Another St Patrick’s Day food post that caught my eye last week was this one from the Wall Street Journal, which generated a mini-flurry on Twitter for its claims as to the emergence of a ‘New Green Cuisine’ in Ireland. While my usual reaction to any article that mentions the words ‘Emerald Isle’ is to ignore everything I have just read, this one won me over with a recipe for spiced beef, which is one of my favourite meats at Christmas but can sometimes prove hard to find. It also mentioned smoked mussels in vinaigrette, rock lobster from Kinsale, tender soda bread flavored with fennel seed, elderflower cordial, floury Golden Wonder potatoes and Yellowman toffee, all of which I thought sounded rather nice.
In fact, I found myself dangerously close to believing that something of this new cuisine (if not the ‘total culinary rebirth’ that the article later breathlessly claims) could and perhaps does exist in Ireland. I went looking for Ed Hick’s famous bacon jam in Dun Laoghaire today and, after trying Hick’s pork butchers on George’s Street to no avail, I eventually found J Hicks & Sons up a rather inauspicious back alley in Dun Laoghaire. Were it not for the many Bridgestone awards on the wall, I wouldn’t have knocked. I’m glad I did though – I’ve never tasted anything quite like their bacon jam. It’s not as meaty or as ‘bacon-y’ as I thought it would be and, to my slight disappointment, it is more of a chutney than the full-on bacon paste I had imagined or dreamed it would be. It does however have a pleasingly rounded, smoky, deep flavour. I suppose the nearest comparison would be the taste of grilled bacon with maple syrup, but that doesn’t do the flavours justice either. It’s sweet-savoury-smoky, like salami and posh hot dogs and red onion marmalade all mixed together, and not like that at all.