Saturday, November 22, 2014

Amuse Bouche

When le dessert finally arrives, it looks like an innocent upsidedown chocolate cupcake, accompanied by a small cloud of freshly whipped cream. But when my spoon breaks the surface, the chocolate centre flows like dark lava onto the whiteness of the plate. The last ounce of stress strains from my body. I feel my spine soften in the chair. The menu says Moelleux au Chocolat “Kitu.”
“‘Kitu’ is a pun,” says Gwendal, with his best Humphrey Bogart squint. “It means ‘which kills.’”
I have discovered the French version of “Death by Chocolate”.

from Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Super Steak at Electric Supper Club

Electric Supper Club
It is a high table with high backless stools. It can accommodate eight, more. Take a seat, lean in and chat. This table is made for conviviality. For drinking. For eating. And there are a bunch of these tables in the bar at Electric, all eminently suitable for their newly introduced Supper Club, three excellent courses for just twenty euro.

Wednesdays and Thursdays are try-out days at present and once Christmas is over, expect to see the Club operate every night. Eight of us gathered there last Wednesday to try it out. And each and every one enjoyed the get together, the chat, the drink and above all the food.

Electric is self-billed as the Theatre of Life, a billing well justified. This theatre has three stages, the bar, the restaurant and the fish-bar. Like any theatre, the sets change. And so it it is here on the Mall. More renovations are imminent and that lovely room that houses the Fish Bar will become even more important in the Electric Show. No lack of imagination from the directors here!

So okay, back to Wednesday night and our three acts. Starter was a Mixed Leaf Salad with Butternut Squash, Blue Cheese and House dressing. There are no choices here so how would the blue Cheese go down? Very well indeed at our table and the staff tell me that this is the constant reply. Just one little variation to the starter. In order to add a little crunch, it now includes some sliced almonds.

For now the main course is Chargrilled 8 ounce Irish feather blade steak, twice cooked Chips, Asian Slaw, and Electric Steak Sauce.  This is quite outstanding. The steak, marinated in cider, is incredibly tender (no bother to older teeth!), unbelievably flavoursome. The Slaw provides a healthy crunch, the chips an irresistible if less healthy munch. And that steak sauce is superb. I think they should start selling it on the street, at the markets.

The Chocolate Mousse may not have quite received the unanimous approval of the other courses - some people just don't like chocolate - but, for me, it was a sweet finalé to a lovely meal. Most of our gang were on the gorgeous Montepulciano, the house red, but with a bar at hand, you have a huge choice of libations.

The Supper Club idea has been “borrowed” from Electric’s Dublin off-shoot, Sober Lane D4. Looks like a winner, no matter the location!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Organico Cooks the Books!

Organico Cooks the Books!

Frank Krawczyk has been in touch with an invitation:

Come and join us for a bite to eat and a glass of wine on "Good, Clean and Fair" Terre Mardre Day in the newly and beautifully extended Organico Cafe.

Date and time: 10th December from 5pm to 8pm.

A celebration of 3 great books and short talks by the authors: Giana Ferguson, Karen Austin and Sally McKenna.

A convivial, casual supper in Organico Cafe using inspiration from each book.

€20 members/€25 for non members, including a glass of Organic wine from Mary Pawle,
(Wine will also be available to purchase on the night, by the glass, bottle or even case for Christmas).

To avoid disappointment; advanced booking essential via email to, or call Organico Cafe on 027 55905 

Payment on the night but no credit card facilities available.

