Would you like some pollock? It was a friendly fisherman on a West Cork pier we happened to stop on. He had just landed with some friends and family and they had caught a lot of fish, mostly pollock. They couldn’t eat them all, Billy said, just help yourself. A little overcome with such generosity, we selected two lovely fish, and asked for his advice on how to cook them.
Just keep it simple, was his advice, with some dry potatoes and cream. Dry, it turned out, was his term for floury potatoes, and we knew just where to get those. Our neighbour, Donal, keeps a fresh vegetable stall nearby. He digs up or cuts the vegetables in the morning, and puts them in a little stall he built himself. You have to get there early if you want the pick of the crop.
Donal’s new potatoes are legendary. I was chatting with a friend who lives nearby recently and we were talking about the best way to lose the Covid weight. It’s all about the carbs, I said – pasta, rice, flour, sugar, potatoes … A look of horror came over her face. “But not Donal’s new potatoes!” We agreed that they couldn’t possibly be anything but healthy and whatever list of Bad Carbs we made, Donal’s New Potatoes could not be on it.
So on the way home from the pier, we dropped by the stall for the potatoes. While I was at it I picked up some carrots, courgettes (Zucchini to this ex-Canadian) and onions.
I don’t know about you, but I have never actually gutted, cleaned and filleted a fish before. In fact, I have been awestruck by the expertise of the women at the fish stall in the Skibbereen market and their skill with that long, thin-bladed filleting knife. Where to start? YouTube, of course!
So with the computer propped up beside me, and Robert sharpening the knife and encouraging me every step of the messy way, I managed it. I will spare you most of the gory details and include this one that actually looks like I know what I am doing.
Although I probably left good meat behind, at last I had a lovely set of fillets, free of bones.
After that, it was a question of cutting some vegetable into small pieces – I used carrots, shallots, broccoli, green beans, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, and garlic.
I piled them all onto a big sheet of buttered tinfoil, along with herbs from my little herb patch, and then laid the fillets on top.
I poured lots of lemon juice over it all, along with zest, and dotted everything with more butter. Then I wrapped it up, and into the oven it went at 190C for 20 minutes.
The potatoes were simply boiled with some mint from my garden. I chopped more mint to scatter on top once they were cooked.
The results? Delicious!
In West Cork we have access to a lot of very fresh food and we eat well. There are markets in all the towns and villages near us (see this post from a few years ago), and Neighbourfood does a great job of keeping us going all year round.
But there’s something extra special in a meal like this – straight from the ocean or the ground and onto a plate with very little intervention.