Article
9 comments

From Field to Fork at Laverstoke Park Farm: Ticket Competition & Come See Me at the Amateur BBQ Championships [GULP!]

Laverstoke Park Farm

Celebrity buffalo Petal

Laverstoke Park Farm, a very forward thinking biodynamic farm, was one of the places that most struck me on one of my many little trips earlier this year. It’s absolutely remiss of me that I have never told you about it.

I have videos of cheese making and gorgeous pictures of Spring lambs, I tried their new and delicious Buffalo ice cream, and was converted to Buffalo biltong. Run by passionate purist Jodi Schekter, former World Champion F1 Driver for Ferrari, he makes no compromises on any ingredients or recipes, and has his fingers in many biodyanmic pies. They make lager, have planted a vineyard for sparkling wine in the future, and have ultimate control over all of their processes, choosing to establish their own abbatoir, to ensure best treatment of the anmials (buffalo, cows and sheep). Grim but important, the point of death is the most crucial one in the process, both for the welfare of the animals and quality of the meat, you don’t want to stress them out, primarily as it’s unkind and the adrenaline will toughen the meat and lend it a tinny taste.

Laverstoke Park Farm

Sheepdog with his own transport

As a previous scientist (physiologist if you are wondering!), I was very impressed by their laboratory facilities, which beat many I have seen in universities. They use it to analyse nature, and help it along, however they can. I am a country lass myself , and was quite impressed by the plus 20 types of grass in one field – in their defence I asked as I noticed.

Laverstoke Park Farm

Brand new lambs! Just born. As you can see from poor Mum's appendage.

Why surface now? Well, at the time, they told me about their Field to Fork Festival and their Amateur BBQ championships, which I have appeared to sign up for! Well, why not? Cons: I don’t own a BBQ, I don’t have an outdoor space to perfect this, BUT I am a purist and will delve deep and study what’s needed and find the best recipes, and I have some secret weapons on my team. Pros: well, it wil,l be lots of fun, and it’s important to stretch youself, isn’t it?

Secret weapons?! Cook extraordinaire: Sig from Scandilicious; our favourite stateside wine blogger: Denise from The Wine Sleuth, who claims that she knows everything about BBQ, and my dear friend Kat, who’s from Florida, and has a trick or two up her sleeve. We will be the Irish team, and they are all practicing their accents.

Laverstoke Park Farm

Buffalo Ice Cream from Laverstoke Park Farm

There will be lots happening. You can come eat our food, and watch me red faced slave bemusedly over the coals. You can learn how to make butter, bake bread, see how they make mozarella, visit the vineyard, tour the farm or fill up at the Food Court.

Just over an hour out of London, it’s worth the trip. Entry is  only £6 per person and all kids under 8 have free entry. I have 4 tickets to give away for a car load, or train tables worth of you. Just leave a comment and I will select the winner randomly on Thursday – closing time is 5pm.

So, details below. For more info and to book tickets go to www.fieldtoforkshow.co.uk.

Hope to see you there! Do say hello if you visit. And enter to win tickets here by simply leaving a comment!

THIS WEEKENDS’ BEST DAY OUT! LAVERSTOKE PARK FARM’S FIELD TO FORK SHOW- 3rd & 4th JULY (OVERTON, HAMPSHIRE)
 
Hampshire’s largest and most sociable BBQ!

Laverstoke are stoking up, what surely has to be the county’s or even the country’s largest BBQ ready for the weekend. With the capacity to host over 150 people BBQing at one time with Laverstoke’s meats (that can be purchased in advance at www.fieldtoforkshow.co.uk or on the day) with a team of 15 professional chefs on hand to give top tips on how to be a star chef on the coals… what could be better than combining this with the Laverstoke beer from the bar with big TV screens pitched up with the sport for the fanatics amongst us?!
 
The Laverstoke BBQ World Cup- Saturday 3 July – Hosted by Ainsley Harriot

Laverstoke Park Farm has caught World Cup fever and has for the first time created the BBQ World Cup. International teams compete for a shot to be the – ‘The Laverstoke BBQ World Cup Champion’.  Competing nations facing the challenge include: South Korea, Italy, Iran, South Africa, Ireland and of course the home nation, England! We are keeping one place back for a Wild card team on the day, so come ready to join in!!
 
The Professionals British BBQ Championships Sunday 4 July – Hosted by Raymond Blanc + The UK’s most feared food critics from The BBC’s Great British Menu

See some of the country’s best chefs battle it out on the coals.. Defending champions, The Cinnamon Club or ‘Team Cinnamon’, go up against ROKA, The Hart Brothers’ Barrafina – with ‘guest chef’ Tom Parker-Bowles, Roast, Jun Tanaka’s Pearl, Iberica and local boys The Four Seasons Hotel, Hampshire amongst others.

