It’s been a rough start to the growing season for the garden this year.
The snow just about banjaxed what was left of it after the chickens had had their feeding frenzy in February and the freezing temperatures destroyed what was left of the outside crops, apart from the sprouting broccoli which valiantly emerged from a blanket of snow. These plants are quite tall so too high for foraging chickens to feast on and we are enjoying lots of purple green broccoli sprouts.
We held back our seed sowing after the mice moved in to escape from the cold and ate our early seedlings and now we are beginning again. The propagator is on and the tomato seeds are set. We have a few trays with spinach and chard seedlings but otherwise it’s going to be a bit of a wait.
Like everyone in West Cork we were buried in snow, but after sitting out the snow storms, we set off (with the aid of a surf board to transport our bags over the snow) to spend a few days with family in Spain.
The hospitality was mighty and although the sun was shy we had a great visit. We spent a lot of time around the table sharing food including the recipe below.
There’s plenty of fish on the menu in Spain and this month’s recipe is a dish that we enjoyed. It’s called ‘Patates y Mar’, which translates as Spuds and Sea – it sounds far more poetic in Spanish.
These potato and fish combos are popular all over the Mediterranean. This one has a Catalan twist, using smoked paprika and saffron. The version we ate used clams but unless you feel like digging up clams from the estuary substitute mussels. Or leave them out if bivalves don’t tickle your fancy.
It’s the perfect recipe for this time of the year – very simple to make, uses readily available local ingredients and it takes more time to cook than effort in preparation. It’s one of these dishes that you can pop in the oven and then sit close by with the crossword and/or a glass of wine whilst it cooks. The recipe serves two, multiply to suit your diners.
If you are using mussels be sure they are live – they must be firmly closed. Discard any mussels that are damaged or remain open before cooking.
Patates y Mar
Potatoes and Sea
• 500g potatoes – waxy are best
• 1 medium onion
• 75mls olive oil
• pinch saffron
• 25mls hot water
• half tsp sweet smoked paprika
• 6-7 cherry tomatoes
• 300g boneless white fish filets – I used hake
• 150g mussels or clams – a handful
• salt and pepper
• lemon to serve
Pre-heat the oven 180ºc. Peel the potatoes then slice thinly
Peel the onion and slice thinly.
Put the potatoes and onions into a bowl, drizzle over the olive oil and sprinkle a little salt and the smoked paprika then toss to mix well. The potatoes should be lightly dressed with the olive oil. Tip the potato and onion mix into an oven proof pan or dish and spread them out evenly.
Put into the pre-heated oven and bake for 30 minutes
Put the saffron into a small bowl and cover with 25mls hot water. This will make the saffron release its colour and flavour.
Clean the mussels and remove any beards. Discard any that are damaged or won’t close
After 30 minutes take the potatoes out of the oven. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and tuck them onto the potatoes then sprinkle the saffron mix over the top.
Put the dish back into the oven for 15 minutes then put the fish and mussels/clams on top of the potatoes. Put back into the oven for another 12-15 minutes. The cooking time of the fish will depend upon how thick the fish filets are.
Serve with a wedge of lemon.
Here’s hoping for some sunshine!
Lettercollum Kitchen Project
22 Connolly Street