Richard Corrigan's St. Patrick's Day feast
Sudi Pigott talks to London-based Irish chef, Richard Corrigan about food, freedom and mashed potato ...
I just knew I needed freedom and mashed potato, I was tired of twiddly, intellectual food, says Richard Corrigan in characteristically blunt manner about his decision to open his Michelin-starred Soho restaurant Lindsay House in a Georgian townhouse complete with creaky floorboards.
Though Corrigan hates the ghettoising, his approach is irresistibly, charmingly Irish, his conversation is heavily peppered with native wit and cursing and fundamental ingredients such as potatoes and cabbage figure largely on the modern Irish menu which is a model of refined simplicity.
First and foremost, Richard believes good food must use only the freshest of seasonal ingredients Irish wherever possible prepared using traditional skills. This conviction was shaped by his rural childhood, which he spent living in a thatched cottage on a 25-acre farm in County Meath in the Irish midlands.
His family, had no money, but no hunger, everything grew brilliantly in the bog turnips, carrots, swedes and we had a huge orchard of plums, cherries and pears.
They cured their own bacon, turned their own butter, fished their own eels, made their own black pudding and cooked using the dried turf from the fields as fuel. He clearly remembers the bread his Mum made every day which she baked in a metal casket over an open smokey peat fire and the bread he serves in the restaurant remains based on his mums recipe.
The way I was brought up has made me appreciate the seasons more than many. As a chef, I still like the anticipation, the waiting for foods in season such as wild salmon. Respect for food even for the humblest carrot is important.
Much of Corrigans food preparation is not a sight for the faint-hearted: assorted tongues, pigs feet, flitches of bacon and bundles of muslin-wrapped spiced beef are kept in a briney barrel until they are cooked. Better, as Corrigan retorts, than telephone-supplied pancetta of no fixed abode.
He maintains that St Patricks Day is a bigger celebration for Irish immigrants than in Ireland itself. Its a way of rekindling our Irish spirit with a good craic. His St Patricks Day menu at Lindsay House is legendary: not only for the great food, but the warmth and amiability of the hospitality.
The menu invariably kicks off with wild salmon from Ted Brown in Dingle, though Corrigan maintains the London-light cured Formans wild salmon is hard to beat, too. Irish stew using well-reared Irish beef is the centrepiece, though its far-removed from the bones, scrag of meat and over-cooked vegetable affair of school dinners.
Irish cheeses are a particular passion and Corrigan invariably serves up a generous selection including seasonal soft sheeps milk cheeses such as Emlett, Little Ryding and Gubeen, accompanied by soda bread. Pudding might be his extraordinary spiced madeleines with date and orange salad.
Perhaps surprisingly Corrigan doesnt come over all nostalgic about returning to Ireland at St Patricks Day, as everyone there seems to know all your god-damn business. Rather, he insists, he enjoys the anonymity of London. Its a fantastic city and after fifteen years I think of myself more as a London Irishman.
Next page: recipes from Richard Corrigan