Who can imagine summer without summer food? Steaming corn on the cob, each kernel bursting with flavour. Burgers on the barbecue and ice cream sundaes. The smell of ripe stone fruit, dripping with sweet juice.
Then there is the other side to summer meals. Food budgets strain under the pressure of swapping thrifty stove-top casseroles and cheaper cuts for premium quick-cook steaks and chicken breasts. There is the endless banging of the refrigerator door as hot and hungry children continually raid it for cold drinks and ice pops. For many the change of routine that summer brings may allow a little more time for relaxed pottering in the kitchen. It is a chance to immerse oneself in cooking and baking projects with the kids, to rethink patterns of shopping and cooking that may have become stale, or simply to add a few new dishes to your repertoire.
With some advance meal planning strategies summer does not have to break the budget and toss nutritional values to the winds. There are easy ways to achieve simpler, cooler, and more nutritious summer meals. Basic menu planning is useful in every season but especially in summer. Match simple meals with busy days, more elaborate ones with at-home evenings. Pencil your choices next to each day, and go about your shopping. Don't finalise your menu plan until you get home, who knows when you will come across a beautiful bit of salmon or a bargain on lamb chops.
The summer time is when those 'wedding-gift' appliances earn their keep as you try to avoid turning on the oven and raising the temperature any further — a rice steamer produces perfect rice every time, with no excess heat to steam up your kitchen. Spicy beef made in the slow-cooker to stuff into tacos makes the perfect ending to a day at the beach. Fresh bread from the bread machine is a delicious way to transform a light supper into something more substantial, or why not take a tip from our Australian friends and cook outside in the garden?
While summer fruits and berries are the obvious choice for desserts during the summer months, requiring minimal effort and delivering sensational results, the speed at which fish cooks also makes it a natural for summer cooking, it won't overheat the kitchen, or the cook. And where better to get your seafood than Mary's Fish, an excellent fishmongers frequented by many of the Galway food scene. The location is a little out of the way but the prices make up for the inconvenience, and you can park right up at the door.
Mary Carrick knows fish, and she knows her customers. While she supplies many restaurants in the west, from Mayo to the Aran Islands, Mary realises that the domestic customer appreciates advice and guidance on what to do with the daily catch and tasty tips on how to make the most of the fresh fish she sells.
Like all the best modern fishmongers, Mary and her team bring a food loving appreciation to their work, they are cooks as well as sellers of fish. There are several reasons why people shy away from cooking fish, and a lot of it has to do with the preparations being seen as complicated and time consuming. At Mary's all the preparation is done for you — skinning, descaling, de-boning, filleting, even cleaning out squid. This is what a good fishmonger will do as part of the normal customer service. Mary and her crew go above and beyond so not only do you get great fish in the shop in the Ballybane Industrial Estate, you also get ideas, advice, and assistance on all the things you need to put a delicious meal on the table at dinnertime, from grilled miso salmon with rice noodles, baked piri-piri John Dory with crushed potatoes, and steamed salmon and veg rice bowl, to smoky hake with beans and greens.
Cooking fish is easy if you get the freshest fish and keep it simple. Why not grill white fish fillets and serve on top of chorizo, cannellini beans, and spinach for a quick dinner that packs in three of your five a day? Pan fry some swordfish steaks with lemon, basil, and garlic, or make a simple baked sea bass with lemon caper dressing.
Every week Mary has some special offers to tempt, from plaice and mackerel fillets to salmon cutlets. In a lot of cases all that is required to make a delicious fish dish is a pan, some oil, seasoning, and three or four minutes to cook, depending on the size. The abundance of fish at the markets changes all the time, and so do the special offers. Head to Ballybane, and discover the wonderful fish and the fantastic service that will make your life so much easier.
Opening hours are Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5.30pm, and Saturday 9.30am to 2pm. Mary’s Fish, Fyffes Building, Ballybane Industrial Estate, Galway. Phone: 091 760685 or 086 194 0846. Web: www.marysfish.com