pacific coastline was bathed in a warm glow, and so were we.
That evening we dined on “night fish”, kindly donated by the fisherman , or rather exchanged for a bottle of beer! The engagement celebration was as delicious as the moment she said yes.
Seasoned night fish, fried in olive oil, plucked from the ocean half an hour after high tide.
Text and illustration by Josh Sutton – Guy Rope Gourmet.
Here’s a recipe from Eamon our chef for ostrich burgers.
600g minced ostrich meat (or turkey if you can’t find ostrich meat in Tescos!)
250g minced pork belly
1 large brown onion, chopped super fine
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon english mustard
1 teaspoon lea and perrins
1 handful of white breadcrumbs, soaked in four tablespoons of Halen Mon liquid smoke
(if you live in a culinary dessert and can’t get HM liquid smoke…add two rashers of smokey bacon, chopped superfine)
small bunch parsley…chopped superfine.
fry off the chopped onion with a teaspoon of olive oil. cook until the onion is soft and slightly coloured.
allow to cool and combine with all of the ingredients, mix well with a wooden spoon.
Season with salt and pepper. test by frying off a walnut sized piece…. let it cool slightly and then really chew it up, let it mix with lots of saliva in your mouth. this is the best way to test for seasoning.
then shape the burgers with very wet hands….pat them flat and put them on a plate ready to cook.
Grill, bar-b-q or fry to your liking…. serve in a good bun with lettuce, pickles, mustard….whatever you want. Burgers have to be right for the individual.
Enjoy with friends up a tree!