Posts Tagged ‘fish’

Hooked on tuna

Sunday, October 5th, 2008

In recent weeks Thornton’s has been serving yellowfin tuna and swordfish caught off the south-west coast of Ireland. A lot of the tuna available in Ireland is imported from abroad, from countries such as Indonesia, but I like to use Irish fish.

Small amounts of fresh Irish tuna and swordfish are available from good fishmongers at this time of year and, as fresh tuna is so much tastier than the canned variety, it is well worth seeking out.

Tuna flesh is similar to swordfish both in colour and in texture. Fresh tuna can be eaten raw, grilled, pan-fried or cured. I like it raw (tuna tartare) with diced shallots, lemon juice and fresh horseradish. For those who prefer tuna well done, it is best to cook it slowly. This recipe is simple, tasty and the dressing complements the fish beautifully.

Grilled yellowfin tuna with ratatouille, soy and ginger dressing

Ingredients, serves four
4 tuna steaks
1 lemon
100g girolle mushrooms (optional), cleaned and cut in half
1 shallot diced
Olive oil

Dressing ingredients
15ml rice wine
20ml soy sauce
5ml sesame oil
50ml sunflower oil
1 shallot, finely diced
5g chopped fresh dill
Juice of one lime
5 slices of preserved ginger, finely diced
Juice of 1 lemon
Sea salt
Fresh milled pepper

Make the dressing by placing the dill, shallots, ginger, lime juice, lemon juice, soy sauce, rice wine, sunflower oil, sesame oil into a bowl and mixing well. Season and mix again. Correct seasoning if necessary.

Ratatouille ingredients
1 medium courgette, thinly sliced
1 aubergine, sliced
1 red pepper, de-seeded and sliced
1 green pepper, de-seeded and sliced
5 plum tomatoes, blanched and skinned
1 white onion, diced
Half a clove garlic, crushed
10ml olive oil
4 basil leaves

1. Sauté the onions in a little olive oil until lightly brown. Add the aubergine and peppers and cook for a few minutes. Add the courgette, tomatoes and garlic. Remove from heat and set aside.
2. Heat a separate pan and add a drop of olive oil. Place the basil leaves in the pan and cook for a few seconds. Remove and place them on kitchen paper to absorb the oil. Season lightly.
3. To cook the tuna, heat a grill pan. Season the tuna steaks and drizzle with olive oil and lay them on the hot grill. After two minutes turn the steaks over (they should be nicely marked at this point) and cook other side for two minutes.
4. Squeeze the juice of a lemon over the steaks. The fish is ready to serve at this stage although if you prefer tuna well done, place the steaks in a hot oven (170 degrees C) for a further five minutes.
5. Sauté the girolles in a little olive oil on a hot pan, add diced shallot and cook until the liquid has evaporated.
6. To assemble the dish, spoon ratatouille around the plate. Spoon the mushrooms into the middle of the plate and place the tuna steak on top. Sprinkle dressing around the plate.

Kevin Thornton is a Michelin-starred chef and owner of Thornton’s Restaurant on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin.

Turbo-charge your turbot

Sunday, September 7th, 2008

Turbot is a large, flat fish with a subtle, delicate flavour. Found close to shore in sandy, shallow waters, it can weigh between 13 and 18 kilogrammes.

When buying turbot avoid the very small ones as the fillets they produce can be too small. Equally, very large turbot may tend to be a little tough. Middle size (2 to 4 kilogrammes) are best.

As usual, when choosing fish avoid those with sunken eyes and use your nose to detect a fresh seawater smell. You can ask your fishmonger to fillet it for you into four pieces.

If you’re a dab hand at filleting fish yourself, take it home and use the bones to make a fish stock. Turbot is in season from September to around the middle of February.

It’s not a cheap fish but, when married with a few carefully selected ingredients, it makes a fine dish.

It’s a good source of protein and vitamins B3 and B12.Aswell as containing minerals important for the immune system, it also has magnesium and phosphorous which are important for metabolism and building strong bones and teeth.

We serve it at Thornton’s with a sauce made of beetroot and grapefruit, and the combination of flavours is a firm favourite with our customers.

