For Fish’s Sake

May 17th, 2011

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

For Fish’s Sake

“Fish is the only food that is considered spoiled once it smells like what it is.” This saying was originally coined by American writer P.J. O’Rourke but it can easily be used to reflect Ireland’s attitude towards fish. During the first For Food’s Sake discussion in The Sugar Club on Thursday 31st March, under the topic ‘What’s the Future for Irish Food Production?’ the debate turned to why we have failed to embrace seafood despite been surrounded by sea. Graham Roberts of the Connemara Smokehouse took centre stage as he enlightened the 100-strong crowd with his insider knowledge.

Graham journeyed deep into our history to explain why Ireland has never fully indulged in the great variety of fish we have in our seas. Surprisingly he linked traumatic childhood fish experiences to Ireland’s poor attitude. However there were no psychological scars with the audience as they devoured Graham’s smoked tuna earlier on in the evening.

“Traditionally in Ireland all the good fish is exported and the leftovers stay here. A lot of people here don’t like fish because we have been left with these leftovers. This leads to certain negativity towards fish because I think people became daunted by the idea of preparing fish. Any kid who had to prepare these leftovers would be put off fish for life.”

But Graham knows how to turn kids towards the light as he has successful proven with his own children. “I feel very strongly when preparing fish for my kids that the bones are removed and it looks appealing. Fish won’t be an issue for them in the future.”

If there was anyone in the audience suffering from childhood psychological fish trauma Graham was able to provide some therapy. “Go to the fishmongers and have the fish prepared. Fish is the ultimate fast food; if you got a fillet of fish prepped then it takes just a few minutes in a pan, add some seasoning and lemon, and that’s it. Combine some vegetables with that and you have a really cheap, quick and healthy meal.”

After Ireland’s attitude towards fish was put aside the panel discussion went on to address the future of the Irish fish industry. Graham explained how the fish industry in Ireland has the potential for growth while putting Irish fish back onto Irish shelves:
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“The industry is struggling but I believe the future lies with these small fishermen. The quality of fish coming in is higher with smaller boats and there is also the question of fish sustainability. Small fisherman are going out and not catching huge volumes of fish so there is a future for fishing generations to come. It is something that I feel very strongly about because of the fishermen I work with. I would love to think that our future generations will work together.”

Launch of the Galway County Fleadh 2011

May 14th, 2011

Clifden Comhaltas were delighted to announce that Clifden was selected to host the Galway County Fleadh 13th – 15th of May 2011.  It was a huge honour for the town to be selected.  It has been 21 years since Clifden last hosted the Galway County Fleadh.

A weekend of Music, song and dance and it brought in people from all over the County of Galway, Connaught and beyond.  One of the main aspects of the Fleadh is the competitions.  This is where people start their journey on the road to becoming an All Ireland Champion.  The Competitions took place on the Saturday & Sunday of the weekend in the Clifden Community School and was open to the public to sit in on the competitions.  These competitions were for all ages groups as well as for Group and Band competitions.

Highlights included a gig rig on the Square of the town, with visiting competitors and groups performing and also local and visiting musicians.

Clifden Branch of Comhaltas also produced a souvenir programme for the weekend, which included local business advertisements, old and new stories and lots of photos.

The official opening & concert took place in the Station House Hotel and was. addressed by Comhaltas Connaught Chairperson Michael Brennan. Connemara Smokehouse provided the canapes for the evening with Organic Smoked Salmon on home-made brown bread and Line caught Smoked Tuna with lime. The evening was followed by pub sessions around Clifden town. On Sunday Morning a unique Fleadh Mass was held in St. Josephs Church.

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Video Clip Galway County Fleadh Opening

Wild Atlantic Salmon 2011

May 13th, 2011

The first of the Wild Atlantic Salmon has landed at the Connemara Smokehouse.  The Wild Salmon Season started on the 12th May and runs till the  29th July 2011. The local fishermen are aloud to fish by draftnet four days a week until the end of July or until the quota is filled.