Why not join us now at 

Membership only €12 for under 30's

Taste of the Week. Ballyhoura Mushrooms Cep Oil

Taste of the Week
Ballyhoura Mushrooms Cep Oil

Ballyhoura Mushrooms are by now fairly well known around the country. But did you know that Mark and Lucy also make some lovely Mushroom Speciality Foods, including a range of soups, marinated mushrooms, pate, pesto, porcini dust, oils, shiitake bacon and mushroom ketchup. Their Cep Oil is basically Extra Virgin Olive Oil infused with wild Irish Cep mushrooms and it is our Taste of the Week. Use it to provide a flavour uplift in pasta dishes, soups, dips or marinades. Wonderful with poached or fried eggs.  Get some at Mahon Point Farmers Market today or at other Midleton or the Coal Quay on Saturday.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Silencio. Chile's Best Cabernet Sauvignon

Silencio. Chile's Best Cabernet Sauvignon
It could well be a Silencio Night in some Irish homes this Christmas. But not too many. Silencio is the new premium Cabernet Sauvignon from Cono Sur and only nine barrells were produced. It won’t be that easy to get your hands on one of the bottles and Irish distributors Findlaters are likely to be under pressure!

The new wine, and it is superb, was launched at an lunch in Dublin on Monday. Cono Sur MD and winemaker Adolfo Hurtado was at the Trinity City Hotel, joined by some of the crew from the Paris Bloggers Final, including yours truly. Great to meet some of the other Irish contestants, Jeni Pim and Melanie May.

Adolfo was delighted that Chile has just reached the Number One country position in Ireland. “Ireland is important to us. We are one of the leaders of organic wine production and the biggest producer of Pinot Noir in the world.”

They certainly make some gorgeous Pinot Noir, including the iconic Ocio, and this 2010 Silencio is fast heading in that lofty direction. “It spent 26 months in new French oak barrels and a further two years aging in the bottle. It comes from the Alto Maipo area in the Maipo valley. This valley is a great area for Cabernet Sauvignon and the Alto is even better. We have deliberately chosen a less arrogant name as we let the wine do the speaking.”

It has already been declared by the top Chilean wine magazine as the “best Cabernet Sauvignon in Chile”. Matthieu Tiche, their Export Manager and one of the friends we made in Paris, is very excited about the aging potential of this wine. He sees it as having a potential of ten years and declared it  “a sleeping beauty!”.

“It has an intense ruby red colour and delicious aromas of red fruits, berries, and cassis, with well integrated oak. The palate has great balance and concentration with smooth seductive tannins and a long finish.”

Maybe you will be lucky enough to get a bottle or two of Silencio for Christmas. But, if not, Cono Sur has some other red gems in its portfolio. I have to admit that the Ocio Pinot Noir has captured my palate. If it must be Cabernet Sauvignon for you - the cook here, another veteran of the Bloggers Final, is a Cab Sauv fan -  then check out the 20 Barrels Limited Edition or maybe the Single Vineyard Block 18, both also from the Maipo.

We enjoyed an excellent lunch with Cono Sur and Findlaters at the Trinity City Hotel. The opening Classic Caesar Salad was matched with the Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc (a beautiful aromatic wine from the Casablanca valley). The Silencio was paired with Roast Sirloin of Beef. The assiette of homemade desserts was accompanied by the Single Vineyard Riesling. The Riesling, with impressive freshness and minerality, comes from the Bio Bio valley which is at about the same latitude as the middle of New Zealand’s South Island.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Amuse Bouche

But now it’s all about ass. You got the last six of them and you’re pretty pleased with yourself about that. That fatty protuberance of rich skin, each one containing fatty nubbins of flavourful, buttery meat divided by a thin layer of cartilage - it’s the single best piece of meat and flesh on the chicken. And, of course, there’s only one of them per animal, so supply is limited. The man fighting a losing battle with verticality across from you…- he’s looking at your chicken asses and he’s angry. You don’t know what he is griping about to the chef - who’s heard it all before - but you suspect that he’s complaining that the lone gaijin in the room got the last piece of ass. You buy him a sake.

from Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain.

One Pot Wonders by Bee Sensations

One Pot Wonders by Bee Sensations 

A delicious new range, by Bee Sensations, all seasonally dressed-up, has appeared on the shelves. We've been sampling, working our way through jams such as Redcurrant and Raspberry Shocker, Fruits of Autumn and through sauces and chutneys like Honeyed Cranberry Sauce, Peri Peri Chilli Chutney, Gingery Ginger Preserve and Redcurrant Sauce.

