It seems to be a problem of mine that whenever I am preparing to leave a place, I find a great local spot. A week before leaving my childhood hometown for the unfamiliar streets of North Dublin, I visited Fish Shop in Blackrock. Peter and Jumoke brought their talents from the London street food scene back to Dublin, setting up a lovely kitchen at the back of Blackrock Market selling home made fresh fish and chips from an upcycled outbuilding. The fish is locally sourced and delivered each morning, so the menu changes from day to day. There’s a focus on the environment, recycled wood was used to make the fish shop and its outdoor seating area, and all of the take away packaging is compostable.
When we visited, mussels with ajillo and battered haddock jumped out from the menu. We added some home-made chips with tartare sauce for good measure. Peter and Jumoke chatted away to us as they made the food in front of us, even whisking up a batch of beer batter for the fish then and there. There are benches made from recycled pallets at Fish Shop, but we decided to bring our food down to the small seafront to enjoy the view. The mussels were fresh and juicy, with the garlic and wine adding enough flavour to complement without overwhelming. The haddock and chips were light and crispy, with a fresh clean taste. The tartare sauce had that lovely yellow colour and thick consistency that you only get when its properly homemade. Best of all, the fish and chips didn’t leave you with that greasy, heavy feeling that a lot of fish and chips can.
Since we visited, they’ve opened up a pop-up kitchen in the Grape Escape Wine bar in the market, serving dinner from 7-10 Thursday to Saturday. I’ll definitely be finding my way back to South Dublin to give it a try.
Fish Shop, Blackrock Market, Blackrock, Co.Dublin
085 704 1542
When I lived in Leiden, one of my favourite things about the weekend was wandering around the market that takes over the main canal through town on a Saturday. The only part I skipped over was the one corner of the market was dedicated entirely to fish. This part of the market sold all kinds of fresh fish to cook, as well as raw herring you eat whole in much the same way as you would down a shot and kibbeling (miscellaneous deep fried white fish). All of this is presided over by some ever watchful seagulls, who will happily grab the food out of your hands given half the chance.
Now that I’ve been converted to fish, I love browsing all the stalls to see what unusual things they have on offer. On my last visit, after careful examination of the stands, we bought a bundle of razor clams, never having tried them before, and unsure of what to do. When I googled razor clam recipes, I was a little concerned that they all mentioned discarding any clams that were open. All of the clams we’d bought were open, with the clams sliding out one end. Just as I was starting to wonder if we’d been duped, a piece by Giorgio Locatelli came to the rescue, explaining that the best way to tell if the clams are alive or not is to tickle the feet. We tentatively tried this with one clam which immediately leaped away. We ended up with an entire plate of clams wriggling and jumping in their shells. It was a little bit creepy, but at least we knew they were fresh.
Serves 2 as a light meal with bread.
- 350g razor clams
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 150ml white wine
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
- 3 slices of crusty bread, torn into very small pieces
- 1/2 quantity aioli
- olive oil
- Clean the razor clams.
- Check to make sure they are alive by tickling the bit of the clam sticking out from the shell; it should quickly recoil.
- Make the aioli as per the linked instructions.
- To make the gremolata, mix the parsley, lemon zest and 1 teaspoon of finely chopped garlic.
- Fry the bread crumbs in 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat until crispy.
- In a large pan with a lid, fry all but one teaspoon of the chopped garlic in some oil until it starts to colour.
- Add the wine and bring to the boil.
- Add the clams, put on the lid and cook for three minutes.
- Remove the clams after three minutes, and serve drizzled with a little of the cooking liquid and topped with the gremolata, breadcrumbs and aioli.
The Worst Wijn Cafe is a friendly, neighbourhood wine bar, the stuff of dreams. On stepping through the door, I nearly tripped over a dog waiting patiently while his owner finished a glass of wine. Located around 15 minutes walk west from Centraal Station, in an area my guide book doesn’t have a map for, Worst is the casual offshoot of Restaurant Marius. The name Worst refers to the sausage and meat heavy menu, and is not a slur on the quality of the place. Worst offers about ten small meaty plates for around €8-15 with suggested wines by the glass or half glass for each.
The open plan format meant we found ourselves at a counter staring directly at the chef. This allowed us to see all the dishes on the menu being prepared, but also meant we’d sometimes have to try and avoid making awkward eye contact when the chef was hanging around between orders looking distinctly uncomfortable. Each plate featured a main meat element with a vegetable accompaniment ready prepped on the counter. This is a good place if you want a quick bite. Given the tiny size of the kitchen, I would guess the bulk of the work is done in Marius next door.
We started off with the small plate of charcuterie (aufschnitt on the menu) and a sweetbread and veal tongue terrine with beetroot. The waitress immediately won my trust by suggesting we switch from the large to small plate of charcuterie, when she could have just let us over-order. The charcuterie featured a Dutch head cheese terrine, along with pepper salami, guanciale and a smoked Dutch ham a bit like prosciutto. Everything on it was excellent and fresh, we could see the chef slicing away each time an order came through.
