Mackerel and Mustard Sauce

A house by the Golfe – ( Original pic by Jacques Ducoin).

We left the City of Vannes for a more bucolic life by the shores of the Golfe of Morbihan, “The little sea”… Séné wasn’t quite a town, even if on Irish standards, it would definitely be one. It was not a village either, as it had a town hall, an elected Mayor with an office in his Mairie, a hotel, a few bars and a couple of restaurants. Séné was what we called a Borough, and its district was quite vast; known as a “commune”, it was made of a myriad of small villages and hamlets; Port Anna, Mousterian, Montsarrac, Cressignan, Falguérec, Brouhel… We built our house in the village of Kerarden, nearly in front of the chapel of the same name, celebrating mass every other week. A quiet life, with a beautiful view from my bedroom window!

Mancel Bay, view from my window ( Original picture by Jacques Ducoin).

Before the first supermarket arrived, there was one small grocery store, packed with stuff! A typical grocery shop in those days with the smell of fruits and vegetables hitting you as soon as you walked in. It had everything, you just needed to go next door for your bread, or across the road for the meat. The owner of this oasis was Mr Buckwheat ( or if translated, that is what it would be), and everyday, this man would also take is J7 Peugeot van, a miniaturised copy of his shop inside driving across the whole district, to help the forgetful or a lifeline for another. He would call into our village at the end of the afternoon, parking two doors away in an older couple’s front yard. Eggs, butter, milk, a box of matches? No problem! That is during these occasions that my mother befriended the young Nolwenn, herself mother of two young children and married to Noel, a local fisherman, poacher and “whatever comes my way” kind of guy.

Port Anna – Séné ( Original photo by Jacques Ducoin)

They didn’t have much, nor did the people where Mr Buckwheat traded every Wednesday evening, but I guess, looking back at things now, they were probably the most honest and kind. Nolwenn would call in every so often to inform my Mum that “her Noel” got some periwinkles some day, pink shrimps another, crabs or mackerel, whatever came his way… Yes, she was fond of that girl and also knew that some people looked down on her, fearing the contagion of poverty, or in some cases, its return. Mum knew that she had had to knock on some doors once too, to sell her grandmother’s crêpes in order to make ends meet. My friend Pauric from the restaurant next door gave me some beautiful fresh mackerel last Friday, and all these memories came knocking back. We used to grill them, and it was served in a tomato or mustard sauce, I have opted for the latter with a few modern twists, I hope you’ll enjoy this fond memory!

Fresh mackerel fillets

First of all, start working on the mash potato: You’ll need:

  • 6 nice organic potatoes
  • 20 cl of milk
  • 150 g of salted butter
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 scallions

Peel and boil the potatoes in salted water, after 15-20 minutes, they should be cooked through. Drain and put back in the pot over the heat for a few seconds to dry them properly. Add the milk and butter, the slices of scallions and start mashing. Set aside until you are ready to serve. It is important to do the preps properly as you want the fish to be served fresh from the pan. Now ready for the mustard sauce!

Mustard Sauce

Mustard Sauce: You’ll Need

  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced
  • 1 tbsp of Dijon mustard
  • 20 cl of dry white wine
  • 25 cl of fresh cream
  • a pinch of salt and black pepper

How to?

In a pan with olive oil, fry gently the shallots and garlic with a bit of salt; pour the white wine over before they go brown, let it reduce by half and then pour the cream. Let the lot reduce by half again, sieve into another pan and reduce until it gets thicker. Set aside. We are now going to make a pea and apple purée to give the dish a bit of freshness…


For the pea purée: You’ll Need

  • two handfuls of peas ( if you don’t have fresh ones, good quality frozen ones are great).
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 garlic
  • 1 small cooking apple peeled
  • a bit of olive oil

How to?

Put the peas, shallot and garlic in a pan with olive oil for a gentle fry and after 5 minutes cover with water and let the peas cook for about 5 minutes in boiling water. Drain and cool straight away and whiz with a hand blender. Scoop the mixture into a sieve with a pan underneath, and squash it until you get a lovely thick creamy pea purée. Set aside until serving time…

Purée the peas

So, all your preps are done, ready to be re-heated. This is the moment of truth. The quality of the fish was so good and fresh that I used a griddle pan for this. I heat it up with olive oil until quite hot, and decided to cook the fish on the skin side only, with a gentle splatter free grill cover towards the end. It won’t take long, 5 minutes at most…

Frying the mackerel on the griddle with a courgette

Now that all is ready, you can serve the dish. It was quite blustery yesterday, so in order to take a picture of the final dish I had to bring all my preps outside between two heavy showers for the final shots… Dedication or what?

Preps in the garden

But I guess it was worth it!