Sautéed fillet of turbot with brioche, beetroot and grapefruit sauce

Ingredients (serves 4)
4 pieces of wild turbot about 100g each
1 slice of brioche
Juice of half a pink grapefruit
10ml virgin olive oil
50g unsalted butter
Sea salt
Fresh milled white pepper

Sauce ingredients
1 diced shallot
1 1/2 pink grapefruit
Juice of half a lemon
65ml Noilly Prat
65ml dry white wine
250ml fish stock
5 beetroots
Sea salt
Fresh milled white pepper

Puréed potatoes ingredients
4 Maris Piper potatoes
100g unsalted butter
100ml cream

Roasted beetroot ingredients
12 capers
12 small beetroots
1 grapefruit
1 orange

Marinate the turbot in olive oil and refrigerate for 30 minutes while you get busy with the sauce and vegetables.

Dice and sauté the shallots with a little olive oil for a couple of minutes, add one pink grapefruit (skinned and chopped) and sauté for a further three minutes. Add three peeled and diced beetroots to the mixture.

Pour in the Noilly Prat and bring to the boil. Simmer and reduce by three quarters and add the fish stock. Bring the liquid back to the boil and then simmer until it reduces by half. Season to taste. Remove the sauce from the heat and pass it through a fine sieve.

Use a juicer to extract the juice from the remaining two beetroots and add the juice to the sauce. Bring the sauce back to the boil, then simmer until it is again reduced by half.

Taste and correct the seasoning, Cut the unsalted butter into small pieces and whisk it into the sauce to finish.

To prepare the vegetables, wash the baby beetroots, cut into quarter pieces and wrap them loosely in tinfoil.

Squeeze juice of orange and grapefruit over and place in oven at 125 degrees centigrade for an hour. Remove and they are ready to serve. Meanwhile, boil and purée the potatoes, and add butter and cream and season to taste.

To prepare the fish, heat the oven to 170 degrees, then season and sauté the turbot in a hot pan with a drop of olive oil until golden brown. Turn over fillets and put in the oven for about three minutes.

Remove the turbot from the oven and squeeze the juice of half a grapefruit over the fillets.

Cut the brioche into small cubes and arrange them on the fish, place the pan under a hot grill until the brioche turns golden brown. While this is happening you can reheat the sauce.

To serve, place some potato purée in the centre of the plate with the turbot on top. Pour the sauce around the potato, garnish with the beetroot and sprinkle with capers.

Kevin Thornton is a Michelin-starred chef and owner of Thornton’s Restaurant on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin.

Get to the heart of sole

Sunday, August 24th, 2008

Black sole, more widely known as Dover sole, is a wonderful fish. Sole is a flat fish that lives at the bottom of the sea and, like all flat fish, its skin is too tough to eat.

When grilling sole, you must remove both skin sides (black and white). Black sole is at its best when it is between one to three days old, as it is difficult to remove the skin if it is too fresh.

When I worked as a teenager in Chez Hans, grilled black sole was served on the bone and the waiters would then de-bone the fish at the table.

Unfortunately, this skill is rarely seen these days. The photographs above shows some of the process of skinning and filleting a sole.

To prepare sole very simply, butter a grilling tray. Season the sole fillets on both sides with sea salt and freshly milled white pepper, brush with melted butter and place under a hot grill until the fillets are golden brown. Turn the fish and grill on the other side, again until golden brown.

Remove from the heat, squeeze lemon juice over the fillets and serve. The following dish requires a little more work, though most of that is in the preparation. It is best served with summer vegetables and/or salad leaves.

Fillet of black sole with parmesan crust
Serves four

Ingredients: black sole
8 fillets of black sole (two fillets per portion)
Sea salt
Fresh milled white pepper
1 lemon

1. Season the fillets and squeeze the juice of half a lemon over them.
2. Put one fillet on top of a second one and wrap tightly in clingfilm. Repeat, so that you end up with four portions (two fillets per portion).
3. Place the wrapped portions in a pot of boiling water for five minutes, then remove and unwrap. Squeeze the rest of juice over the fillets and place them on a baking tray.
4. Cut the parmesan crust to the size of the fillet and place on top. Grill until the crust starts to melt.

