Oyster recipes: Ireland's finest

The Hillsborough International Oyster Festival
The Hillsborough International Oyster Festival

You know the golden rule about oysters right? Never eat them in a month without an ‘r’ in the name

You know the story. When the water gets warm, it’s time to leave those oysters in peace (something about the build-up of toxins when the water gets warmer)…That’s why ‘most’ oyster purveyors leave things be until the letter ‘r’ rolls in…

But we don’t have that problem in Ireland - it never gets that warm around the shoreline here. In fact, the acclaimed Carlingford Oyster Festival breaks this rule by marveling at the mollusc around mid-August.

But that’s just the start of the oyster shenanigans in Ireland, the other oyster odyssey destinations start their shucking in earnest during the month of September. And to top off the celebrations, we thought we’d ask a couple of the top chefs involved in the Oyster festivities to give us their extra-special oyster recipes just for you

The Festival: Hillsborough International Oyster Festival 2013, County Down

The Hillsborough International Oyster Festival (3-8 September) celebrates 21 years in 2013. The Guinness World Record for eating the most oysters was made at the 2005 festival, at a whopping 233 in three minutes by the county’s very own Colin Shirlow.

The Chef: Danny Millar

Millar is renowned for the recipes he creates at Balloo House in Killinchy and The Parson’s Nose in Hillsborough. He is also one of the leading chefs at the festival.

The Recipe: Tempura of oyster on wilted spinach with soy and ginger dressing

Serves 4

Ingredients:

For the Soy and ginger dressing

  • 125ml (1/2 cup) light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp caster sugar
  • 1 green shallot, end trimmed, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 fresh red bird’s eye chilli, deseeded and thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp fresh lime juice

For the oysters

  • 200g fresh spinach
  • Knob of butter
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning
  • 24 oysters

For the Tempura batter

  • 100g corn flour
  • 150g plain flour
  • 10g baking powder
  • Enough ice cold sparkling water to make batter (should coat your finger)

Method

1. Combine ingredients for dressing in a small pot and stir until the sugar dissolves

2. Wilt spinach in a pan with a knob of butter and seasoning

3. Open oysters and clean shells

4. Place a small amount of wilted spinach in each shell

5. Mix together the Tempura batter ingredients until smooth enough to coat your finger

6. Heat a deep-fat fryer to 180 degrees

7. Batter oysters in Tempura batter and deep fry each for 2 mins

8. Lightly drizzle with the soy and ginger dressing and serve warm

The Festivals: Clarenbridge Oyster Festival, County Galway, 14-16 September 2013/Galway International Oyster Festival, 26-29 September 2013

Another oyster hotspot is County Galway where the 59th Clarenbridge Oyster Festival will take place, swiftly followed by the prestigious Galway International Oyster Festival. The proximity to the Atlantic Ocean plays a big role for both of these fun events – and they know their stuff. After all, they’ve been harvesting the molluscs for centuries!

The Chef: Brendan Keane

Using Clarenbridge’s own oysters, Brendan Keane (a Good Food Ireland Approved Provider from The Malt House in Galway city), has rustled up his own oyster supper for you to taste…

The Recipe: Clarenbridge Oyster Arancini

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 12 Clarenbridge oysters
  • 50g finely diced shallots/spring onions
  • 400g pearl barley
  • 200ml Guinness
  • Sprig of fresh thyme
  • Sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 250ml vegetable stock
  • 250g grated Killeen goats’ cheese
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 100ml milk
  • 50g plain flour
  • 100g Spanish Point seaweed powder
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning
  • 100g chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 100ml Donegal rapeseed oil

Method

1. Open oyster and remove from the shell, store in a clean container with the juices.

2. Sweat off the diced shallot in a saucepan, add the pearl barley, followed by the Guinness, thyme and rosemary.

3. Stir until the Guinness has almost entirely evaporated.

4. Ladle by ladle, slowly add the boiling vegetable stock, continuously stirring the mixture until the barley is just cooked

5. Fold in the grated cheese, spread the mixture on a tray and allow to cool.

6. When the mixture has cooled, wearing kitchen gloves, shape it into 20cm diameter balls, make an indentation into each with your finger and insert an oyster, reshape the arancini balls to their original shape.

7. To make the eggwash: mix together the beaten egg and milk. Gently coat the arancini using the eggwash, flour, the Spanish Point seaweed powder and a little seasoning.

8. Blend together the chopped parsley, lemon juice and rapeseed oil and put in a squeeze bottle.

9. In clean oil, deep-fry the arancini for two minutes, strain on kitchen paper, and place each one into the cleaned half oyster shell. 

10. Drizzle with the lemon and parsley oil and serve hot

With some fresh Irish soda or brown bread on the side, between these two dishes, you can recreate some of Ireland’s oyster magic at home. But as always, the origin of the recipe is always the sweetest.

Bon appétit from everyone in Ireland!

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