When I first read the above headline I asked myself, “Who is Auguste Escoffier?”
The answer is in the following article by angler, food critic, author and Masterchef judge, Charles Campion.
As you enter Ballina in County Mayo the road sign proudly proclaims you are entering the salmon capital of Ireland. The small town of Ballina is also notable for having 57 pubs and sits astride the river Moy which is Ireland’s most prolific salmon river. In the hotels, the bars, the restaurants, the tackle shops, the beer gardens the talk is all salmon… this is a very single minded place. The famous Ridge Pool on the Moy is slap bang in the middle of town and the four or five anglers who have booked tickets to fish this pool (usually for a half day session at a cost of 140 euro) stand waist deep and fish hard.
It is likely that more salmon are caught in the Ridge Pool than any other salmon pool in Britain and Ireland. To add to the pressure knowledgeable locals stand on the town bridge with a perfect view and critical eye on the fishermen below, this is no place to fluff your casting.
Judd Ruane is part of the fabric of Ballina.
Since 1973 he has fished the estuary for sea trout and now runs trips for visiting anglers. A day’s fishing with Judd is a real treat. The estuary is five miles long and the sand banks and channels are in a constant state of flux, when it comes to finding fish there is no substitute for local knowledge and Judd’s fish finding abilities verge on the spooky. Pretty soon there are a dozen fresh run sea trout in the boat. Fin perfect bars of silver between 1lb and 2 lbs… fit fish that fight hard.
But it is at lunch time that Judd comes into his own. You anchor the boat on Bartragh island in Killala Bay and walk over the headland to find a bowl shaped, well sheltered barbecue spot. A rusted barbie and elderly trestle table make the perfect setting for a magnificent feast.
Auguste Escoffier (1846 to 1935) is usually credited as originator of the culinary golden rule “Faites Simple”… a wholly admirable sentiment as dishes rarely improve as they become more complicated. Escoffier would have gotten on well with Judd Ruane, but Judd takes this “simple” idea to another level.
Here is his recipe for cooking sea trout. Gut the fish. Make some slashes down it’s flank. Add plenty of butter plus salt and pepper.Wrap in tin foil making a tidy parcel and cook on the barbeque.
When you open the parcel you are in the presence of the most memorable fish dish ever. Pink flakes of sea trout, sweet and buttery. Lift the meat from the backbone with greedy fingers. The finely ground black pepper from a little drum (that you viewed so nervously), is no longer harsh but gently aromatic. With Judd’s barbeque lunch you touch upon a great truth. The fresher a fish is the better it tastes. These seatrout were running the tide a couple of hours ago and taste implausibly delicious.
As Judd would have it when the bites are not coming fast enough, “C’mon, you good things!”
Escoffier would approve.
By Charles Campion May 2012
Charles was accompanied by his son and my good friend Pete Hannan.
Thank you Charles, I am humbled with such praise!
However, I think I’ll stick to the fishing!