Darina Allen is a true celebrity in Ireland. Her cookery shows have been televised and her books are a staple in
most Irish homes. She is the founder of Ballymaloe,
a successful cookery school in East Cork which she runs with her husband Tim Allen.
Darina has kindly agreed to provide a weekly recipe on the site, so get out that apron and start cooking!
Oodles of lovely fresh mackerel
We’re getting oodles of lovely fresh mackerel these days. Virtually every
evening a local fisherman who takes anglers out in his boat during the day
arrives with a bucket full of gleaming fresh mackerel – still stiff and slimy
- caught just a few hours earlier.
When I first contacted Peter, he wouldn’t sell me the mackerel he had because
they had been caught the day before! As far as local fishermen are concerned for
perfection “the sun should never set on a mackerel” and they are right.
When the mackerel are in the bay at Ballycotton virtually anyone with a hook
and line can catch them off the pier, sometimes 2 or 3 or 4 at a time – it’s
either a feast or a famine.
I once caught a mackerel but I couldn’t bear to kill it, a 10 year old came
to my rescue. I felt so feeble while everyone around me was catching fish and
dealing with them in totally matter of fact way. Youngsters were proudly
displaying their catch and selling them to eager holiday makers to make some
In Ballycotton we all miss Tommy Sliney, the much loved local man who sold
fish from his donkey and cart on the pier every Summer. He joked and chatted
easily with everyone from Ballycroneen to Boston and delighted them with his
lively banter as he filleted the fish, occasionally stopping for a few seconds
to sharpen his ancient steel knife on the wall of the pier until it was razor
Generous to a fault – I’m sure he gave away more fish than he ever sold.
When people forgot their purse he’d say ‘Ah sure misses you can give it to
me the next day’. In my mind Tommy is indelibly linked with the delicious
flavour of Ballycotton mackerel.