Galway Oyster Festival
The world is your Oyster and Galway is its home
An oyster connoisseur for many years, I have plenty of reasons to hold a special grá for the native Galway oyster; the most important being that it is growing in my own back yard. Oyster culture is one of the most environmentally friendly types of farming I have ever encountered. Needing neither food nor medication and touting a low (and sometimes negative) carbon footprint, these natural element feeders get everything they need from the unpolluted Irish waters.
The fisher man’s task is to manage the density of the stock (by periodically sorting and grading) and help influence the shell shape. These flashy fish can filter more than eleven liters of water per hour. They live for eighteen months to three years on a steady diet of phytoplankton and salty water. Once cracked open and the fleshy meat is bared, it is the essence of the ocean that you taste.
And taste we did. The folks from Hotel Meyrick phoned me a few days ago to tell me Kelly’s Oysters had a few natives, first of the season, left wating for us. I could not find the keys of the car fast enough to pick up this delicious package.
The native Galway Oyster, frequently sought after by the Queen of England, are a flatter and smaller oyster than the ones you find in the local seafood markets (Giggas) and have been going through a bit of a rough patch over the last few years.
During the nineteen thirties and forties, their were more than two hundred boats out dredging annually. In the eighties, with new bi-laws, the number of boats was reduced to one hundred. In the mid-nineties there was severe flooding in the area and when the flood waters were drained though the oyster beds. This wiped out the entire native oyster population.
Many of the local families would have drawn a significant source of their annual income from dredging the waters during the months of October through December. The hardship felt at Christmas was profound.
Known for the clouds around these parts, one has to always hope that each of them might offer a silver lining. In this case, the clouds have parted, and a glimmer of hope is streaming through. The Galway oysters are finally making a comeback. Dredging over the last few years has shown a small but steady growth in quantities of native oysters harvested and the local fishermen are ever hopeful that the industry will recover.
(these are last years tickets … rest assured I will send you this years ones if you win!)
The 59th Galway Oyster festival runs from September 26th – 29th 2013 this year and the selection and quality of oysters brings connoisseurs from around the globe, many of them traveling with their own Oyster knives. If you have already seen a few of the adds floating around town in the local papers or on Facebook and wondered ‘ should I go to the Oyster festival this year’ then I think it is high time you put your money where you mouth is and join in the festivities. OR – you can leave me a comment right here and tell me whether you would like attend the festivities on opening night (Friday 27th September at 7pm) or the more family friendly event – the Sunday ‘Feast-off’ cooking competition! We got tickets up for grabs! As usual, you must be a loyal reader of our blog – you can subscribe (for free) right here.
If you like your oysters fresh and raw from the sea then I suggest you keep it simple and either serve them up with a few slices of lemon and a drop of tabasco sauce or you can whip up one of my favourite vinaigrettes (Mignonette) to enhance the essence of the oyster!
4 teaspoons Aspall cider vinegar
3 teaspoons finely chopped shallots
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper (coarse)
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
2 teaspoons parsley (chopped finely)
Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Drizzle over oysters before eating.
If you are entertaining and want to impress your dinner guests then you need to try the fried oysters. They work great as an appetiser to pass around for nibbles and also excellent as a lunch time snack. Warning. They are addictive.
Spicy Fried Oysters
1 dozen oysters
120 ml/1/2 cup Franks red hot sauce (found at Centra near Galway Airport or Musgraves)
360 g/3 cups of plain flour
Remove oysters from their shell and soak them in the hot sauce for at least one hour.
Dredge oysters in flour and leave to air-dry on a wire rack for at least a 1/2 hour. This allows the flour to dry off and will produce a crispier coating.
Deep fry the oysters for three minutes and serve immediately with Wise Cocktail Sauce.
Wise Cocktail sauce
240 ml /1 cup mayonnaise
180 ml/3/4 cup BBQ sauce
30 g/1/4 cup horseradish
A pinch of salt
2 tablespoons parsley (chopped finely)
Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Store in airtight container in the fridge for up to one week.
We find that Oysters are best served with Guinness (duh) but on occasion they go exceptionally well with a gorgeous bottle of white wine like Johann Strauss, Kremstal, Gruner Veltliner, (2009) available at Cases Wine Warehouse for €15.99.
Thanks for reading along and looking forward to seeing a lot of you at the Galway Oyster Festival this year!
and the winner is!!
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I am a native Galway girl that seems to be drawn to professions that rhyme with 'err'. Writer, Mother, Restauranteur, Wedding Planner, Dishwasher, Grass cutter, Cocktail maker. I suppose you could say I am a well rounded entrepreneur.
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