There is tonnes for the Kids to do!

Bread making workshops for kids
Farm animal enclosure – meet Petal, Sniffles, Wilbur, Guinevere, Bartholomew and Vanessa!
Play match the poo and taste the tractor fuel – yes really!
Circus Skills- kids can learn how to to juggle with balls, scarves, clubs or juggling rings, spin plates, master the diabolo, devil sticks, pedal-gos, unicycles, stilt walking, poi, contact balls, balancing, balloon modelling!
 
See the farm-
Farm Tours– see the whole farm including the dairy, the mozzarella making and the vinyard…
Ancient Woodland Walks – Take a stroll around the beautiful ancient woodland. There is both a long and short route available.
Sheepdog Demonstrations- See dogs Dell and Moll show how to herd!
 
For the FOODIES there is-
The Presentations Barn – The art of butter making, Sustainable sourcing, biodynamic farming and nutrition from Chelsea Football Club’s consultant nutrionist.
 
And for the hungry! The Food Court…
Burgers, sausages, Buffalo and Pork spit roasts, salads and veggie options too! Laverstoke’s brand new ice creams, and of course the bar serving Laverstoke’s finest ales and lagers!

Article
9 comments

Edible Wild Flowers: Elderflowers

Foraging Elderflower Near Caerphilly Castle in Wales

Foraging Elderflower Near Caerphilly Castle in Wales

Some things just whisk me straight back to my chidhood. The smell of stewing rhubarb or apples. Apple tart with fork prongs holding the pastry together and keeping those argy-bargy apples in. Tiny potatoes covered in soil. Fields of cows. Bushes full of blackberries. The smell of the sea. The sound of the waves as I waited for the school bus every morning. Bright red rose hips that we would try to make itching powder from. The smell of Irish stew on the hob. Elderflowers.

I grew up in a rural area, surrounded by farms and the sea. I had no idea how good I had it. Within a 5 minute walk of my house were rocky and sandy beaches and a pier that we would fish crab on. Mackerel would jump out of the water come August and we would run down to the rocky beach with our homemade fishing rods (bamboo for a rod), and homemade weights that we had spent the day making by melting lead and setting into shapes in holes in buckets of sand (eeeek – yes!). We would try to feed the cats spratts (they refused). We would pick apples in nearby orchards, pick gooseberries in the fruit graden of an abandoned nearby house that I always fantastised about owning, but sadly was levelled for a golf course (I am still cross about that!). We would gather bluebells in Spring in nearby woods.

Boy, did we have it good?!

Elderflower had a special appeal for me, as a very girly girl. There were elm trees everywhere. I would pick lots and try and make perfumes and drinks. I spent all day making some elderflower cordial once and was absolutely devestated to discover that the diluted orange bottle I had made it in, still reeked of orange, and so my cordial was destroyed.

I still love elderflower. It’s fragrant (although use it straight away, as they lose their freshness the flavour becomes repellant), pretty, and delicious. I fritter it, make elderflower cordial, use the cordial with gooseberries in a fool, make elderflower bellinis and make some mildly alcoholic elderflower sparkler wine.

I picked lots on a recent brief trip to Wales. Of course it’s all over London too (although it’s the end of the season so some will already be turned to berries), but there was so much in Wales and I had time. A rarity in my London existence these days, sadly.

I will be back with some recipes soon. For now, go and forage!

Article
16 comments

Launceston Place at Taste of London

Taste of London

I was determined to have some suckling pig at Taste of London. I tried Fino first, but the queue was outrageous, so I fled. I just hate queueing and will go to the restaurant instead. I was keen to try Launceston Place, so popped over to their stand, and there I spied a little piggy, a very small one on a rotisserie.

Suckling Pig! I was excited. Except there wasn’t any to be had, except that tiny one on a spit. Come back in an hour they said. I spied a little table nearby and in the interim had some very good goose egg and chips, the goose egg was beaten and runny, and poured on top of the shoestring chips. It was lovely.

Taste of London

Time for dessert ahead of mains. I couldn’t resist the strawberries with champagne and clotted cream. I even had a second one. This may explain why I was starting to confuse myself and poor Tristan Welch, not being able to comprehend crown amounts, or how many I needed to pay him. He said with humour, “I don’t know, I am a chef”, I replied, confused and laughing “I am clearly not a mathematitian”. I wonder if I would have been as patient, with myself. I suspect that I wouldn’t have been.

Taste of London

It was now 20 minutes to suckling pig, and people were gathering. I was determined to have a piece of this critter so made my intentions known. Timings were confused – one told me 20 minutes, another told me 5. 5 proved to be true, and I watched Tristan Welch pop back to the kitchen, and remove the piggy from his oven home.