We followed this up with some leverwurst (when in Rome) and a cheese plate. The leverworst wasn’t quite to my taste, but thats just because it turns out I don’t like liver that much. The fantastic cheese plate came served at exactly the right temperature (cheese just out of the fridge is my pet peeve in restaurants) featuring some gorgeous Comte-like Dutch Remeker puur gemakt cheese. All of this was washed down with some fantastic Picpoul de Pinet and an unusually nice Chardonnay. The wine by the glass varies according to what they have opened, but there is an extensive list of wines by the bottle too. We could have happily sat there all night, but took pity on the gathering crowd of sopping wet locals with no reservations sheltering from the torrential rain outside with more than a little regret. If you’re looking for a cosy place with excellent food and wine in Amsterdam, sometimes its best to go beyond the boundaries of the guide book.
Barentzszstraat 171, Amsterdam
Many years ago, my parents had the mad idea of driving from Dublin to Tuscany for a summer holiday, with two children in a car with no air conditioning. Parma was the first city I visited in Italy on this journey and I fell in love with it. It’s a very lively but elegant student city. My main memory was how every single person looked like they had just stepped out of a fashion magazine. I also remember the fantastic food. Each Italian city has its own distinctive food culture, and Parma is no exception, being home to Parma Ham. All the ham is produced in the hills around the city as it has been for over 1000 years. I’ve been a big fan of both for years, so I was happy to come up with a recipe for the festive season using Parma Ham.
Prosciutto with melon is a classic Italian combination. I wanted to create a recipe that put a bit of a festive spin on the fruit and Parma Ham combination and could be scaled up for a party. Pears are seasonal throughout Autumn and Winter so they seemed an obvious choice. Caramelising them adds a little bit of decadence and the blue cheese gives a nice creamy balance. If you wanted to make a gluten free version of this, you could wrap the ingredients up in the ham like an involtino. This is a quick and easy recipe that you can prepare in advance and assemble at the last minute, perfect if you’re entertaining guests.
Makes 18 crostini
- 88g Parma Ham (6 slices)
- 150g soft blue cheese like Saint Agur or Gorgonzola
- 2 conference pears
- 25g butter
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- Slice the pears into 1cm thick slices.
- Melt the butter in a large frying pan over a medium high heat.
- Add the sugar.
- Fry the pear slices in batches in the butter and sugar until caramelised (around 5 minutes).
- Remove from the pan.
- To assemble, slice and toast the bread.
- Divide each parma ham slice into three pieces.
- Put a slice of parma ham on each slice of bread, smear half a teaspoon of blue cheese on top, and finish with a slice of caramelised pear.
This post was sponsored by Parma Ham as part of their Pass the Prosciutto Campaign.
Follow Parma Ham on Twitter for a chance to win $50 worth of the world’s most famous ham. Click on the banner below to participate. This post is a collaboration between Canal Cook and Parma Ham.
This is yet another recipe from ‘Jerusalem’. *Insert grumble about food blogger Ottolenghi hero worship here*. One of my favourite things about the book is how is explores recipes in Jerusalem from the perspective of the many different cultures and traditions that exist there. It shows what makes up a local traditional cuisine and where the different facets of a dish or type of dish came from. This is something I have thought about a lot when it comes to traditional Irish food. I’ve often been asked, what is traditional Irish food? Most European countries can point to a distinctive cuisine, whether regional or throughout the country. When I taught in Denmark, I used to supervise the school lunches, and became aware of just how many traditional Danish dishes there were that every kid could name. I’m not sure the same could be said in Ireland.
An article in this week’s Irish Times tried to tackle the issue of ‘what is Irish cuisine’ and came to much the same conclusions as I have. The article found that what really typifies Irish food is the freshness and quality of ingredients, rather than a huge selection of traditional dishes. If you ask any Irish person, they’ll give you a different answer as to what a traditional Irish dish is. Irish culinary traditions that I have introduced the Dane to include breakfast rolls and putting crisps into sandwiches, so I may not be the best ambassador. What do you think of when you think of Irish food?
Anyway, back to the dish at hand. Mejadra crops up in a lot of cookbooks, and seems to be traditional across the Arabic world. According to Wikipedia, the recipe was first recorded in 1226 in Iraq. To put this in perspective, the food that most people think typifies Irish cuisine, potatoes, weren’t even introduced in Ireland for another 300 or so years! Mejadra (or mujaddara) is a tasty dish of rice, onions and lentils. It is so much more than the sum of its parts and is easily a meal in itself. It’s quite easy to make and is a good foundation to build a mezze around (particularly with this fantastic hummus). Serves 6 as a side dish.
- 4 medium onions, thinly sliced
- 2-3 tablespoons of flour
- 250g green or brown lentils
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 2tsp coriander seeds
- 200g basmati rice
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- 1½ tsp ground allspice
- 1½ tsp ground cinnamon
- Salt and black pepper
- 350ml water
- Neutral oil like sunflower or vegetable
- Greek yoghurt (optional)
- Cook the lentils in boiling salted water until cooked through but not completely soft (about 10-15 minutes).
