In most households growing up, you had two options for dinner: take it or leave it, but in our household there was sometimes more than two options. I can only speak for myself here by admitting not only was I a spoiled little meban but when it came to food, I was a living nightmare. Many basic ingredients were just a no go for me. Even just the sight or smell of something like milk, eggs, cheese, red meat, fish and certain vegetable and I’d refuse it eat it. Looking at me now, as a chef, you wouldn’t believe that as a child I’d have to have the vegetables taken out of my mince and potatoes, I’d only eat empty toasties or I’d have to have my scotch broth sieved so that I’d just have the liquid.
I like the thought of a song reminding us of a happy or sad time or a favourite dish that reminds us of a certain time, place or person. The question that always stumped me was when asked what was my favourite food. I never knew what to say. I believe now that it’s not just the food that we eat that makes it memorable or easily labelled as a favourite, it is the place we were, our surroundings at the time and the company that we keep.
Perhaps it’s the memory of the tin of creamola foam from Donnie the Baker, as we called him, and his green van or when Toffee Bò seemed like a food of the super rich, ridiculously priced at 99p when pocket money was so little and not always forth coming or when you had the difficult decision of choosing between the 10p/20p/30p pic and mix from Cross Post Office but you knew you were getting your moneys worth regardless. It’s small things like these that can form the fondest memories.
Coming home from school and as I came up the driveway, I could always tell if it was scone and aran-corc day or if the duff was exuding it’s natural odour from the pan and coming in the door to hear the faint tapping of the saucer on the bottom of the pan almost as a warning to steer clear, but all controlled by the strategically placed clobha teiner on the top of the closed pan.
Perhaps it was one of those days where Gran had the twin tub wired with it’s tubes poking out the window and down into the utility room sink, ridding itself of the suds from every orifice and the twin tub motoring across the utility room at the steady speed of at least 5mph in what direction it took was anybodies guess. So, with these memories in mind, with the exception of Guga day, no-one can be prepared for boiled fish day. If you had clothes on the pulley, you were finished. If you were in the house and didn’t get out before boiling point, you were in trouble.
I don’t recall seeing Saibhse being made very often at home but when it was, I knew it was the basic ingredients of – saith, onion, water, salt and pepper. When you break it down, Saibhse literally means water in which fish has been boiled. I do believe that even though it wasn’t made that often or what I can remember, I did enjoy it when I was a child but for some reason overnight I decided I didn’t like it, like the fore-mentioned Guga and Cean Cropaig which I will talk about another time. The Saibhse was never going to be eaten again, until one day aboard the Heather Isle SY47 it was prepared using the same 5 ingredients and it has to be said what joy such “primitive” ingredients can bring joy to somebody’s soul. It doesn’t take much to take a memory, give it a slight modern twist and still keep it simple. For this recipe, I’ve used cod instead of saith as it’s a more appealing fish.
I hope I do this memory justice.
A take on an old classic, easy to prepare and simple to cook
1ltr Fish Stock
4 Portions of Cod
½ Bag of Bean spouts
1 inch Root Ginger, cut into thin matchsticks
1 pouch Rice Noodles
1 Red Pepper
1 small chilli, de-seeded and sliced thin
1pk Pak Choi
Toasted sesame oil
1pk Baby Corn
1 Small Leek
Handful of fresh Coriander
You can make your own fish stock if you can get fish bones from your local fish monger. If not, fish stock cubes are fine.
- Prepare all the vegetables by cutting them into thin strips, keep them all separate. As this dish is all cooked together in one pot, you’ll need a good sized pan, a wok is ideal.
- Adding the stock to the pan, bring it up to a simmer. Add the hardest vegetables first; carrot, ginger and the shallots. After about a minute, add the pepper and baby corn followed by the rice noodles and pak choi and cook for a further minute.
- Lightly season the cod pieces with salt and pepper. Sit each Cod pieces into the pan, skin side up and simmer gently until the fish is cooked.
- Place the pak choi in the centre of the bowl. Assemble the vegetables in a bowl, along with the noodles and sit the fish on top. Finish with bean sprouts, radish, chilli, chopped coriander , squeeze of lime and a drizzle of sesame oil and serve.
I’d love to see what you create! Upload a picture to Instagram and tag me at @TheNiseachChef or use the hashtag #TheNiseachChef