Monday, November 20, 2017

Long, Lazy Sunday at Ballymaloe

Garden to Plate at Ballymaloe.
Superb Craft Fair Too.


There were gasp when Ballymaloe House gardener Mags Coughlan told us she grows 4,500 leeks here each year. Soon we would see some of them on our plates as we enjoyed lunch in the house. The garden tour, a mead tasting, a long leisurely lunch and a visit to the ever increasing craft fair in the Grainstore and Big Shed, were all part of a lovely day that brought the curtain down on the Munster Wine and Dine activities for 2017. A good day. A good year.
Here's where we get our hazelnuts

Hazel Allen introduced the fifty or so of us to Mags who told us the aim here in the walled garden and surrounding area is to grow “seasonal and unusual”. Even with Mags working flat out, there is no way the garden could fully supply the house, so Ballymaloe gets much of its regular plant and vegetables supplies from local growers, a traditional relationship maintained.


That leaves the gardener, in consultation with the chefs of course, to concentrate on something different, a crop of sea-kale for example, followed in turn by asparagus and artichoke. And then there are also edible flowers and flowers for decoration. One of the specialities of the walled garden, taking advantage of a south-facing wall, are peaches. Lots of herbs here too, of course.

All is grown from seed so that means glasshouses and we walked through there admiring the lines of harvested pumpkins (also on the day’s menu). We were then shown the relatively new cider apple orchard; varieties here include Dabinett and Bramley. Here too we saw the hazel bushes which provide quite a harvest and have a bit of growing to do yet!

All had been quite in the fields where the pigs are kept until the arrival of our group. Then little groups of the younger pigs came rushing out to greet the visitors. They may not have been so eager had they known that the same people would be eating their older siblings later on.

Back then to the conservatory room in the house for an aperitif, thanks to Kate Dempsey of the Kinsale Mead Co. We sampled her Atlantic Dry Mead and also Wild Red Mead  – and then she made some delicious cocktails using her mead (and also the new Beara Gin). Quite a few were very impressed by the mead. Both meads are honey based and are rapidly becoming widely available in Supervalu’s and speciality shops such as URRU in Bandon and Bradley’s in the city's North Main Street.

Kate and her meads
Time now for lunch, the main event. A good start is half the battle. And so it was here with a delicious warming bowl of Garden Pumpkin Soup with Chilli and Parsley Oil. More simple food followed, simply delicious Ballycotton Crab Paté with cucumber and dill salad.

We had a choice for the main course. CL chose the Poached Ballycotton Monkfish with Chive Butter Sauce served with Leeks and Romanesco while mine was the Roast Ballymaloe Farm Pork with red cabbage and Bramley Apple Sauce. Each, with Pommes Duchesse and Glazed Carrots on the side, was superb.

The temptation levels then soared with the arrival of the famous Ballymaloe Dessert trolley. We were like the little piggies! Pavlova, poached pears, chocolate cake (and sauce), and so much more, all washed down with little sips of sweet Jurançon. Pratsch Gruner Veltliner and Solstice Rhone Valley were the earlier wines.

After the tea or coffee, or a garden infusion, there was a quick review of 2017, a raffle for foodie prizes and an announcement that Munster Wine and Dine had decided to donate €300.00 to Penny Dinners.
Crab

Some of us then took a walk around the annual craft fair. The opening day, Saturday, had been busy but one stall holder told me Sunday, the day of our visit, was even busier and she was looking to getting her feet up for the night! There were some gorgeous crafts here but, looking for a particular item with certain restrictions as to material, size and colour, proved mission impossible for me! The search begins again next week at the big Craft Fair in the City Hall and the smaller one at Franciscan Well Brew Pub.
Sweet stuff



Darkness had now settled on this amazing East Cork farm and our bus had arrived. A very satisfied group headed back to the city, bang on schedule. Here’s to another great Munster Wine and Dine season in 2018. Happy Christmas everyone from Eithne, Richie, Colm, Beverly, Michael, Stuart, and yours truly.
Craft Fair

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Davidson's Craft Butchers. Standard Bearers in Montenotte

Davidson's Craft Butchers

Standard Bearers in Montenotte
Chris (left) and Luke

I asked our local butcher Chris Davidson about his plans for the run-in to Christmas. “We’ve already started”, he said. “It's the earliest we’ve ever started but people started asking so we started taking the orders. It is our fourth Christmas here and we have great confidence in our products at this stage.”