- Sprinkle the flour on a plate and season well with plenty of salt and pepper.
- Toss the onion slices in the seasoned flour.
- Pour a couple of tablespoons of neutral oil into a frying pan.
- How much oil you use is up to you. You can get away with not that much if you’re very health conscious, but if you want really crispy and delicious onions, you’re going to need a fair few tablespoons.
- Depending on the size of your frying pan, either fry the onions all at once or in batches (there should only be one layer of onions in the pan at a time).
- Fry them in the oil over a medium high heat for 5-7 minutes until crispy and golden brown.
- Remove from the oil and drain on a plate lined with kitchen paper.
- Heat a large saucepan big enough to hold all the ingredients over a medium heat.
- Toast the cumin and coriander seeds for a minute or so until they start to pop.
- Add the oil and remaining spices and season well.
- Add the rice and toss in the spicy oil to coat.
- Add the cooked lentils and the water and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low.
- It won’t look like there is enough water, but there is.
- Simmer for 15 minutes covered with a lid.
- Take off the heat, remove the lid, cover with a towel and leave for 10 minutes.
- Serve topped with the onions, and a dollop of Greek yoghurt (if you like).
This post seems to be one that needs a few apologies. I know, the picture isn’t great. We are coming into the season where I am never near a kitchen during daylight, and with that comes some slightly off photography. Also, for the purists among you, I know this isn’t really in the strictest sense a cassoulet. It’s like a cassoulet light, all the taste with a reduced chance of ending up with gout after a few mouthfuls. Proper cassoulet from Languedoc is made just with beans and the contents of a farmyard (duck, pork, lamb, goose and sausage).
I had a lovely rich cassoulet last winter in Ma Bourgogne in the Marais that left me gasping for air and fully fortified to face the bitter Parisian cold. I remain convinced that Paris in winter is the coldest place in Europe. Northern Denmark seemed balmy in comparison when I returned. While there is a time and a place for that, this recipe takes a little of the meat and replaces it with juicy stock enriched lentils. It’s a lovely dish for the blustery weather we’re having, and one that actually tastes even better the day after its made. Dublin has a big Polish community and with that comes lots of Polish supermarkets filled with fantastic and inscrutably labelled sausages. Kielbasa is a good one to try with a nice garlic flavour that substitutes well for Toulouse sausage. This recipe serves 4 generously, especially if you have some nice crusty bread to accompany it.
- 3 medium onions, finely chopped
- 5 cloves of garlic
- 350g Kielbasa or good quality garlic sausage, sliced into 2cm thick slices
- 150g bacon, chopped
- 250g lentilles verts or puy lentils
- 1 x 400g tin of flageolot beans, drained
- 4 tomatoes, chopped, or half a tin of tomatoes
- 2 tsp tomato puree
- 300ml good chicken, pork or beef stock
- 150ml red wine
- 2 bay leaves
- 150g breadcrumbs
- Olive oil
- Cook the lentils for 10-15 minutes in a pot of boiling water with a bay leaf and a clove of garlic until chewy and almost completely cooked.
- Fry the bacon in a large ovenproof casserole with a little olive oil over a medium heat until starting to crisp.
- Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve.
- Fry the onion over a medium-low heat in the bacon grease until glossy and soft 6-8 minutes.
- Add the garlic and the kielbasa and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
- Add the bacon, wine, stock, bay leaf, tomato puree and tomatoes and cook for 15 minutes.
- Add the beans and the lentils and season well.
- Cook in the oven at 175C for 20 minutes until some of the liquid has absorbed.
- Top with the breadcrumbs and cook for another hour to 1 and 1/4 hour until the liquid has been almost completely absorbed, the cassoulet is bubbling and breadcrumbs are crunchy (if it is not cooking fast enough, you can reduce it a bit on the stove at the end, but this will make the breadcrumbs a bit soggy).
- Leave to sit for 10 minutes to rest and then serve.
- Alternatively, refrigerate overnight and reheat the next day.
When I started this blog in 2010, I planned on it being purely for recipes. I was living as a student in Leiden, a small city with expensive restaurants, and couldn’t really afford to get out much. A lot has changed over the last years again, and although I am now a student (of sorts) again, writing recommendations for nice places I’ve tried has become a part of the blog I really enjoy.
As a natural progression from that, I am now also writing for Spotted by Locals. Spotted by Locals is a great travel site with guides to a number of cities around the world, written by locals. It means you can avoid that annoyance that comes from seeking out a place recommended in a travel guide, only to find it has closed down because the guide is three years old! You can also download an app for each city with the guide.
I will be writing about my favourite places in Dublin, both culinary and otherwise. I’ll still be writing some reviews and recommendations up here, but for my full Dublin recommendations, you can find me on Spotted by Locals here.