An Irish Chef in France
Euro-Toques chef Martin Dwyer, much missed in Ireland since he and his wife Sile sold their eponymous restaurant in Waterford and moved to France. They now live in the Languedoc, where they take guests - and feed them very well.
This month Martin revels in the pleasure of favourite fruit grown in the right climate - and the perfect Greenhouse Salad
When I was growing up we lived in a very special house in the suburbs of Cork. This house, which was called Tree Tops, was on a hill over the city and there was a wonderful view from the garden of the river Lee flowing eastwards out or the city to the harbour with Blackrock Castle in the distance.
My mother’s pride and joy (and a contribution towards the household economy) was a huge greenhouse at the very top of the garden. In this she principally grew two of the most beautifully scented fruits I know; tomatoes and white peaches.
The perfume in the greenhouse when both of these intense fruits were ripe was quite intoxicating.
In one of Elizabeth David’s cookery books she talks of an autumn spent in Spain where every day they ate for lunch a simple salad of tomatoes, warm from the vine and dressed in olive oil, a meal she claims it would be hard to better.
My other kitchen goddess, Myrtle Allen, in her book about the food of Ballymaloe says that she has tried for many years to make the perfect tomato soup; she feels it should taste of the juices left in the bowl after a fresh tomato salad.
In another of Elizabeth David’s books, I think Summer Cooking; she gives a recipe from Italy, for a salad of tomatoes and peaches. I remember trying this out and being so impressed with the taste and the wonderful way both fruits brought out each other’s flavours that I put it on the menu on the restaurant. While it was never a best seller, those that tried it grew strangely addicted.
In my old friend Michael Waterfield’s new edition of his great great aunt Janet Ross’s book “Leaves from our Tuscan Kitchen” there at the bottom of a long list of various ways of dressing tomatoes for salad a throwaway recipe for a salad of Tomatoes and Italian Peaches.
Now that we have a small garden here in the south of France I have set about growing these two fruits and now have a white peach tree and some baby cherry tomatoes growing there.
Ironically, because we now live in a so much milder climate we no longer need a greenhouse to encourage these two fruits to grow.
But still, in memory of my mother’s heroic efforts growing these fruits out of their best environment I call the salad ; La Salade de La Serre- Greenhouse Salad.
La Salade de La Serre
3 Large Ripe tomatoes
2 Large Ripe White Peaches (yellow peaches or nectarines will do at a pinch)
1 teaspoon caster Sugar (in Ireland only, not needed in the south where the fruit sweetens naturally in the sun)
1 Energetic grinding of black pepper
1 large pinch of Maldon Sea Salt (crushed lightly in your fingers as you scatter)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons of fruity olive oil
6 to 8 leaves of fresh Basil
1 crisp fresh French loaf or ciabatta
Peel the peaches (by plunging in boiling water if needed)
Slice into eight of ten segments off the stone and then halve these.
Cut the tomatoes into similar sized pieces, discarding the core near the stem.
Sprinkle over the sugar (if using) the pepper, salt, oil and vinegar tear the basil leaves over, and toss together with a spoon.
Leave for about ten minutes to blend, then eat, on its own, or with some cold meats.
When the tomatoes are finished (and this is the best bit) finish off the tomatoey peachy vinaigrette by dipping pieces of the bread into these juices.
The gods probably lived on food like this.
Martin Dwyer started cooking professionally over 40 years ago in the legendary “Snaffles Restaurant” in Dublin. After a time in a Relais Chateau in Anjou and in “The Wife of Bath” in Kent he opened his own much acclaimed restaurant, “Dwyers”, in Waterford in 1989. In 2004 he sold this and moved south to France where he and his wife Síle bought and restored an old presbytery in a village in the Languedoc. They now run Le Presbytère as a French style Chambre d’Hôte. Martin however is far too passionate about food to give up cooking so they now enjoy serving dinner to their customers on the terrace of Le Presbytère on warm summer evenings. Martin runs occasional cookery courses in Le Presbytère and Síle’s brother Colm does week long Nature Strolls discovering the Flora and Fauna of the Languedoc.
Le Presbytère can be seen at: www.lepresbytere.net;