When we first started traveling to Ireland, the food was as bad as everyone said: watery stews, with chunks of ham, cabbage and potatoes. The bread and butter were always good, as was the Guinness, but the sit-down meals? Not so much.
Now the food is terrific, even in smaller towns. I’ve watched the restaurants moving in, and I’ve sampled the menus (all for research, of course), and I’m blown away. Even the pubs have stepped up their game.
This recipe is adapted from The Complete Irish Pub Cookbook, which has gorgeous pictures. If I can find a pub where they make this dish, I may stake out a permanent seat. I do know where to find locally-made smoked salmon, made in a small building in Union Hall in West Cork (near the wonderful fish store I keep returning to)—and you can buy it at the Skibbereen Saturday Market. I’ve been known to plan trips so I can visit the market.
Smoked Salmon Tartlets
The original recipe called for six 3-1/2 inch fluted tart pans with removable bottoms. Most of us probably don’t have those, so you can improvise. I had one shallow six-space pan (a flea-market find), so that’s what I used. Line the bottoms with foil if you need to, to make it easy to get the tarts out. (You could also use standard muffin tins or even mini-muffin tins, if you want to make appetizers—just adjust the cooking time.)
1 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
5-1/2 Tblsp cold salted butter, cut into pieces
|It doesn't get much simpler than this,|
Grease (or line) your tart pans. Put the flour and salt into a food processor and pulse to mix. Add the butter and process until the mixture looks line fine bread crumbs.
Place in a large bowl (or just leave it in your food processor bowl) and add just enough cold water to let the dough stick together. Place the dough on a floured surface and cut into six equal pieces. Roll each piece into a circle, then press into the tart pans. Clean up the edges. Put a piece of parchment paper in each, then fill with pie weights or dried beans and chill for 30 minutes.
I feel the need to point out that in general I am pie-crust challenged. This absolutely simple recipe produced one of the best I have ever made. It was easy to roll and didn’t fall apart, it didn’t get tough with handling, and it tasted great.
(Yanno, you can just buy your crust ready-made and then cut it to fit. I won’t tell.)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the tart shells from the refrigerator and bake (yes, still with the paper and beans) for 10 minutes. Then carefully remove the beans and paper.
1/2 cup crème fraiche OR 1/4 cup sour cream mixed with 1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp creamed horseradish
1/2 tsp (oh, all right, a squeeze) of fresh lemon juice
1 tsp capers, chopped
3 egg yolks
8 oz. smoked salmon trimmings (the scrappy bits, which is cheaper), coarsely chopped
Bunch of fresh dill, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix together the crème fraiche, horseradish, lemon juice and capers and add salt and pepper and blend well. Add the egg yolks, smoked salmon and chopped dill and mix carefully (you don’t want it to turn into mush).
Divide the mixture amongst the pastry shells and bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until the top and the crust edges have just begun to brown.
Let cool in the pans for 5 minutes before serving, garnished with sprigs of dill.
They'd look a bit tidier with a different baking tin, but they sure tasted good! (My husband approved.)
Is there a book? Well, the last Irish book was A Turn for the Bad, and in that one I send Maura and her friend Gillian to a nice small cafe in Union Hall, and then to the fish store. It's a lovely tiny town where the fishing fleet is based.
I can't tell you about the next Irish book because I haven't written it yet, and it doesn't have a title. But it will be coming next spring! I'm busy doing research in Ireland now, including exploring one very nice upscale hotel. The life of a writer is hard!