|Foodie presents are really trendy for this festive season. Spend hours in the kitchen whipping up relishes and pickles and luscious puddings or you could just nip into the Cork Market and pick all sorts of goodies from the myriad of stalls, both avant garde and traditional.
A parcel of tripe and drisheen from O’Sullivans at the Grand Parade end of the Market will bring the light to any true ‘dyed in the wool’ Corkman’s eye. Salt Ling or Cod from Sheehans or O’Connell’s in the Fish Market was the traditional food for supper on Christmas Eve in Cork City. Swaddled in a white sauce with onions, Michael who learned the art of salt fish from his father Eddie will give you the recipe and some of the history as well.
Really hip foodie friends will be knocked out by a hamper of traditional Cork Market meats, as offal becomes the coolest new discovery on menus from London to New York. So really thrill those dedicated followers of fashion, pop a pig’s head into the basket with some bodice, a few pigs ears, offal bones, skirts and kidneys and pigs trotters from Noonans. Maybe a few lambs tongues and maybe some spiced beef or ox tongue from Willie Beechinor and a packet of real dripping to make roast potatoes like they used to be. Paul Coughlan will do corned mutton or lamb if you give him a few weeks notice and several stalls sell great corned beef, continuing a tradition which dates back to the time of the Phoenicians.
We are fortunate to still have this variety of traditional foods for sale in the market at a time when offal is becoming more and more difficult to come by.
A basket of locally grown vegetables would also be a treat, freshly dug parsnips, carrots and swede turnips, maybe a Savoy cabbage, some sprouts and a cauliflower with lots of green leaves, and a few leeks. Make sure they are locally grown and if you want organic produce seek out Caroline Robinson on the Coal Quay on Saturday morning from 9.00 to 1.30 approx. Get there early because there will be a queue of regulars.
The stalls in the Market have a tremendous selection of fruit and vegetables, including some garden produce like Jerusalem artichokes, Paul O’Callaghan at The Garden has a small selection of organic produce and lots of beautiful quality dried fruit, nuts and the much sought after hand panned salt .
A dozen buttered eggs from Moynihans tied with a big red bow and a sprig of holly would be a lovely surprise with a long Cork tradition.
For a break with tradition check out the wares of the new age traders. Pop along to the Olive stall in the middle aisle, choose a selection of olives – picholine, arlequins, kalamati… just cured or marinated. Maybe a hamper of goodies including marinated feta, with marjoram and peppers, some Greek dolmades, pickled garlic, a butter bean and sundried tomato salad, a pot of pesto or tapenade or some harissa to liven up the festive season for your foodie pals. Maybe a few bottles of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
How about some carrageen or some dilisk to chew or if all else fails to thrill, a bar of olive oil soap from Jenny Rose.
Paul Coughlan also has a great selection of honey both in the jar and in the comb.
Freshly baked artisanal breads are always welcomed with open arms, the ABC Bread Company continue to expand their range and you ‘ll find Declan Ryan’s breads selling like the proverbial hot cakes on Isobel Sheridan’s stall ‘On the Pigs Back’. Here you’ll find lots more to tempt you – perfect treats for hedonistic friends, gorgeous cheeses, dried mushrooms, homemade coarse pates and terrines, rillettes of pork, chorizos, salami, Isobel gets in a few luxury items specially for Christmas so ask her if she still has Pate de foie gras, or a creamy Vacherin Mont d’Or still in stock.
Just opposite this stall, you’ll find one of Mr Bell’s ethnic food emporiums, a basket of exotic goodies from here could be the solution for friends who are dabbling in the cuisines of the East or the Far East, Morocco, India, Mexico – everything from cellophane noodles and sushi mats to tamarind, fresh curry leaves and chopsticks. Driss Belmajoub’s (Mr Bell’s real name) second stall is one aisle over and contains another mesmerising selection of ingredients, including potential stocking fillers like fortune cookies, prawn crackers, incense sticks, star anise, cardamon pods – whatever turns you on!
Even one of those yummy looking tarts or tartlets from Bia Beo, beautifully wrapped would be greeted with a gasp of delight.
