Galway Food Stories; Celebrating Irish Oysters with Sarah Browne
Food & Drink//Galway Stories

Galway Food Stories; Celebrating Irish Oysters with Sarah Browne

Hey you’re OYSOME! Sarah is the number one shuccka to the stars! From Kerry and making Galway her home, Sarah is on a one woman quest to make oysters super trendy again, the only way a Kerry woman and tall queen can! - Jess Murphy

J. Who is the most famous person you have shucked for?

S. Probably Julie Qiu. She’s an internationally recognised oyster sommelier and cofounder of the Oyster master guild. My team shucked almost 600 oysters for her at a tasting workshop she gave at last year's oyster festival. They all had to be absolutely perfect.

J. Where’s your favourite bay around Galway for oysters and how many times have you stabbed yourself in the hand?

S. Haha! Well first of all, I genuinely don’t have a favourite. The great thing about having a thriving oyster industry along our coastlines and incredibly passionate oyster farmers is the possibility of experiencing a different oyster flavour from each producer. The flavour of the oyster doesn’t just come from the bay - although it’s hugely influenced by it. The oyster farmers can make adjustments to the salinity of the purification tanks to up the umami content and use different management systems to influence the shape and meat content. It’s an art really, guided by the oyster farmers' knowledge, and shaped by the rocks, sea, trees and hills that surround an oyster farm. And just like the landscape, the flavour of the oyster changes a little from season to season.
I’ve never actually stabbed myself with the oyster knife but I have cut my hand on the shell too many times to count. I haven't done major damage but I wear gloves almost all the time now when I’m shucking to avoid any accidents.

J. Why should we eat oysters & what do they do for our rural communities?

S. There are 163 oyster farms in Ireland, dotted along our coastlines. The individuals running these farms are so passionate about what they do but almost invisible to an Irish public who seem to have shunned oysters. Oyster farming provides jobs and income in coastal economies that would otherwise have basically no industry. This means culture in those areas can be preserved because communities can be preserved there.
They also have a very low impact on the environment. Oysters filter feed from their environment, which helps to clean the water. They require virtually no inputs but they are an incredible source of nutrition. Oysters are basically a superfood because they give such bang for buck in terms of their nutrition to calorie ratio. They’re jammers with B12, Zinc, Selenium, Iodine and they’re also a source of vitamin D. Two or three raw oysters will give you about 70 calories, 8 grams of protein and around 2g of fat (the omega 3 kind).

J. Top five songs on your shucking playlist?

S. I like to shuck as close to serving as possible, which means we’re under pressure sooooo the tunes are important for keeping the vibeys positive;

Oysters in My Pocket by Royel Otis obvz
Honeypie by JAWNY
Ordinary Man by Christy Moore
Young Folks by Peter Bjorn and John
Class Historian by Broncho

J. Please tell us about Oysome, your new solo venture?

S. The goal with Oysome is to make Irish oysters more accessible by providing easy recipes and shucking classes and to encourage people to celebrate them. I provide dressed oysters for events and I do workshops to teach people how to store, shuck and serve oysters in fun ways. There are so many different ways to serve oysters. I hope to make enjoying oysters as easy as possible, while also making it fun.I’ve been served many oysters that are absolutely minced in their shells. Hopefully my work with Oysome can reduce the incidence of that dramatically. On my website, you’ll find a shucking guide and lots of recipes for different toppings for oysters.

J. What’s your favourite way to serve oysters?

S. I’m going through a hot buttered oyster phase at the moment. An oyster freshly shucked and popped on the grill with some infused butter *chefs kiss*. The smoke from the barbeque mingling with the umami flavour from the oyster - which intensifies as they’re cooked - it’s just so good. You can do them in the pan too and make a sauce with the butter, a dash of tarragon vinegar and the oyster juices and serve them on toast. That’s a whopper Myrtle Allen #slay from her Ballymaloe Cookbook.

Words by Jess Murphy.
Photos by Ciarán MacChoncarraige.

Discover Sarah's recipe for Grilled Oysters with Three Cornered Leek & Nigella Seed Butter here.

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