For anyone with even a passing interest in Irish seafood, Martin Shanahan should need no introduction. Of his popular Fishy Fishy Restaurant in Kinsale, the Sister always says “arrive early and be prepared to queue or arrive late and be prepared to queue” but, for seafood lovers, it’s more than worth it.
Martin’s Mad About Fish, his first TV series, was like a refreshing kick in the pants to all the other carefully styled and choreographed cookery shows out there. From the John Spillane title tune to the relaxed interaction between Shanahan and director Rory Cobbe, it was pure Cork. But, entertainment aside, Shanahan was a man on a mission: to take the fear out of fish. “No skin, no bone, no fear,” he repeated – and both the mantra and the attitude also come through in his cookbook.
There’s no re-inventing the wheel in Martin’s Fishy Fishy Cookbook, just plenty of simple, well executed ideas. With recipes for Pan-Fried Mackerel with Simple Tomato Sauce and Grilled Mackerel with Honey and Soy (my favourite fish) I might never get past the chapter on oily fish – although I could be tempted by Baked Fillets of Plaice with Parmesan and Breadcrumb Topping or even Lemon Sole with Mango and Cucumber Salsa.
Shanahan casts far and wide for influences. There are fresh Asian accents (a touch of wasabi in Salmon and Cucumber Wraps, Asian Butter sauce for monkfish, star anise and lime with salmon) lined up alongside warm Mediterranean flavours (squid or mackerel and chorizo, risotto with smoked haddock, Niçoise Salad) and, of course, some traditional dishes like Roast Salmon with Hollandaise, Fish and Chips and Seafood Pie. But recipes aside, there’s a great concentration on technique. Whether it’s preparing mussels or pan-frying fish, these are the skills that you need to make the most of your catch (or trip to the fishmongers).
Martin’s Fishy Fishy Cookbook is worth a read but, far more than that, it’s worth taking into the kitchen and covering in cooking stains.
Martin’s Fishy Fishy Cookbook by Martin Shanahan is published by Estragon Press. Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.
Martin’s Still Mad About Fish, his second series, is now showing on RTÉ, for those of you with televisions or access to the RTÉ player.