Taste of London

Excited I waited, then watched them run past! Wielding their tiny suckling pig on the spit, they ran around chanting “Last pig from Launceston Place!”. I got nervous! This was the smallest suckling pig that I have ever seen, perhaps a third of the size of the one that we had at St John. I ran after them, and followed them back, watched them remove it from the spit, carve it, slice the truffle, and then received my piggy portion.

Taste of London

Encased in brioche, the juicy suckling pig and wafer thin slices of truffle were heavenly. Occasional snaps of crackling, and hefty with aroma, this was all too brief an indulgence. It was delicious.

Perfect festival food, the turnaround was quick, the flavours immense, and I wanted more of everything. Next step will be to check out the restaurant. And to roast a suckling pig of my own.

http://www.launcestonplace-restaurant.co.uk/

Article
4 comments

Tips for Taste of London

So, you’re off to Taste of London. 4 hours and some of Londons finest restaurants, best producers, and some very fine booze. Just how will you manage?! Here’s my top tips for your trip and the ones that I plan to visit when I hit there later today again.

Trinity London

Taste of London

Head to Trinity for the dish of the festival, selected on Thursday by a group of judges – Pigs Trotters on Toasted Pain Poilane, Fried Quail Egg, Sauce Gribiche and Crackling. A terrific dish, and one that I have sampled at the restaurant, I couldn’t resist it again. Trinity were selling the crackling at £1 a stick on Thursday, and on the quiestest day of the festival, sold 1,000 sticks. You know you’ve got to go.

Taste of London

Taste of London

I also tried their Chargrilled Asparagus, Fried Pheasants Egg and Truffled Homemade Ricotta. Well, it wouldn’t be Trinity if there wasn’t truffle in there, and this was fantastic. I loved the gentle texture and earthy aromas of the truffled ricotta, and dipped the lime green asparagus sticks in there, dragging them through the pheasant yolk before devouring. Delicious! I finished up with a dessert of Homemade Vanilla Yoghurt, English Cherries & Almond Crumb. Creamy and light, fruity with the nutty crumb to finish, it would make a great breakfast too. While you’re there, get Adam to sign a copy of his great new book “How to Eat In”.

Taste of London

L’Anima

Next door is Francesco Mazzei’s L’Anima, one of Londons finest Italian restaurants. I tried the Sardinian Fregola with Seafood Bottarga and Lemon. There were some clams in there too, and this delicious dish spoke of the sea and the fields near it. It’s not easy to find a fregola dish in London, and this is superb, so do try it. There was also a Smoked Purple Aubergine with Burrata with Basil & Chilli Jam which looked terrific and which I plan to try later today.

Taste of London

Taste of London

Action Against Hunger Pop-Up

Actiona Against Hunger are running a pop-up restaurant at Taste. SImon Rogan from L’Enclume was there Thursday, and yesterday I sampled the delights of Valentine Warner, a gorgeous Grilled Roe Deer Sandwich with Tarragon Dressing. It was excellent, the tender delicious warm roe deer encased in toasted sourdough with the fragrant tarragon enveloping. Do check it out today when Paul Merrett will be cooking.

Taste of London

Taste of London
Taste of Barbados

Tuna with lentils, panacotta with plantain, and it’s FREE! Also lovely cocktails for only 6 crowns a pop. The chefs have been flown over from some of the finest restaurants Barbados has to offer. It’s a must.

Taste of London

Taste of London

Chapel Down Wines & Oysters

Pop over to Chapel Down and try one of their terrific English wines, I love the sparkling, and have some of the oysters. It’s something I do at every Taste of London, I recommend you do too!

Taste of London

Taste of London

Nyetimber

With possibly the prettiest stand, and some great English sparkling wine to boot, save some of your crowns for a glass of award winning Nyetimber. A little more expensive, but worth every penny. Try the Forman’s London Cure Salmon with it, a light smoked salmon, which almost has a sashimi like quality to it. Very good indeed.

Taste of London

Taste of London

Sipsmith

Artisan distillery Sipsmith from Hammersmith in London, are dishing up G&T’s made with their fantastic gin. It’s a great product, a great drink, and they’re great fun to boot.Try their vodka too.

O:TU Sauvignon Blanc

From Marlborough, O:TU has a Sauvignon Blanc and a single vineyard Sauvignon Blanc. It’s got lots of character and body and stands apart from the more familiar limey Sauvignon Blancs from Marlborough. Buy it by the glass, or the carafe, or order some to be delivered home.

Clonakilty Black Pudding

Promise me that you will visit Clonakilty Pudding folks to try their gorgeous black and white puddings and the Irish ispíní that I write about all the time. They’re fantastic and use recipes that have been handed down through the generations.

Bea’s Of Bloomsbury

I had a bite of a friends Bea’s of Bloomsbury’s cupcake, and well, it’s not your common or garden cupcake, but a flavoursome moist cake with a beautiful fruity cream topping. I loved it, and I will be going back and checking out her shop in Bloomsbury.

