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A Postcard from a St Stephen’s Day Walk by the Atlantic in Waterford, Ireland

A Stephen's Day Walk

A Stephen’s Day Walk

After the insanity of Christmas Day and cooking for so many people, the day after, St Stephen’s Day in Ireland, is an oasis of calm, with a morning dedicated to sleep.

I grew up on the Atlantic on the south coast of Ireland with lovely beaches of all types, mountains, waterfalls within, woods nearby and a magic road. Other stuff too but you get my meaning, there is quite a bit going on here.

Yesterday, we took a walk out on the old train track to the beach and beyond. Fresh cold air stinging the cheeks as the sun was setting, the moon rising slowly and then switching its light on. We walked back in the pitch darkness guided by moonlight.

Which was lovely. I felt human again.

Photos from my phone but worth sharing, I think. 

Pausing for a breath

Pausing for a breath

Greetings from the beach

Greetings from the beach

A washed up lobster pot

A washed up lobster pot

Walking the dog on the beach

Walking the dog on the beach

I found some three cornered leek (often mistakenly called wild garlic and just as delicious)

I found some three cornered leek (often mistakenly called wild garlic and just as delicious)

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A Trip Down Memory Lane at Dingle Food Festival

Lovely Dingle, the view from our house

There are so many stories that I could tell you about Dingle. I could tell about the first dinner that I cooked for over 22 people at the tender age of 22. 22 mainly random people, randomly decided, in a youth hostel in Dingle. My friend Emma and I made Mexican food using what we could get. We didn’t do too bad a job. More importantly, we had a great time. It was a significant moment and one that was instrumental in getting me here.

I could tell you about the time that same summer when we went to beautiful Slea Head nearby, and a local fisherman whose boat had just come back in, offered me a huge crab and a pike. I quickly readied myself and we carried the enormous fish & crab in a blue plastic bag and tried unsuccessfully to hitch a lift the 10 miles or so back.

A gentle pint of Guinnes in the snug in Currans, Dingle, Ireland

One family from Northern Ireland stopped their car to enquire as to what was in the bag, and wished us luck. When they passed us on their way back later, they rolled down the window and roared “WHERE IS THE FASH?!” and delivered us back to our abode.

I could also tell you about the time, when diagnosed with anaemia and told to drink Guinness by my local GP, I ordered a Guinness shandy made with Guinness and Irish red lemonade in a Dingle pub and they almost threw me out. “It is bad enough that you ordered that in English and not Irish, I should throw you out for ordering it at all”. But I pleaded and they made me one. I remember thinking it was alright.

So many stories, let me start with something more recent, Dingle Food Festival last weekend.

Sig of Scandilicious and I, at our demo at Dingle Food Festival

I have an enormous affection for Dingle, a gorgeous seaside town on the west coast of Ireland, famously with over 52 pubs, one for each week of the year. So much so, when asked to write piece for  National Geographic’s Food Journey’s of a Lifetime, I wrote a piece on Dingle pubs some years ago.

To their food festival then, now in its sixth year. A food trail meanders the narrow streets of Dingle and harbour offering tastes starting at €2 a pop. Free cooking demos all day Saturday and Sunday (Scandilicious and I did one) and very reasonable workshops too (I did a bacon workshop to initiate the west coast masses to the joy of bacon fudge and jam).

Lots of live traditional Irish music in pubs throughout the day that you can enjoy between tastes, and lively locals, give Dingle Food Festival the edge.

Bacon Jam fudge in progress at Dingle Food Festival

We stayed in a very sociable and spacious rented house over looking the town, harbour and hills. Two dining areas and a big island kitchen meant that we could cook dinner as well as eat out – my ideal balance, I love having people around. Crab and bacon carbonara was one feature at home, using local crab and McCarthy’s smoked streaky bacon, sliced very finely to provide a bass supporting note. I will publish the recipe soon, once I have tested it thoroughly with less wine in my system ;)

Great scallops, setting the scene for my best meal of the weekend, at Global Village in Dingle

Our best meal was a great seafood dinner at Global Village, a name that somewhat disguises the great cooking inside. I was told it doesn’t matter, they are always busy. So, fair enough.

The girls were determined to wear their wellies

Pubs, we visited many, and lots of my old favourites too. A cosy afternoon hour in the snug in Curran’s, a swift pint at the bar at Foxy John’s, some traditional Irish music at tea time in The Courthouse and we finished the night with some more music at Flaherty’s. Who had been horrified at my Guinness shandy request many years later.

A stolen Sunday hour, post workshop, in the snug in Currans

I will be back. I heart Dingle.

http://dinglefood.com

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A Postcard from the Waterford Festival of Food

Paul Flynn, Mark Hix, Richard Corrigan & Bill Knott enjoy some local stout

I sit in Dungarvan, gazing out at a gorgeous sunny day, with maybe a few hours before I dash to catch my flight back to London. Pondering the brilliant Waterford Festival of Food, I have to send you a quick little postcard on it.

I am immensely proud of what has developed in my little home town over recent years. We have food to rival anywhere and attract great food talent like Mark Hix & Richard Corrigan. The Tannery had some fantastic events that top anything I have been to elsewhere.

