As above, so below……..and on my Halloween or Samhain kitchen altar, it is mostly root vegetables, leaves and herbs picked from my little kitchen garden. Halloween is the Celtic New Year. And when you live by the hook, you have to reel or creel some kind of fresh fish in for the table. This is the time of year to celebrate. And be mindful of the thin line between the living and the dead. On the wild Atlantic coast of Ireland, each fishing village will have its tradition and history. Though the weather is not as guaranteed as other parts of the planet, I still like to call the west coast of Ireland the Riviera of the North Atlantic.
Seaweed has been a traditional fixture in the Irish coastal peasant kitchen for centuries. It has also been used as fertilizing material for kitchen gardens. Kelp grows extensively in Irish waters and it is literally there for the picking. Another reason to fight for cleaner oceans. Apart from being a seal, a kelpy was a maritime mirage of a beautiful woman luring fisher people onto hard rocks. But I want to make a sea weed stock with the kelp to fortify my fish cooking efforts. This is good because it is also vegetarian. And seaweed is an excellent source of micronutrients.
In my seaweed stock, I braised my kitchen garden garlic, onion, leek, carrot and turnip with some thyme. They were immersed in the hot stock. They will be needed for more cooking later. Sirens and syrens.
My traditional Irish brown soda bread will be on the Samhain table, best served warm with real butter.
There was a time when we did not eat potatoes. They came much later. But here they are. My twist on the old favorite was to simply smash the potatoes lightly with a little bit of milk and butter. This way the potatoes retain some texture and character. i folded in garlicky, sauteed swiss chard, parsley and raw scallion. I used what I had from my garden to celebrate this Samhain. But, as far as I am concerned, you have to have potatoes with fish, somehow. My tradition. My potato dish is a version of the classic Colcannon.
Dillisk, or dulse, is another seaweed found in Irish waters. And also found just north of Boston in Maine. Shop local when you can.
I just broke up the dulse as chunks and threw it in. It has to be my favourite seaweed. Now we are ready to cook our seafood surprise for the Samhain syrens who live under the sea. Halloween with a mermaid.
Goddess of the sea, keep us safe while taking your fishes. Eat like a peasant. Oiche Shamhna shona dhaoibh.