And top of the Christmas wish list are their free-range East Ferry Turkeys. Easy Ferry also supply them with eggs and chickens. “The most popular order is the boneless Turkey Crown, now selling all year round. Spiced beef too is incredibly popular. We use the eye of the round, a very lean cut, very good.”

“We have plenty of alternatives, including duck, beef fillet, crusted lamb, and pork steak Wellington. And we also have a special: Cranberry and sausage meat stuffing balls.”

Chris, from Cobh, is a 4th generation butcher. His great grand-father was a butcher in the harbour town, followed by Chris’s grand-uncle and then by an uncle. Chris himself started learning the steps, the ones well down the ladder, as a 14 year old at the well respected Jim Crowley butcher shop in Midleton.
Crusted lamb

He worked there during the holidays, even when he started going to UCC. “I was never bored, it was always interesting.” And the thing was that Chris himself was always interested and eventually decided that it was for him.

He started work in the Montenotte premises with the previous owner in 2009 and, just about three years ago, took it over. He found it hard to get used to the paperwork but “so far, so good” is his verdict now.”Every year has been better than the previous one. The three years have flown. Now we are more comfortable, more confident, particularly over the past six months.” 

The “we” is Chris and Luke, the two full-time employees. He also had two part-time workers.
You’ll see newly installed flower boxes on the building and also notice Craft Butcher displayed over the Davidson doors. I asked Chris about that. A lot of hard study over three years by the looks of it. 
Ready to cook

“To be qualified as craft, you have to do the 8-module course. It is very comprehensive. It covers every single aspect of modern butchery. When you finish, there is nothing left to learn. You've been trained also to present your produce, to engage with and sell to the customer. All about hygiene and food safety. The qualification is all about reliability. I see it as being a standard bearer.”

Chris has put the training to good use, especially in their speciality range. They are very strong here and have won many awards at craft competitions. Davidson’s have been national runners-up with their Pork Steak Wellington and with their Home-made Meat Loaf, national champion with their absolutely delicious (personal experience) Crusted Rack of Lamb. And they have gold for quite a few specials including Steak Stir Fry, Butterflied Leg of Lamb, Chicken Pizzaiola, and Chicken Supreme stuffed with broccoli and gruyere cheese.
Stir-fry

And, looking to the future, the plan is to keep up that standard, to keep innovating. “We’re always tipping away here, trying to improve the range. We plan to increase our presence on Social Media as well. And an upgrade of machinery is also on the cards.”

And you can, of course, get more than meat here. “Arbutus Bread is a fantastic product and we also have their pastries on Saturday mornings. We stock some kitchen essentials such as bread and milk. And newspapers of course. We have Green Saffron spices and the Gran Grans Chutneys are also available here.” Well worth a visit!


Davidson's Craft Butchers
7 St Christopher's Dr, Montenotte, Cork, T23 KV96
Hours: Open Monday-Friday· 8a.m.–6:30p.m.
Saturday: 8a.m. - 6.00p.m.



Friday, November 17, 2017

Amuse Bouche

They were married on September 17, 1946…. the ceremony was held very early in the morning in Clogheen Church. “Then the reception was in the Victoria Hotel. It was a wedding breakfast with rashers and sausages. There was a wedding cake and they went on the mid-day train to Dublin. …..  I threw confetti on them at the station. It was unusual to have a breakfast reception - maybe it was because they wanted to get the twelve o’clock train.”


from The Life and Times of Noel Murphy by Con Hurley (2012). Recommended.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Margo Ann’s A Champion. And So Are Her Producers

Margo Ann’s A Champion
And So Are Her Producers

Family affair.
Cork Business Woman of the Year 2017
This award is to recognise the outstanding achievements of one business woman in Cork who has demonstrated exceptional ability in her business and proven her desire to succeed is of great benefit to their business and community. Our winner this evening comes from a business family that are well known throughout Cork and having taken over the family fruit business of her parents in the English market, she was Ireland's first female bookie, and today runs her business that stocks the largest range of artisan food products in the South of Ireland. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Cork Business Woman of the Year 2017 is Margo Ann Murphy of the Roughty Fruit King.