Brilliant local cheeses were showcased, fantastic beef, local oysters and other fish. Our local brewery, the Dungarvan Brewing Co made a terrific coffee & oatmeal stout with – of course – our local Flahavans. We have everything here, including Irelands only michelin starred chef outside of Dublin, Martin Kajuiter. I am bursting with pride.

What really made it was just how much fun it was, and the enthusiasm of everyone involved. I can’t wait to see next years evolution.

More soon once I get back to London town.

Martin Kajuiters Spring Chicken Starter at The Tannery Cookery School

West Waterford Experience Chefs

Paul Flynns Daube of Beef with Wild Garlic Mash

Unwinding after Service

Unwinding after Service - I told you it was fun!

Coffee & Oatmeal Stout

Making Treacle Cured Garvlax with Local Wild Salmon in OBriens Chop House, Lismore

Beef & Oyster Pie at OBriens Chop House, Lismore

Paul Flynn, Mark Hix & Richard Corrigan at The Tannery Cookery School

Mark Hix, Richarfd Corrigan & Paul Flynn at The Tannery Cookery School

Mark Hix, Richarfd Corrigan & Paul Flynn at The Tannery Cookery School

Tannery Cookery School

Unwinding After Service at The Tannery Cookery School

Award Winning Triskel Gaots Cheese from Portlaw, Waterford

Eunice Power feeds the masses paella

Cheesey Smile from the Raw Cheesemaker

Great Coffee from Badger & Dodo

Wild Garlic Pesto

Máire from The Tannery

The Farmers Market

Irish BBQ

Some locals chow down

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This Weekend: Waterford Festival Of Food

I am bursting with excitement! This weekend is the Waterford Festival of Food in my hometown of Dungarvan in Ireland. There is so much great stuff going on and I will be filling my boots.

Of course, I am going to wax lyrical about it. We have a brilliant food culture there and I frequently rant about it. In case people didn’t believe me, I brought four other bloggers there, and they loved it too. And now, Richard Corrigan and Mark Hix are popping over to cook dinner this weekend.

The weekend is peppered with Bus Bia (Bia is food in the Irish language) tours including a Beer & Seafood one on Saturday, and  a Seaweed Seminar on Sunday. There will also be Farmers Markets, walks, talks, demonstrations in the town hall and lots of fringe events.

Highlights (for me!) are:

The Dungarvan Brewing Co are launching a festival beer – a coffee and oatmeal stout. It will be available in the Craft Beer Garden at The Moorings all weekend. Only established one year,they have already won several awards and have fans like Darina Allen and Paul Flynn. Me too, if you’re wondering ;)

Thursday 14th Aril, West Waterford 3 Chefs Kitchen Supper at The Tannery

While not strictly speaking a part of the Waterford Festival of Food, this will be a very special dinner bringing together the talents of Martijn Kaujiter (the only Michelin Starred chef outside Dublin), Eddie Baugio from O’Brien’s Chophouse and Paul Flynn. They will cook a kitchen supper showcasing the best of West Waterford cooking and produce with seasonal vegetables from our own Tannery garden.  The evening kicks off with rhubarb martinis, made by Justin Green of Ballyvolane House and a short demo by the chefs, describing what they are cooking and why they like to cook this way.   Places limited to 30 are €55 each and this event is now fully booked.

Friday 15th April, Food Camp 2: Following on from the first Food Camp in Kilkenny last year, Waterford Festival of Food is host to Food Camp 2. The Food Camp is attracting some big names in Irish food circles and will set the agenda for debate on the food industry which is seen as one of the key economic drivers as the country bids to haul itself out of recession.

The event at King John’s Castle will involve free speaking sessions and panel discussions. I will be on the panel but don’t let that put you off! Speaking slots are available to anyone with skills and experiences to share with others interested in or already involved in the food industry in Ireland. Intending participants simply register by emailing foodcamp@waterfordfestivaloffood.com with an outline of their topic. You’d be surprised at who you might meet there.

There will also be a special 6 course tasting menu in the Tannery Restaurant celebrating the Waterford Festival of Food  – €55 per person.

Saturday 16th April, Richard Corrigan & Mark Hix at The Tannery Cookery School with Paul Flynn

On Saturday 16th April Richard Corrigan and Mark Hix will cook a kitchen supper in the Tannery Cookery School.  Richard and Mark need no introduction here.  Dungarvans own Paul Flynn will cook the main course and the evening kicks off with cocktails followed by a short talk by the chefs and supper.  Places limited to 30 are €65 each and this event is now fully booked.

Further information is available online at http://www.waterfordfestivaloffood.com/

Hope to see you there!

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Smoked Haddock Fish Cakes

Smoked Haddock Fish Cakes

My trips home of late have been hurried and frantic, but when I can, I will visit Cork’s English Market to indulge. I love to pop to the Farmgate Café for a toastie (either our famed Irish toasted special or sometimes something unusual like Ardrahan Goat’s Cheese & Beetroot), a coffee, or a rich and nostalgic Irish Stew for lunch. After that I will wander about picking up bits and pieces. This deserves a post on its own and it is way overdue.

One of the things I always do, is pop to Frank Hederman’s stall and buy my fix. It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of Frank’s produce. I used to get it at his stall at Midleton Farmer’s Market,and have previously called to his Belvelly Smokehouse to buy some for my market stall in Covent Garden. It’s wonderfully convenient now at the English Market. Better still, he has expanded his range.