Ingredients: parmesan crust
500g butter
850g fine breadcrumbs
150g grated parmesan cheese
3 free-range egg yolks
3 lemons zested and finely-chopped
Juice from half a lemon

1. Cream the butter. Add in the breadcrumbs.
2. Add the parmesan and chopped lemon zest.
3. Add the egg yolks and the lemon juice, and mix well.
4. Roll the mixture out thinly between two pieces of greaseproof paper and place in a freezer to set overnight.

Kevin Thornton is a Michelin-starred chef and owner of Thornton’s Restaurant on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin.

The knowledge of salmon

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

17 August 2008
Most wild fish found in Irish waters is exported to countries such as France, Spain and Japan, with the result that it is getting increasingly difficult to get hold of at home.

Ironically, Ireland imports a huge amount of farmed fish from around the world.

Much of the tuna available from Irish fishmongers and supermarkets, for example, comes from Indonesia, while a lot of the sea bass comes from Greece. A supplier recently told me that he gets great scallops from the US and Canada, as well as farmed halibut from Iceland.

So when you get the chance to get hold of wild Irish salmon, don’t miss the opportunity. Over-fishing in the past means that it is only possible to get the genuine article over the next two weeks.

At Thornton’s, we only buy Irish fish. Although imported fish is available to the Irish consumer at a cheaper cost, wild Irish fish is far superior in quality. Farmed salmon available in Ireland is around €4 per kilogram, organic salmon is about €10, and wild salmon is around €25.

Labeling fish organic does not necessarily mean that it has lived in its own natural environment. Much organic salmon is farm-reared and fed with organic food. I can’t tell much difference in the taste between farmed and so-called organic fish.

However, farmed salmon bears no resemblance to wild salmon and it is worth the extra cost. This recipe includes truffles but they can be omitted.

Sautéed fillet of wild Atlantic salmon with summer vegetables and summer truffle
Serves 4

Ingredients: Salmon
4 pieces of wild salmon fillet, 110g each
Olive oil
4 carrots
1 celeriac
1 bunch of samphire or sea asparagus
Olive oil
1 lemon cut in half
Rock salt
New boiled potatoes (3to 4 per person)

Ingredients: dressing
50ml virgin olive oil
15ml truffle vinegar
10g diced summer truffle (or 30 black, stoneless olives)
5ml madeira
10ml spring water
2 tomatoes skinned, seeded and chopped
Sea salt
Fresh milled white pepper
One small bunch of chopped chives
Half a lemon

Method: salmon
1. Season the salmon on both sides and sauté in a hot pan (flesh side down) in a little olive oil for two minutes.

2. Place salmon in hot oven at 170 degrees centigrade for four minutes.

3. Remove and brush with olive oil.

4. Place under a hot grill for about one minute. Remove, squeeze lemon juice over the salmon, and serve.

Method: dressing
1. Wash and chop the truffle (or olives), and place in a bowl.

2. Add the chopped tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, madeira, water and chives.

3. Mix well, and season to taste.

Method: vegetables
1. Dice all vegetables and cook in boiling, lightly-salted water for two minutes.

2. Remove and strain off water.

3. Return to pot. Add a little olive oil and season to taste. Heat through for a further minute.

4. Toss the samphire in a hot pan for a few seconds with a little olive oil and a little rock salt.

5. Remove and serve with boiled new potatoes.

Kevin Thornton is a Michelin-starred chef and owner of Thornton’s Restaurant on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin.

Delights of luscious lobster

Sunday, August 10th, 2008

The king of crustaceans, caught off the west coast of Ireland, is available from May to the beginning of September.

Only mature lobster should be kept for eating – ones that have reached the age of about seven years old and have a length of about 12 inches and weigh around 2lbs. The female spawns only every second year and from the approximately 20,000 eggs it carries under its tail, only a few dozen develop to reach reproductive maturity themselves.

Lobsters need time to recover from the shock of being caught. They have strong claws and a thick protective skin, so if they are cooked straight away their flesh is always tough.