© Connemara Smokehouse Limited

Wild Atlantic Salmon caught locally

The Adventures of Gastro Chef In Ireland

May 10th, 2011

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Connemara Mussel Festival

When most outsiders think of Irish food, the first thing that comes to mind is lamb and possibly smoked salmon.  However one of the best kept secrets is the mussels that come from the Killary in Connemara.  The Killary is Ireland’s only fjord; a long narrow inlet with steep sides that is usually formed by a glacier.  These waters produce mussels that have  a delicious sweet and briny flavor with a texture that is delicate and never tough.  Frankly, I have eaten mussels in many places around the globe, but the mussels from the Killary top them all.  To use an Irish expression; “Fair Play To Them”.

My love affair for mussels from the Killary began when my Yank friend (who is a Connemara resident) was showing me the beauty of Connemara, and we stopped at the Blackberry Cafe in Leanne to have a quick lunch.  As I looked around the dining room, almost every table had a pot of mussels.  At that point the question of “what to order” became null and void.  I certainly wasn’t ordering a burger.

A few months later, I learned of The Connemara Mussel Festival; an event that was born of the simple gesture of a “good mussel feed” in 2006 at Paddy Coynes pub in Tully Cross. So, I dragged my NY Yank along for the ride.

Walking to the entrance,  there was a great  atmosphere in the town.  Inside, the marquee was lined with local crafts and food vendors.

Inside the cooking demonstration area, attendees grabbed a seat and, as you do, headed next door to Paddy’s pub to get a pint while enjoying the festivities. After a night on the piss, I was no exception!

Over the course of the festival weekend, there were many great cooking demonstrations, tours of the Killary Harbour, amateur chef competitions and even a fly casting class.  I saw two demonstrations; one from Jack Duffy who is the Executive Chef for the international chain, Elephant and Castle, and another by Graham Roberts who operates his family business,  The Connemara Smokehouse.  The smoke house  supplies some of the best restaurants with fine quality smoked fish.

Jack featured mussel dishes that he prepares at his restaurants, and represented an incredible array of food.  My favorite was his impromptu and simple smoked mussels served with their own juices.  The mussels for the entire festival were graciously provided by  Marty’s Mussels

Graham Roberts hosted the other demonstration.  Graham runs his family’s business, Connemara Smokehouse ( The Connemara Smokehouse has been touted by Rick Stein as both a “Hero of Food” and a “Food Super Hero”.

Graham demonstrated an extremely unique technique for slicing the salmon that I will have to practice and master.    After seeing and tasting so much good cooking it was time to hunker down for a good mussel feed.  Back to the pub, for a crisp glass of house white with  mussels from the pot out in the back. They were simply served with brown soda bread in garlic, tomato and basil or cream, they could not have been better.
Fair play to the great local Irish cuisine, and the passion from which it is born!

Posted by Gastro Chef at Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Clifden to host the Galway County Fleadh 13th-15th May

May 10th, 2011

The County Fleadh is a weekend of music, song and dance. It is the starting point for competitors who wish to gain an All Ireland title. The weekend hosts a variety of competitions in all different instruments, groups and bands with under 12 and under 15 competitions taking place on the Saturday, and 15-18 and senior competitions taking place on the Sunday.

There will be an official opening on the Friday night with a concert. There will also be street entertainment on the Saturday evening, and lots of music sessions throughout the weekend.

So if you like your ceol agus craic come along to the County Fleadh!

Hand Reared Pork

May 6th, 2011

Over the Easter holidays we visited our good friends Ellie & Ollie in Dorset to see their new batch of pigs followed by a BBQ with cuts from their last batch of pigs which was amazing. Ellie made a wonderful marinade for the ribs and pork chops and they were finger licking fantastic. We always try to teach our children about where our food comes from. So they met the great little piggy’s that are being prepared for Ellie & Ollie’s upcoming wedding in July.

Graham cooked a piece of pork that Ellie & Ollie gave us and it was amazing, tender and moist and the crackling was yum. Here are just a few pics of the wedding piggy’s and the yummy piece we had last night.

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