I’m dedicating this post to Rachel Roddy for three reasons. Firstly it was her blog that inspired this one, secondly she writes about food and thirdly the Roddy family on the male side hail from Carlingford Lough and Greenore.
What I love about Rachel’s blog is that it interweaves the food preparation with the local culture in both the UK and Italy so that the food you prepare from one of Rachel’s recipes gives you more than just the taste, there is the story behind it, the history, the source and the seasoning.
Eating on the boat while you are sailing is not easy – particularly when you are beating against the wind and the boat is angled at 45 degrees. Frequently you hear the sound of plates and mugs crashing across the galley onto the floor. The best we have done for lunch are Rick Stein’s biscuits and a lump of Lancashire cheese. On a calmer day we have even managed something heated up from a tin – beans on toast.
But arrival in port is a different scenario. During the voyage Ros will have researched the best restaurant in town and in Carlingford our choice was The Oystercatcher Bistro run by Harry and Marian Jordan.
We both chose oysters for our first course – how could you not when on the menu it said, “coming to Carlingford and not having its oysters is like going to Paris and not visiting the Eiffel Tower or New York without visiting the Statue of Liberty”. Put that way we had no choice.
They arrived in their shells on a bed of olive green seaweed. They were delicious. The locals say that the unique sweet taste and high meat content of the Carlingford Oyster is one of nature’s real treasures and it is rumoured that the Romans brought the cultivation of oysters to Carlingford.
Later the chef, Harry Jordan, came to talk to us. He was passionate about the Carlingford Oyster and how it should be eaten. He thought additives like lemon and Tabasco (although provided) spoilt the real taste of the oyster. He explained that oysters take about 3 years to grow and can filter over 55 litres of water a day. It is the nature of the local water that determines the flavour in each oyster. Carlingford Lough is unique in that there is a huge exchange of water with each tide which provides the nutrients on which the oysters feed. In addition, freshwater flowing in from the mountain sides north and south of the Lough give Carlingford Oysters a very rich and distinctive flavour – a sweet slightly nutty one followed by a slight tannic and lingering after taste.
Harry’s passion for his oysters has now extended to an oystercatcher van. He now dispenses oysters to passers by in order to give as many people as possible the opportunity to experience their unique taste. He added that talking to us, with us sitting at our table and him standing over us, was as if he was telling us what to do and how to eat the oysters – he could not really do that. But in the street he was on a one-to-one with the passers by and could look them in the eye – they had no chance of getting past Harry without tasting at least one of his oysters.
So Rachel, my challenge to you is to compare how oysters are prepared and taste in Carlingford, the land of your forefathers, to those in Sicily where I know you have gained great insight from Vincenzo’s grandmother’s recipes and if, along the way, you can come up with some simple tasteful recipes for sailors to prepare on the high seas – that would be great as there is a huge market out their looking for inspiration.