Once caught, lobsters should be allowed to rest in special cages for a few days while immersed in seawater. If the lobster is out of the water for a number of hours, it will eat itself to keep alive.

It is easy to identify if the lobster you are buying has been left out of the water, as the flesh will be soft and falling apart.

One of my earliest encounters with lobster was when I was working as a teenager during the summer holidays in the kitchens of Chez Hans restaurant in Cashel. I saw this alien-looking thing in front of me, and the chef told me it would bite my finger off if I went near it.

Years later, I saw this beautiful creature in its own environment, when I was diving off St John’s Point in Donegal. I was amazed to see that, when I came close to it, it swam backwards and disappeared into a cave.

I waited for it to reappear and, when it did, I resisted taking it for dinner (it’s illegal to do so).

If cooking lobster, you should always buy it alive. If someone tries to sell you a dead lobster for a cheap price, you will pay dearly for it later.

It is also important to leave the elastic bands on its claws, as the Chez Hans chef was right – if you get pinched, it will be painful.

The other thing I love about lobster is its eggs, which are delicious when marinated in dry martini. I also use the coral to make lobster coral butter. The eggs are a beautiful black colour, and the coral is green, yet both turn to a beautiful pink when cooked.

There are several ways to cook lobster. Many people find the idea of immersing a lobster in boiling water, or cutting it in half while it is still alive, cruel. The truth is that there is no way to cook a lobster that does not seem cruel.

At Thornton’s, we slowly drown the lobster in fresh water over a few hours, then cook it in a court bouillon for 30 seconds.

Once removed from the heat, I make a consommé from the shells, and then oven-cook the lobster meat in the consommé at 50 degrees for 12 minutes.

Another easy choice is to prepare it with a sauce made of fresh tomatoes, shallots, garlic and brandy, and again oven-cook it at the same temperature.

Remember that a lobster’s skin is blue-black and turns red only when cooked, and that the best lobster flesh comes from the claws. The recipe below is for lobster simply cooked in calvados.

Ingredients – lobster in calvados, serves four
Four small lobsters (each weighing 14oz), or two large lobsters (each weighing 1.5lbs to 2lbs)
100g butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
100ml calvados
Pinch of sugar

1. Set the oven at a high temperature (250 degrees). Cut the live lobster in two, length-ways, clean the heads, then gut it.

2. Add the halves to a skillet, coat with 50g butter and add salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes in the oven, continually basting it with the juice.

3. Near the end of the cooking time, carefully add the calvados, as it should not come into direct contact with the lobster meat.

4. Add the remaining butter and the pinch of sugar, and cook the lobster halves in the oven for a further eight minutes. Serve hot.

Kevin Thornton is a Michelin-starred chef and Owner of Thornton’s Restaurant on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin.

Shellfish pleasures

Sunday, April 13th, 2008

It is almost 25 years since I first tasted oysters, but I can still remember my first impression of this slippery fruit of the sea, and what it was like trying to swallow one.

It was difficult just letting it slip over without chewing, but when I eventually managed it, I really began to appreciate them.

My first oyster experience was with wild oysters, and I have never taken to the farmed variety or ‘rock’ oysters as they are known. The texture is completely different and much softer. Once or twice a year, I get amazing, enormous oysters from west Cork that are about 60 years old.

Native oysters are expensive, and work out at around €24 a dozen. They are available for purchase whenever there is an ‘r’ in the month – that is, from September to April. They come from the Atlantic coast – Oranmore, Galway -w here an oyster festival is held every September to launch the season. The shell is harder, much flatter and more difficult to open, but this can be achieved with an oyster knife (prising them open with any other type of utensil can be dangerous).

Pacific, farmed or rock oysters are available all year around. They cost about €6 less per dozen than native oysters and the shell is much easier to open. When buying oysters, ask the fishmonger how old they are. It is always best to buy them with the seaweed, which keeps them fresh. They should be tightly closed and, if the shell appears to be open, discard it. When you open the oyster, release the muscle from the shell and turn it around. They taste great with a pinch of lemon juice.

The best way to eat oysters is the simplest – open, add a splash of juice and knock them back with a glass of Guinness – but at Thornton’s restaurant, my favourite way to prepare them is with champagne and caviar.