So many temptations so far and I haven’t even mentioned Iago – Sean and Josephine Calderpotts over by the fish market. Here one can really go to town, there’s a thrilling selection of Irish and English farmhouse cheeses and a well chosen sprinkling from other countries – Manchego, aged Gouda, Corsican and Basque Brebis and an Irish Brebis called Crozier – a blue sheeps milk cheese from the makers of Cashel Blue…. Look out for the quince paste and serve that with some fresh Ardsallagh goat cheese or some St Tola from Meg and Derek Gordon in Clare. Would some fresh pasta tickle their fancy with some Iago pasta sauce or pesto to drizzle over it. How about a chunk of Parmigiana Reggiano or a bottle of Nunez de Prado oil. They may have some salted capers or anchovies or the Ortiz white Bonito tuna in olive oil. There may also be some Panforte or some Pannetone, some Cantuccini to dip in the Vin Santo wine which Sean will also have in stock, gold and silver Dragées (sugared almonds) … There are lots more temptations to endear you to your foodie friends but when you’ve filled your baskets to the brim just move to the other side of the aisle to the smoked fish stall. Local artisanal food producer Frank Hederman who smokes his own fish at Belvelly near Cobh continues to expand his range to the delight of his ever-growing band of afficionados. The original traditional smoked salmon has been joined by smoked and marinated mussels, mackerel, herring, eel and sprats in season. More recently his smoked chicken has won many fans and the latest product smoked duck is my personal most exciting new food find. Sometimes there is a moist salmon or mackerel pate – one may have to order ahead in the run up to Christmas.
Another newcomer to the market is Platos, Mairead McCorley who spent seven years in Israel is making and selling favourite comfort foods, pita bread, taramasalata, tahini, humus and other less familiar dips. These delicious dishes provide a taste of the Middle East.
Just opposite Amanda and Glena at The Kitchen Pot are cooking up lots of yummy dishes all ready to reheat, foodie friends will bless you for saving them hours sweating over the hot stove making soups and pies and lots of delectable biscuits.
By now your bags will be full to bursting and I haven’t even mentioned the butchers’ stalls that sell meat, poultry, game and nice juicy hams. Most of the butchers in the market understand the importance of having a nice little covering of fat on the meat for best flavour, so ask their advice and forget that low fat nonsense and think flavour and wholesomeness.
A few dozen oysters, a few scallops or Dublin Bay prawns are always a welcome gift, how about a fresh turbot or brill, a hake or John Dory – and there may even be some fresh herrings now because it’s the season. Seems like an unlikely present – well I’d love them and they also remind me of Ivan Allen my dear father in law whom we miss so much. He looked forward every year to the first herrings. He too would have loved some fresh herrings or a few traditionally smoked kippers as a present.
Well you’ve certainly got something for everyone there, by now you will be exhausted from carrying your overflowing bags so one more little effort, climb the stairs up to the balcony over the Princes Street end of the market to the Farmgate Restaurant and there Kay Harte and her team will pamper you with a soothing cup of tea and a warm mince pie. Happy Christmas to all our foodie friends.Salt Cod or Ling
Salt cod or ling was a staple food along the south and west coast of Ireland. Agnes Kenneally from Aran Mor – one of the islands off the west coast – explained to me when I was researching my book on Irish Traditional Cooking that in the Spring the islanders usually caught an abundance of fresh fish. They ate what they needed, shared with their neighbours and salted the surplus so that in the Winter there was salt fish and little else!
First they gutted and filleted the fish, then they salted them and packed them in an old timber barrel or keg for a few days. They then hung them out to dry. (on Aran this was done on walls or thatched roofs), If the weather was clement – dry and breezy – the salted ling might be dry in a week; otherwise it could take a month. The fish had to be brought in every night, and also if there was a sudden shower. If it didn’t dry properly it wouldn’t keep.
lorence Irwin wrote in Irish Country Recipes in the 1940s:
‘Thirty years ago as you approached Cape Clear the low hedges were covered in the month of July with what looked like white garments of even shape and size. On getting a closer view you found these were large flat fish being dried in the sun after salting. Ling, in fact. This fish was procurable in all country shops at 4d a pound and was a popular purchase for the dinner on Friday and other fast days’.
Salt Cod or Ling with White Sauce
A Plate of Smoked Fish with Horseradish Sauce and Sweet Dill Mayonnaise
Chicken Breasts with cous cous, raisins and pistachio nuts
8 chicken breasts
16 fl ozs (475ml/1¾ cups) chicken stock or water
Oven-roasted Winter Root vegetables
Pannetone Bread and Butter Pudding
Butter the pannetone or bread and arrange 4 slices, buttered side down, in one layer in a dish. Sprinkle with half the nutmeg or cinnamon and half the raisins, arrange another layer of bread, buttered side down, over the raisins, and sprinkle the remaining spice and fruit on top. Cover the raisins with the remaining pannetone or bread, buttered side down.