Taste of London

David’s Chilli Oil

My favourite chilli oil, David sells only this. It’s not cheap at £10 a jar but it’s amazing, and it lasts forever. His recipe is based on his childhood eating experiences in Asia. The umami hit comes from black beans – whatever he has done with them! Try it.

Isle of Wight Garlic Farm

Fresh garlic, elephant garlic, lots of garlic products. It’s great! I have a bag of fresh garlic now. I am sure that my colleagues will thank me for it on Monday.

Marylebone Village Fayre - Famer's Market

Ones I didn’t try but plan to are: Le Gavroche, Odettes, Salt Yard, Fino & Launceston Place. More info on those soon.

Have fun!

Article
91 comments

Taste of London: Preview & Win a Pair of Tickets!

It’s Taste of London time again! I was treated to a preview of some of the dishes that will be available at this weekend’s food & drink festival at Regent’s Park. 9 dishes in one 2 hour lunch, don’t say that I don’t put my figure on the line for your pleasure!

Taste of London Preview

Taste of London Preview

Taste of London Preview

Pretty, eh? We were served my favourite Frank Hederman’s Smoked Salmon on Soda Bread with Blason de Bourgogne Chablis and Oysters with Nyetimber Classic Cuvee 2005 at Richard Corrigan’s Bentley’s. If you haven’t had Frank Hederman’s Smoked Salmon yet, you really are missing out. Fresh, peaty and smoky with none of the oiliness of the sadder orange confections you see in the supermarkets, it’s perfect with soda bread. I served it at the market last year, and eat it all the time at home. Finally, we had Traditional Fish and Chips served in cones with O:TU Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2009 New Zealand.

Taste of London Preview

Taste of London Preview

Taste of London Preview

Taste of London Preview

On then to Michelin starred Chinese Yautcha for a Vegetable dim sum platter with Waitrose Champagne Brut NV at Yautcha’s was delicious and light with sprightly flavours. Spicy chicken wonton dumpling with Kleine Zalze Vineyard Selection Chenin Blanc 2009 South Africa was smacking of more, I wanted more! We finished with a Dim sum platter served with Chateau Ste Michelle Dry Riesling 2009 Washington State, USA.

Taste of London Preview

Taste of London Preview

Taste of London Preview

One of my favourites, Salt Yard offered their signature dish, their gorgeous Courgette flowers stuffed with goats cheese and drizzled with honey with Buiten Blanc, Buitenverwachting, a sensational and very tender Smoked octopus a la Gallega with crispy shallots served with Gavi de Gavi, Italy 2009 from M&S, and zingy Chargrilled beef bavette with Salsa Verde and Escalivada with Chateau Civrac 2007 Bordeaux.

The food was excellent, and the wine matches well chosen, I especially loved the Nyetimber with the Oysters and the Bavette with the Bordeaux.

Want to go? Taste of London runs from 17th – 20th June in Regent’s Park, London. Tickets are on sale and start from £22, but you can win one of 3 pairs worth £44 each here. Just leave a comment on this post and I will choose winners at random when the competition closes on Wednesday 16th June at midnight. The tickets are valid for Friday evening only for the 5.30pm – 9.30pm session and don’t include any crowns. You’ve got 2 days! A comment takes 2 minutes :)

http://www.tastefestivals.com/london/

**This competition is now closed – congrats to the winners number 1, 15 & 72, Lydia Pluckrose, May & Laura Lee. Thanks everyone for your entires and comments.**

Article
4 comments

Identita, London: The International Chefs Conference

Identita

I bounced back from Ireland to the International Chefs Conference, Identità, at Vinopolis. Traditionally held in Italy, it has been held in London for two years now, and is an inspiring couple of days, with chef demonstrations, talks, tastings, and an excellent selection of Italian produce to sample. More bijoux than most food conferences, there was a clear focus on quality and excellence. When I heard about it, I couldn’t resist going along for both days so cleared my diary, and made my way.

There is so much that I could tell you about, I’ll start with some photos and highlights.

Identita

A brilliant and hilarious demo from quirky Hong Kong chef, Alvin Leung. A self taught 2* chef who cooks at his Hong Kong restaurant Bo Innovation, Alvin cooked his interpretation of the English breakfast with lotus root stuffed with bone marrow, lotus seeds and 1000 year old egg. He kicked it off with a martini and his sous chefs name was Devil. He was funny, fresh, and inspiring. I found myself laughing a lot and desperate to try his food. What a commendation!