Smoked Haddock Fish Cakes

For these fish cakes, I used his Beech Smoked Haddock. It is very gentle and rich, I haven’t tasted any other smoked haddock quite like it. Undyed (of course) it is a gentle pinky white with tones of beige, and imparts delicious smokey flavours, almost memories of their time at the smokehouse. It feels personal. It is.

I poached it gently in milk with 3 fresh bay leaves from the garden, and one medium onion, halved and studded with 6 cloves. I brought it to just below a simmer, and let it lull gently, careful not to scorch the milk. I wanted to leave the flavour shine, so added only mashed potatoes, fluffy local ones that tumbled over the flakes of fish.Smoked Haddock Fish Cakes 3 spring onions from the garden lifted it, some of the poaching milk added some needed liquid and helped pull it all together. Parsley (again from my sister’s garden) added some gentle herbal notes – not too much, just background).

Smoked Haddock Fish Cakes

I shaped them into burger sized cakes and tried two ways, one just floured and fried and one with breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs always win for me. I used stale sourdough, panko work too. Shallow fried and served with some mayonnaise that has some chopped parsley and spring onion stirred in, it’s a lovely light supper or lunch. Also lovely with a soft poached egg on top with the yolk begging to join in.

This recipe serves 4.

Smoked Haddock Fish Cakes

Ingredients

400g smoked haddock (undyed preferably)
900g peeled mashed potatoes – (weight before cooking)
1 litre of milk
3 bay leaves
1 onion
10 cloves
3 spring onions/scallions
50g butter (optional – adds to the flavour but not essential)
a handful of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
2 eggs, beaten and seasoned
100g flour
200g breadcrumbs (rough estimate – I just blitzed a large chunk of bread)

Method

Half the onion, peel and stud with coves.
Add to the milk in a pan that can take the fish lying flat with the bay leaves.
Bring to just below a simmer, reduce the heat and add the haddock, ensuring it is covered with milk.
Leave to poach gently for 15 minutes of so, ensuring the milk never boils.
Allow the fish to cool and flake gently.
Add to the mash with the parsley, butter (if you are using it), spring onions with some of the poaching milk if required (you will need to do this if your mixture/mash is too dry to form a ball that will hold it together – you don’t want it sloppy though).
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Shape into 8 large or 12 smaller balls and flatten until they are no more than 2 cm thick.
Have the eggs in a bowl big enough to dip each fish cake in, and have a plate of the seasoned flour and another plate of the breadcrumbs.
Start by covering each fishcake in flour, then coat in the egg, and then breadcrumbs. If you want more breadcrumbs on the cake, egg and crumb again.
Shallow fry in a mixture of olive oil and butter over a medium heat for about 5 minutes on each side, taking care they don’t burn.

Enjoy!

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Recipe: Mushrooms on Toast from The Tannery Cookery School, Dungarvan

Mushroom on brioche - Cooking class at the Tannery Dungarvan

Of all of the photos that I posted of my recent trip to Ireland, the mushroom on toast from The Tannery, in Dungarvan drew the most audible gasps. Gorgeous robust portobello mushrooms, draped in mushroom sauce (based on a beurre blanc) and resting on some brioche with a sliver of intense mushroom puree in between, it is perfectly autumnal in colour, texture and taste, and delicious.

It was one of my favourite dishes and I did promise to share the recipe, so here it is. Enjoy!

Mushrooms on Toast from The Tannery Cookery School, Dungarvan

Serves 4

4 slices of toasted brioche or country bread
4 field mushrooms
50g butter
2 cloves garlic chopped
Pinch chopped thyme
Salt and pepper

Mushroom Sauce:

175g/ 6 oz butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
50g/ 2 oz of dried mushrooms (porcini or similar)
Half teaspoon cracked black pepper
75mls / 3 fl oz dry white wine
150mls/ quarter pint chicken stock
75mls / 3 fl oz cream
55mls/ 1 fl oz sherry vinegar
Squeeze lemon juice
1 sprig rosemary
Splash of milk to thin the sauce down if it is too thick

Start with the mushroom sauce. This is an adaptation of the classic beurre blanc. Less vinegar is used so the subtle mushroom flavour is allowed to come through. Once it’s made, never to boil it as it will split. Unsalted butter is best for this but at a push, use salted and don’t season too much.

Melt a knob of the butter in a pan and add the shallots. Fry until transparent and add the dried mushrooms and pepper. Cook gently for one to two minutes and add the white wine, sherry vinegar, chicken stock and rosemary. Reduce by two thirds, almost until the mixture is syrupy. Add the cream and bring to a gentle boil.

Chop the remainder of the butter and whisk it in, little by little until its completely amalgamated. Take off the heat and check for seasoning.

Allow to stand for 15 minutes and pass through a muslin cloth. Keep standing in a warm place until you need it. If you like, chop some chives and add them just before serving.

While it’s standing you can get on with the rest.

Mushrooms:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

Melt the butter with the garlic and the thyme. Place the mushrooms, cut side up on to a lightly buttered tray. Brush with the garlic and thyme butter and bake in the oven until softish, approx 6-7 minutes.

