Posted in Events & Adventures in Food, Recipes

Christmas Past – A collection of Gimme the Recipe Christmas Recipes & generally Christmassy stuff

 

Anyone else thinking hmmm what’ll we have for starters this year?  Or do we stick with Turkey how about a goose.? There are lots of fun decisions to be made and shopping to be done.  While you make up your mind here’s a round-up of some Gimme The Recipe Christmas Favourites over the years: {just click on the links to see the recipes associated with the pictures}….

Christmas Breakfast:

Walnut Bread & Very Berry Granola

Inchydoney Walnut Bread

Very Berry Granola in glass

Christmas Granola

Christmas Granola in Jar from top

Christmas Day Starters:

Olive & Feta Party Bites

Olive & Feta Bites

Cranberry, Pate & Pickled Cucumber Christmas Canapes

Chicken Liver Pate, Pickled Cucumber & Spiced Cranberries

Warm cranberry & walnut dressed roast veg, apple & blue cheese winter salad

Warm winter salad II

Mini Crab Cakes

Crab Cakes

Grape & Melon with Mint

Darina Allen's Grape and Melon with Mint

Goats Cheese Crostini

Goats Cheese Crostini

Mary Berry’s Canapes

Party Food Mary Berry Canapes

Party Food – Galia & Parma Bites

Peppered Galia and Parma

Chicken, Thyme & Mushroom Vol au Vent

Chicken, Thyme & Mushroom Vol au Vent closer opt

Onion Relish

Onion Relish

Date and Apricot Chutney

Chutney & Gubbeen

Florentines
Florentine Christmas Box

Mulled wine by an open fire

Mulled Wine

Christmas Pudding

Christmas Pudding

Christmas Cake & Icing on The Cake

Starry Iced Christmas Cake

Black Forest Roulade – Christmas Log

Black Forest Roulade

Dressing your table: {note some of the stores referenced in this blog post are unfortunately no longer trading}

Treetop & Napkin Rings

I hope you’re getting excited now in the build up to Christmas!
Enjoy!
‘Til next time, Sheila.

Posted in Events & Adventures in Food

Escape to Italy

Escape to Italy

4 nights in Sorrento followed by 2 nights in Rome made for the perfect Autumn break. Temperatures hovered around 22 degrees and the rain stayed away.

Walk on water Amalfi
Amalfi

Day 1

Arriving into Rome from Dublin around 11am on 15th October, we picked up our hire car and were on the road towards Napoli by 12.30.

About an hour down the road peckishness saw us pulling into a roadside service station and sitting down to some deliciously fresh-baked bread, cheese, tomatoes and parma ham. Not a chip in site!

Onwards we weaved through precarious traffic, by-passing Napoli and easing though long tunnels until we arrived at Grand Hotel Capodimonte in Sorrento.

A sprawling 4 star hotel we stayed here comfortably in a superior double room for 4 nights.

Mount Vesuvius

Sorrento building

Darkness falls early in the Autumn and we strolled 5 minutes from the hotel into historic heart of Sorrento to dine around 6.30pm in darkness. Eating here turned out to be a mistake and a very disappointing start to our dining in Italy but the gelato from one of the many close-by gelaterias made up for it somewhat.

On return to the hotel we sojourned to the comfortable lounge, for nightcaps and the reveries of the piano player – self-service snacks – crisps, nuts and olives saw us greedily scoffing before bedtime.

view from hotel capodimonte

Day 2:

A lazy day spent exploring beautiful Sorrento, indulgent cappuccinos and pastries. A splash in the hotel pools followed by an exquisite dining experience at Restaurant Aurora Light on Piazza Tasso – highly recommended.

caprese

Aurora Light Tempura

Aurora Light Veg Lasagne

Aurora Light fresh baked bread

Caprese salad, vegetable tempura, freshly baked bread, vegetarian lasagna and amazing wine.  Followed naturally by a chocolate ice-cream at a close-by gelateria.

Day 3:

We rose early and hit the road after a robust breakfast. Indentations of my fingernails are probably still in the armrests of the Mercedes car rental.  We rounded bend after bend ignoring rockfall warnings to wend our way to Amalfi. How splendid! This beautiful little village pivots around a magnificent focal square, steps lead up to the Duomo and we quite by chance ate our pastries of the day at the renowned Pansa. Superb. As we munched, a jazzy quartet performed L’Americano and flogged their CDs – such a perfect experience I felt like I was in the middle of a movie.

water amalfi

Pansa Menu amalfi

Rum baba at Pansa

Blue skies Amalfi

Heading back along the peninsula we stopped off at picturesque Positano getting briefly lost en route we eventually risked driving right down into the heart of Positano for parking and were successful. I couldn’t imagine attempting this at high season as it is busy enough off-peak.

 

Positano from the beach

Refreshments Positano

White-washed walls it is almost too picture perfect to be real with lane after meandering laneway filled with boutiques, jewelers, cafes and restaurants. Emerging out onto the stoney beach where a bride and groom were being photographed there’s a mystical feel to Positano.

Indulging in a delicious pizza down by the beach and basking in sunshine I once more quaffed prosecco followed by some delicious local Fiano.