Ingredients (for four people)

24 native oysters

100g shallot puree

200ml champagne sauce

50ml of champagne

8g caviar

50g fresh seaweed

4 chervil leaves


1. Open the oysters. Discard the upper shell.

Strain the juice and mix with the champagne.

Place the oysters in the juice. Cover and place in the fridge.

Shallot puree. Ingredients

10 peeled large shallots

25ml of cream

5g unsalted butter

50ml of still water

Sea salt

Fresh-milled pepper


1. Roughly chop the shallots. Heat a pot, melt the butter, add the shallots and cook for ten minutes without colouring. Season with sea salt and fresh-milled pepper.

2. Add the water and continue cooking until nearly evaporated. Add the cream and cook until the cream reduces by three quarters.

3. Remove from the heat and place into a blender for three minutes to puree. Remove and return to the heat for one minute. Remove, taste and correct seasoning. Keep warm for further use.

Champagne sauce. Ingredients

1 shallot, diced

1 sprig dill

1/2 bay leaf

150ml fish stock

50ml dry white wine

100ml champagne

5ml olive oil

Oyster juice

50ml double cream

Fresh-milled white pepper


1. Heat a pot and add the olive oil. Add the diced shallots and sautee for two minutes without colouring.

2. Wash and roughly chop the dill. Add it and the bay leaf to the pot. Add the dry white wine until it reduces by three quarters. Add half the champagne and reduce over medium heat. Add the fish stock, reduce by half, then add the oyster juice and the cream. Season with milled pepper. Reduce by half again. Add the remainder of the champagne and bring to the boil for one minute.

3. Remove the sauce from the heat and pass through a fine strainer. Return to the heat and blend it with a hand blender for a minute or so. This helps to add air to the sauce.

To assemble the oyster

1. Place the seaweed into a large bowl which will give the dish an ocean aroma. Warm the oyster shells and space them evenly on the seaweed.

2. Place the oysters and champagne in a pot on a low heat for two minutes. Do not heat above 50 degrees C.

3. Heat the shallot puree and add to the oyster shell. Remove the oysters from the liquid and place on top of the shallot puree.

4. Coat the oysters with the champagne sauce. Place the caviar on top, garnish with a chervil leaf and serve. A glass of champagne is a good accompaniment.

Kevin Thornton is a Michelin-starred chef and owner of Thornton’s Restaurant on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin.

Scallops with national flavour

Sunday, March 2nd, 2008

I first saw scallops in their natural habitat when diving at John’s Point in Co Donegal.

I was amazed as they hopped up in front of me and then swam backwards, like a set of wind-up false teeth. It was so tempting to grab some to take home for dinner, but I restrained myself, as it is illegal for a diver to take any shellfish from Irish waters.

More recently, when I was filming the television show Guerilla Gourmet, I was able to obtain special permission from the Department of the Marine to dive for king scallops off Bere Island in Co Cork. Clutching my bounty as I exited the water, I couldn’t resist immediately tasting one. Cutting open the first one,I was amazed by the magnificent colour.

A fresh scallop has a grey white hue and older scallops have a pure white colour. The coral shell was a beautiful pink with a necklace of brown and white with hints of gold and silver.

The taste was sublime, el egant, slightly sweet but pure and unique. The cook’s job is to do very little indeed with such a wonderful product and pass on as much of this flavour as possible.

King scallops are in season from mid to late September until April. I am not a fan of the milky Scottish scallops that are available all year round. They are easy to identify as they are a lot smaller than king scallops and more rubbery in texture. Queen scallops are available in the summer months and, while good, they are small (only about 2cm in diameter) and a lot more work is involved in producing a dish with these.

When I developed this dish a few years ago I wanted to represent the habitat of the scallop. First, I prepare the plate, painting it with colours made from natural vegetable powder to replicate the necklace of the seabed.

The dish reflects the past, present and future of Ireland: the peas represent the green land, the black squid ink sauce represents the pain and hardship experienced from the famine to the troubles, the scallop represents the sea all around us, the caviar is a reflection of the modern wealthy Ireland of today and the gold leaf represents hope for our future. Don’t be intimidated by this dish. You can try all of the elements or they can be used separately if you wish.