Place on top of the toasted brioche and spoon the mushroom sauce on top. You could also serve Serrano or parma ham on top of this.

Cooking Class at The Tannery Cookery School, Dungarvan

http://www.tannery.ie/

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MacGrath’s Butchers in Lismore & Some Thoughts on Butchery

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Growing up in Ireland there were many local butchers, there still are. The small area that my grandmother lived in had two, and each of them reared, killed and butchered their own meat. This was common practice, until very recently.

I have many fond memories of going to the butchers. Our local butcher was the son of a family friend and our grandmother would send us there to get some minced beef and a t-bone steak with an onion. An onion? Well, my father thought he hated onions, but my grandmother craftily had the onion minced in with the meat and to this day, he doesn’t know that he has been eating onions all his life. I told him once and he refused to believe me.

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In Ireland we have always consumed a lot of beef, and produced a lot more. We export 80% of our beef on average, and while beef consumption isn’t as high as it used to be, 55% of the population still consume beef regularly. Our cattle population is on a par with the human population – in fact there are more of them (5.93 million in 2008).

Things have changed now though.  A change in the law relating to abattoirs  and the increased presence of supermarkets (generally offering meat that is below par), combined with the BSE crisis, has resulted in the closure of a lot of these local abattoirs and butchers. They just can’t compete or suffer the increased costs and this is a great shame.

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Not his fault - I asked him to pose like this :)

There are some gems remaining, one of which is McGrath’s Butchers in Lismore, Co Waterford. They’ve been in the butchery business since the early 1800s, and in the current shop, the latest generation – fourth – butcher presides with his third generation father. They farm their own beef and have an abattoir at the back of the shop where they  butcher their own animals weekly.

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It seems strange to talk about being charmed by this operation, but really, you can tell that they run this with great care and respect, resulting in a top quality product. The abattoir is a key stage of the meat production process – whether we want to address it or not – and it’s important that it’s right.

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The shop itself is sweet and very old school. The cash register is located away from the meat counter and  handled by the lady of the house. Hygienic, it makes perfect sense. Why did we stop doing that? Staff  overheads? A kitchen behind provides ample cups of tea and biscuits and a comforting large range.

McGrath’s supply the michelin starred Cliff House Hotel and also Ballyvolane House and O’Brien’s Chop House. Those guys really know a good thing when they see it. It’s so important that we support local butchers like this. It’s better for us, for flavour and health, for our communities and for local economies.

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The better supermarkets can give you the name of the farmer, but what’s better than buying from the farmer himself and knowing that he raised those animals in the green fields nearby? Outdoor reared? These animals have so much room to roam, it makes me feel so sorry for those poor ones interned in intensive farms. The animals are local too, there are no long distances for them to travel. That is traceability and sustainability, right there. We should support it. We need to if it’s to survive.

So, next time you think of going to the supermarket for your meat, just try your local butcher, I promise the quality will exceed. If it’s more expensive,and it very well may be in cities at least, remember the care and attention that went into it, how very much better it is for you, and once you become an established customer there are always perks. Free bone marrow anyone? Expert advice on how to cook it?

I always say with meat, shop local (or in a good butchers at least), eat less, taste more, and enjoy it.

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An Afternoon at Ballymaloe, Cork

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Ballymaloe is an Irish institution. Home to three generations of Irish culinary matriarchs, it is the home of the internationally famous Ballymaloe Cookery School and Myrtle, Darina and Rachel Allen. I had the immense pleasure of meeting Darina last week there, she was nothing short of an inspiration. You canreally see how she has become a lynchpin in the modern Irish food scene.

Set on a farm (where they grow products for their market stall at Midleton Farmer’s Market nearby in Cork), the school is housed in a beautiful building along with the shop and café. I wanted to move there. We enjoyed some great pizzas (part of their Saturday Pizza afternoons run by Cookery School tutor and 4th generation butcher Philip Dennhardt) and a gentle amble. A great constitutional following our prevoious days endurance eating on our tour of Co Waterford.

http://www.cookingisfun.ie/

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Putting Dungarvan on Ireland’s Food Map: The Tannery Restaurant & Cookery School, Dungarvan, Ireland

Cooking Class at The Tannery Cookery School, Dungarvan

Paul Flynn’s return to his (and mine) native Dungarvan put a bright pin firmly on the map of Gourmet Ireland when he opened The Tannery 13 years ago, and subsequently the Tannery Cookery School & Townhouse. Award winning (it recently won Best Cookery School in Ireland at the RAI Restaurant Awards) it is a lovely space offering lessons that are casual, relaxed, informative and fun.

We pitched up for a lunchtime demonstration and Paul led us through a lovely 3 course lunch, which we subsequently ate with wine. Paul’s style of cooking is charming and accessible, offering tips that even experienced cooks can benefit hugely from. He champions flavour, and has slimmed down his cooking style from his days as head chef at 3 michelin starred Chez Nico in London. Basically, you can do it too.  

He draws influence from his surroundings and sources as much as he can locally. Not always possible, he cites the difficulties in sourcing local seafood despite being next to the sea, he uses them where he can.