<Identita

A fantastic demonstration by Gennaro Esposito, a chef from Southern Italy where he cooks at his 2* restaurant La Torre del Saracino. He presented a dish cooked with a new shape pasta that he designed with Pastificio dei Campi, deemed a grand cru pasta by Italian food magazine Gambero Rosso. Having tasted it, and already a fan, I can absolutely agree and applaud that. Gragnano, the town where the pasta comes from, is to pasta what Parma is to ham. With perfect bite and body, it really puts other pastas to shame. If a pasta could feel shame, of course. I feel shame for bad pasta!

Identita

Identita

Meeting Gennaro Esposito after his demonstration about the pasta and his dishes after which he insisted I try some sensational charcuterie, as you can imagine I didn’t need much persuading. The prosciutto and salami were perfection, but the lardo, well that just whisked me to another place, far from London and Vinopolis. Slippery with a grip, rich as foie gras, and delicately flavoured with herbs. Gorgeous stuff.

Identita

Identita

A Grana Padano cheese and wine matching where three vintages of Grana Padano cheese wre matched with several wines. It was the first time I had tried a 27 month old Grana Padano and loved it’s crystalline crunch and rich flavour. The wines were excellent too, especially an outstanding Amarone.

Identita

A demo from Jason Atherton and he announced his new restaurant that will open in Mayfair later in the year – name TBC.

Identita

Meeting people from Slow Food Italy, trying the food, speaking to the chefs and learning so much – more on that soon, it’s a post in itself.

Identita

Crazy cresses, micro herbs and numbing buds. More on that soon too!

http://www.identitalondon.com/

Article
6 comments

Hidden Ireland: The Tannery, Dungarvan

The Tannery, Dungarvan

And on to The Tannery. You’ve been waiting for this one, haven’t you?

Dungarvan was never really a food destination, not until Paul & Máire Flynn moved in and opened The Tannery in 1997. The Tannery was an old leather factory, I remember it very well from my youth. One distinct time when very young I recall lots of people working with animal hides which were hanging very visibly, lots of steam, and a sense of industry. I remember people in hats and my surprise when I was told exactly where those skins came from. From animals! I remember the stench. I was very small.

The Tannery, Dungarvan

Since then, I’ve noticed a very big change in attitudes to food in the area. Maybe this was happening already, and the opening of The Tannery crystallised it, but I think it’s fair to say that they were critical to this development. They’ve since opened an award winning guesthouse (Tannery Townhouse) and an award winning Cookery School which I have yet to check out. I have enjoyed food at the restaurant though, and last Sunday, I returned for Sunday lunch with my sister.

The Tannery, Dungarvan

Set by the Quay in Dungarvan in the old tannery, The Tannery restaurant is encased in a gorgeous old stone building. Downstairs in the foyer you can have a drink while you wait for your table, upstairs is the restaurant, bright and airy with hints of it’s Tannery past. With a population of 17,000 people, Dungarvan is a small town by anyones standards, but people travel to eat there now.

The Tannery, Dungarvan

We opted for a set Sunday lunch which offers 3 courses for €30. Comprehensive, offering 5 options for each course, it was very difficult to decide what to have as it was all very appealing. My sister could not resist the Crab Creme Brulee with Pickled Cucumber and Melba Toast and she advised that I had to try the Tannery Tasting Plate, offering a selection of 4 starters: Vichysoisse, Ketafi of Cooleney Camembert, Chicken Liver Parfait with Plum Chutney & Pork Rillette with Onion Marmalade.

The Tannery, Dungarvan

The Crab Creme Brulee was fantastic, ambrosial, rich and still light. Gorgeous. The Tasting Plate was wonderful too, the Vichysoisse was all you could ever want from that cold summer soup, the Chicken Liver Parfait creamy, light and rich, the Ketafi of Cooleney Camembert was a wonderful addition, with crisp noodles surrounding oozy creamy camembert, and the Pork Rillette as good as everything before. I loved it.

Choosing a main course was challenging too. Grilled Hake with Bouillabaise Sauce, French Beans & Aioli; Glazed Pork Belly, Apple Sauce & Celeriac Cream; traditional Roast Chicken with Stuffing, Carrots & Peas; Seared Scallops, Romesco Sauce & Chorizo Croquettes or Wild Garlic Risotto with Crispy Shallots. How to choose?

The Tannery, Dungarvan

I decided on the scallops as I loved the idea of the chorizo croquettes and they have been something that I have wanted to make for a while. Nodlaig went for the wild garlic risotto. A side order of intensely buttery mash was served with my main. Both were executed perfectly again, no less than 7 scallops with strips of pickled courgette (I think!), charred scallions, a roast tomato with charred slice of garlic on top and dreamy, creamy, spicy chorizo croquettes. The wild garlic risotto was lovely, bright green and packed with flavour, the rice was al dente and had a lovely bite as it should, the crispy shallots served as a perfect contrast.