Naturally enough their Irish Honey features in all the pots. Tom and Croein are Irish Bee Sensations. “We have loved our bees for over 30 years and during that time our friends have always had kind words about our honey and jam. We make our jams from honey not sugar which, we like to think, gives it something special. Our honey and jam making remained a passionate hobby until three years ago when Tom was made redundant and Croein encountered health problems. But as firm believers in the old adage that as 'one door closes another opens' we decided to turn our passion into a business.”

The honey is one of the ingredients in the Gingery Ginger Preserve. Ginger, Coconut Sugar and Treacle are also included in this versatile pot. There are no hints on the label but I'm thinking you could use it with curries and Asian cuisine generally, in soups, and with fish and chicken.

The Redcurrant Sauce - this is made with Burgundy wine - will be more familiar to most of us. Use it with duck breasts, perhaps with game such as venison, lamb, patés, meatballs. Quite versatile really.

Now what to do with the Peri Peri Chilli with Sweet Tomato Chutney? Well this should give added interest to Roast Chicken. Maybe with Lamb Ribs, Vegetable Lasagne,  sweet and sour dishes and so on. I think experiment is the key with this range.

There will be one definite use for the Honeyed Cranberry Sauce with Brady Walnuts and Spices. That will certainly end up on the Christmas dinner menu and even the jar has an appropriate “bonnet”. Looking forward to that!

No waiting though for the jams. I have already made pleasurable progress into the Redcurrant and Raspberry Shocker made with the fruits, Coconut Sugar, Lemons, Irish Honey and Spices. It has a beautiful inviting light red colour and is great blend of the contrasting fruits. Don't think it is going to last long.

Blending seems to be the secret of these jams and Croein is acknowledged as a master on the subject. She got it spot on again with the Fruits of Autumn, a One Pot Wonder of Raspberries, Blackcurrants, Blackberries, Strawberries, Coconut Sugar, Lemons and Honey. Blackcurrant is a prominent flavour but overall it is another gorgeous mix.

This is a brilliant range and hard to believe that this innovative company is just three years old
Do watch out for the One Pot Wonders at their usual stockists, including Bradley’s, North Main Street, Cork.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Seine-sational Night on the River. Cono Sur Blogger Competition Finalé

Seine-sational Night on the River

Cono Sur Blogger Competition Finalé

It is midnight in Paris. We are moored on the left bank and the boat is rocking. No! The boat is moored on the left bank and we are rocking.

Finland’s Johanna Koskiranta has just been announced as the winner of the Cono Sur 2014 Blogger Recipe Competition but the celebrations, led by team Cono Sur, are for everyone, the Chileans, the Finns, the Swedish, the Irish, the English, the French, and more, including at least at least one American.

The private boat trip on the Seine was a surprise. We started more or less at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, cruised under the bridges of Paris, the illuminated buildings adding to the magic. A lovely meal and Cono Sur wines enhanced the pleasure. The focus was very much on three reds this evening: the 20 Barrels Syrah and the 20 Barrels Cabernet Sauvignon and, perhaps my favourite, the Ocio Pinot Noir.

The day had started with a cook-off in L’Atelier Beaubourg (close to the Pompidou) with Clare and myself representing Ireland, Anna for Sweden and Johanna for Finland. Some gentle bubbles to ease us into it - loved that Cono Sur rosé - and, with lots of friendly chats going on, there was no pressure.

Our Irish dish, being plated up.
Includes Truly Irish Rashers and
the magical Irish Shellfish Butter by IASC 

Well, maybe a little when the dishes were presented to the judges: Adolfo Hurtado (MD and winemaker at Cono Sur), Jo Mansell (UK) and Christopher Carpentier, the top Chilean Chef (he is the main man on their Masterchef). Christopher too was enjoying the day, helping the various contestants (he helped us get the scallops out of their shells), and then he laid on a lovely lunch dish (duck, pasta and some of that “lovely Irish bacon”, Truly Irish rashers from our supply!).