Roast king scallop with sugar snap peas, caviar and gold leaf

Ingredients (serves 4)

4 king scallops
Half a lemon
Sea salt
Fresh ground white pepper
Olive oil
4 salmon eggs
4 pieces dried seaweed
4 chervil leaves
4 fresh dried tomato skin
5g leek puree
5g scallop roe powder
5g trompette de la mort powder
32sugar snap peas
1 shallot
10g chives
8g oscietre caviar
1 gold leaf sheet


1 lemon
4 squid ink sacks from fresh squid
20ml dry martini
20ml Pernod
1/2fennel bulbs (roughly chopped)
2s tar anise
1 clove
1 shallot diced
250ml fish stock
125ml cream
5 whole white pepper corns
Sea salt
Fresh ground milled pepper
10ml olive oil

Method: scallops

1. Clean and wash the scallops, then season with salt and pepper and rub with olive oil.
2. Heat the pan and saute the scallops, brown on both sides and place in a hot oven at 170ºC for two minutes.
3. Remove and squeeze the juice of one lemon over the scallops.

Method: sauce

1. Heat the pan, saute off the shallots and fennel without colouring.
2. Add the star anise, cloves, white peppercorns and cook for two to three minutes.
3. Add the wine, Pernod and martini and bring to the boil. Reduce by half and add the squid ink.
4. Cook gently for ten minutes and add the fish stock, then bring to the boil and simmer until reduced by half.
5. Taste and season, then add the cream and bring back to boil and reduce again by half.
6. Correct the seasoning and pass through a fine sieve and serve.

Method: sugar snap peas

1. Wash the peas and remove the string from both sides.
2. Blend peas for two minutes in blender.
3. Dice the shallot finely and saute on a heated pan without colouring for two to three minutes, then remove and allow to cool.
4. Wash and finely chop chives, then mix well with the shallot and peas.
5. Season to taste and place into an 8cm ring to shape.

To serve

Paint the plates (optional). Pipe five dots of leek puree on the plate and garnish with the salmon eggs, seaweed, tomato skin and chervil.

Then place the peas into the centre of the plate and remove the ring. Sauce the plate with the squid ink, place the scallop on top of the sugar snap peas, then add a little caviar and finish by placing the gold leaf on top. Sprinkle the side of the plate with lime leaf and coral powders.

Kevin Thornton is a Michelin-starred chef and owner of Thornton’s Restaurant on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin.

Little urchins aren't so grubby

Sunday, February 24th, 2008

Sea urchins are small, spiny shellfish from the same family as the starfish that survive in clean seawater. Their spines are not terribly sharp and are usually brownish or purple in colour.

Sea urchins are not typically eaten in Irish homes or served in restaurants. Most of those picked in Ireland are exported to far-away places such as Japan, where they are eaten uncooked.

They are treated as delicacies in Spain, Greece and Italy, and sea urchin roe is traditionally considered to be an aphrodisiac.

Sea urchins are picked by hand, and those found in Ireland are at their best from September to May. They are most prevalent on the west coast and if you are lucky enough to live on the coast, you can pick them yourself at low tide, in shallow water on the rocky sea floor.

For me, there’s nothing better than the feeling of cooking food that you have gathered yourself.

The first time I tasted sea urchin, they were ones I had picked myself from the sea off west Cork. I was camping near Sheep’s Head, where there were very few shops but an abundance of wild food.

I opened them with a knife and ate them au naturel – they tasted absolutely fantastic.

From then on, I decided against cooking such a beautiful natural food, when, as the Japanese know, it is far superior uncooked. What better way to spend a day than by collecting and preparing such a beautiful delicacy?

Sea urchin with brunoise of vegetables and sea urchin cream (serves four)

4 sea urchins
Half a carrot, finely diced
Quarter of a celeriac, finely diced
20ml olive oil
200ml double cream
5g unsalted butter
Half clove of garlic
Half a shallot
Freshly milled white peppercorns

1. To prepare the sea urchins, make an incision in the top and remove a third of the urchin (much like topping an egg). Keep the removed top aside to use in the sauce. Taking care not to damage it, remove the roe from the centre with a small teaspoon and place in a bowl. Strain the juice into a separate small bowl. Wash the shells and heat slightly in the oven at 50C for two to three minutes.

