Its peak-season, mid-July and the place is electrically charged. Tourists flood in from near and far – mostly Brits and Yanks but there is the occasional French family to be found looking truly, truly lost, I do love this place but I see nothing but lunacy in anyone wanting to leave the Cote D’Azur for my craggy Northern coast. The ferries bring regular legions of red-faced and wind-swept Scots that embark on Dionysian level adventures in drinking and golf – the Scots are cut from the same block as us Irish but they are a little more acidic…possibly due to their more precipitous and Northerly aspect.
I’m sharing a beach house this season, its right on the longest un-spoilt stretch of the entire coast. The powder-white sand is exactly 6 steps from our front door which is weather-beaten, unruly and salty. The place is porch’ed with white planks, a monster gas grill and a few chairs that a previous tenant crafted from wooden beer barrels. On winter nights when storms are prolific we sit on the porch drinking cheap red wine straight from the bottle and watch the ballets of fork lightening far out at sea. I like this joint.
I share this beach front property with a couple of other Chefs including my partner in crime Tony and the beautiful and roguish Lisa. Lisa ‘appeared’ 3 months ago, she stepped off the bus with nothing but a small bag of clothes and a smile that would stop your heart. She stuck her finger in her mouth, licked it, held it aloft and the breeze did the rest. She found our place and us drinking Sunday beers on the porch between shifts, She dropped her bag, stood a cowboy boot on the top step and with hands on hips informed us she liked the cut of our collective jibs and would happily move in. Three hard as nails menly-men chefs forged in the flames and torment of our Kitchens and hardened by pain sat mute and goofy as Lisa helped herself to a beer and plonked herself on our porch. I fell head over heels in love and dribbled beer down my chin.
Lisa had long blonde-mousey hair, stood slender in her ‘always on’ cowboy boots and had a galaxy of freckles bridging her nose that I swear luminesced in the moonlight…she also belched and fought and had a bent for wandering around in her knickers and one of our t-shirts…she considered clothes as optional extras.
3 months later and she is now welded into our group as we endure and enjoy what the summer season brings. She’s no slouch either, she now runs Barney’s, singularly the greatest fried sea-food joint on the coast and she is also the self-appointed culture committee, where once we would kick back and drink cheap plonk on our nights off we now host insane beach parties dreamt up, planned and executed by this blonde dynamo.
Food is what attracts our friends, associates, well-wishers and work mates to these beach shin-digs, we dig a pit in the beach a few meters from our shack and set drift wood alight. Guitars are brought and songs are started…sometimes even finished..but the King-Pin is our Lisa’s ‘Shrimp Batter Bucket’. She bought a galvanised steel bucket from the hardware shop along with asbestos gloves, this she then half fills with cooking oil and sets practically in the flames of the beach fire where, sat on a beer crate, she deep-fries batches of beer battered shrimp and potato skins then shovels them into coned paper funnels for the reveling horde.
I catch her eye through the dancing flames to many times not to be noticed or pondered, she holds one caught glance long enough for a universe to be born and to die then a delicate smile is my reward and a beckoned finger………she’s either gonna punch me or kiss me…..I’ll take either…
♠Battered & Beer’d Shrimp with salt & pepper skins♣
Prep time: 20mins ♦ Cook Time: 30mins ♦ Total time 50mins (ish) ♦ Serves 4
♣WHAT YOU NEED♥
1/2 bottle really good Ale
250 grams plain flour
2 tps salt
1 tps tumeric
1 tps celery salt
1 tps sweet paprika
1 tbs white wine vinegar
25 Fat tiger prawns – about 6 per portion
300 grams baby spuds
♠HOW YOU DO IT♥
Combine all of the beer batter ingredients until you have a fairly ‘custardy’ consistency – now this is just my preference, I dig a thick batter on scampi but if you prefer a lighter one then thin the mix with more booze.
Boil the baby spuds in their skin, drain, cool and cut into halves or quaters depending on size. Allow to dry and cool completely.
Drop the tiger prawns into well seasoned flour and make sure they get well coated – dust off any excess then dunk the lot into the batter mix. They can stay here (in the fridge) until your ready to fry.
Scatter the spuds into a shallow roasting tray, lug over some olive oil and roast at 180c for about 30 minutes until the spuds are golden and crispy.
To cook the scampi, get a large wok or deep pan on the heat with about 6 inches of veg oil – bring up to about 190c then drop in the battered scampi in small batches. The scampi will take about 1-1.5 minutes to cook through but best check them by cutting one in half.
Finally serve the scampi with the skins and a few cuts of lemon and if you’ve done it then your homemade Tartar sauce.
FANCY AND BEER?
TRY THIS: McGARGLES