Cooking Class at The Tannery Cookery School, Dungarvan

Mushroom on brioche - Cooking class at the Tannery Dungarvan

We started with a decadent mushroom starter. Brioche with mushroom purée, with a roast mushroom (roasted with butter and herbs) on top, dribbled with beurre blanc. Swoon – utterly delicious.

Paul’s version of bouillabaisse followed. Lovely it was too, light, fragrant and delicate, it was perfect for lunch. A very accessible recipe too – I didn’t have to gouge out fish eyes this time. Shiver.

Cooking Class at The Tannery Cookery School, Dungarvan

Dessert was gorgeous nectarines roasted with spiced butter on baked oat cakes. Really very good. The oats were of course from Waterford – Flahavan’s best and my favourite.

Cooking Class at The Tannery Cookery School, Dungarvan

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Cooking Class at The Tannery Cookery School, Dungarvan

We ate at a large dining table in a gorgeous bright room with lots of quirky detail and a beautiful vintage hosting trolley. Paul himself dished up the meal, the wine was plentiful, and we all bounded on happily after.

Cooking Class at The Tannery Cookery School, Dungarvan

Cooking Class at The Tannery Cookery School, Dungarvan

I am always impressed by the pricing at the Tannery. The lunchtime classes are ridiculously well priced at  €45 with all day demos at €150 per person. I also really fancy The Tannery House Party, a night at The Tannery Townhouse (which is gorgeous) and a dinner party cooked by Paul for €100 per person sharing. I mean, why wouldn’t you? I have plans to on a trip home soon.

Not enough detail? Don’t worry – I’ll be back with the recipes soon. That is if you want them? I am very sure you do :)

Previous post on The Tannery:  Hidden Ireland: The Tannery, Dungarvan

Tannery Cookery School:  http://www.tannery.ie/cookery-school.html

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A Weekend Exploring the Food & Drink of Ireland (Part 1 of Many)

Kinsale Harbour, Cork

Kinsale Harbour, Cork

Irish Food & Drink, so very under rated and so very, very good. We have some excellent culinary figureheads and ambassadors that you will already know: Darina Allen, Rachel Allen and Richard Corrigan perhaps. What about the produce and the producers though, the integrity of production and passion for good local food? It is  not something that a lot of people outside of Ireland are aware of and I want to change that.

I really want people to know more, to try, explore, maybe even visit, and enjoy it as much as the four food & drink passionistas that I brought to Ireland last weekend. I go home frequently – you will have noticed – but it was fun and delicious to see other food bloggers experience and enjoy it for the first time.

Irish food is interesting, and Ireland in general. It has changed so much in recent generations, sparking from a colony to a republic, a struggling economy to a world leading one and back. A relative and recent affluence inspired a restaurant boom, which quickly suffered in our recent recession. A nation of dairy farmers and soggy with rain, we have great pastures and correspondingly great butter and cheeses.

Crossing the road in Ireland can result in a corresponding change of accent, and also a change in soil and terroir resulting in small local pockets that are like mothers milk for crops like potatoes (which grow brilliantly in seaside areas where seaweed is a fantastic fertiliser) next to areas devoted to other produce. Waters rich with seafood, plenty to forage like mushrooms, and really, the potatoes are so much better at home, you might like them as much as we do if you had them on your doorstep.

Great butchers are everywhere, often butchering their own meat in small local abbatoirs. Most animals are free range out doors reared, resulting in meat that is packed with flavour. Local chickens wandering around, cock-a-doodle-dooing us into the mornings, delivering fresh eggs and flavoursome meat. We have terrific bacon, black and white puddings and beef. What I love most is the sense of individuality combined with commonality. It makes for an interesting cuisine.

Sure, not everything is good, and mostly local places offer standard food of a reasonable quality. But if you are interested in seeking out good local food and interesting , inspiring ingredients and cuisine, we’ve got lots of that to show you.

It was important to me that my relatively unexplored home county and food hidden gem, Waterford, was central to the visit and after that my adopted home and home of my mother, Cork. So, I started there, and will be making many trips back to different parts over the coming months to explore and uncover, and share it with you here.

Photographic highlights of this trip with more details to come are:

The five food muskateers in my hometown of Dungarvan

The five food muskateers in my hometown of Dungarvan

Paul Flynn at The Tannery Cookery School, Dungarvan

Paul Flynn at The Tannery Cookery School, Dungarvan

Sea Trout at Fishy Fishy in Kinsale

Sea Trout at Fishy Fishy in Kinsale Making Pizzas for Saturday Pizza at Ballymaloe

Darina Allen and I at Midleton Farmer's Market, Cork

Darina Allen and I at Midleton Farmer's Market, Cork

Lemon Dessert at Cafe Paradiso, Cork

Lemon Dessert at Cafe Paradiso, Cork

Murphy's Stout & Red Lemonade in Kinsale, Cork

Murphy's Stout & Red Lemonade in Kinsale, Cork

MacGrath's Butchers in Lismore, Waterford

MacGrath's Butchers in Lismore, Waterford

Cork Butter Museum

Cork Butter Museum

1000 year Old Bog Butter

1000 year Old Bog Butter at the Cork Butter Museum

Sea Bass at the Castlemartyr Resport, Cork

Sea Bass at the Castlemartyr Resport, Cork

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Skibbereen Food Festival

Skibereen Food Festival

I was very much looking forward to my friend’s wedding in Cork. Then she revealed that on the weekend of the wedding, just a  few miles away, a food festival would be taking place. A FOOD FESTIVAL! Wonderful.