Back in Sorrento we treated ourselves at Raki Gelato which promises high quality ingredients, 30% less sugar and delivers on taste.

Day 4:

As Ireland were to play Argentina in the world cup quarter rugby finals at 2pm on our 4th day, our trip to the isle of Capri had to be early and brief. We ferried over in 30 minutes and started to walk upwards towards Anacapri – after 15 minutes of swift walking I gazed upwards, balked and demanded to finish the rest by taxi – an open top ride overlooking a spectacular drop we rose higher until our destination was reached. You could go higher on foot or by chairlift – my husband chose the latter and I being as vertiginous as you’ll get chose to rise no further and happily explored Anacapri.

Once more a pizza was ordered this time at the square in Capri followed by a  wander around the designer-heavy laneways – window shopping only!  I would have loved to have swam in the sea but time was against us and we returned to Sorrento to sit in the sunshine outside an Irish bar and watch Ireland’s dream fade and give way to the Argentinians.

pizza on the square at Capri

Hotel Relais La Palma Capri

That evening our Michelin Star dining experience at Grand Hotel Hotel Excelsior Vittoria in Sorrento was exquisite. Treated like royalty I had courses that featured duck, rabbit and lamb while my better half went for numerous fish courses that featured on a five course taster menu. I shared his dessert and he regretted dividing the lemon pie. Finishing off with the petits fours, what a treat.

Michelin star dessert Sorrento

Petit fours at Excelsior Vittoria

Day 5:

Breakfast at Grand Hotel Capodimonte was included in our fare and my husband who travels a lot proclaimed it the best breakfast experience he has had. A chef mans the omelette section where you can request eggs whichever way you choose, accompaniments are bacon, tomato and cubed fried potatoes. There’s a coffee station, a juice station even a prosecco area! Continental breakfast choices of various cheeses, meats and breads abound. Naturally there’s a condiment section housing a vast selection of confitures and even a churn of nutella – my children would have been in heaven, and lets not forget the pastries.

Departing around 11am we headed back to Rome, refuelling the car on the outskirts and depositing it back to the airport where we joined a busy taxi queue to central Rome – White City registered taxis charge a flat fee of 48 euro to the centre. We queued for around 30 minutes and another 25 minutes or so saw us deposited at the door of the Hotel Forum. This time my husband left the imprints of his nails in the armrests of the taxi! Every drive in Italy is a game of chicken.

Up the Via del Corso we rambled veering off to inspect the maintenance works underway at the Trevi Fountain and then onwards to the similarly cordoned off Spanish steps – pizza once more followed by chocolate ice-cream.  Every corner you turn in Rome conjures up monuments and magnificent architecture and a history lesson if you choose to take it.

Drinks at our rooftop bar later were monumentally expensive and one was enough for our wallet.

The rooms at Hotel Forum are tight on space but perfectly adequate, scrupulously clean and meet all requirements. Being situated centrally is invaluable in Rome and I wouldn’t contemplate staying on the outskirts.

 

Rome4

Rome3

Day 6.

Up early and across the road to be fleeced by a bill of 50 euro for breakfast! I only had juice, a chocolate croissant and a cappuccino – he had the works of a fry up a juice and a coffee – it turns out the orange juice was a majestic 8 euro a freshly-squeezed glass!!!

Rome1

Rome2

Fortified we trekked Rome for hours – The Colosseum, followed by the Forum (the place that most catches my breath in Rome), the Mouth of Truth – Bocca della Verita – then a wonderfully quiet stroll along the upper banks of the gushing Tiber – briefly onto the Island – Isola Tiberina – and then redoubling our steps to find ourselves joining the security check queues to visit St Peter’s Basilica. Knowing what I know now I would recommend purchasing of ‘Priority’ tickets at 25 euro for the Sistine Chapel at the Basilica before you leave. The Sistine is housed somewhere through the maze of the Vatican museum – we queued for 30 minutes to pay 18 euros on entry – I think the priority would have seen us getting in in 10 though I could be wrong. My head was wrecked by continuous touting in the queues, reared to be paranoid I don’t do touts and ignored their warnings that we would be queuing for an hour and a half – a lie as it turned out. Once in the door of the Vatican museum we followed arrow after arrow pointing towards the Sistine. You entered a room lined with magnificent tapestries and artwork, then another, then another, looking up ceilings were adorned – are we there? I queried continuously as we slowly shuffled along in a heap of people, turning to my husband I declared ‘this is just another really fancy queue’ as the twists and turns eventually led us to the Sistine – instead of being spectacular instead it was a relief, a box ticked, yes, we got there, we saw it, it’s done.  There is only so long that you can stand and look up. Next!

opus at pantheon

Next was better. Next was the picture museum that houses more works of Da Vinci, Bellini et al but for me the highlight of my trip to the Vatican was Carravagio’s ‘The Deposition’ – the depth, the darkness, the light – Wow!

Heavy legs walked away from the Vatican to locate the Piazza Navona and the Pantheon, that opening to the heavens is my third Wow of Rome. Crane your neck, stand and gaze upwards in wonder and awe – how did something like this get designed so very long ago and how is it still standing?