You may see details of the three dishes here.

Our first international cap!
We left the cookery school about three o’clock and headed back to the hotel. Quite often in France, we end up at a Brocante event. And there was one on close to the hotel, a huge one, stretching all the way up to the Bastille and back down at the other side of the water (Pt. de Plaisance de Paris Arsenal). But we didn't have the car this time so didn't go browsing for bargains.

Instead we strolled up to the nearby Bastille, now a huge roundabout. And then took a walk in the beautiful Place des Vosges. There are some fascinating art galleries in the covered archway around the old square, amazing work inside. Then onto the Marais before coming back to Bastille via Rue St Antoine, a street full of food: restaurants, takeaways, fruit shops, cheese shops, wine shops, full of people, colours and aromas, a lively place as dusk and drizzle descended together.

Chef Chris concentrates as a contestant gives a summary of the dish.
We also had some free time after arriving on Thursday and used that to take a walk along the left bank, stopping at the riverside book stalls, before ending up at magnificent Notre Dame.

Later, we went out to dinner but the restaurant we had picked wasn't opening until 8.00pm. We were hungry, so settled on the nearby all day Tarmac. We had a very enjoyable meal here. I tucked into the Escargots from Burgundy and a Lamb Tagine, lots of fruit with the lamb, while CL had goats cheese with sun-dried tomato and then Cod with a gorgeous piperade sauce.

Back then to the hotel and a glass of St Emilion, relaxing ahead of the busy Friday. It was a busy enough time on the Friday but very enjoyable, all relaxed and informal throughout. If you want to party, get the Chileans to organise it! And do enter the Cono Sur Bloggers Competition next year!

More Paris pics below.

The birdmen of Notre Dame
L'Escargot at Tarmac
Notre Dame detail

Notre Dame under grey clouds

A wee bit of friendly pressure in the kitchen
Dinner at Tarmac, superb Tagine on right.
Evening in Place des Vosges
rue St Antoine. A cheese shop.
Fun and food on board. Chef Chris with winner Johanna
More frolics.

Arriving in Cork, Sat afternoon.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Taste of the Week

Taste of the Week
Spiced Buffalo

 A new stall and a new product for Eoin O'Mahony of the English Market. The new stall is right next door to the existing O'Mahony Butchers and the new product is Spiced Buffalo, a delicious variation on the traditional Spiced Beef and our Taste of the Week. The buffalo comes from the herd at Toonsbridge Dairy and, in the coming weeks, Eoin will have all the different cuts. Not too sure what to do with buffalo meat? Then check out the Toonsbridge recipes here. By the way, the spice used with the buffalo is not the same spice that Eoin uses with his beef!

Paris Preview

Paris Preview

Bags are packed. Truly Irish Rashers and Irish Atlantic Seafood Butter are coming with us and so too are a bundle of nerves! Paris is the destination and the event is the final of the Cono Sur Bloggers and Foodies Recipe Competition that started back on the summer.

I was among the hopefuls that sent in recipes to the Irish leg; the recipes were intended to match with Cono Sur’s Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir. A shortlist was drawn up and then the public voting started on the internet. Our Scallops and Bacon ended up in the top three. These dishes were vetted by top Chilean chef, Christopher Carpentier,  and the Scallops and Bacon was declared the Irish winner.

Meanwhile, the competition was also going on in Finland and in Sweden and the winners from each of these Nordic countries will also be in Paris for the Friday cook-off. You may see the recipes here.

Each finalist will prepare their dish for a panel of judges, including Cono Sur´s General Manager and Chief Winemaker, Adolfo Hurtado, as well as Chef Carpentier Jo Mansell (UK). After what will surely be three savoury dishes, the panel will then choose the blogger with the best pairing, the winner of a trip for two to Chile.