I was not in the best of shape, having spent most of Friday night lost in the woods on the way back to our house (yes, really, we were renting a cottage in a 10.5 acre private wood on a private island), but I bounded in regardless. West Cork has a terrific food reputation, and what I had seen already at the wedding really whet my appetite.

Skibereen Food Festival

I was surprised to see a big screen with the pope saying mass overseeing proceedings. It whisked me back to Pope Jaun Paul’s visit in 1979 (I think), when the country ground to a halt. I was but a nipper but I remember it so well, mainly because my Dad was glimpsed briefly on TV as he attended. Then I realised that they were just waiting for the All Ireland Gaelic Football Final to start on TV as Cork were playing. Ah, I just love Ireland sometimes. It can be a beautifully irreverent place.

The festival itself was charming, featuring predominantly independent small artisan producers doing interesting things. That for me, is the beauty of Ireland, we really haven’t succumbed to the chains that much, individuality is prized, although sadly, I can see the out-of-a-box high street slowly creeping in.

Food highlights at the festival were:

Rebel Chilli make a variety of chilli sauces, mainly Mexican based and authentic, as one half of Rebel Chilli is Mexican. Others have Thai influences to appeal to the Irish palate (we do love Thai it seems!).

Skibereen Food Festival

Skibereen Food Festival

I bought these great little lemon cucumbers from one stall. With a thicker skin than normal, and a slightly acidulated skin, they were a find. Sourced originally from new Mexico, these are popular in childerns lunch boxes, where they eat them like an egg (or kiwi, I guess). I like them sliced on their own in a salad. I would like to try pickling them too.

Skibereen Food Festival

Slightly terrified free range chickens kept these kids entertained while they waited for their match. I would imagine most of these kids are very familiar with them, being country types like myself, but it’s a good thing, nonetheless.

Skibereen Food Festival

Many of you will be familiar with Gubbeen, and mainly their cheeses which are widley available in good cheese shops in the UK. They also have terrific pork products. I bought a hock, some bacon, and some of this terrific enormous black pudding (incidentally not made by them but by a local artisan supplier).

Skibereen Food Festival

Skibereen Food Festival

This chap makes fabulous raspberry vinegar and dressing, using local raspberries. Sadly, it’s only available in West Cork at the moment, but I hope that this will change soon.

Skibereen Food Festival

Brown Envelope Seeds sell a great range of heirloom and local seeds. These are available online too. I bought a few packets of seeds with interesting flowers for adding to my salads etc. next year. I really must continue my edible flowers series.

Skibereen Food Festival

Skibereen Food Festival

Kalbo’s Café sold a great range of traditional and popular cakes, like coffee cake, a favourite in Ireland. They also sold a lifesaving gubbeen bacon and egg bap. How could I refuse post-wedding?! They have a café in Skibbereen too which I hear is worth checking out.

 

Skibereen Food FestivalSkibereen Food Festival

Skibereen Food Festival

One clever guy had made a woodfired oven on wheels, and was making homemade pita with hummus and pizza.

Skibereen Food Festival

Looks good, doesn’t it? Bear in mind, this is a small regional town. Entry is only €5 and you’re entered into a raffle at that. Something for them to be very proud of, I think.

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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/

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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

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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

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A Little Break in West Cork

Church in Glandore

Church in Glandore (where my friend will get married!)

Hi folks! Apologies, but my next Posh Lunch Club post (from Viajante) will be a little delayed as I am in Cork for a week. Hope to get it up in the next few days. For now I am at home for a wedding in gorgeous Glandore in West Cork.

It’s really beautiful here, and very sunny. Sensibly sunny though if I may say so. Not like when it got hot in London last week, and as much as I loved it, I was burned, chomped on by some critter or other while asleep, leaving me with big swollen bites, and it was just that little bit too hot for someone as pale as me with blood those critters can’t get enough of. It always seems better with that sea breeze anyway.

I’ve missed the sea, both the water and the salty sea air. I’ve missed my friends too. So, I am going to down tools for a little bit and enjoy it!

Not long though, I will be back soon with some food stuff and a Posh Lunch.

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Merry Christmas!

A bauble from our tree

A bauble from our tree

A very happy Christmas to everyone! Or Happy Hanukkah! Or, just enjoy the few days off if you don’t celebrate either :-)

I’m in Ireland for Christmas. Dungarvan, Co. Waterford to be exact. My hometown, on the sea and nestled in the mountains. Well, Irish mountains, they’re not that big! I come home every year, at least I always have done, it’s a great time to meet family and friends, almost all of whom are home at this time of year. This one is the exception to the rule, I have (I think) 9 first cousins and a brother in Australia this year.

Christmas dinner this year is at my sister’s house, her husband is cooking, and it promises to be a lovely meal. We’ve been tucking into spiced beef all week, and as of an hour ago Christmas ham. I’ve brought one of my favourite wines from London, a bottle of As Laxas Albarino from Brindisa, and I’ll be having that with my turkey.

Whatever you do, and whoever you spend it with, enjoy the festive season. See you here on the other side of Christmas!