The Tannery, Dungarvan

The Tannery, Dungarvan

The Tannery, Dungarvan

Time for dessert. Soft Baked Meringue with Strawberries and Lemon Curd was irresistible for me, and Nodlaig went for her favourite Chocolate Truffle Cake. I loved mine, it was light, fruity and summery, not rich, and the chocolate truffle cake was mousse-like and reminded me of the River Cafe’s Chocolate Nemesis. Very good indeed.

The Tannery, Dungarvan

The Tannery, Dungarvan

Coffees were included and I had two very good and very well priced wines by the glass. A Bergerac Sauvignon- Semillon for €6.50 and a chilled red Beaujolais at the same price. We had a lovely lunch, it really has everything nailed: great room, great food, friendly and efficient service and very well priced. The food is detailed and delicate but has a lovely homely quality too. It stands up to and beats some michelin starred meals that I have had in London, and I think that the people of Dungarvan are very lucky to have it there.

Just last night they won an award for the Best Restaurant in Munster, Ireland, and the Best Irish Cookery School, so it’s definitely one to visit. Make sure you stick around and enjoy the area and all it has to offer, if you do.

http://tannery.ie/

Article
7 comments

Hidden Ireland: The Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore

Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore

Tucked away in a quiet corner of West Waterford is Ardmore. A seductive, sleepy seaside town, more of a village really, with a long beautiful strand and a hotel perched atop it. Overlooking the whole scene is Ardmore’s round tower, built sometime around the 10th – 12th century. One theory is that they were used to watch the coastline so that when any invaders aproached the locals would hide within.

Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore, Waterford

I however, have no intention of hiding in a round tower. If you want to find me in Ardmore, I will be hiding and indulging in the Cliff House Hotel. Hugging a cliff edge with a sweeping terrace overlooking the sea, the food options are terrific, offering michelin starred dining or great bar food. We popped over for lunch and gave it a whirl.

The menu reads beautifully and simply, featuring lots of Irish and local produce. Local organic smoked salmon, monkfish from nearby fishing village Helvick, soda bread, Dingle crab and one of my favourite desserts, rhubarb fool. We opted for a couple of things each, in truth one would do, but we wanted to try too many things.

Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore, Waterford

Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore, Waterford

My sister started with the Organic Smoked Salmon with Egg Salad and croutons, and I the Potted Helvick Monkfish with Horseradish Mayonnaise and Spelt Bread. The Smoked Salmon dish was lovely and well balanced, with the creamy egg countering the smoked salmon nicely. My potted monkfish was presented beautifully in a kilner jar with scallions on top and a light nice selection of leaves on the side. Overall, very good, although I couldn’t detect much horseradish sadly. Ironic as it was my sisters preferred choice, but she doesn’t like horseradish, and I meanwhile was covetting her salmon.

Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore, Waterford

We moved on to our next dish Caesar Salad “The Cliff” with Chicken for Nodlaig and Dingle Bay Crab on brown soda bread for me. The Caesar Salad was as good an execution of this dish as I have ever sampled and it was excellent. My crab was fresh, generous and light with a perfectly complementary dressing, and the rich brown soda was great with it.

Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore, Waterford

The menu features several wines by the glass and I had a lovely glass of Macon Vineuse 2008 from Oliver Merlin in Burgundy for €10 a glass. The food was all between €10 & €12, there are more expensive and substantial options like rack of lamb for 28.50 and whole sea bass for €26.50.

Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore, Waterford
The bar is lovely, the service friendly, and the view is sensational. If we had better weather, we just couldn’t keep people away from Ireland but our notorious rain might hamper this. We were blessed with sunshine on our visit and I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else. I plan to go back to try the restaurant where Martijn Kajuiter leads in the kitchen. Previously of Restaurant Kwekerj de Kas, one of my favourite Dutch restaurants, it promises to be inspiring, but we will have to wait to see. I plan to stay there, and tear myself away from my every day reality. I have promised myself that it will be very soon.

The Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore

http://www.thecliffhousehotel.com/dining

Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore, Waterford

Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore, Waterford

Article
21 comments

Edible Wild Flowers: Three Cornered Leek/Wild Onion

Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore, Waterford - Wild Onion from the car park!

I always have my eyes peeled and my nose finely tuned to the colours, shapes and scents in country hedgerows. A dangerous occupation when there’s lots of silage and manure about, but, worth it for the times that you get an onion-y whiff, and then glimpse beautiful white flowers that taste somewhere between a spring onion and wild garlic.

I love wild garlic and use it a lot when it’s in season. It’s incredibly pungent (usually), and is something that I cook, or at least blanche before using. Three cornered leek (sometimes called wild onion and officially called Allium triquetrum) is more delicate, and slender, like a feminine version, with slimmer, angular, less shouty leaves and petite flowers. Perfect in salads, the flowers also make a gorgeous garnish.

