Traditionalists will tell you the best way to eat oysters in the half shell is naked, freshly opened, with nothing at all.
It’s a nice way to enjoy them especially if you’re feeling lazy and the only work you want to do is a bit of shucking.
Personally, if you gave me a dozen oysters, half a lemon, some tabasco, and a couple of pints of Guinness than I’d be a happy man.
You might find both these ways of slurping down natures viagra a little boring and want to spice them up a little. And the great news is that the creamy texture and sweet briny taste of oysters can handle a lot of different flavours.
Sweet, sour, hot, and spicy all go well with oysters. The trick is to restrain yourself a little, you don’t want to overpower the delicate natural flavour of the oyster.
Most of the oyster topping recipes that follow are quick and easy with minimal prep, chopping, or slicing. You could easily whip up a batch in under 5 minutes.
There’s some tasty vinaigrettes flavoured with different fruits, spices, and herbs all designed to complement sweet brininess of the oyster.
I’ve got a few ice cool granita oyster topping ideas for you to try (more on those later) as well as a couple of really quick hot toppings. Which are my own personal favourites.
Let’s get to it….
A marinated artichoke salad with crunchy green beans and sauteed portobello mushrooms. Dressed with a piquant pumpkin seed, shallot, and balsamic dressing.
Do you like artichokes?
The nobbly Jerusalem variety are delicious and make a tasty soup or work great as a vegetable in their own right either boiled, roasted or pureed.
It’s the globe artichoke that up until very recently I was never really the biggest fan of. Once cooked they taste fine, it’s just that their a complete pain to prepare. Pulling off all the tough outer leaves, before scooping out the tightly packed fluffy centre, then trimming down the hard base. It’s an awful lot of work that seems to take forever.
All this has got to be done at speed, you’ve got to get your artichokes into acidulated water or else like an apple or a banana they’ll oxidize and turn black right before your very eyes.
And you’re not finished yet….Once you’ve done all this, it’s time to squeeze another couple of lemons for the juice to cook the artichokes in. I’ll often use so many lemons in my effort to keep my artichokes as white as possible that they’ll end up tasting just a little pickled.
A while back I rediscovered the joys of artichokes in a jar where all this fiddly work is done for you. The particular ones I bought were actually baby globe artichokes which are smaller, sweeter, and more tender than the bigger variety. As an added bonus they came pre-marinated in some olive oil, a little garlic, and basil. I’ve got to admit…..they taste great.
Brioche mincemeat doughnuts – A sweet buttery brioche dough stuffed with fruity mincemeat and coated in a spiced sugar flavoured with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
My guess is that anyone who’s organised and into a bit of seasonal baking already has their Christmas confectionary well under way. Cakes already made and probably iced, while Christmas pudding are left maturing for the big day. All that’s left is to make an alternative dessert for the punters who don’t like pudding (there’s always a few) and of course the mince pies.
I’ve got to put my hand up and admit I’ve never made a Christmas cake and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve cooked a pudding. Mince pies, however, are definitely my thing. In every restaurant I’ve worked in down the years they’d be on the menu for the month of December. Either a mini version served as a petit four with coffee or full size as a proper dessert….warm from the oven with lashings of cream, custard, or my personal favourite smooth vanilla ice cream.
If you’re a mince-pie maker chances are you might have a little of that spiced mincemeat left over from a batch of pies or you might like to do something a little different with it for a change. If so, then this brioche mincemeat doughnut recipe is for you. It’s a culmination of three of my favourite foods. Buttery soft brioche, spicy mince-pie filling and filled fritter doughnuts.
Slow roast turbot – Sweet tasting turbot, slowly roasted in an olive oil infused with zesty lemon, fragrant thyme, and salty anchovies.
It’s been a long time since I’ve eaten let alone cooked a bit of turbot. Last weekend that all changed. I’d made a rare trip out to Howth fish market in search of some black sole but due to bad weather there was none available. The best thing about visiting the bigger fish markets like Howth though is the sheer variety of fish and shellfish on offer, you’re nearly always guaranteed to find something spankingly fresh to tickle your fancy.