Our Christmas table, set and ready for Christmas lunch.

Our Christmas table, set and ready for Christmas lunch.

The Crib, at Abbeyside, Dungarvan

The Crib, at Abbeyside, Dungarvan

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Taste of Cork

Taste of Cork
Taste of Cork
Taste of Cork

Taste of Cork

I do like to do nice things, and these often involve food, ok, mostly involve food. I can never pass up the chance to attend a food festival, so when a friend mentioned that Taste of Cork would be running for the first time this year in Ireland, I made sure that I would be there for it.

Taste of Cork, like Taste of London, showcases the best food that the area has to offer. It was in a fabulous setting, in the old city gaol, and on a beautiful day. We went along to the evening session, and keen as ever, arrived early to join an enormous queue. Well, to be truthful, I thought I was late as I had the time wrong, but, just as well!

Taste of Cork

Taste of Cork

Now, I’d done a little research, and some Cork restaurants that I really wanted to try were there, so I had already drafted a list in my head, determined to start first with Ballymaloe House and then the Ivory Tower, moving onto Bell Tower, Capella from Castlemartyr. There were some others that I was curious about but these were my top three, anything after that would be a bonus.

Potato soup with garden lovage pesto and chive flowers from Ballymaloe House

First impressions, the venue was great and it was more compact than Taste of London. This, for me, was a good thing, as I only saw a small portion of Taste of London in the time that I was there. Not that that’s a hindrance, next year I’ll just go twice! Nestled in at the base were two of the restaurants from my short list, so I went straight to Ballymaloe House to sample their wares.

Ballymaloe is famous for a few things, their restaurant, Darina Allen, Rachel Allen, Rory O’Connell, their cookery school and their passion for local irish ingredients. I wasn’t ready for a dessert yet, and given I had yet to have anything to eat, a starter seemed like a sensible option. On offer was potato soup with garden lovage pesto and chive flowers. It was pretty, delicious and very smooth, full of flavour, with the chive flowers offering a bold textural contrast, that at first I wasn’t too sure about. By the end, I wanted more.

Ballycotton mackerel with gooseberry sauce and organic Shanagarry salad

The main course available was Ballycotton mackerel with gooseberry sauce and organic Shanagarry salad, however by now, I already had my eye on swordfish from the Ivory Tower next door. The swordfish was served with mango salsa and banana ketchup. I was intrigued by the banana ketchup and wondered how it might taste. It sounds idiotic to say but it tasted exactly like you would expect it to taste – banana flavour with the texture and viscosity of ketchup, yellow of course. It was beautiful with the mango salsa and the swordfish. I fell in love and must try and find a recipe to replicate it.

Blackened Swordfish with Banana Ketchup and Mango Salsa

Next up, a browse around some of the stalls, a taste of the new Lindt chilli chocolate (yum!), some flavoursome irish strawberries, and some prosecco, to wash it all down. The English Market from Cork were there, a fantastic indoor food market that has been serving the city since 1786. There are lots of traditional butchers in there selling the likes of tripe, drisheen and spiced beef, fishmongers, cheese shops, a fresh pasta stall, the farmgate café, it deserves a blog post of it’s own so I’ll leave it for now.

At the Pig’s Back from the English Market had lots of wonderful irish cheeses at Taste of Cork, and I was quite pleased to see a girl there, that had served me at the market some months previously, quite nervously as it was her first day, she seemed to be enjoying herself, which was nice to see.

What else did I eat? White bean soup with pork belly and chorizo oil from Capella, one of the stars of the evening. Definitely one restaurant to return to next time I am in Cork.

Surely, I couldn’t handle another main? Well, they were small, and I just had to! There was roast fillet of pork with black pudding, potatoes, caramelised compote of apple and plums and marjoram juice from Orchid’s at Hayfield Manor in Cork City. Phew, what a mouthful, but the dish itself, regardless of the complexity of the title, tied together beautifully and was responsible for me buying lots of black pudding to bring back to London. A potato and black pudding sandwich with tender fillet of pork on the side – soul food.

Roast fillet of pork with black pudding, potatoes, caramelised compote of apple and plums and marjoram juice from Orchid

What about dessert? I kept it savoury and went back to the Ivory Tower for some pizza ice cream: tomato and basil sorbet, olive and parmesan tuile and it was great.

Pizza ice cream: tomato and basil sorbet, olive and parmesan tuile

What about the food I wanted but didn’t have the space or mental capacity to fit? Herb Coated Slaney Valley Lamb, Carmalised Onion Crushed Potato, Saffron Emulsion from Bell Tower, Capella featured as did the aforementioned mackerel witrh gooseberry sauce from Ballymaloe, the porchetta on the spit, gubbeen cheeses, clonakilty black pudding and the connemara smoked salmon.

Herb Coated Slaney Valley Lamb, Carmalised Onion Crushed Potato, Saffron Emulsion from Bell Tower, Capella
Porchetta

I am afraid I was pretty poor on the demonstration front but I did catch the end of Rory O’Connell who was very enjoyable.

Overall, it was a very pleasant evening with some outstanding food. I’d definitely recommend it and I’d go again.

