Many of you have written in and asked, “What do the Irish eat during Lent?”.
The simple answer to that question is: “Pretty much what everyone else in the world eats during Lent.”
If you mean to ask, “What do Irish Catholics eat during Lent?”…well, that’s an entirely different question.
Catholics everywhere are meant to observe the Lenten tradition of giving something up. In Ireland most will abstain from eating sweets and puddings (dessert) or drinking alcohol. The exception, of course, is on St. Patrick’s Day when everyone gets a free pass to do as they please. I still don’t know how that came about but you know the saying “when in Rome…”. On Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all Fridays during Lent, Catholics also observe the custom of not eating meat.
In our home, we typically eat fish once a week throughout the year. During Lent we eat it on Fridays. I tend to serve salmon because it’s a healthy protein, high in vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for proper brain and heart function. My favourite places to buy salmon in Ireland are Caviston’s Food Emporium in Glasthule, Donnybrook Fair, and Marks & Spencer.
When it comes to recipes, Delia Smith’s roasted salmon fillet with a crusted pecorino and pesto topping is hard to beat. You may think pesto and salmon are an odd combination but the two together are just divine. As this is a dish I have been making for many years, I offer you the following three bits of advice: 1) supermarket pesto works better than homemade; 2) omitting the breadcrumbs from this recipe is fine; and 3) don’t substitute Parmesan cheese for Pecorino…it just doesn’t taste the same.
This simple salmon recipe is one I’m sure you’ll enjoy both during Lent and the whole year through.
Roasted Salmon Fillets with a Crusted Pecorino and Pesto Topping
4 x 5-6oz salmon fillets
2 rounded tablespoon finely grated Pecorino cheese
4 tablespoons fresh pesto sauce
squeeze of lemon juice
4 tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs
salt and freshly milled black pepper to taste
1. Pre-heat oven to 230°C/450°F/gas mark 8.
2. Begin by trimming the fillets if needed, and run your hand over the surface of the fish to check that there aren’t any stray bones lurking.
3. Now place the fish on a baking tray that’s been covered with foil or parchment paper.
4. Give each fillet a good squeeze of lemon juice and a seasoning of salt and pepper.
5. Give the pesto a good stir and measure 4 tablespoons into a small bowl, mix a third of the breadcrumbs with it to form a paste and spread over the salmon fillets.
6. Then, mix half the cheese with the remaining breadcrumbs and scatter this over the pesto. Then finish off with the remaining cheese.
7. Place the baking tray on the middle shelf of the oven and cook for 10-12 minutes, by which time the top should be golden brown and crispy and the salmon just cooked and moist.
8. Serve immediately with steamed new potatoes.
For more information about the Irish and Lent, please visit these websites: http://www.worldirish.com/story/22662-11-things-the-irish-will-give-up-for-lent-this-year