After living in Ireland for over a decade, I shop more like a European than an American when it comes to food. There are plenty of big supermarkets here, including a nice one in my town and a big Tesco Extra nearby that’s open 24/7 (which is rare in Ireland), and even though I do one big weekly shop, I find myself out shopping for food every other day or so. I buy all my meat at a butcher shop where I know his name and our kids go to the same creche. On a Saturday morning, we go to the bakery to buy scones and brown bread. And if I want to buy fish, I drive over to the Irish Sea to a little shop on the pier, where they get the fish straight off their own boat.
Fisherman’s Catch in Clogherhead is owned by John Kirwan Jr., who has a 160-year history of fishing in his family. He fished with his father, John Kirwan Sr., who fished with his father before him. These days John Jr. runs the shop with his wife while his own son, the youngest seine net skipper in Ireland, supplies them with fish from his boat. They don’t have as much of a selection as you might find in the town-based fishmongers, but it’s all spanking fresh. “These are fresh off the boat this morning,” I was told when I asked for some Dublin Bay prawns, “caught 10 miles east of here. You don’t get fresher or more local than that.“
When I asked what was the best way to peel the prawns, confessing that I always make a hash of it, he said, “Give me two minutes and I’ll do it for you.” As I waited, I wound up swapping oyster recipes with the other customer in the shop, a mega-buff body builder who was practically bursting out of his T-shirt (“try oysters Kilpatrick” was his tip). Walking back to my car, with the Cooley and Mourne Mountains visible across the bay, I passed the boats tied up at the pier, small groups of fishermen enjoying the sunny day and a seal bobbing in the water, hoping for scraps. With a view like that and a bag full of world-class prawns — already shelled! — that would take only 5 minutes to cook for dinner, why would you go to the supermarket for frozen imported fish?
Dublin Bay Prawns with Lemon, Garlic and Chilli
Serves 4 as a starter
This is the kind of recipe where you need to have everything prepped and ready to go as soon as you start cooking, since it cooks so quickly. If you can’t get Dublin Bay prawns (which are also known as langoustines), use tiger prawns instead. On a warm day when you don’t want too much to eat, this would make a gorgeous dinner for two people with some crusty bread, salad and a glass of chilled white wine.
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) Dublin Bay prawns (tails only)
50 g (4 tablespoons) butter
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely minced
1 garlic clove
juice of 1 lemon
salt and freshly ground black pepper
a small handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
crusty bread, to serve
First, peel the prawns (or better yet, get your friendly fishmonger to do this for you) and set aside.
Melt the butter over a medium-low heat in a large frying pan — you don’t want the heat too high or the chilli and garlic will burn. Add in the minced chilli and cook for 1 minute. Using a Microplane grater, grate the garlic clove into the butter and cook for 30 seconds (if you don’t have a Microplane, use a garlic press or just mince the garlic as finely as you can). Add in the lemon juice and stir to mix it with the butter. Raise the heat to medium-high, tip in the shelled prawns and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until they’ve turned pink and have plumped up and are cooked through. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper, then stir in the fresh chopped parsley. Serve with some crusty bread to soak up every last drop of the sauce.
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