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Kinvara Smoked Salmon

Smoked Salmon Salad

One of the things that struck me on my recent trip home to Ireland and the Burren, was how fantastically fresh and delicious the seafood was. This is to be expected, as it’s on Galway Bay, however, for an island, surprisingly, lots of Irish people don’t eat fish all that much. I, for one, didn’t really start eating fish until well into my 20’s, and while living in London!

Kinvara itself, is well known for the award winning Kinvara smoked salmon. A small family run business, their organic irish salmon is smoked using age old, smoking techniques over a combination of oak and beech wood, in (to use their words) a state of the art HACCP approved Smokehouse. The salmon is sourced from their salmon farm, Clare Island Seafarm Cooperative, the only organic salmon farm in Ireland (certified organic by IOFGA), 4 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean.

The salmon are fed on the by products of herring and mackerel and ground up crustacean shells. This lends their flesh a deep colour – it is not chosen from a selection of dyes as the colour of other farmed salmon can be. The high water movement in the Atlantic, generates strong currents compelling the salmon to swim like their wild counterparts, resulting in a flesh that is firm with a firm texture and lower fat content.

So, what of the salmon taste? I loved it, for me for what I’ve tried, it is second only to Frank Hedermans organic smoked salmon from the Belvelly smokehouse. Nigel Slater is a fan, and was quoted some years ago as saying “…the best I have eaten this year was a gently smoked fish from Kinvara.” I’d urge you to try it if you can, it is widely available in Ireland and in the UK in Waitrose, Fresh and Wild and Selfridges food hall.

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Beannachtaí na Féile Padraig – Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Beannachtaí na Féile Padraig / Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Greetings from the Emerald Isle. I’ve spent St Patrick’s Weekend on the cusp of the Burren in Kinvara, Co Galway – the perfect antidote to a busy month in London. Kinvara is a seaside village on the west coast of Ireland, home to Kinvara Smokehouse, the producers of the wonderful Kinvara organic smoked salmon (more on that in coming days). I had much fun with friends and lots of smoked salmon and shellfish, the smoked salmon delicate and pungent at once, and the shellfish – so fresh. Wonderful. I am ready for another crazy month now :)

I cooked a few things but as I’ve spent most of the day travelling back to Dublin, I’ll have to write about those another time. For now, I’ll leave you with some random unedited pictures, straight from my camera via a disgruntled Mac that crashes every time I try to do anything, and, promise to be back soon!

Tractor from the Gort St Patricks Day Parade (Co. Galway)

Ballyvaughan, the Burren

Outside the Russell Gallery, Newquay, the Burren

Boats in Kinvara Harbour

Kinvara Harbour

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Dublin, briefly & Electric Picnic

How could I resist an indie music festival named after a food event? I couldn’t. My two passions, almost rolled into one. In a name anyway. Off I went after my trip to Paris to Stradbally, Laois in Ireland for Electric Picnic, the boutique music festival. I was really excited. I was going with some old friends I don’t see often enough to what promised to be one of the most fun festivals I had been to. Lots of bands I love – Clap your Hands Say Yeah, !!!, Iggy & the Stooges, Sonic Youth, Jarvis, the Good, the Bad & the Queen, My Brightest Diamond, the Go! Team, Ratatat… the list goes on and on. I was also assured of lots of late night dancing. Woohoo!

I landed in Dublin on Thursday afternoon rather shook after my late night return on the eurostar. I whizzed around camping shops (yes, sigh, camping) buying a sleeping bag, wellies (in Ireland it’s sure to rain) and other random essential bits and bobs. I was pleased to see the fruit sellers were still around, selling their fruit out of old prams. I stopped to take a photo when a teenage boy threw a grape out of my head (oh yes, I was home) to which I turned and pounced – “well, that was very funny boys, wasn’t it?!!”. Teacher mode! I have no idea where it came from and regretted it instantly as I was sure they would react negatively but, no, to my shock they denied it and pointed at their friend inside the shop door behind them, exclaiming – “it was him!”. They passed me about 10 minutes later further down the street and were eager to point him out again. So funny, I had to repress the laughter. So much so, that, in fact, it was very funny after all!

Once complete, I rested my weary legs and waited for some friends with a welcome latté & some soup, a nice big bowl of chunky irish vegetable soup. It was so soothing! Chunks of carrot, potato, celery & swede in a lovely stock. I miss it! It’s hard to find it like that in London, unless I make it myself of course. Shortly after this, the girls arrived and we headed to Fallon & Byrne’s wine cellar for some wine to rest our weary souls in. I had popped into Fallon & Byrne’s on a previous visit and was quite impressed with what I saw, a speciality supermarket & food hall, restaurant and wine bar in the cellar. We were all about the wine, the girls having just finished work and me, now three inches shorter, having carted my bags all over Dublin. I was so tired, I neglected to take photos, bar one of some paté and am now really annoyed with myself. For now, my words will have to do… It’s a nice big space, the supermarket is really airy with big windows and nice high ceilings, the downstairs wine bar was lined with shelves of wine bottles, an impressive selection, but was extremely busy and we had to wait to be seated. We ordered the house red and it was delicious, I will certainly go back to try more wine, eat lots of food and blog it here. A friend also had some very good paté, pic below. We had rather alot of wine that night and I am thankful that the nearby Japanese karaoke bar hadn’t any booths free at 1am!

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