The pantheon

With a most useful guidebook under my arm borrowed from my friend Abina, ‘Top 10 Rome’ an Eyewitness Travel Guide, we selected to dine and wine at close-by winebar ‘Cul de Sac.’ Delicious white wine from Sardinia came recommended for me along with a fruit-laden red for him. I dined on delicious duck ravioli and he had the Sicilian pasta. To finish, the tiramisu was shared.

wine at cul de sac

Sicilian Pasta at cul de sac

Duck ravioli at cul de sac

tiramisu cul de sac

Day 7.

There must always be a last day and this last day left me in the knowledge that Rome will never be ‘done’. We must return, and return, and still I know it will never be done. Keats-Shelley House was paid a visit, a leisurely hour was spent in Babington tea shop and then a search in vain to visit more Caravaggio’s as the church Santa Maria del Popolo was not re-opening until 4pm a time at which we were taking our leave.

Babington tea rooms

Departing Leonardo Da Vinci airport at Fiumicino 18km outside Rome was a bizarre experience. We went through security towards Gate G as indicated on the boards, stopped to shop and then went to find the gate number which turned out to be a bus trip to area G with more shops and then another bus ride to the plane. I’m a bit of a time freak where airplane trips are concerned and always leave ample time for contingencies which in the case of our departure from Rome was just sufficient.

This is my second trip to Rome, I’ve also visited Tuscany, Milan, Portofino and Sicily. Italy is a magnificent country. Beautiful. The food and wine generally are incredible. Next on my list is a trip to Puglia, I really, really want to visit there but I also want to revisit Rome. It will probably be quite some time before I return but I cannot wait. Everyone should have the opportunity to sample La Dolce Vita.

Italy is waiting for you – just Go!

‘Til next time, Sheila.

P.S.
Warning re driving in Italy & Car Rental:

  1. Italian drivers are crazy, cars were swerving lanes on the motorway and phone usage while driving is rife. Streets can be very narrow and a large number of cars have broken wing mirrors and scrapes and dents as testimony to tight spaces.
  2. On pick-up of the car we opted not to take the additional insurance offered. In hind-sight we might have done for peace of mind given the driving conditions even though we didn’t need to use it.
  3. On return of the car the attendant walked around the car to inspect it – we knew it was fine. He then lay on the ground, examined underneath the front of the car and started asking if we had taken out their insurance!!! He then pointed out some damage underneath the car and I then pointed out that when his colleague had inspected the car on original pick up he did not look underneath the car and neither did we!! Sufficient eye-rolling put paid to his ridiculous efforts to exhort additional funds. Be wary.
Posted in Events & Adventures in Food

It’s my birthday {vote for me and I’ll tell you my age}

Yesterday, the 7th of September, was my birthday and I am now 47!

It was also the day that the Irish Blog Awards opened up to Public Voting and I would love it if you would vote for Gimme The Recipe to reach the finals of this year’s awards.
Sheila birthday

Apparently a true lady never reveals her age but that’s okay as I shall forever quite happily remain a girl.

Sheila 47‘Til next time, Sheila.

Posted in Events & Adventures in Food

Gimme The Recipe 2 – The Photoshoot

It’s been a busy week chez Kiely with the photoshoot for Gimme the Recipe 2 taking place from Sunday through Wednesday. 4 intense, whirlwind days have just whizzed by. It’s been an amazing experience to work with a professional food stylist (Jette Virdi), photographer (Marta Miklinkska) and graphic designer (Sarah O’Flaherty) while I did the cooking. My team in the kitchen were my twin daughters Daire & Eimear and my eldest daughter Ellie was on-hand for the food stylist and photographer.  There is no way that I would have survived the 4 intense days without their help as non-stop cooking meant it was essential to have counters constantly cleared, wash-up on the go and ingredients sought out with ultra efficiency.  Organisation was everything and each evening I typed out the list of the next day’s recipes with notes and instructions on the food styling. Ingredients were weighed and measured in advance and as much advance preparation as was possible to do was done. In the course of the four days 58 recipes from the book were shot – some as groups but mostly individually. I didn’t believe it was possible to do so much so quickly but I guess this is what professional chefs do all the time.
I’ve worked in professional kitchens as a student.  I worked in the MaryRose cafe in Cork city making sandwiches and clearing tables, I worked in Hotel Alfa at Place de la Gare in Luxembourg under two French Chefs doing food prep. and I worked in Obadiah’s kitchen in Nantucket as dishwasher and food prep. and in The Starlight Theatre & Cafe in Nantucket as restaurant hostess. Some chefs handle stress better than others and in one of the establishments the chefs would be throwing frying pans and barking at the waiters until service was over then they’d disappear out the back and eventually come floating back in for clean-up magically mellowed…. hmmmm. It is very stressful and hats off to the chefs who can handle the stress and still be civil to those around them.
All this cooking means that my freezer is now full and I can’t see myself doing any real cooking for at least a week. Phew.
Here’s a few pictures from behind the scenes and I can’t wait to share the finished article – Gimme The Recipe 2 {to be published with Mercier Press} – with you all in Spring 2016.
Board Setup
Eimear & Daire eating setup in background
Eimear helping
Ellie & Pavlova
kylie on shoulder
Kylie's had enough
Sheila & Johnnie
Sheila Kiely
Sheila stuffing chicken
Sheila
‘Til next time, Sheila.
& p.s. the blog has made the Longlist for The Blog Awards Ireland 2015.

