When someone says they swim with the mermaids every morning, they get my attention! When it is 77 year old Nicky from Nicky’s Plaice in Howth, just outside Dublin, it is even more intriguing! The McLoughlin family have lived and worked in Howth for over two hundred years. Each generation of the family has been involved in the fishing industry. Now Nicky and his son Martin run Nicky’s Plaice at the end of the pier. I had met them previously on a recce and Nicky didn’t disappoint. He leapt into the sea for me – after he’d given me my first ever Dublin Bay prawns. These I cooked with in a court bouillon and paired with a sea lettuce mayo, as dried seaweed is so popular in Ireland.
Howth seems to be a centre for good food as I was able to pick some late summer vegetables to use with my prawns, and also visit The Kitchen in the Castle at nearby Howth Castle, home of a cooking school. Edwina St Laurence’s whose family have lived there for generations began this with her sister-in-law. Apart from telling me a spooky story about why they always set a spare place at the table (you’ll have to watch the show to find out), she showed me the most amazing simple sponge recipe. It is whisked but has no butter in it at all, with water added to give it lightness.
Another highlight was a visit to the people of Dublin’s market. It was very early, and very cold, but here I finally tasted the warming dish that is Dublin coddle, presented to me by a lovely Irishman called Derek who explained: “ It is made by my mummy, who is the youngest of fifteen and basically its ingredients is onion, potato, bacon, sausage. And if you were a rich person, you could put in tomato. Big, big pot of coddle would be made and it would be a family of fifteen, sixteen, there could even be a family of over twenty, and then you would add to the coddle each day so it never ran out.”
Then it was off to the Guinness Storehouse to meet a charismatic and talented young food blogger Donal Skehan, dubbed ‘Ireland’s answer to Jamie Oliver’. On a visit to a Dublin provedore, Fallon and Byrne, I was delightfully surprised by the appearance of my daughter Lucy who has lived in London for nearly seven years. So then, after a visit to a pop-up restaurant for lunch, Donal took us home to make a Beef & Guinness pie. Then it was off to the Dublin hotspots –from pubs to restaurants – before a fond good bye.
Lyndey Milan, Australian home cook hero, combines a thirst for life and a sense of fun with a love of good food and sparkling shiraz. A familiar face on television and in print, she been instrumental in changing the way Australians think and feel about food and wine for over twenty five years.