This is the title of the best book ever written about our famous Irish oysters. It was launched in 2004 and immediately won a very coveted prize at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. In 2005 it was named Food Book of the Year by Food and Wine magazine. So why do I bring this to your attention? The reason is simple, I met the author Máirín Uí Chomáin recently and after a brief conversation I realised that she had written an Irish cookery book which I had been unaware of — shame on me.
Máirín is a native of Connemara and after a career as a home economics teacher and a variety of other roles, including lecturing on home budgeting and consumer behaviour for Government agencies, catering supervisor at Cornell University, and presenter of cookery programmes on RTÉ television, and also having written two children’s cookery books she decided to write the book that she always wanted to — the definitive book about how to enjoy oysters, both hot and cold.
I am surprised that this book has not featured centre stage at our oyster festivals since its launch, and surely it would be a great idea to have several guest chefs cooking and serving oysters using the recipes from the book during the oyster festivals. Most people have only sampled oysters au natural, or perhaps sprinkled with breadcrumbs, butter, and garlic, and grilled. If that is your knowledge of oyster cuisine and you are a fan of oysters then I urge you to buy this book and try some of the fabulous recipes. There are recipe contributions from people as diverse as Willie Moran, Jean Michel Jarre, James McGeogh, and Aidan McManus of the King Sitric in Howth.
Even if you are not a fan of oysters, the book is worth having in any Galway person’s library. There are lovely informative vignettes about parts of the city and county which will add to your knowledge of where you live. The photography is beautiful — it takes a lot of skill to make oysters look as appetising as Walter Pfeiffer does throughout the book.
Some of my favourite recipes are oyster and potato casserole, oysters potato soufflé, oysters Benedict, oyster and Guinness beef pie, and oysters with beer drop scones.
There is a very well written chapter about wine with oysters, contributed by Martin Moran, master of wine.
An abbreviated list of his perfect wines with oysters includes Chablis, Muscadet, Sancerre, Pouilly Fumé, Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, Sauvignon Blanc from Casablanca in Chile, Manzanilla Sherry from Portugal, Albariño, Verdejo from Spain, and of course Champagne.
If you like the flavour of smoked oysters then an oak aged white Rioja is perfect to accompany them. For many people the perfect accompaniment is a pint of Guinness, and I cannot argue with that.
Máirín’s book has been hailed in many parts of the world, however, as it often the case, we are not great at praising our own local talent. This book has pride of place on my bookshelf beside the other recent Galway food publication, Forest Fungi In Ireland by Louis Smith and Paul Dowding.
Irish Oyster Cuisine costs €14.99 and in available from Eason and Dubray books. The ISBN number is 1-899047-85-9 and it is published by A&A Farmar. Máirín’s email address is [email protected]
As always I welcome your comments/ suggestions, or if you have a foodie event that you think our readers would like to hear about, please email me at [email protected]