Glandore

On a walk to the beach in Glandore last week, I turned a corner and hit the most intense onion smell and smiled, knowing that I would be greeted by beautiful white flowers, looking like swanlike snowdrops. They are also common in London, I did a cheeky midnight forage in someones abandoned front garden in Islington recently that was carpeted with these gorgeous elegant blooms.

What to do with them? So much. Perfect in salads or as garnishes, it is worth making a small effort and blitzing the green leaves with some oil and drizzling on potato soup, with some flowers scattered around it. It makes a great pesto, a little less abrasive than one made using ransoms. I find it hard to resist simply eating the flowers on the way home.

 

Article
19 comments

Hidden Ireland: O’Brien’s Chop House, Lismore, Waterford

Dungarvan Harbour in the sunshine

Everyone’s been to Dublin, right? And a strong number I would wager to the west of Ireland and Cork City. But who among you has been to Waterford?

I know not many as everytime I tell someone where I’m from they gaze back blankly and slightly perturbed until I explain that it’s next to Cork. Ah, Cork! But I am not from Cork, I am from Waterford. West Waterford to be precise.

A small county on the Atlantic, Waterford has so much going on. The ocean, mountains, woods, restaurants, pubs, artisan cheese, traditional music, a Gaeltacht (a native speaking area). Lots of great shellfish, seafood, beef & lamb from the mountains. Game, oyster farms, shoals of mackerel leaping out of the water in late summer. Seals, turtles, dolphins, we’ve got them all.

O'Brien's Chop House, Lismore, Waterford

I am from Dungarvan a small coastal town in Waterford, set on a harbour with a backdrop of mountains (Irish mountains though you understand, our more petite versions). We have a very well known restaurant, The Tannery, brought to us by Paul Flynn. Londoners will know him from his time at 3 star Nico at Ninety, working as head chef for Nico Ladenis. More on the Tannery later. Today I am going to tell you about a little day trip that I had to a gorgeous nearby town called Lismore.

O'Brien's Chop House, Lismore, Waterford

Lismore is set inland on the river Blackwater, overlooked by stunning Lismore castle owned by the Duke of Devonshire. It’s sleepy and local and I challenge anyone not to fall in love with it. O’Brien’s Chop House is a relatively recent arrival on the scene. Opened in July 2009 by Justin & Jenny Green of Ballyvolane House and set in an old pub with a gorgeous delapidated garden, delapidated in the very best way. I felt like I was home, at home in the Ireland I remember fondly of countryside and falling down houses, wild flowers and apple trees, and mildly manicured gardens.

O'Brien's Chop House, Lismore, Waterford

The menu offers traditional Irish food. Devilled kidneys, pork chops, lamb shanks, hanger & sirloin steaks. It veers off course at times with dishes like gnocchi and Dungarvan mussels with lemongrass, ginger & coonut milk broth, reflecting the modern international nature of Irish cuisine, I suppose. Or perhaps, our modern international tastes and demands. Also the modern multi-cultural nature of our island. The meat is provided by the local butcher – McCarthy’s, who farm and butcher their own meat, they also have their own abbatoir.

O'Brien's Chop House, Lismore, Waterford

We went for lunch, an old friend and I drove in the gorgeous sunshine, past fields a river and a castle, and arrived at O’Briens. It’s a cute little place, deceptively small at first it expands to a bigger dining room behind the traditional pub front and a lovely roomy garden. We chose the garden as the weather was gorgeous and the garden itself too hard to resist.

O'Brien's Chop House, Lismore, Waterford

A quickie lunch menu was on offer, and you know how much I love these lunch deals, so we opted for this. Despite the heat, I opted for a spiced garlic & tomato soup, followed by oxtail stew with champ, and Jennifer opted for a caesar salad followed by gnocchi with asparagus & wild garlic cream. Some soda bread was delivered, both brown & white, and we both agreed that it was like being whisked back to your grandmother’s kitchen. The white soda was sweet and flaky, the brown malty and rich. The butter melted slowly in the afternoon sun, and we scooped it onto our slices of bread, requesting seconds, we liked it so much.

O'Brien's Chop House, Lismore, Waterford

The starters arrived and I was reminded about the generosity of Irish portions. A very big soup was delivered, and I ate every bit. It was light, and nicely spiced with background garlic and a gentle heat. It coped well with my dunking of soda bread, which was good, as I did it a lot! Jen approved of her Caesar Salad which game with egg, which made it almost a lunch in itself. I wondered how we would fit our main course.

O'Brien's Chop House, Lismore, Waterford

I also started to wonder about the sensibility of oxtail stew in this heat, but got over it quickly once I had the first bite of this rich hearty dish. Remnisent of childhood with sweet tender carrots, rich gravy, and oxtail falling off the bone, the champ was light and tingled with scallions. It was very, very good. The gnocchi looked great, creamy and rich too, but that’s how we Irish like our food, even in the sunshine. A nation of dairy farmers, you’ll find that dairy features heavily in our food.

