They say that we have two seasons in Ireland: winter and spring. Of course we have summer and autumn in some sense of the word too, but visually it’s hard to distinguish them from the counterparts. We have a mild winter that looks like autumn and a mild summer that feels like spring. It’s beginning of July now in Ireland, but it still feels like spring. Warm days and a lot of growth. So many lovely vegetables. Fennel, turnip, carrots and leeks.
Vegetables need respect. In summer I like to cook everything with a light touch. Blanched briefly and then chargrilled. The flavour and smell of charred vegetables always remind me of warm summer days. In Aniar, we also like to lightly pickle new season vegetables. Giving acidity to a dish to me is akin to giving it a hand to realise its potential. A little salt, a little vinegar, a little oil. That’s all most vegetables need.
To keep everything light, we pair the baby vegetables with a very fresh goats’ curd from a small local dairy. I don’t want to over-pickle the vegetables. We just compress them in oil and vinegar in the vacuum pack machine. This way they still keep the nice crunch. To finish, we combine the lot with a nettle purée. What could be more summer than the smell of fresh nettles?
When I was young I never knew you could eat nettles. Then I found a book called Wild and Free. It was published in the year I was born: 1978. It details how the Irish people of the early Christian era (about 400-1000AD) enjoyed a nettled broth for sustenance.
Nettles, baby vegetables and goat’s curd. Nothing could speak more of summer (or spring!) in Ireland.
JP McMahon, Aniar (Galway, Ireland)