I grew up by the sea on the shores of Bantry Bay. We could tell the weather by our surroundings, by the call of the sea gulls or by the white shore crashing on the rocks. I don’t hear sea gulls where I live now and I miss this.
Seagulls tell you a lot, you can hear them call as they follow little fishing boats home from a day at sea waiting to take whatever rich pickings they can. Their excitement is almost palpable and as a child I used to love to stand rooted to the spot listening to their cries and watching their almost celebratory swoops around the fishing boats which often had just one lonesome figure guiding his bounty safely home after a hard day working on the sea. I’m sure for the fisherman and the seagulls there is an unwritten friendship and understanding, they are like hand and glove. You will find when there is a storm brewing out at sea they come inland, they are seen to soar high over the town rather than their usual flight path down by the sea. Their cries can evoke many memories, some of hot sunny days at the beach, meting ice cream dripping down a cone, lobster pots thrown on a pier, the smell of the sea or the salt spray as waves crash over walls when a storm hits land.
Today as I cooked I was reminded of all of this. One of my favourite recent finds is Irish Atlantic Sea Salt. It is milled down on The Beara Penninsula and has the most beautiful big, clear crystals. I used this to season my Prawn and Spinach pastries. I have today made them with baby spinach due to the time of year but if you really want to bring it back to the sea then you can use some Sea Beets or Sea Spinach instead. For me the marriage of the prawns, the Atlantic Sea Salt and Sea Spinach brings it all back to where I grew up on the shores of West Cork and the smells and flavours that I embraced as a child.
PRAWN AND SPINACH PASTRIES WITH MOUSSELINE SAUCE Rapeseed oil 200g of sea spinach or baby spinach leaves 500g Uncooked Dingle Bay Prawns I x 275g ready rolled puff pastry 1 egg beaten Irish Atlantic Sea Salt and pepper 1) Preheat the oven to 200 degs 2) Heat the Oil in a frying pan and gently wilt the spinach in two batches seasoning with salt and paper. When nicely wilted place in a colander, allow to cool and squeeze out excess liquid. 3) Line a baking tray with parchment. Divide the pastry into 3 equal sections. Place some spinach on each one, top with equal amounts of prawns and season with salt and pepper. 4) Brush all around the sides of the pastry with the egg and fold over to seal the pastries. Prick all over with a fork. Brush the top with beaten egg and place in the oven for 20mins. While the pastries are cooking make... THE MOUSSELINE SAUCE 3 egg yolks 1 tsp Dijon mustard 1 tbsp white wine vinegar 170g butter, melted 15 g tarragon, chopped 100ml double cream, lightly whipped Atlantic Sea Salt and Black Pepper 1) Place the egg yolks, mustard and white wine vinegar in a blender and process until well mixed 2) With the blender on constantly gradually pour in the melted butter. 3) Mix in the chopped Tarragon and fold the mixture into the whipped cream. Season with Atlantic Sea Salt and cracked black pepper and spoon onto your plate to accompany the pastries.