When Margo Ann heard these words on the recent Business Cork Awards night, she “was in shock”. “I was the outsider of the field.” It was a competitive category and she didn't expect to win. Her sister noticed: “Will you be able to go up?” Of course she would; the shock was temporary!

She told afterwards that it was a great boost to her food business in the heart of the English. Over the past six or seven years (from 2011), the focus has shifted from fruit to quality artisan food and Margo Ann says the award is a boost for her many producers. “They are small producers, most of them in rural Ireland which is dying. We need to support them.”

And it's a two way street. She is loyal to the producers and they to her. When I interviewed Margo Ann’s brother Garrett a few years back he listed some of the suppliers for me and most, such as the Big Red Kitchen, are still going strong in the market. 

Sometimes in the past year, I've found it hard enough to find honey around town. But never a bother at the Roughty (now becoming known as the Roughty Foodie!). It was the same earlier in the week when I met Margo Ann. There were at least three suppliers on the shelves; Galtee (their bees explore the mountain flowers and heathers), Ballyvourney (mainly from blackberry flowers) and Youghal (coastal flowers mainly). “The honey is not heated, not pasteurised. It is raw,” she told me.

And speaking of blackberries, she told me she used to pick blackberries when she was a kid of eight and her foraged berries ended up at the Michelin starred Arbutus Lodge in the city. And not too far from the Arbutus she also picked fruit at the Rathcooney Fruit Farm and has been making jam at home for years.

So, if Margo Ann says that the blackberry jam made by Nicola of the Big Red Kitchen is good, and she does, it is an opinion based on long experience. Indeed, she has praise for all the Big Red Kitchen jams which come in a choice of small and large jars. And Margo Ann also pointed to the home made mincemeat as a good one for this time of year. And got even more excited when highlighting the Spiced Plum and Port. “This is great, especially with duck, with cheese, with the turkey and ham.”
One of many hampers

Tipperary’s Crossogue are also mainstays at the Roughty. They have won dozens of awards for their innovative products and Margo Ann has great time for Veronica. Veronica’s Damson and Port Jelly won Triple Gold at the 2016 Great Taste Awards and more recently her Lime and Tequila marmalade won gold at the World’s Original Marmalade Awards. There is quite a selection of Crossogue products in the stall here and Margo Ann highlighted the Orange and Damson marmalade.

At the very start I had asked Margo Ann what was the product most in demand. And she did surprise me by saying it was jam. “People are very interested in homemade jams. They are aware of what they want.” Margo Ann may not be picking the fruit herself anymore but she sure knows where to source good quality food in Ireland.

There are too many foods and drinks to mention them all but these are some that I spotted. Didn't know that Highbank Orchards now have an organic treacle as well as their apple syrup, both are here. Spices from Green Saffron, seaweeds from Wild Irish Sea Veg, gift hampers of different kinds and sizes, ginger beer and more by Black Castle, chocolate from Skelligs and O’Conaill’s, biscuits from Seymours and Lismore……
Syrup. And treacle

And it is not just food you’ll find in this packed stall. There is an outstanding display of colourful candles from Valentia Island, all containing essential oils (citrus, cinnamon, honey, lime, to name but a few). You’ll see colourful knitted mitts from Sneem, soaps from Ballinskelligs, even a goats milk soap from County Clare.

So produce from all over, good stuff and certainly the producers deserve major kudos. But well done to to the lady that brings it all together in the heart of the English Market, Margo Ann Murphy, the Business Cork Businesswoman of the Year 2017!
.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Excellent Bordeaux from Grand Bateau.