O'Brien's Chop House, Lismore, Waterford

Dessert delivered fresh and zingy lemon tart with brown bread ice cream and whipped cream and I opted for a late appetiser of rhubarb bellini. I make these a lot (except mine also include rose), these were different as the rhubarb was current season, and more green than pink with a pleasant tartness which worked very well with the sweet prosecco.

O'Brien's Chop House, Lismore, Waterford

O'Brien's Chop House, Lismore, Waterford

A lovely lunch devoured, we ventured home again, stopping before we left for some homemade “ribena”, chutney & blackcurrant jam. We spent a lovely couple of hours in gorgeous surroundings and I would heartily recommend it. The service was superb, the manager is ex Le Caprice, but fled London after 10 years there. I am on year 8/9 now, I couldn’t help but wonder if I would do the same. But then I remembered how much I love London. I fear I am destined to be torn.

O'Brien's Chop House, Lismore, Waterford

Article
25 comments

Recipe: Irish Salmon and Crab Fish Cakes

Salmon & Crab Fish Cakes

Back in Ireland for a few weeks, to celebrate a friends wedding, my nieces first birthday, and a fairly significant one of my own (quietly for a change), I felt inspired to cook something Irish, something that reminded me of my roots and drew from the surrounding area. I decided on fish cakes.

Not something that I would ever eat as a child being the fussiest creature crawling the face of the earth, I discovered them later on, preferring those packed with fish, with crispy exteriors and fresh salads with creamy dressings and sharp capers and cornichons. Maybe some lovely tartare sauce or simply homemade mayonnaise. Irish fish cakes should have potato too though, so I always add a little bit.

Salmon & Crab Fish Cakes

I haven’t made them in a while, in fact I grew to hate them. It’s the most popular recipe on this blog, but not one of my favourites, and I resented that poor little post from the early days when my photos came from a battered old camera. It’s time to embrace fish cakes one more and in light of the occasions this week, a little luxury was required in the form of some crab meat.

Salmon & Crab Fish Cakes

As I was home, in an Irish seaside town, I had the luxury and convenience of a local fish shop with fresh locally caught crab and delicious salmon. My home is not very far from Flahavan’s Mills, where they produce lovely porridge oatlets which I love and eat all the time in London. I substituted their pinhead oats for breadcrumbs to coat the salmon. It worked beautifully giving lovely crunch and texture. A little bit healthier too perhaps.

I poached my salmon first with fresh bay leaves and parsley and thyme from the garden with a dozen or so black peppercorns in milk. I poached it gently for 15 – 20 mins, let it cool and discarded the skin, gently flaking the salmon and combining it with a couple of spoonfuls of the poaching milk, the mashed potatoes, fresh chopped chives, the crab and it was good to go. Easy! And perfect too with leftover salmon or other fish you might have to hand.

Salmon & Crab Fish Cakes

I served these with a simple salad (again picked fresh from the garden – such luxury for a Londoner!), french dressing, capers and mayonnaise. A homemade tartare sauce goes very well too.

I baked and fried these. Baked is healthier and takes about 35 minites at 200 degrees celsius. Frying gives a much better texture, and takes about 5 minutes on each side at a moderate heat.

Recipe: Irish Salmon and Crab Fish Cakes

Serves 4

Ingredients:

300g Salmon – I poached mine, not essential though, cooked salmon in any way will do
200g Crabmeat (pref mixture white & brown)
200g mashed potatoes
Fresh chives
150g oatmeal
1 egg
A little milk
S&P

Salad leaves

Dressing: 1 tsp white wine vinegar, 3 tsp extra virgin olive oil, S&P

To serve: mayonnaise or tartare sauce and capers

Method:

If you are poaching the salmon, cover the salmon with milk, and add some bay leaves, parsley and what ever other herbs you have to hand, some peppercorns. Bring to a simmer and leave to poach gently over a very low heat for 15 – 20 minutes.

Leave to cool and peel the skin off. Flake and mix with the crab, mashed potato and a handful of fresh chives. Season to taste. Depending on your potatoes, you may like to add a couple of tasblespoons of milk (from the poaching liquor if you poached). You may not need this, judge by tying to shape a fish cake, and if it needs more moisture add the milk.

Season the oats. Divide the fish cake mixture into 8 and shape into flattened balls. Dip these in the beaten egg and coat in the seasoned oats. Fry at a moderate heat for about 5 minutes on each side until crisp and heated through.

Dress the salad leaves and serve the fish cakes on top with a sprinkling of capers and some mayonnaise or tartare sauce on the side.