This is a guest post from Johnie Gall of Dirtbag Darling.
For many surfers, eating fresh, beautiful food from the sea is habit. For Jane and Myles Lamberth, co-authors of The Surf Café Cookbook, it’s a way of life – so much so that their passion for surfing their home break on the coast of Ireland led them to open a restaurant overlooking the sea. Inspired by the wholesome, often traditionally Irish meals they prepare at Shells every day, the duo authored the cookbook as a manual for creating simple, stunning dishes. We caught up with the husband and wife team to talk eating and surfing!
Your book is about surfing as much as it is about cooking. How do they go hand-in-hand for you?
We both live to surf and we love food. So much so that we built our life around our two passions when we opened Shells, our bakery and café which is situated right on a surf break. Our café and life are pretty much one. We wanted to capture the essence of good living and good eating—so we knew we had to write about surfing.
What are the staple foods and traditional meals of Ireland?
Of course, Ireland is well known for potatoes. Generally speaking, there will be at least one variety of potato on all plates at dinner time (often a few). We have great pastures so beef and lamb are features in a lot of Irish cooking. Ireland has traditionally had quite limited ingredients, being an island, so we used what was on our doorstep: meat, potatoes and great dairy. Back in the day, people would abstain from meat on Fridays, so as a nod to the past we often do a Fish Friday at Shells, with fresh seafood overlooking the ocean.
Some of our favorite tips from the book focus on more than the act of cooking. What are your favorite pages?
I love the fish gutting one. We have an abundance of fish here and at times during the summer the mackerel are practically jumping out of the sea at you. But so many people are intimidated and not sure where to start. Everything takes practice, but I hope just having those tips in there will encourage someone to give it a go. I also love jam making and preserves – one Christmas we didn’t have much money so we made a load of jams and gave them as gifts. It’s a great skill to have.
What do you love most and least about living on the coast?
Easy, the sea! It’s amazing to see it every day. The abundance of fresh air, no traffic smell, no stuffiness you sometimes get in a city. Least? The sideways rain we can get here. But then again, even that’s exciting at times.
What’s your favorite must-have kitchen tool?
A good knife that’s sharp and comfortable. You should always handle it in the shop before you buy it. How heavy is it? How does it feel? It’s always worth spending on a good knife.
What’s your best advice for a novice cook looking to add to their repertoire?
Don’t be afraid to try new things. Watch lots of cooking programs and start off cooking dishes that you really want to eat. You’ll have more of an interest in it that way. Don’t be disappointed if it isn’t 100 percent perfect the first time—have a look and taste and see what you can do to improve it the next time.
Can you share a simple but elegant recipe with us?
Sure, Eggs Benedict is one of our most popular brunch items at Shells. It’s a simple dish with two key parts: good poached eggs and a good hollandaise. Once you master those, you’ll have lines at your house every Sunday morning.
4 organic eggs (the freshest you can find)
4 slices buttered toast
2 tablespoons vinegar
Cress or chives to garnish
Thick sliced ham or organic smoked salmon
3 egg yolks
1 1/3 cup diced butter at room temperature
Squeeze of lemon
- Place a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of steaming water on a medium heat. (Not: the water in the pot should be simmering, not boiling, but hot enough to melt butter.)
- Pour in egg yolks and whisk straight away.
- Slowly add in the butter—make sure this is done in stages. Whisk vigorously in between. Keep the temperature low and add the butter slowly…the key phrase here is “low and slow, low and slow.” The eggs must not scramble! Tip: The aim here is to emulsify the egg and butter together, so you’re aiming to melt the butter without scrambling eggs.
- Keep cooking and stirring until the sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. If it gets too thick add a splash of cold water.
- Season to taste and add a squeeze of lemon juice for sharpness. Serve as soon as possible as hollandaise does not reheat well.
- Now for the eggs…fill a deep saucepan with water and bring to a simmering boil (not rolling).
- Add two tablespoons of vinegar and stir to make a whirlpool effect.
- Crack the four eggs carefully into the pot.
- The whirlpool and the vinegar help to hold the eggs together. Don’t overcrowd the pot with eggs.
- Allow the eggs to simmer for two to three minutes. You’re aiming for a wobbly, well-cooked white with a runny yolk.
- With a slotted spoon, lift the eggs onto a paper towel to soak up the excess water.
- Pop the bread in the toaster, then butter it up and top with the ham or salmon (for a professional look, cut the toast into circles). Carefully place the eggs on top and spoon over a generous helping of hollandaise. Garnish with chives or cress.
Post by Johnie Gall of Dirtbag Darling.