Sea urchin cream
1. Place cream, shallot and the peeled, whole garlic clove into a pot. The shallot and garlic should only scent the cream.

2. Bring to the boil and simmer, allowing the liquid to reduce by half. Pour in the sea urchin juice and bring back to the boil. Reduce by half again.

3. Remove and pass through a fine sieve, then place back in the pot and fold in the butter over a low heat.

Brunoise of vegetables
1. Slightly sauté celeriac and carrot in a little olive oil for two to three minutes. Season with pepper.

To serve
Half fill the sea urchin shells with vegetable brunoise. Place the roe on top and spoon cream over it. Place the other half of the shell over the cream and serve.

Kevin Thornton is a Michelin-starred chef and owner of Thornton’s Restaurant on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin.

New take on fish and chips

Sunday, January 13th, 2008

No Irish chef could talk about vegetables without mentioning the special place of potatoes in the national diet.

When I was growing up, there were only a couple of types of potatoes used in Irish households: one was what we called the ‘reject’ and the other was termed ‘floury’.

The rejects were small, new potatoes that were rejected by the farmer. Once cheap, today these potatoes are used widely in restaurants and have become much more pricey. Floury potatoes were so termed because they burst their jackets when boiled (if over-cooked, they fall apart completely). But, if caught in time, strained, buttered and cooked for a further ten minutes, they are delicious.

Today, there are so many varieties of potato available that chefs need specialist knowledge to get the right potato for each dish. For example, I use Roosters and Maris Piper to cook potato souffle. Roosters are a tasty red potato with pale yellow, dry, floury flesh, while Maris Pipers have a creamy skin and flesh, and a floury texture. For the souffle, the Rooster is cooked in a fondant stock and the Maris Piper is pureed. Combined, they provide a good balance of bite and softness.

The time of year is another factor to be considered when choosing potatoes for a dish, as the temperature affects the solid components of the potato and its water content. At any given time of year, the staff in Madding’s at the Dublin Corporation Market are always on hand to help me choose the right potatoes for the restaurant.

Did someone mention chips? Ah, chips is a word that has been haunting me since the time of the rugby Six Nations last year. Since then, I have become known as the chef who doesn’t serve chips – but this is not strictly true. What is true is that I won’t serve chips unless they are the best I can make.

The perfect chip requires the perfect potato. Large Maris Pipers are good at this time of year. They should be washed in cold water, peeled and cut into 8cm by 2cm pieces, then dried in a clean cloth or kitchen paper. Next, blanche them in sunflower oil for five minutes.

Then, turn up the heat on the chip pan and cook the chips until golden brown (approx five minutes). Remove, place on kitchen paper, season with salt and serve them in a paper cone with ketchup (Heinz is best). If you make chips from a potato with a higher water content than Maris Pipers, they can be soggy and will stick together like paste.

Purple potatoes were produced in Sligo up to a few years ago, and I found them brilliant for making chips. I cooked them with their skin on so they wouldn’t lose colour. The following dish is my take on fish and chips, but for this, you won’t need ketchup.

Fillet of cod with golden potato, prawn bisque and sabayon, serves four

4 pieces of cod – about 120g each
4 Maris Piper potatoes
30g clarified butter
10g potato starch
Sea salt
Fresh ground white milled pepper
2 lemons
20ml olive oil
1 egg

1. Butter a tray and cover with parchment that has been cut into the same size as the cod fillets. Butter the paper and season. Place the cod on top. Season the cod and brush with egg wash.

2. Wash and peel the potatoes, then slice them thinly with a small cutter. Place the potatoes in a pot and bring them to the boil; cook for one minute only. Remove from the heat and refresh the potatoes under running water.

3. Dab the potatoes dry with kitchen paper and place into a pot. Add the potato starch and clarified butter and mix. Arrange the potatoes on the cod and place into the fridge. When the potatoes have cooled, brush with clarified butter.