Not too sure how much time we’ll have for tweeting. But Ross Golden-Bannon will be in Paris to document the proceedings, so it may be worth following him on Twitter at @goldenshots.   Win, lose or draw, I’m sure we’ll enjoy the prize-giving dinner on Friday evening.

The Lettercollum Cookbook Local Ingredients. World of Flavours.

The Lettercollum Cookbook
Local Ingredients. World of Flavours
I like the freedom and flexibility afforded by Karen Austin, the author of the just published Lettercollum Cookbook. The book tends to the vegetarian but there is no preaching, no straight lines to follow. Quite the opposite. Plenty of flexibility and there is a chapter on chorizo, another on fish.

Karen and her husband Con have been operating in West Cork for the last thirty years and that remarkable story, progress from a crowded dilapidated old mansion to their own walled garden plus an ever so popular shop in Clonakilty, the Lettercollum Project, is told in a couple of pages early in the book.

Not detailed in the book is the couple's input to a recent Cork/Beirut collaboration. Here, along with Sally Barnes of Woodcock Smokery, they took part in ‘Make Food Not War’. This included cooking with war widows in Tripoli, helping them create dishes that can be sold in the markets, a step towards freedom.
Author Karen having fun with her two sons, Darren (left) and Ronan
both professional jugglers.

The freedom in the book that I’m talking about is of a different kind. For instance, in talking about a vegetarian Leek, Sweet Potato and Spelt Soup, she says: “If you have a chicken carcass handy, throw it in”. In a Seafood Chowder: “if you don't like mussels, add more fish”. In a Potato and Chorizo Tart you are invited to try Puy Lentils instead of the potatoes. Her recipes are not straightjackets, though the likes of myself would probably do well to pay close attention to the basics!

The book is well laid out, not cluttered, with some terrific photographs of the food (my favourite is not of food though but the spread with the bird nesting boxes). Some beautiful salads in the first section, many of them for the summer time. But some too for these short days, including a Red Cabbage, Celeriac, Apple and Hazelnut Salad. And you also have the Asian Slaw, “equally delicious summer and winter”.

The New Potato and Smoked Mackerel Salad looks tempting. While it is perhaps, as indicated, one for sunny weather, methinks it would do just as well at this time of year, especially if using Fresh Hederman’s fish.

And speaking of freedom and flexibility in the kitchen, there is a Rooty Toot Soup. “This is a bottom of the vegetable basket type soup - just chuck in whatever you have.”

Sometimes, when on holidays in France we buy fish at the market. We don't want to do much cooking, and it usually ends up with cherry tomatoes. And, in the fish section, Karen has a very “quick to make” recipe here: Grilled Cod with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Basil. Just the job, for Ireland or wherever. Think we’ll be trying that soon.

Quite a few recipes for Chorizo and one that caught my eye was the Chorizo and Cabbage Paella. Lots of very good chorizo available locally nowadays.

Karen must be delighted to see the increase in the variety of local produce over the past thirty years and her Linguine with Tomato and Mozzarella, in the vegetarian chapter, would no doubt see many of us using the super fresh Toonsbridge Mozzarella. Here too, the Pindi Channa looks amazing, Karen referring joyfully to the “fresh, sweet explosions of the jewelled pomegranate seeds”.

There are recipes for a string of gorgeous savoury tarts and she details how you can make the Lettercollum savoury pastry (they have had many requests for it over the years). Of course, there is a Sweet Things corner. Recipes that got my attention here are her takes on Crême Brulée and also her Rhubarb Clafoutis.

Recipes too for Summer Fruit Jam, Sweet Pastry, and Peach Bellini. Quite a lot in this book for all seasons. Reckon the one in this house will soon have many dog-eared pages.

The Lettercollum Cookbook (€21.00) is available at bookshops nationwide and also in the UK. Great to see that the book is totally "home-grown". It is edited by Cork journalist Roz Crowley, published by Onstream and printed in Mayo by KPS Colour Print. Well done to all concerned.