Posted in Events & Adventures in Food

Best Scone in Ireland 2014

They came from all over the country and they’d been up since cock-crow, some even before.  Busily baking scones they had been, and adding final touches, carefully selecting baskets perhaps & some deftly dusting with icing sugar.  One baker in fact I believe had made four batches before deciding which scones to send. Some sent a selection of flavours and there were interesting variations.  Scones varied and participants varied but they all had passion in common and the air of nervous anticipation mixed with giddy excitement was palpable around the exquisitely laid tables for Afternoon Tea at The Merrion Hotel as they awaited the announcement.
I was honoured to be part of the judging panel and to spend the morning tasting all ten entries.  They were lifted, turned, torn, buttered, smelled and savoured and while it was fun to play food critic we took these scones seriously.

Well done to all the other finalists in Goodall’s Best Scone 2014

  • The Tea Rooms, Quin, Co. Clare
  • Coffee Pod, Cork
  • Janey Macs, Kinsale
  • Café Fergus, Newmarket on Fergus
  • Mitchells Café, Kylemore Abbey
  • Centra, Gorey for Brigid’s Scones
  • The Pantry, Kilkee
  • The Tea Rooms at Ducketts Grove, Carlow
  • Daisy Cottage Farm, Co. Wicklow

But as always there can only be one who gets to wear the crown.  It’s been decided and the 2014 badge of honour for ‘Goodall’s Best Scone’ has been bestowed upon Graham Herterich – The Cupcake Bloke.  Congratulations Graham!
Goodalls. Picture by Shane O'Neill / Copyright Fennell Photography 2014.

In business since December 2012, Graham {The Cupcake Bloke} sells his beautiful baked goods from Coppinger Row Market on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
The winning scone from The Cupcake Bloke was a Black Pudding and Apple savoury scone, that’s made from Irish produce, including black pudding from Graham’s cousin’s butchers, Herterich’s Butchers in Longford.
Alongside his partner, Daithi Kelleher, Graham has grown the business over the last 18 months, and now, in addition to its market stall in Coppinger Row, The Cupcake Bloke also offers bespoke baking for events and weddings.
Best wishes to Graham & happy baking!
‘Til next time, Sheila.

Posted in Events & Adventures in Food

Sugar & Spice

There’s a competition on the horizon called ‘Sugar and Spice and all things nice’ but unlike most competitions that you will find being trumpeted on food blogs this is not one whose ultimate goal is commercial / brand awareness / promotion of products etc. this one is for The Hope Foundation Charity.
The competition is being run in order to launch a project called eat4streetkids which is a really clever initiative.  The idea is that when you eat out in participating restaurants you can opt in to paying an additional .50c onto your drink or bill with that donation going to the eat4streetkids project.  Restaurants also have an option of choosing to donate .50c for each picture a customer puts onto facebook or twitter using #eat4street and mentioning the restaurant.  Clever? I think so.
For details on the Sugar & Spice competition please see the poster below and you can click on www.eat4streetkids.com to visit the dedicated website:
Sugar & Spice Competition

‘HOPE is dedicated to promoting the protection of street & slum children primarily in Kolkata (Calcutta), and the most underprivileged in India, to promote immediate and lasting change in their lives.’
‘Til next time, Sheila.

Posted in Events & Adventures in Food

Irish Food Festivals – September 2012

My fantasy year would be to have nothing to do but to flit from one Irish Food Festival to the next but even then there is so much going on you may even miss one or two.  As you can see from the list below there’s plenty happening in this harvest month of September and I’ll be heading to Waterford Harvest Festival next week.

HARVEST FESTIVAL (photograph by Patrick Browne)

Hillsborough Oyster Festival6th to 9th September 2012
All Ireland Craft BeefFest, RDS Dublin, 7th to 9th  September 2012
Midleton Food Festival, 8th September 2012
Waterford Harvest Food Festival, 10th to 16th September 2012
Taste of West CorkSkibbereen, 10-16th September 2012
National Organic Week, 10th to 16th September 2012
GIY Gathering, Waterford 15th to 16th September 2012
Taste of Northern Ireland, Belfast Custom House, 15-16 September 2012
Clarenbridge Osyter FestivalClarenbridge, Galway, 14th -16th September 2012
Taste of West Fest, Newcastlewest, Co. Limerick 15th & 16th September 2012
Westport Food Festival, 21st  to 23rd Sept 2012
Galway International Oyster Festival, 28th to 30th September 2012
Leenane Autumnal Festival, Leenane, Co. Galway, 29th to 30th September 2012
Macroom Food Festival, 28th – 30th September 2012
Tipperary Harvest Food Festival, Clerihan, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, 30th September 2012
OktoberBeerFest, Dublin Docklands, 20th Sept – 7th October 2012

Waterford Harvest Food Festival have kindly provided the following information which may entice you to attend:

Slow Food Tours at Waterford Harvest Festival

Ireland’s biggest food festival – ‘Harvest’ which takes place in Waterford from September 10 to 16 has announced a series of Slow Food Tours to take place throughout the festival week.
Over the course of the week, the Harvest Festival will be offering fantastic opportunities to join guided tours of Waterford’s finest food, drink and agricultural attractions.
The first Slow Food Tour of the Festival takes place on September 10 and will visit a prize winning dairy farm at milking time to view the process in action and will then meet John Flahavan at the sixth generation miller’s facility at Flahavan’s Porridge in Kilmacthomas. The final stop is an opportunity to meet Grace Kiersey and take a tour of her vegetable garden also near Kilmacthomas, County Waterford. It promises to be a real treat of a day out and somethingthat should not be passed up for any curious foodies who want to get a behind the look at some local food production.

Day two, September 11 is for seafood lovers.. Ahoy there me hearties! Take a nautical adventure where you can experience seaweed foraging on Boat Strand, a talk from Bord Iascaigh Mhara on local fisheries and a visit to Flanagan’s Fish Mongers where you will be able to taste scallops, mussels, oysters, crab, lobster and many more seafood delights.

Day three September 12 will see visitors taken on a journey north of the River Suir to south Kilkenny to visit High Bank Organic Orchards where you can view the production of their organic juices and syrup and also sample the finished products. From there the tour will travel to Goatsbridge Trout Farm where you will experience their eco friendly work environment and taste their premiumfish and smoked trout produce. You may even be lucky enough to get some tasty caviar samples! To round off the tour, it is then on to Knockdrinna Farmhouse Cheese to observe their cheese production and indulge in some of the finished products.

On September 14 a trip to Dunhill Ecopark & Community Garden is first on the cards for this Slow Food Tour. Visitors will be able to take in the fantastic scenery of the community garden and stretch their legs out in the fine County Waterford air. You will also be able to sample some very tasty treats from artisan food producers and see the recently installed apiary from the Beekeepers Federation along with the Crough Venison Farm.

For the final day of our Slow Food Tours on September 15, a trip to a traditional Waterford Craft Butcher is the first port of call. At the butchers, guests will get the chance to view and sample local meat specialties such as Crubeens, Chucks and Pig’s Tail. A visit to the uniquely Waterford Bilberry Goats Heritage Trust at Bilberry Rock, Gracedieu is a perfect way to finish up the Slow Food Tours. You will be able to experience the protected creatures in their beautiful and often periloussurroundings and sample their homemade goats cheese!

All Slow Food Tours depart the House of Waterford Crystal at their appointed date and time, tickets are €14 for a place on the bus and a car travelling is €10 per car. Guests will travel on a 15-seat bus and 8 persons are required to make trip viable. Tickets for the tours are available on waterfordharvestfestival.ie

The city will be in festival mode from September 10 to 16 with a further programme of events on offer for all the family. For a full programme of events see waterfordharvestfestival.ie 

Posted in Events & Adventures in Food

Asti, Rapallo & Portofino (Sacla Blogger Trip 2012)

 As a guest of Sacla I expected to see basil growing in the fields and to taste some really good food, what I didn’t expect was to feel like I was a VIP on holidays.
A group of 9 Irish based food writers, bloggers and journalists embarked on what – for me anyway – was a trip of a lifetime.  A whirlwind visit saw us arriving into Milan and journeying to the Sacla headquarters at Asti where lunch awaited us.  Naturally this was made based on a variety of Sacla products and it was made extra special being cooked for us by chefs from the Michelin awarded Ristorante Vittoria.

Chef Massimiliano of Ristorante Vittoria
Chef Massimiliano of Ristorante Vittoria
Orecchiette with Spicy Roasted Pepper Pesto and Ricotto by Vittoria restaurant
One of the several delicious courses cooked at Sacla by the chefs of Ristorante Vittoria

And what does one do on a trip like this after an indulgent lunch?  Well you rest of course!  Perhaps a brief siesta on your four poster bed at Villa Tiboldi or a swim in their magnificent private pool or then again you could go for a gentle stroll and capture images of fruit laden trees, pretty flowers and rolling fields of vines.

one of the residences at Villa Tiboldi
one of the residences at Villa Tiboldi
Residence at Villa Tiboldi
…& another

Pool at Villa Tiboldi

Flowers at Villa Tiboldi
fruit on the trees at villa tiboldi
fruit laden trees at villa tiboldi

With renewed stamina our next activity was to participate in a casual yet professional and informative wine tasting of 8 of Villa Tiboldi‘s Malvira wines. (While spittoons were provided I assure you I did not waste a delicious drop.)
View of rooftops from the rooftop of Villa Tiboldi
grapes at Villa Tiboldi
Wine Tasting Malvira at Villa Tiboldi
Malvira wines at Villa Tiboldi
A quick shower under one of those massive Victorian style shower-heads saw me refreshed and dressing for a delicious al fresco dinner with yet more opportunity to savour the magnificent Malvira wines.  Returning to bed at midnight I went to sleep with a smile of glee as I stretched out on my four poster bed luxuriating in 8 hours of undisturbed, blissful sleep.

My room at Villa Tiboldi
My room at Villa Tiboldi

Attempting to keep things light at breakfast I started off well with the ripest juciest fresh apricot smothered in yoghurt and dusted with granola but resistence was weak and two more visits to the buffet table were mentally justified with the knowledge that such an opportunity would not be presenting itself at home.  To quote a grandmother ’tis either a feast or a famine’ and this was one of those times to feast.
Our first departure of the new day saw us arrive at the farm of the Amateis family to witness the first cut of basil destined for Sacla pesto and to experience the heady high as that fragrance wafted on the barely moving warm air.

First cut of basil for Sacla 2012
First cut of basil for Sacla 2012 using the Amateis brothers’ customised machine

Harvesting basil at Amateis farm for Sacla 201
Returning to the pristine farmyard, a long table heaving with fresh focaccia, cheeses, meats and fruits awaited us for yet another al fresco dining experience, this time in the company of the Amateis brothers who were generous hosts indeed.
If this were your post and I was reading it I think at this stage I might be crying STOP, no more, but brace yourself and read on.
A bus journey saw us weaving coastward until we arrived at the gem that is Rapallo and to a view from a room  at the Excelsior Palace Hotel that yet again left me stuck for words.

Room with a view Palace Excelsior Hotel Rapallo
Room with a view Palace Excelsior Hotel Rapallo

A respite to the pool and a stroll around the town was enjoyed before dressing for dinner.
As if the splendour of Rapallo wasn’t enough we boarded speedboats and followed the coastline stopping off to admire and breathe wistfully at the site of Dolce & Gabanna’s Villa and maybe not so wisfully at Berlusconi’s! (If you want to completely torture yourself click on the D&G link above to view the interior).  Up on lofty heights the famous Hotel Splendio was spied as we made our way in to alight at Portofino.
Manipulating a cobbled street in wedge heels I managed to make my way the short distance from boat to bar still upright where delicious champagne bellinis set the tone for the evening.  Indulging a while in people spotting and nibbling morish bites which could have fortified us for the evening our journey was coming to a close but not yet over.
Bellini time at Portofino
Tasty Tomatoes
Nibbles at Portofino
Our last stop (well if you don’t count the hotel bar) was for a magnificent dinner of simple dishes at restaurant o Magazin.  Pesto pasta came before bream and potatoes with olives and oil followed by tiramisu.
Dinner is served Bream at o Magazin restaurant Portofino
The precious heads of our group of 9 arose early with an average of 3 hours sleep and journeyed very quietly back to the airport for our flight home.
The luxury of indulgence has been replaced with a slow slide back to what is my norm.  The moments that I linger now are to peruse growing cracks over slammed doorframes (teenagers – not me, honest) and I’ve settled once again into this bustling hive with bees that  sporadically sting.
I can dive in every so often though to revisit those stillframe mental images I’ve forever captured of how the other half live.  That lady emerging laden from the Missoni boutique in Portofino and those sharply dressed gentry looking folk strolling casually  or alighting from private yachts, to name a few .  And it may have only been for a few days but yeah baby I was part of that too. La dolce vita.
Til next time,
Sheila

Posted in Events & Adventures in Food

Fabulous Food Trails Cork

There are no words to be searched for – Fabulous sums it up perfectly and the photographs here will hopefully speak for themselves.  Our relaxed and friendly guide Alice of Fabulous Food Trails, gathered her brood together at The English Market last Saturday morning and we set of on a casually meandering food trail of central Cork City looping back around via the English Market once more and finishing up on the doorstep of the too oft overlooked Saturday market at the Coal Quay.  Generous tastings were provided by the kind hosts who regaled and entertained us at our various stop off points.  I was delighted that new(ish) to me House Cafe at the Opera House was included as it has very quickly become my favourite Cork City lunch spot and it’s on my list of must trys for dinner before a show.
For further information re booking a spot on a Fabulous Food Trail click on this link –  Fabulous Food Trails
I hope you enjoy these snapshots & teasers from my 2 and a half hour food trail of Cork City last weekend.  Highly recommend.

Alice of Fabulous Food Trails Cork
Alice of Fabulous Food Trails in Cork

Gulpd at the Triskel
Hidden gem – Gulpd at the Triskel

Pastries at Gulpd
fab pastries at Gulpd

Beamish & Crawford
Lonely Planet describes the Beamish & Crawford ‘Counting House’ as ‘a building that takes first prize for eye-blinding, mock Tudor, architectural awfulness.’ The cheek!!! I love it.

Noodle Salad at The Quay Coop
Noodle Salad at The Quay Coop

Veg Pizza on Spelt Crust at the Quay Coop
Veg Pizza on Spelt Crust at the Quay Coop

Desserts board at The Quay Coop
Desserts board at The Quay Coop

Jack McCarthy Black Pudding at Nash 19
Jack McCarthy Black Pudding at Nash 19

Nash 19
tastings of treacle bread, Jack McCarthy black pudding, home-made pate, oils, sausage, tomato relish at Nash 19

Ivory Tower
…not on the trail but had to snap this especially after spotting chef Seamus O’Connell on the street

English Market
The English Market

Veg at the market
Veg at the market

Kay O'Connell fish
Kay O’Connell fish

Fabulous Food Trails Cork - Fish tasters at the market
Fabulous Food Trails Cork – Fish tasters at the market

Oysters at Kay O'Connells English Market
Oysters for the brave at Kay O’Connells English Market

Modern Cork Legend - Pat O'Connell at Kay O'Connells fishmongers
Modern Cork Legend – Pat O’Connell at Kay O’Connells fishmongers

Pheasant hanging at the English Market Cork
Pheasant hanging at the English Market Cork

Some Desserts (& those salted caramel truffles) at House Cafe
Some Desserts (& those salted caramel truffles) at House Cafe

Eoin of House Cafe at the Opera House
If you’ve never seen a happy chef at work call in to House Cafe! (Eoin of House Cafe at Cork Opera House)

Menu at House Cafe at the Opera House Cork
Menu at House Cafe at the Opera House Cork

Soup & Sandwiches at the House Cafe at Cork Opera House
Soup & Sandwiches at the House Cafe at Cork Opera House (highly recommend)

Opening Hours at House Cafe at the Cork Opera House
Opening Hours at House Cafe at the Cork Opera House

Cheese plate at The Cornstore
Cheese plate at The Cornstore

Lunch menu at The Cornstore Cork
Lunch menu at The Cornstore Cork

Irish Coffee Taster at The Roundy, Cork
Perfect ending – Irish Coffee Taster at The Roundy, Cork

Til next time, Sheila.

Posted in Events & Adventures in Food, What's for Dinner Mom?

Salad Days (….return of the butterhead)

Finalmente! A new post.  That word of Italian was one of the many gleaned from a beginner’s course that I’ve taken over the past year and it culminated in an exam last week so cramming was required hence the void in cyberspace that a blog post should have filled. (What do you mean you hadn’t noticed 🙂 ) And why Italian?  Well my youngest sister is marrying a Sicilian this summer and I’m hoping to communicate with a little bit more than pointing and smiling.
Butterhead Lettuce As well as being a beginner at Italian I’m also a beginner at gardening.  Up until very recently when conversation turned to gardens or gardening, mulching and cutting back etc. I would retreat quietly and blush inwardly.  It’s a low maintenance garden with grass, bordered with trees and a beech hedge .  Prize-winning begonias definitely do not feature.  Hardly surprising then that I approached the task of planting a raised bed in a somewhat cynical fashion.
Lettuce LeavesPlanting began indoors and seedlings were then planted out, in what most definitely was not my finest moment.  The inner wayward child emerged while I attempted to untangle flimsy roots and as the lettuce plants flopped over I turned my back on them and left them to fend for themselves.  Rain came, sun came and then really heavy rain came but somehow those weary looking lettuce leaves and flimsy carrots, parsnips, spring onions and strawberries, guzzled nutrients from the soil and began to bulk up.  The leaves are truly flourishing now and it is beyond satisfying to step outside in the morning to tear off a few leaves and stuff them into the children’s school sandwiches.  Again at lunch time I’ll nip off a few more and they’ll often make it to the dinner table too.  Growing stuff is BRILLIANT.
Ripe Tomato
First Tomato Picking
I’m in my second week of not buying or throwing away lettuce and there is no comparison between the  flavour of local and fresh VS chilled and well-travelled.
A true test I felt had to be that 80s classic salad plate, long since relegated in favour of more adventurous salads featuring sophisticated sounding leaves such as frissee, rocket and of course the baby variants of spinach and watercress.  Forks clashed  as we shredded leaves and mopped up salad dressing and the plate was cleaned with relish.
80s salad
Salad with Zingy Dressing
Butterhead lettuce is back people (you read it here first!).  Accompanied by my eldest son’s first harvest of tomato and good old hard boiled egg I dressed it up with a zingy salad dressing.
Zingy Salad Dressing
Zingy Salad Dressing
You will need:
3 tbsp mayonnaise
3 tbsp natural yoghurt
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp mixed herbs (dried)
Method:
Simply mix all the ingredients together.
Enjoy.
‘Til next time, Sheila.

Posted in Events & Adventures in Food

Dine in the Dark

As you may be aware I usually write about food that I’ve eaten or discovered and from time to time the odd food related event that I have enjoyed.  This time around I’m putting up some information on a very worthwhile event that you may be interested in attending yourself if you are visiting Taste of Dublin this June which runs from 14 to 17 June at the Iveagh Gardens.
Kanchi Dine In The Dark
What is it ?:
“this experiential dining event will see festival goers served an exclusive tasting plate by legally blind waiting staff whilst immersed in complete darkness.”
‘Kanchi Dine in the Dark’ will enable attendees to experience how, by removing one sense, others can be altered and heightened, encouraging them to value different abilities. Communication whilst in the dark is also fundamentally impacted which will see social interactions altered greatly from the typical dining experience. The aim of the event is to challenge perceptions of difference through unique experiences with a cutting edge and inventive food event.
Ross Lewis explains; “In working with Kanchi on Dine in the Dark event I will be seeking to create an experience that delivers a new concept of culinary theatre and presents an opportunity for guests to utilise their senses in a way that they never have before”.
Who’s Cooking?
The ten chefs confirmed to participate are: Oliver Dunne, Head Chef of Bon Appétit and the youngest Michelin Star Chef in Ireland; Malcolm Starmer, Head Chef of newly opened Bite in Dublin; Stuart O’Keeffe, Private Chef featured on The Food Network (USA) and Stuart’s Kitchen (TV3);  Ed Cooney, Executive Chef, the five star Merrion Hotel; Ross Lewis, Head Chef at Michelin Award Winning Restaurant, Chapter One; Master Chef Ireland contestants, Bridin Carey, Conal Markey and Richard Speedie; Kevin Thornton, Thornton’s Restaurant and Ireland’s first Head Chef to win two Michelin Stars. Radio personality Tom Dunne will also appear as a Special Guest Chef in collaboration with his wife Audrey McDonald of Private Caterers.
When can I go/ Do I need to book & How much does it cost?
There will be several sittings each day for the duration of the festival for both lunch and dinner with 25 festival goers served per sitting. Guests will be seated on a first come first served basis. The cost of entry to the ‘Kanchi Dine in the Dark’ pop-up restaurant will be eight Florins, which is the Taste of Dublin currency that is available on site. This will include the tasting plate and a glass of wine/non-alcoholic alternative per person.
How long does it last?
Each sitting will last approximately 30 minutes, after which guests have the opportunity to meet with the award winning chef who prepared their food, and to discuss cooking techniques and the local produce they have sampled.
Who is Kanchi?
Kanchi is not-for-profit disability organisation, which was established in June 2000 by Caroline Casey, a visually impaired social entrepreneur. Kanchi works to change mindsets and behaviours around disability. They do this by creating initiatives that influence business and media leadership. Their work is grounded in the Disability Business Case which demonstrates the tangible business benefits of embracing people with disabilities as employees, customers and suppliers.
Til next time, Sheila.

Posted in Events & Adventures in Food

Sunday Lunch at The Mill Restaurant Blarney

A lot has changed at The Mill Restaurant Blarney over the last 12 months.  They’ve overseen a major redesign to create a bright and airy space that beams a huge welcome to all visitors.  What was once and still is a resting spot for many a foreign tourist in search of an Aran jumper is now also a magnet to the weary worn native in search of a break from the norm.  If you’ve been to Killarney you’ll know the holiday buzz feeling that a stroll down their streets gives off on a warm summer’s evening, well that is what The Mill Restaurant has bottled here too and it exudes a wonderfully relaxed vibe.
A large projector screen plays nostalgic black and white footage of Cork while upbeat but un-intrusive jazzy and modern music plays subtly in the background, the double height ceilings and some exposed brick walls working wonders for the acoustics.
I recently launched my book ‘Gimme the Recipe’ at The Mill Restaurant and it was a great success due in most part to the management and staff whose attention to detail and professionalism I could not speak more highly of.
Gimme the Recipe book launch at The Mills Restaurant Blarney
It was while making arrangements for the launch that I saw the sign for the Sunday Family Meal and I made a mental note to return and give it the Kiely Family road test.
Sunday Roast Sign on Blackboard at The Mills Restaurant Blarney
As you can imagine a large family like ours (8) rarely dines out and the primary reason is of course financial however another reason is the pressure that you can sometimes feel when you take children out to dine.  6 kids equals 12 elbows for jostling and 12 hands for spillages and then there’s the ‘when will our food be ready?’ questions followed by the squabbling if impatience gets half  a chance to set in.
One of the strong pluses for family dining at The Mill Restaurant Blarney is that it is carvery style self-service where you queue up and food is served to you immediately and you gather your own cutlery and ice-water on the way back to your seat.  Sometimes you will be given a number for your order if not immediately available and food will then be brought to your table so there is never a back-log in the queue.
Roast Stuffed Chicken & Veg
Making the assumption that the roast would feed the average family of 4 we ordered two.  8 warm plates were supplied (this got much approval from The Gravy Man) and along came two plump, juicy and stuffed roast chickens on two platters with roast potatoes.  With carving knife and fork provided we set about dishing up to the hungry who were helping themselves to the other vegetables : pea puree, carrot & coriander mash, buttered cabbage and mashed potato (and of course there was also gravy.)
DIY Carving
Dishing Out
Close Up Roast Chicken Veg & Gravy
Sunday Lunch at The Mills Restaurant Blarney on plate
Eight of us were more than adequately fed for an incredible 56 euro with many of us having second helpings and the leftovers making their way home in a doggy bag.  I honestly have not experienced a venue quite like this that provides superb value, relaxed family dining that melds with other couples and diverse groups of travellers.
To the hob-bound and child-tethered I say a visit here for Sunday Lunch will leave you feeling human again. Go try it if you can and I’d love to hear what  you think.
Snapshot of table Til next time, Sheila.
NB: Please note that I was not asked to write this piece and it is honest, unsolicited opinion.