The Oysters of Carlingford Lough

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.

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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.

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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.

 

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2 thoughts on “The Oysters of Carlingford Lough

  1. rachelrachel

    Now I am even more envious of your voyage, oysters no less, and served the best way, with lemon and a dash of tabasco. I am not sure I can suggest anything better than that. I also know nothing about oysters in sicily…so this is my first challenge. I would also like to propose some shared ideas for boat suppers. I would also like to come aboard and cook one. So enoying your blog and so proud to be mentioned, with affection and oysters R

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  2. iansutherland455 Post author

    Hi Rachel – we would love to share ideas on boat suppers – we have a skillet on board and Ros managed a whole chicken once when Leonard came on board. Once, on a relatively calm sailing day, Ros put the bird in the oven and managed to have the meal on the table as we came into port, which takes some skill. For you to come on board to cook – you’d have to catch up with us in the western islands of Scotland next year or we should explore chartering a few yachts in Sicily for a new form of on-board Masterchef. Modelled on the Scottish Islands Peaks Race (SIPR) where yachts with fell-runners sail between islands and the runners run to the peak of each island and back (http://www.scottishislandspeaksrace.com) we could have aspiring marine chefs visiting markets in one port and cooking a meal on the way to the next port with possible tasters on the way – could be interesting! More manageable in Sicily and the Mediterranean I think where the sea state is a bit calmer than in Scotland. When Andrew did the SIPR a couple of years ago they had gale force winds one day with hugely rough seas and a complete calm the next. Ix

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