Martin Shanahan is back on our RTE screens this evening, with the eight-part series “Martin's still Mad About Fish”.
For the last several months, we have been workjng with him on his new, 200-page cookery book, “Martin's Fishy Fishy Cookbook”, which contains not just the recipes he cooks in the series, but also many of the classic recipes which have made Fishy Fishy one of the most popular restaurants in Ireland, if not, indeed, the most popular.
We have been writing about Martin for a very long time indeed, ever since he opened the original Fishy Fishy in The Guardwell in Kinsale, and we have tried to figure him out in writing the Who's Who entry in our website.
He is a man with a simple genius: he manages to make things simple. For politicians and fishermen and retailers and customers, fish is always complicated. Martin doesn't see it like that: he gets a call from a guy on a boat coming in to Kinsale who has fish or shellfish for sale, and he agrees to buy it for the restaurant. That's it. The fish couldn't be fresher, and if it's an inexpensive fish, like megrim or gurnard, so much the better.
Then, when it comes to cooking it, it's again equally simple: take off the skin, make sure there are no bones, make sure the fish has been handled with extreme care, cook it the best way for that type of fish, and what you have, at the end of the process, is simple perfection.
And that's the thing about Fishy Fishy, and Martin Shanahan: he can do perfect, every time. He wouldn't agree with that, of course, because he is modest and self-critical and he has no ego to feed. He just sees the business of running a restaurant in a simple, crystal clear, fashion. That's a form of genius, and we have tried to capture that in “Martin's Fishy Fishy Cookbook”. Hopefully the book enshrines the advocacy for cooking, eating and enjoying fresh Irish fish that Martin so perfectly incarnates with his vigorous enthusiasm.
Martin's Fishy Fishy Cookbook, by Martin Shanahan (Estragon Press, €20)