On this occasion it was some fresh looking whole turbot sitting on the shaved ice that caught my eye. After a bit of discussion with the French fish monger working behind the counter I discovered it was in fact a farmed turbot all the way from Spain.
Having never eaten farmed turbot I was curious to know how it tasted and was contemplating giving it a go. Before I could even ask what it was like, the french lad told me “is meard, but I have some wild turbo”
Without getting into the whole wild vs farmed fish debate, and leaving other considerations aside like nutrition, sustainability, and the environment, if I’m given a choice I’ll always go for the wild fish. Generally it just tastes better.
The only stumbling block can be the price. Wild turbot can be ridiculously expensive, up to 25 euro a kilo for fillets. Back when I was a young commis chef it was a lot cheaper. l can still remember these massive whole turbot, the size of a small child, arriving into the kitchen sticking out of styrofoam boxes. Weights of 10 to 12 kilo were not uncommon and If there was a couple of big ones in the box than it would take 2 of us to lift it. Maybe I’m been a bit nostalgic but these bigger fish always seemed to taste better. Simply cut into large stakes and charred over a hot grill then served with deep-fried parsley and half a lemon….delish.
Prawn and sweet potato massaman curry – A mild and mellow Thai broth made with succulent tiger prawns and tender chunks of brightly coloured sweet potato.
Out of all the curries on the planet the massaman is definitely a favourite. I’ll order in the odd Indian from time to time and enjoy a biryani, a masala, or a jalfrezi now and again. If I’m doing a curry at home though, i’ll nearly always opt for a mild and creamy Thai massaman.
The massaman curry is quite unique. It gives you the best of both worlds, both Indian and Thai. It’s an infusion of all those pungent flavours you associate with south-east asia. Coconut, lime, garlic, chilli, ginger, and lemongrass, plus a list of Indian spices that ordinarily would have no business in a Thai curry. Cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, star anise, nutmeg, and turmeric all feature in the curry paste used to make a massaman.
There’s a couple of theories on the origins of the massaman and how these fragrant Indian spices ever ended up it a Thai curry in the first place. Some say that the dish came from southern Thailand where the food is a bit more influenced by Malay and Indian cuisine. However according to one of my favourite chefs and renowned Thai food guru David Thompson the dish originated in the royal Thai court in the 17th century, brought over by Persian merchants.
What ever its origins the cook who first put it together was ingenious. Blending such a long list of different herbs and spices was either a lucky accident or took a lot of thought and skill.
Lemon and caraway farles – A version of the classic brown Irish soda bread. Perfumed with roasted aromatic caraway seeds and citrus lemon then cooked in a skillet.
My mother never made bread like this and if I’m honest I’d never even tasted let alone made a farle until I tried the commercial mass-produced version that you can buy down the supermarket. Celebrity chef Paul Rankin has even put his name to a brand. It’s an ideal bread for him to endorse. He comes from the heartland of the farle up in the north of Ireland where they serve it for breakfast as part of the traditional Ulster fry up.
Down here in the south this quick cook skillet bread isn’t all that common. Traditionally cooks here baked the same bread over the hearth or in the oven and I reckon we’ve been missing a trick. There’s something quite satisfying about cooking bread on a stove top and watching it as it turns golden and puffs up a little right before your eyes. It very similar to cooking pancakes, drop scones, or blinis and I suppose farles are a combined Irish version of all 3.
These bread type farles aren’t to be confused with the potato farle. Which are really just glorified potato cakes with the addition of some flour and baking powder. Their tasty enough but i find their texture a little dense. Theres never enough flour or baking powder in them and if you want one that’s light and fluffy than you need milk in the recipe. It’s crucial if you want anything with baking powder in it to rise. So if you’re going to all that trouble you might as well leave the potato out all together and make these ones.