Keen to be a chef from a very young age, Adrian Martin started his professional career at just 14 in Neven Maguire’s MacNean House. Surprising even himself by attaining a degree in culinary arts from the School of Tourism in Killybegs, Adrian went on to work in professional kitchens, including a Michelin-starred restaurant in Dublin before finding his niche with cooking demonstrations and consulting with restaurants and food businesses.
Nowadays, when he’s not promoting his first cookbook, Fakeaways, 26-year-old Adrian is often found on-screen as the resident chef on TV3’s The Six O’clock Show. He has also come forward as a keen advocate for embracing locally-raised lamb as a go-to ingredient as part of the European lamb ‘Lamb, Try It, Love It’ campaign in association with Bord Bia with co-funding from the EU.
You’ve been cooking from a very young age – where did the interest start and who first taught you before you started working with Neven Maguire?
It was my granny. When we were kids she would call up to see us at weekends. As soon as she got in the door my sister and I would clamour for her to make scones or apple tarts or something like that with us. She spent most of her time cooking and most of her time with us baking. I was only five or six then.
Why do you enjoy cooking with lamb so much? What cuts of lamb would you advise people to look for?
There are two different seasons of the year for lamb – spring lamb is quite small and it’s more expensive because it’s sweeter and doesn’t create that lamb ‘smell’.
That smell comes from an older lamb called hogget, which is available in the autumn. The lamb is a little older and has a thicker skin which causes the smell. Many people don’t realise that this can be easily gotten rid of if they simply ask their butcher to remove the skin before they take it home.
Lamb is so versatile as far as cuts go. Shanks and the shoulder need long, slow cooking but then you have the centre cuts, the leg of lamb, and the rump which are tender so you can cook them quite fast.
What is also quite nice is the lamb belly – pork belly has been all the rage in recent years, but lamb belly is even nicer. I often make a stuffing with pine nuts and apricots and then make a roulade of the belly with the stuffing in the middle. I tie it with string and braise it with red wine and stock, then I would glaze it in balsamic vinegar and honey and slow cook it. You then get this tender lamb that falls apart and melts in your mouth.
With the success of your TV shows, appearances and cookbooks you’re becoming a household name in Ireland. What are your plans for the near future?
I brought out my first book – Fakeaways - last year. I worked in about 200 schools in Ireland and I put together a book of the recipes the kids wanted to make and eat. That was great for my profile and my second book is coming out this year – it’s all about dinner parties.
The new book is very fine dining. It’s for when you cook for a partner for the first time or you want to have all of your friends around and really impress them. It’s got everything you need, from breads and starters to petit fours.
Would you ever like to settle down and open your own restaurant?
I haven’t ruled out the possibility of a restaurant – I can’t say when or where but we’re in the planning process at the minute. Hopefully it will happen at some point.
How do you like to eat?
I grew up in the country and I was always taught that you buy meat from the butcher, fruit and veg from the greengrocer and go to the supermarket for everything else.
I cook everything from scratch but you’re allowed a take away as a treat or a bit of chocolate. There’s nothing wrong with it but everything in moderation. It’s all about finding a balance. I really change up what I cook every week too so it doesn’t get stale.
I don’t often cook when I go home to visit my family but I’ve been doing the Christmas and Easter lunches for years – I’ve done the roast lamb at Easter since I was 16.
Mealtimes are clearly very important to you. What would your favourite group or family meal be?
If I have people round for Sunday lunch I can change things up a bit. Sometimes I do rib of beef on the bone but not always something as traditional. A new one I’ve done recently has been shoulder of lamb, marinated in yogurt, garam masala and lemon zest overnight. Then I slow cook it in the oven the next day. I then shred it – pulled lamb – and make bowls out of yeast bread to eat it out of and I add lots of sides like red cabbage and potatoes. Everyone enjoys it!
What do you like to do in your spare time?
On days off I watch cooking shows! I also like to surf – I would have grown up surfing and skate boarding. I do a bit of running too, just to keep in shape with all the food I eat!