I came across Gracie McDermott’s Salmon Bisque recipe in the artist Derek Hill‘s PRONI archive while researching my third book The Original Irish Recipe Book.
The recipe was published in my book with kind permission of PRONI and Derek’s niece Josephine Batterham.
Gracie was Derek’s trusted cook and housekeeper at his home in Donegal for 35 years. She cooked for Derek’s many friends including the greatest British food writer of the 20th century, Elizabeth David. Elizabeth was known to rave about Gracie’s cooking on visits to Glebe House; she had a natural gift for turning simple ingredients into amazing meals. Elizabeth went so far as to describe Gracie as the best natural cook she had ever met.
Elizabeth loved to escape to Derek Hill’s home in Donegal, far away from the busyness of London, and it was on one of those visits that Derek passed the remarks to her that it was sad no-one made Salmon Bisque, only Lobster. Elizabeth said this was because Salmon Bisque would be far too fatty. Gracie quietly listened to the conversation, and without saying a word, produced a wonderful Salmon Bisque a week later.
This recipe can be found in both editions of The Original Irish Recipe Book.
Paperback edition 2015
New and Revised 2017 e-book edition (cocktails removed and lots more Northern Irish traybakes added)
An online tour of the house where Gracie was Derek’s live-in housekeeper and cook can be viewed at http://glebegallery.ie/online-tour/tour-of-the-house/.
Derek Hill’s portrait of Gracie can be viewed on the Glebe Gallery website http://glebegallery.ie/collection/ by searching under Derek Hill in the list of artists.
In an appreciation of Gracie’s life, published in the Donegal People’s Press after her death, a little quatrain, or 4 lined poem tribute to Gracie by the poet Seamus Heaney was printed. Seamus penned it on the back of a postcard of Sir Phillip Sidney on a visit to have his portrait painted by Derek in 1989, after no doubt enjoying some of Gracie’s fabulous fare.
‘On the back of Phillip Sidney
I praise the cook of rib and kidney,
May God, who made the spuds and mint,
Rain Blessings on her without stint!’