Grilled Mackerel with mustard sauce and pea purée, champ and grilled courgette
Close up

Keep Well and Eat Happy

Slán Tamall







Potato and Boyne Valley Bán Gratin

Potato and Boyne Valley Bán Gratin

Don’t you just love it? You are at work, you have a recipe in mind, you know that you have all the ingredients at home and in this case it was a head of broccoli, I needed to use for a simple but tasty gratin. I also wanted to use Michael Finnegan’s new cheese from Slane in County Meath called Boyne Valley Bán; a goat’s cheese tomme he has been experimenting for a while… I love it! Anyhow, I made it back home to the house at 6:30pm, only to realise that the broccoli in question had turned completely yellow, it was actually warm, the whole top shelf of the fridge had been bathed by the light bulb of the once cold appliance. I thought: ” Great! What now? A new fridge?”. The culprit was in fact one of my cats, “Shaky Leo”, a charming young black panther who suffers from “C.H” ( Cerebellar Hypoplasia) which causes him a lack of full control of his movements and some great “Free Styling” moves… In one of his “Parcour”, my little friend ended up opening the fridge slightly… All day… Good bye broccoli…

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Licorice and Lima Bean Stew

Choice 3
Lima Bean stew, with licorice stick and garlic croutons…

As I mentioned in my latest drama/ action pumped story Duck or Die ( that’s right, you have to go and read it now… Mwah-ha-ha…) my mother used to make – to the delight of my father – a wonderful haricot bean and beef stew. Here is a vegetarian dish I have created, based on the original, packed with summer flavours and memories. There are the beans, of course, and I used dried Lima beans from my Italian friend Roberto who runs the wonderful organic Mariangela Prunotto farm in Alba, Italy. I also found some licorice sticks in the health food shop the other day; when we were kids we used to buy these aniseed roots from the local pharmacy, and munch on them old day like cowboys on under a hot sun… Talk about a funny trend! I also added fresh local organic tomatoes, my mother was crazy about them at this time of year! I’d better get on with that recipe, which I realised is also vegan… What do you know?

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Duck or Die…

Choice 2
Gun of freedom…

When I opened the big gate of adolescence, a frightening squeak from a giant cast iron secondary school entrance welcomed and absorbed me in a solemn vacuum. Of course, and like today, there were kids who just wanted to blend in, ride those teenage years under the radar with minimum collateral damage, wanting to be acknowledged and noticed, yet having the skills to keep your cards close to your chest; not showing too much, dodging rain drops and other potential scraps or punches because you looked at, or aggravated with smart words a tougher kid with social or rather deeper personal issues than yours. Some built themselves with a strong and bold shell: Punks, Goths, Skinheads and Red Skins (the left wing ones; their Doc Martens were burgundy rather than black), right down to a couple of old fashioned black leather jacket bullies with learning difficulties, easy enough to manipulate if you knew how to; keeping them sweet by sharing candies, giving a few test wagers that would up some grades, preventing them from repeating the class… Again. I was a “bullet dodger”, or at least that is what I have been called once by that big fucker – who was actually pretty smart- as he tried to pound my face into the granite wall of the refectory. I used words, and it seemed to work.

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Bretonised Aubergines, Roasted Butternut and Red Lentils Stack

Choice 1
Buckwheat and aubergine stack, with roasted butternut squash and red lentils…

I am not very fond of summer in Ireland, not very fond of summer in general, that is just the way I am, don’t judge me or call me a miserable bastard. Since I have been leaving here, we’ve had two great summers; 1995 and 2006. The legend says that as the heat waves hugged and cuddled the land of Hibernia, someone, somewhere, on the Island said:” no, the summer is great, but it’s almost too hot”. A divine intervention then punished that poor soul by ruining  it for everybody else… How dare he or she said that?!? For the record your honor, it wasn’t me; I know too well how not to aggravate the natives, refraining from expressing my dislike for July and August. Last week, I decided to be more positive, tackling my cabin fever with long walks, five, nine kilometers, enjoying the wonderful nature of the midlands, butterfly hunting with my camera and rediscovering long lost smells from childhood summers. No saline breeze, no redshanks piping, just a dead dry heat with clear blue skies, thousands of flies and a few remaining chiffchaffs and swallows already thinking of heading back to the African continent…

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Buckwheat and Blackcurrant Chocolate Slab

Chocolate Cake with Blackcurrants

Every year, in the field at the back of the cottage, I plant something meaningful. A mighty oak now 8 foot tall, found as an acorn in a wood near Gort, co. Galway in 1995; another one a little bit smaller, given years ago by my Dad, from my Grand Parents’ house in Brittany. I want the wildlife to be happy, as this is not really for me, a mere contribution, a legacy maybe? Maybe… I have Hazel, Chestnut and Walnut trees in there, Aronia and Sea Buckthorn for the crazy berries and a couple of years ago, I planted some goose berries and blackcurrants… At last, a decent crop!

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Raw Beetroot and Watermelon Carpaccio

Organic beetroot and watermelon Carpaccio

Something weird happened yesterday; that guy I know came in to buy a few bits, olive oil and some cheese of course. Always friendly, touching fifty, a happy family man who runs a retail business not too far from here, in the middle of the Island some might say. Like a lot of people from this area, being involved or even from a farming background is almost inevitable. We were chatting and he shared with me some good news he had just received regarding his own business, that that extension will happen after all…

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