4. Heat a copper pan and rub the base with olive oil. Place the cod fillet into the pan with the potato side on the bottom and cook until the potatoes are golden brown.

5. Butter a dish and cover with parchment paper cut the same size as the cod. Season the cod, then place it onto a tray and cook in the oven for five minutes at 170 degrees Celsius. Remove from the oven, squeeze the lemon juice on the fish and serve.


20ml of brandy
200ml of dry white wine
1kg of prawn shells
1l of fish stock
100g of miripoix
1/2 bulb of garlic
1/2l single cream
2 bay leaves
1 small bunch of thyme
10g of white peppercorns
20g of unsalted butter
Sea salt
Fresh ground white pepper

1. Heat a pot and rub it with olive oil. Add the prawn shells, cook for ten minutes and mix well.

2. Add the miripoix, peppercorns, bay leaves and thyme, and mix well.

3. Flambe with brandy, then add the white wine and reduce the liquid by around three quarters.

4. Add the fish stock, bring to the boil and simmer for four hours, removing any impurities.

5. Remove the liquid and pass it through a fine strainer.

6. Return it to the heat, add the cream and reduce the liquid by three quarters again. Taste and correct the seasoning, before adding the unsalted butter and serving.


3 eggs
10ml truffle juice
20ml of dry martini
30ml of water
Sea salt
Milled white pepper

1. Break the eggs into a stainless steel bowl, mix with a whisk, season and add the truffle juice, dry martini and water.

2. Whisk over a hot hob until light and cooked, then serve.

Six baby artichokes, cleaned and blanched. Cut in half, season and finish off with olive oil.

To serve
1. Arrange the veg on the plate.
2. Add the sauce to the plate and spoon over the sabayon.
3. Place the cod fillet with potato topping on the sabayon and serve.

Kevin Thornton is a Michelin-starred chef and owner of Thornton’s Restaurant on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin.

Get your claws into lobster

Sunday, November 18th, 2007

Ireland has access to some of the best wild shellfish in the world, which means I can truthfully say that some of my most memorable dining experiences have been enjoyed here at home.

Shellfish is divided into two categories: crustaceans and molluscs. With 52,000 recorded species, the ones that we eat are only the tip of the iceberg. The crustaceans we consume include lobster, crab, shrimp, prawns, crawfish and freshwater crawfish.

My favourite is undoubtedly lobster which, like all shellfish, must be alive when you buy it. Some lobsters and crabs will stay alive for one or two days after being removed from the water if they are stored correctly in seaweed in a fridge in the dark.

Opinion is divided on how to cook it. Some say plunge the lobster into boiling water, others believe it is more humane to kill it first. This is done by inserting the tip of the knife into the back of the shellfish, just behind the head. As lobsters have relatively simple nervous systems, this severs the main nerve, killing the lobster before it enters the cooking water.

I find that the best way to cook lobster is as follows:

1. Put them in fresh water for four hours, then make a court bouillon (see article on fish stocks 07/10/2007) and place lobster in it for one minute before removing and placing in a bath of iced water.

2 . Remove the claws and cook for a further seven minutes in the bouillon before again placing in an ice bath.

3.Remove the tail by placing your forefinger and thumb on either side of the lobster from where the tail begins, and move it from side to side until it is released. Then squeeze the shell to crack it. Remove the flesh in one piece, and the central vein which runs down the back.

4.Crack the claws with the back of a chopping knife, and hit the claw once on each side to crack the shell. Then remove the flesh in one piece with a lobster fork.

5.Make a lobster stock with the shell, then add a bruinoise of vegetables (carrots, leeks and celery cut into 1cm square pieces and blanched for two minutes) to the basic stock.

6.Cut the lobster in half, and season with sea salt and freshly milled pepper. Squeeze a little lemon juice on the lobster, place the flesh on top of the vegetables with the claws, then cover with lobster stock. Cover the dish with a lid and place into an oven at 50 degrees Celsius for seven minutes. Remove and arrange the lobster and the vegetables in a serving bowl, and pour the lobster juice on top.

Next week: prawns and scallops

Kevin Thornton is a Michelin-starred chef and owner of Thornton’s Restaurant on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin.