Posted in Events & Adventures in Food

How does your garden grow?

Managing to keep some unidentified kind of rubber plant alive indoors for a few years now does not a gardener make.  Beyond that, it’s been a struggling basil or parsley plant on the back kitchen window that usually doesn’t see the end of a week or two.  When recently asked by Stop Food Waste to support their combined efforts with GIY to get people out there and growing their own I was happy to give it a whirl but this is a new departure for me, a little adventure or foray if you will and sure we’ll see how it goes.
leaves seedlings

First up was the assembly of a couple of raised beds in the garden.  We put two adjoining beds in place, end to end, one for team kids & dad and the other for me.  Now when I say ‘we’ that would be the royal ‘we’, meaning it was in fact ‘he’ who engaged a local joinery company to make up the required lengths of timber (teak) for the beds and he put them in place with the aid of some of his side-kicks while I contributed with some pointing and gesturing.
Compost from the large green bin that graces a corner of our back garden was finally put to use and was topped up with soil sourced for free – it’s probably a bit on the stoney side but sure what do I know!  So far, so frugal.
Spring Onion Seedlings
Chilli Seedlings
Carrot & Strawberries

I had received a packet of Butterhead (Marvel of 4 Seasons) Lettuce leaves courtesy of GIY and being a bit of a freak for following instructions I set about planting them into little seedling pots I had picked up for half nothing in Heatons.  While I set about cultivating my seeds according to instructions, team kids & Dad took the fling the seeds at the soil approach.
(You can imagine what a flat-pack assembly is like chez-moi with me being OCD on starting at  point No.1  Let’s just say screw-drivers should not be kept within reach.)
Team Dad had taken some advice from a wise person (everyone’s a gardener) who told them to alternate onions with the other crops to keep pests at bay but one pest we hadn’t considered however was ‘Kylie’ the family dog.   With the Olympics approaching it seems she has plans for the hop, skip and jump event and it turns out that the raised beds is perfect for her training.
When I finally deemed it time to put my seedlings of leaves, strawberries etc out, I erected a flimsy but effective boundary of bamboo and string to keep Kylie the wonder-dog at bay and so far it’s working.
Tears almost spilled as I attempted to untangle various seedling roots and what entered the ground  looked very weak and flimsy (spring onions, strawberries, carrots, lettuce).  My beautiful lettuce seedlings just keeled over – first I thought they had died but now they’ve turned red and seem to be strengthening up somewhat so we shall see.  I’ve been told by another wise person that it’s best to keep my chilli plants indoors.

Wilted Leaves
Recovering lettuce leaves and barely visible seedlings at my end (Kylie Kiely stands guard)
Raised Beds May 2012
Team Kids & Dad faring better at the other end with the ‘plant straight in the ground’ approach – (time will tell)

I think it’s probably time I did a bit of reading up on thinning out etc. as the parsnips that I planted direct into the ground may need a bit more room if they are going to thrive.  I am loath to pull out growing shoots in order to strengthen others and advice is definitely called for on what to do next.

The truth as always will be in the eating and I will report back anon when something worthy graces the table.  For now I can observe that this growing lark is fun and worth the very little effort that I have given it to date and it’s amazing to see something growing in front of  your eyes.

While all of this has been going on my eldest dried off some seeds from the inside of a shop bought tomato and has grown this beauty indoors – he has made gardening seem incredibly easy.  Maybe some are just more natural at it than others.

Johnnie's Tomato Plant
Johnnie’s Tomato Plant

Please comment with any hints, tips, advice etc.  (you are also allowed to scoff and condescend if deemed necessary).
The adventure continues.
Til next time, Sheila.

Posted in Events & Adventures in Food

Something for the weekend…

If you’ve come to these pages in search of a recipe let me direct you towards one that I published last year for Mother’s Day.  An indulgent treat, a sublime concoction in the form of a chocolate orange mousse cake.
I do my cooking, baking, recipe experimentation and photography at the weekends but last weekend was different to most.  It was time for a rest.
A break away to Inchydoney Island Lodge & Spa could not have come at a better time for this particular food blogger.  Overwhelmed with the release of my first book ‘Gimme the Recipe’ last Thursday, a sojourn to this tucked-away West Cork coastal jem provided the peace and time needed to unwind, adjust and re-energise.

Snapshot of 1 of the 2 beaches at Inchydoney Island
Snapshot of 1 of the 2 beaches at Inchydoney Island

This complimentary weekend (organised by Conway Communications & Inchdoney Lodge & Spa) brought together a number of Irish Food Bloggers and partners and from our arrival on Friday evening to departure at lunchtime on Sunday we got more than a taste of what’s on offer to the weary worn.
A casual 3 course dining experience in The Dunes Pub & Bistro on Friday evening showcased the finest of local and Irish produce from seafood to meat platter to West Cork Cheese Slate.
Let me tease you with the following, billed as

‘A Little Taste of West Cork’:
West Cork Seafood Chowder flavoured with a Hint of Michael Collins Whiskey,
Smoked Salmon from Ummera Smokehouse Timoleague,
Homemade Skeaghanore Duck Liver Paté, with a Inchydoney Tomato and Chilli Jam,
Crisp Fried Atlantic Seafood Cake served with Homemade Tartar Sauce,
West Coast Crab Claws Tossed in Fresh Garlic, Ginger and Parsley Butter
and Fresh Bantry Bay Mussels.

That was the starter, yes, the starter!  Just in case you think these are a list of choices, they were not, you got a more than substantial taste of each of them before pressing on to either a fish or meat platter and then the cheese slate.
Breakfast on Saturday was followed by a fishing expedition and we langoured on gently bobbing waves blessed with serenely calm waters while our casting and reeling was sporadically rewarded with yields of coalfish and pollock. Some too small to keep were eased back to the sea but one of my Pollock made its way to our lunch time bar-b-que later at the hotel.  As well as fishing expeditions the hotel offers the opportunity to try out numerous outdoor pursuits including sea kayaking and seaweed foraging the virtues of which were extolled to us later that evening by  Sally McKenna of Bridgestone Guides and Jim Kennedy of Atlantic Sea Kayaking.

Pollock on BBQ

Pollock & Salmon
Pollock & Salmon
Pesto & Garlic Mushrooms
Pesto & Garlic Mushrooms
Irish Salmon
Irish Salmon
Pollock with Raspberry Dressing
Pollock with Raspberry Dressing

A restful afternoon saw a walk on the beach and a trip to the Island Spa for a ‘Cleopatra Honey & Milk Bath.’
If I were to list the contents of our 7 course evening ‘A Taste of West Cork’ menu I would be pushing you over the edge, again I’ll just offer you a tiny tease.

Oysters and Pearls
Home-Smoked Giga Oysters
bound with Fresh Cod Roe
from Con Murphy of Shellfish de la Mer, Dinish Island

A number of the Inchydoney Island suppliers joined us for the meal and at our table in the Inchydoney Room we were in the company of Con Murphy of Shellfish de la Mer and Avril Allshire of Caherbeg Free Range Pork Ltd., & Rosscarbery Recipes.  We sat down to eat soon after 8pm and continued until after midnight, this was a truly epic dining experience.
Quality and service were equally outstanding and with a full-house to cater to in the Gulfstream Restaurant as well as the Inchydoney room this was no easy task.  Getting to meet the chefs was a lovely finishing touch that rounded off the evening.
We extended our weekend with a slight detour to take up the very kind invitation of Anthony Creswell of Ummera Smokehouse, Timoleague for a guided tour of his impressive smokehouse ably assisted by his son Conor who showed off some of their awards.

Ummera Smoked Products Awards
Ummera Smoked Products Awards

While we packed plenty in to our stay, nothing was hurried and time, particularly when out at sea, moved slowly.  Go, rest and have fun. West Cork Awaits…..
Til next time, Sheila.

Posted in Events & Adventures in Food

Totally Tipperary

“A celebration of local food and culture.”  My trip to Cloughjordan last Saturday took me through Moneygall where American flags line the streets still saluting President Obama’s recent visit.  Cloughjordan is a few twists and turns on the road further on and by 10am I was parking my car in a mucky field and bemoaning my choice of footwear.  All crankiness soon abated as I was warmly greeted by fellow food blogger Nessa Robins before joining Kristin Jensen for a reviving coffee.  Food bloggers were out in force for the Seomra Blog Bia cookery demonstrations which got underway with a demo by Sarah Baker who runs Sarah Baker Cookery School at Cloughjordan House.
The set-up for the demo was in a large tent with a spacious cooking area and overhead mirror that ensured everyone got to see what was going on.
As well as Sarah Baker there were demonstrations by Kristin Jensen, Nessa Robins, Joanna Schaffalitzky, Yvonne Carty and three french visiting chefs – Maurice Alexis, Didier Coupeau, Joel Reynaud.

Sarah Baker Preps Strawberries
Sarah Baker Preps Strawberries
Strawberry Shortcake with Borage and Crossogue Strawberry Coulis - Sarah Baker
Strawberry Shortcake with Borage and Crossogue Strawberry Coulis - Sarah Baker
Kristin Jensen of &
Kristin Jensen of &
Kristin's Sweet Chili Sausage with a Tomato, Chilli and Coriander Sauce
Kristin's Sweet Chili Sausage with a Tomato, Chilli and Coriander Sauce
Three French Chefs on stage
Three French Chefs on stage

Taking a wander every now and then to stretch my legs I visited the various stands from Tipperary Food Producers stocking up on a heap of preserves from the Crossogue Preserves stall where I chatted with Veronica Molloy and Dorota Nowicka pictured here.
Crossogue Preserves
This rather delicious looking cupcake begged to be photographed  (& eaten) at the Sugar Moon Cookies & Cakes stand.

Chocolate Cupcake
Chocolate Cupcake
Sugar Moon Cookies & Cake
Sugar Moon Cookies & Cake

Stopping off at the Meat Tent it seemed like every man at the event had pulled up a chair as T.J. Crowe (of Crowe’s Farm) and Pat Whelan (of James Whelan Butchers) demonstrated the various cuts.

Pat Whelan & T.J. Crowe
Pat Whelan & T.J. Crowe

In the Farm/Milk Tent I came across Imen McDonnell ( giving a butter making demonstration and she invited us to shape the pats of butter.

Homemade Butter
Homemade Butter

I hit the road southbound sometime after 5pm as the sun was beginning to shine after a truly satisfying day, meeting lots of friendly faces and tasting wonderful food.  T.J. Crowe’s pulled pork burger sustained me on my journey and I had learned something new – how to make butter and…this is what borage looks like (pretty & edible):

Borage from Cloughjordan House
Borage from Cloughjordan House

Til next time,

Posted in Events & Adventures in Food

Summer Summer Summertime…

Which means time for the Cork Summer Show.  Picture an expanse of land cordoned off into various sections for the display of all things agricultural.  Add horses, hospitality tents, a fairground for the kids, bouncy castles, face-painting, live music, gymnastics and dancing displays, baking competitions, artwork and you will begin to get a sense of what was on offer. I happily spent all day Saturday there and visited again on Sunday enjoying a glorious weekend of entertainment and sunshine and I’ve yet to mention the food.
With food stalls too numerous to mention you could indulge in anything you wanted out in the open air but it was in the food demonstration tent that I parked myself for a large chunk of Saturday afternoon.  Ryan’s SuperValu were the sponsors of the Food Event that listed a whopping 16 demonstrations over the course of the 3 days.
I was privileged to see the chefs of Greenes Restaurant, the CornStore and The River Lee Hotel in action and fish was the order of the day.
First up was Greenes Restaurant (48 MacCurtain Street, Cork) with an amazingly zingy yet fruity and spicy salsa which combined amongst its numerous other ingredients chilli, pineapple and peppers.  This served as the base on which a crab-cake was mounted and on top of that panfried john dory.  Dessert was a delicious creme brulee.
Greene's at work
Greene's Salsa
Greene's John DoryNext up was the CornStore (40a Cornmarket St., Cork) with a starter of Kinsale Mussels with cider, north cork pancetta in a light cream sauce followed by a mains of Pan Seared Hake with warm baby potato salad with figs, baby corn, sweet gem leaves and salsa Verdi and then a dessert of Lemon Posset with west cork organic strawberries balsamic reduction and basil. Sublime.
Cornstore Plating up Cornstore Kinsale Mussels
Cornstore Pan Seared Hake
Cornstore Lemon Posset The last demonstration that I watched was by The River Lee Hotel with a menu of Roasted Beetroot with truffle and honey scented Goat Cheese followed by a main of  pan fried Hake with Tomato and Caper Butter.  Superb.
Sebastian of The River Lee HotelThe River Lee Hotel Roasted Beetroot The River Lee Hotel Panfried Hake with Tomato and Caper Butter

All three chefs delivered first class food as you can see and everyone there had the opportunity to sample the final dishes.  I for one will be eager to visit these restaurants in person after seeing the skill behind the plates.
Finally, a note on some upcoming talent in the baking department.  As mentioned there was a baking competition as part of the Cork Summer Show and Emma Cleary (Age 10) shone in her division with these delicate butterfly cakes winning her first place.  Well done Emma!
Emma's Butterfly Buns (wings nibbled for judging!)
Til next time, Sheila.

Posted in Events & Adventures in Food

Nuts & Chocolate

Two of my favourite nibbles – nuts & chocolate.  Nuts I will go for anytime either savoury or sweet.  Blitzed into pestos, toasted and sprinkled over salads, chopped and baked into florentines, they work well salted, sugared, smoked or oiled.  Anything goes with a nut.
Chocolate, in my opinion does not work in a savoury dish. Perhaps I shouldn’t knock it until I’ve truly tried it and having half-heartedly flung a square of it into a chilli con carne does not make my opinion a considered one, however it is my opinion.  And in my opinion, it is wrong, wrong, wrong and a crime against chocolate to write her into the savoury side of a menu.  Chocolate is for sweet stuff, it’s for desserts, it’s for comforting warm milky drinks.
Willie's Cacao
One man, I imagine, would strongly disagree with me.  Willie Harcourt-Cooze, The Chocolate Man. I’ve vaguely heard of a Channel 4 documentary called ‘Willie’s Wonky Chocolate Factory’ which looks at his journey to farm his own cacao in South America and then import it to the U.K. to produce chocolate. I came across his cacao last weekend in Schull Farmer’s Market at the Gubbeen Stall.  They were selling these solid cylinders of 100% cacao and I was told that the guy who makes it grew up on Calf Island, only a matter of miles away, though other sources say that Willie Harcourt-Cooze grew up on Horse island  (yes, these are real islands), whichever island it was, what interests me is the fact that he spent some part of his formative years on an island in West Cork.
Moving on from the Gubbeen stand to a newer entry on the West Cork markets scene I met again with the operators of Gnosh whom I had encountered at Goleen Festival a few weeks back.  The name is genius and they’ve chosen this attractive purple background colour to identify their stall.
gnosh sign
They’ve got a small line of products going well for them so far.  Stacks of cupcakes sit alongside tubs of salads and savoury bites including these caramelised walnuts.
gnosh walnutsYou have to admire a start-up company brave enough to get out there and put in the hard work that it takes to establish a presence on the food circuit today.
I’ve yet to try out my 100% cacoa and looking at these two pictures together I can’t help but wonder what sort of partnership Willie’s cacoa would make with Gnosh’s caramelised walnuts because nuts and chocolate, now that works.
Til next time, Sheila.

Posted in Events & Adventures in Food

Will & Kate’s Cake

Never mind the wedding dress, we want to know what the cakes will look like.  What has been revealed is that there will be two cakes.  The first, a traditional layered cake and the second, requested by Prince William, a chocolate biscuit cake.  The traditional cake is being created by Fiona Cairns – The Home of LuxuryBaking.  A visit to Fiona Cairns website reveals the following :

Royal Wedding - Cake Announcement Fiona Cairns

You can get a feel for the detail and artistry that will go into the creation of the cake by visiting her website .  The cake itself will be revealed on the day but some details were given via an article in The Telegraph on 27th March called ‘Royal wedding cake designs revealed.’  The traditional tiered cake will be decorated according to a detailed brief from Kate Middleton.  She has asked for around 16 different blooms and foliage to feature for their meaning – known as “the language of flowers.”  Intricate piping techniques will be used to create scrolls and a Royal cipher (or cypher) which entwines their initials will be revealed on the day. Some of the blooms and foliage set to feature are: a bridal rose symbolising happiness, oak and acorn symbolising strength and endurance, lily of the valley symbolising sweetness and humility and ivy symbolising marriage.
But what of the second cake, what can be revealed about that?
Well a quick trip to the United Biscuits website reveals the following:
“The McVitie’s Cake Company is pleased to confirm that it has been asked to make a Chocolate Biscuit Cake for the wedding reception of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.”
What we know is that it is to be made by McVitie’s using a recipe from Buckingham Palace kitchen chefs.  It is an unbaked chocolate biscuit cake featuring dark chocolate, rich tea biscuits and a couple of ‘secret ingredients’ according to The Telegraph.  However, a quick search reveals a website by Darren McGrady – former Royal chef to Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Diana, Princes William and Harry.  Darren has posted the recipe he used in the Royal kitchens and here is the link to it
What the cakes will look like will remain a mystery until Friday and we can only guess.  I would imagine that Kate’s traditional one will be delicate and pretty and Prince William’s will be humourous and modern.  I recently spied this cake which is a ‘Choccywoccydoodah’ creation and think it looks amazing.


Some other fun Wedding cake creations that I came across recently featured at The Irish Sugarcraft Show held in early April in Cork.
Waiting for the bride

Under the sea

Highland fling
I’ll be glued to proceedings on Friday and I think I’ll just have to give the biscuit cake a go myself.  Best wishes to HRH Prince William of Wales & Kate.
Til next time, Sheila.

Posted in Events & Adventures in Food

Waterford Festival of Food – Food Camp

Ireland’s second food camp took place last Friday 15th April at St. John’s Castle, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford as part of the Waterford Festival of Food 2011 which ran for a week.
Dungarvan The timetable outlined 3 simultaneous, speaking sessions at each of the 4 time slots, which meant decisions had to be made, in order to select the 4 of a possible 12 that I could partake in.
The first three to choose from were Keith Bohanna on branding, Donal Lehane on the Slow Food movement and Mary Flynn on traditional butter making with a demo.  As a fan of Keith’s blog postings on packaging and as a sucker for great packaging myself I decided to tune in to ‘Artisan Food Packaging – Before and After, the story of 5 Irish Artisan Food brands reinvented.’  Keith is fairly up on the technical stuff (he runs an Internet Marketing & eCommerce Consultancy), so if you’re interested in the content of his presentation he has posted it over on his own blog  He looked at Kilbeggan Organic Porridge, Wild Orchard, Mella’s Fudge, Organic Herb Co. and Glenilen Farm.  All of them have gone through a design process – some simple, others complex and have come out the other side with impressive branding and packaging. Interestingly Keith informed us that only 28% of the text on websites is absorbed by the reader and may be even less for packaging.
Keith Bohanna - Bia Beag (blog)Next up was a choice of topics on Marketing, Irish Fishing and Blaas.  No, I’m not being rude here, there is such a thing as a Blaa.  More specifically, a Waterford Blaa. Intrigued to learn more, in I went to hear Dermot Walsh (3rd generation baker of Blaas, with M&D bakery) talk through the history of bread making and the origin of the Blaa.  This dates back to the 1700s with the arrival of the Huguenots and their baking with a white heirloom flour, this finely milled flour was used to produce what was being called ‘pain blanc’ and is now known as the Waterford Blaa.  M&D Bakery, along with 3 other Waterford producers are in the process of applying to the EU for PGI (Protected Geographical Integrity) status and hopefully will soon enjoy the same protection as Champagne, Parma ham, Greek feta cheese and Cumberland sausage.  This was my first tasting of a Waterford Blaa and with the rich companion of Mary Flynn’s (of Nell’s Farmhouse) handmade butter they were devoured. Lovely and soft, they’d be perfect stuffed with your favourite sandwich filling or dunked into soup. Delicious.  (I think I’ll have to add them to the next revision of my ‘School Lunches – The Definitive Guide’)
Waterford Blaa (M&D Bakery)The third speaking slots of the day were on Oyster Farming, Branding and lastly, the one I went for, “Don’t be left with a bitter taste in your mouth” – coffee-making demo and tasting session.  This was by Brock Lewin of Badger and Dodo. Brock is originally from Australia and has the smooth accent to match his coffee. Brock talked us through the factors that affect coffee-making : Extraction, Dose, Grind, Temperature, Agitation.  Key learning points for me were:
Storage – cool, dry, dark, ceramic container
Fresh – grind to brew time 15 minutes max
Proportion/Dose – 6g per 100ml = 60ml per litre for anything brewed.  For espresso machine 8g
Temperature – 92 to 96C
Agitation – give the grounds a bit of stir before leaving to brew
Home-made cappuccino without machine – Use a simple cafetière to brew your coffee, then pour it in a cup.  Rinse the cafetière and heat your milk in it, in the microwave, then give it a plunging to froth it up – et voila.
Badger & Dodo Coffee CupBrock Lewin Badger & Dodo Coffee MakingThe last three sessions were on Marketing, Food Security issues in the work of the OECD and lastly, a talk on the brewing process and tasting.  I opted to learn a bit about the International food story as presented by Earnán O Cleirigh (OECD).  The information, though sobering, was delivered with a well-informed flow and looked at factors that determine who has access to sufficient food and why.  Graphs showed worryingly, soaring, global food price figures.  Earnán discussed issues such as inter-generational transmission of poverty and factors such as change in consumption habits (China), fuel costs (fertiliser production), and impact of climate (Australia, Russia). I came away having learned that 1 billion people are hungry, 1 billion people endure ‘hidden hunger’ (micronutrients deficient) yet 30% of all food is wasted.
After the last session we all lunched together in a tented area on the grounds of St John’s Castle.  My own hunger was allayed with some of Mag Kirwan’s Goatsbridge trout, Keith Bohanna’s salad and local brown bread while one of my dining companions, Niamh Shields (soon to be published blogger, stuffed her Waterford Blaa with Cheese & Onion Taytos – yum.
It was in the tent too, that we convened for a panel discussion, chaired by Peter Ward – Country Choice, Nenagh. Panel members (L to R in photograph) were Niamh Shields (EatLikeaGirl), Ella McSweeney (RTE), Eileen Bentley (Bord Bia), Jim Power (economist, Love Irish Food Founder), Anike Tyrell (Waterford Enterprise Board) & Peter Ward (Country Choice).
Waterford Festival of Food 2011 - Dungarvan Food Camp PanelWith a topic of “From Field to Fork – getting artisan products to market” this discussion looked at the struggles that artisans face in finding their route to market.  The importance of branding, product uniqueness, labelling and the use of social media were all discussed with a strong argument being made for protection of product via EU schemes such as PDO (protected designation of origin), PGI (protected geographical indication) and TSG (traditional speciality guaranteed).  The need for a central database of artisans was also discussed, with a suggestion from the floor to use the data that is collected when artisans register with their Health Boards.  With plenty of small producers numbered in the audience, discussion was passionate and heartfelt.
I’m looking forward to the next one.
Til next time, Sheila.

Posted in Events & Adventures in Food

Foodie trends in Ireland

This morning Bord Bia (The Irish Food Board) posed this question on twitter – “Foodie trends in Ireland…What’s your favourite, what works, what’s new, what needs to stop/continue?”
My answer is continued creativity.  Long live these creative, inspired people with their lightbulb moments and ingenuity.  Creativity never ceases to amaze me, and not just in food, but also in building design, furniture, clothes and even cars; where do the creators get their inspiration? I had never eaten a poppy-seed and orange cookie before last Saturday and in my lifetime I would not have dreamt up that combination but there it was, temptingly packaged in Hassett’s Bakery in Carrigaline.
Hasset's Orange & Poppy Seed Cookies
I love to discover new things and with food businesses diversifying in order to survive, bringing new ranges to the consumer every week, we are being spoiled for choice. As a consumer with a passion for food, this is what I want.  I want to open the door of a bakery or deli in an unknown town and embark on a journey of discovery and that is what’s happening.
A few weeks ago it was in Mallow that I came across the relishes of Springfort Hall and last Saturday I was delighted to find Hassett’s Bakery & Patisserie in Carrigaline.  I discovered the exciting combination of Rhubarb & Vanilla jam amongst others and couldn’t wait to try them out at home.
Hasset's Rhubarb Vanilla Jam & Cookies

Hasset's Chutney on Carrigaline Cheese w' Brown Bread
Hasset's Rhubarb & Tomato Chutney with Carrigaline CheeseNot everything has to be new and there is still room in my shopping basket for long-term favourites too such as ‘Carrigaline Farmhouse Garlic & Herb Cheese’ but I do like to make new finds and applaud those who bring them to our tables.
Til next time,

Posted in Events & Adventures in Food

Would you mind sitting somewhere else..

A year ago I began to dip my toe in the food blogging world and now I’m paddling.  As I discover more and more food blogs, I can see that I have lots to learn and there are many directions that can be taken in this very dynamic little corner of cyberspace.
The year began with a Food Writing Course with John & SallyMcKenna (Bridgestone Guide) at Ballymaloe Cookery School and I was lucky enough to attend again last Saturday, this time with Ross Golden-Bannon (Editor Food & Wine Magazine).

Gimmetherecipe Birthday Candle
It was about this time last year too, that I discovered a wonderful little cafe in Mallow called Moda which I’m sorry to say has since shut its doors.  In its place however a little way down the street, is the newly opened ‘Springfort Hall Shop & Cafe.’  When we looked in the door, the limited seating was packed and on our return a half an hour later we begged to share a table in the still crowded cafe.  Seating is limited but that was lunchtime and the tightness of space renders a cosy ambience wherein you cannot fail but get a sconce* at what everyone else is having.

Writing this reminds me of something I witnessed in the cafe of Marks & Spencer’s two weeks ago.  I was reviving myself after a battle through the streets with my shopping bags and sitting at a table for two. It was a busy lunchtime and tables were being shared left and right.  In front of me two ladies sat opposite each other at a table for four.  An elderly lady approached their table with her tray and was just about to sit down when one of the women looked up and said “Would you mind sitting somewhere else, we are having a private conversation.”  My jaw dropped along with those around me and the scolded lady looked in shock as she redirected herself to share another table further back.  Soon enough she was gesturing to her husband, who had to meander his way through the tables to join her with the use of a walking aid.  Meanwhile the other two ladies had left so there was no chance of ear-wigging in on their “private conversation.”
I for one, would much rather be in a bustling and crowded cafe than a quiet one.  It means you’re out, you’re living, you’re partaking and sharing the common experience of that environment.  I love to watch other people and make up stories about them in my head.  You read their clothes, their faces, their bags and you paint a picture of their lives.  And that’s just looking at them, if you get to hear snippets of what they’re saying all the better and I know that my ears weren’t the only ones that pricked when we were informed of the “private conversation” that was happening a mere few feet away but sadly out of my owl-like hearing range.

My one day stint at Ballymaloe saw me arriving back with Darina Allen’s Cookery Course under one arm and in the other a bag of crackers, Durrus Og cheese and Darina Allen’s very tasty Tomato & Chilli Jam.  From Mallow I brought back a jar of Springfort Hall’s own-branded Red Onion Relish which worked really well with the crackers and cheese from Ballymaloe.

Red Onion Relish & Tomato & Chilli Jam

Til next time, Sheila.
*Sconce: (From the dictionary of Cork Slang by Sean Beecher)


Construct: Noun and verb
Definition: Look.
Use: Give me a sconce at that.
Give me a look at that.
Derivation: Unknown, but probably old French ‘Esconse’ – lantern, hence ‘to see’. (Concise Oxford Dictionary).


Posted in Events & Adventures in Food

Food Processors – The alternative

I had an interesting conversation last week that set me thinking.  A friend of a friend was given a copy of “Jamie’s 30-Minute Meals’ for Christmas but was aghast when she realised that most of the recipes require a food processor.  A) She doesn’t own a food processor and B) they’re more expensive than the book!
The other problem with a large kitchen gadget like a food processor is the amount of space they take up.  It’s unlikely that you’ll keep it out on the counter all the time so where are your going to store it?  Plus they usually come with all kinds of useful add-ons with different blades for grating and chopping.
I don’t own a food processor either.  I have been using what I think is the answer to this lady’s prayers for the past 15 years.  I first bought it to make pureeing baby food simple and then discovered it made light work of breadcrumb making and went on to use it for blitzing soups and pestos.  Mine is called the ‘Moulinex MultiMoulinette’ and it’s time for it to take a bow.  Another gadget along the same lines is the Kenwood Mini Food Chopper.  I’ve seen it out and about on the shelves of hardware stores proudly displaying a “Delia Cheat’ sticker and a great price tag at under 30 euro.
Moulinex MultiMoulinette BladeMoulines Multi MoulinettePestoBread & ParsleyBreadcrumbs & Pesto
You need to bear in mind that the capacity on these gadgets is low.  My old one is 500ml and the current Kenwood one is 350ml.  That volume will be fine for pestos and breadcrumbs but you’ll have to use it twice or three times if blending a soup.
It gets my vote though for ease of use, storage and price.
If you are making breadcrumbs why not use wholegrain bread instead of white and fortify it even more with a handful of chopped parsley.  For something that’s the antonym of this call back to the blog on Thursday where I’ll be posting a gluten free, SINFUL, chocolate mousse cake.
Til next time, Sheila.

Posted in Events & Adventures in Food

Don’t try this at home!

What possessed me to try out this recipe (Spinach & Lentil Soup) I will never know.  It was touted as a great soup to make the most of winter vegetables that may be hanging around in the garden.  As in vegetables that you had grown yourself.  Now, my garden is covered with a beautiful white frost this morning with the odd spider’s web glistening here and there but vegetables?  Unless you count grass then no, I do not have any vegetables in my garden.
The recipe called for spinach, green lentils, lemon juice, onion, cumin, garlic and a potato which are all readily available from my local supermarket.  After chopping, boiling, simmering and blending what emerged could only be described as sludge.  Having spent summers on my Grandfather’s farm I have never seen anything that came so close to resembling slurry and certainly not served up in a bowl on the table.  If you closed your eyes the smell and taste was tolerable but presentation is everything when it comes to food and this soup had nothing going for it in the looks department.
It looked so bad that even though I arranged it with a couple of lemons and a zester on a wooden board there was nothing I could do to redeem it in a photograph.   I tried mixing in a spoonful of creme fraiche to lighten the colour but without success.  I was even tempted to photoshop it and looking at the picture of the soup in the magazine I am baffled as to how theirs came out looking such a vibrant, limey green.  What I have produced resembles an algae like wheatgrass sludge.  I forced myself to eat half a bowl full and then chucked the rest down the sink.  I was going to keep it to show the kids but The Gravy Man said not to as they might use it against me some day!!!
You do NOT need
250g spinach
250g green lentils
1 onion
1 potato
1.5 litres vegetable stock
4 garlic cloves
5 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tsp cumin
Please do NOT
Boil the lentils with the vegetable stock, then add the cubed potato, finely chopped onion and roughly chopped spinach and simmer for 15 minutes.
Add the crushed garlic, cumin and half the lemon juice and simmer for 20 minutes.
Add the remaining lemon juice, blend and serve with crusty bread.
Do Remember
If a recipe calls for that much garlic and lemon juice they are the only things you are going to taste and perhaps there is a reason for that.  Beware!
If you would like an ‘OMG That Looks Disgusting’ moment, then subscribe and leave a comment and I will email you a picture but there is no way that I am putting it up on the site!
Til next time, Sheila

Posted in Events & Adventures in Food

New Year and a Kir Royale

Thankfully it has to end sometime and midnight on the 31st December is when the excesses shall halt.  The endless flow of wine and supply of chocolate will come to an end and we’ll gladly squeeze into our running gear and hit the roads and beaches on the 1st January 2011.
There is a tradition in Ireland of opening the front door at midnight to see in the new year and out the old.  In the hours that precede it we will have our last few treats for a while and I’m sure the art of cocktail making came into being as a way to empty the remnants of that creme de cassis, bacardi and vodka bottle.  At what other time of year would cranberries be hanging around to embellish a Cosmopolitan?  If you don’t like ribena then you won’t much fancy the taste of a Kir Royale and on that note it’s probably best to keep creme de cassis out of reach of kids who seem to love the taste of blackcurrants.
Kir Petillant - beforeKir Petillant - in the makingKir Petillant

This cocktail is only a Kir Royale if champagne is being used to accompany the splash of creme de cassis.  So, as in my case, if it’s pauper bubbles for you in the shape of prosecco, asti spumante, cava or one of the many other sparkling wines out there, then you’ll merely be sampling a Kir Petillant (bubbly or sparkling) and will have to drop the pretenses of Royale!  If you don’t fancy the fizz then simply savour a Kir which is made with creme de cassis and white wine.
Whatever your tipple, have a great night and here’s to 2011.
Til next time, Sheila.