Good ingredients are so much more important to cooking than “complicated or long-winded recipes,” said Rachel Allen in Rachel’s Irish Family Food. The best Irish cooks have always known this, so our native cuisine is rich in “fabulous, ingredient-led dishes” that take advantage of Ireland’s bounty. “Of course, our love for the potato is well known and very real,” but we also savor the sweet seafood produced by the cold waters surrounding the island, the “delectable” produce of local farms, and the wonderful milk and cheeses produced by happy cows feeding on the world’s greenest pastures.
Fish chowder is “a much-loved staple” in pubs and restaurants along Ireland’s coast. In mine—named after my local fishing village—I combine smoked and fresh fish for greater flavor. Try serving the chowder with brown soda bread to make it a meal.
Recipe of the week
Ballycotton fish chowder
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 oz bacon, cut into 3⁄8-inch dice
- 1 large onion, chopped
- ¾ lb Yukon Gold or russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3⁄8-inch cubes
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 3 cups milk
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1 lb skinless mixed fish fillets, such as salmon, haddock, or cod, cut into chunks
- 6 oz smoked fish, cut into ¾-inch pieces
- 2 tbsp each chopped chives and parsley
In large stockpot, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat. Add bacon and fry 4 to 5 minutes until fat renders and the bacon is crispy and golden brown.
Add onion, season lightly with salt and pepper, and sauté for 5 minutes. Add potatoes, stock, milk, and cayenne and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 3 minutes, or until potatoes are cooked halfway.
Stir in fresh and smoked fish and simmer another 3 to 4 minutes, until the fresh fish is just cooked through and the potatoes are tender. Season with salt and pepper and stir in chopped herbs. Serves 4 to 5.
Brown soda bread
- 1¾ cups each whole-wheat flour and all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp each salt and baking soda
- 3 tbsp mixed seeds, such as sesame, pumpkin, or flax (optional)
- 2 tbsp butter, softened (optional)
- 1 egg
- About 12/3 cups buttermilk
Preheat oven to 425. In a large bowl, sift together flours, salt, and baking soda. Add seeds and butter (if using) and rub into the flour with your fingertips until dough resembles bread crumbs. Make a well in the center.
In another bowl, whisk the egg with the buttermilk. Stir most of the liquid into the flour mixture, adding more as needed to form a soft dough.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gently shape to form a 1½-inch-thick round. Cut a deep cross on top.
Transfer to a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 400 and bake for 30 minutes more.