Excellent Bordeaux from Grand Bateau
Grand Bateau Bordeaux rouge (AOC) 2015, 13%, €15.95 Bradley’s, North Main Street, Cork

Grand Bateau Bordeaux blanc (AOC) 2016, 12.5%, €15.95 Bradley’s, North Main Street, Cork

With over 6,000 chateaux, and many thousands of opinions, Bordeaux can be a minefield for those who are not very deeply into the area’s wine. But Findlater’s Mick O’Connell MW has come up with a double, one red and one white, from Grand Bateau, that I think most can feel comfortable with. 

O’Connell’s current task is to add variety to the Findlater list and he has done well here. Grand Bateau is aligned with some of the major Bordeaux names and the winemaker is the “world renowned” Philippe Blanc of the equally renowned Chateau Beychevelle and Maison Barrière, a serious trading house and a sister company of Beychevelle. Considering that level of pedigree and, having tasted both, the two wines are very good value too.

You won't see rouge or blanc on the front label of course but that's hardly a handicap! The red is a regular Bordeaux blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. For over twenty five years, in collaboration with Barriére, it has been “consistently powerful and harmonious in style”.

Colour is a deep ruby. Ripe darker fruits (plum, currants) on the nose. It is fruity, soft and elegant, a touch of spice too, tannins close to smooth with a long dry finish. Perfect, they say, with red and white meats as well as cheeses. Highly Recommended.

Most Bordeaux whites are a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. Not this one which is 100% Sauvignon. Worth trying this against a New Zealand SB, quite a contrast.


It has an attractive light gold colour, clean and bright. The nose is of exotic fruits, a tiny hint of honey. Fresh and fruity on the palate, little of that New Zealand herbaceousness. The lively acidity leads to a perfect balance and a lip-smacking finish. Second glass appeal for sure and Highly Recommended. Try as aperitif, with fish and seafood and poultry.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Taste of the Week. Davidson’s Pizzaiola

Taste of the Week

Davidson’s Pizzaiola
Their Facebook pic
What to have to dinner to-night? Sometimes I’m unsure, probably happens to most people. Then, if you’re lucky, you spot the answer on Facebook. Davidson’s, our local craft butchers, are pretty good on social media.

Pretty good at the essentials too. Just after someone asked the dinner question, a tempting picture of a Chicken Pizzaiola appeared on the butcher’s feed. 

Three juicy chicken breasts marinated in a tomato and herb sauce, topped with grated mozzarella, fresh red onion and chorizo, the perfect lazy option for the weekend. These also won a Gold Award at this years Speciality Foods competition.

So a quick trip up the road. Covered the foil dish in more foil and oven-baked for 35 minutes. Then it was dinner time! And our Taste of the Week was excellent. 
Ready to eat!

The chicken was superb, moist and tender. Obviously the marinade, with no shortage of punchy herbs included, did what it was supposed to do. The cheese melted down and the chorizo rings added spice and flavour.

And Davidson’s regularly come up with the goods. Great to have an innovative craft butcher on the doorstep.

Davidson’s Craft Butcher
 (021) 451 8184

Monday, November 13, 2017

Master the art of great soup from six simple broths. Broth to Bowl by Drew Smith.

Master the art of great soup from six simple broths.

Broth to Bowl by Drew Smith.

“You might find your definition of the word soup somewhat stretched in these pages but that is the way of my kitchen.” 

So says author Drew Smith in the introduction to his new book, Broth to Bowl. The word soup is “stretched” here, in many delightful ways as he shows us how to master the art of great soup from six simple broths. 

And, by the way, Drew is adamant: “a stock cube will not do”. “For soup to be nutritionally optimal and full of flavour, you must begin with a solid foundation – a good broth.”

“Soup is the heart and soul of the kitchen. Menus invite you to think that a soup is a single event, which it is if you are running a restaurant. But at home, probably the last thing you want is 75 bowls of cauliflower cheese soup. 

What we want is evolution, so one recipe leads logically into the next and so on. Less work. One job = three or four or more, completely different meals, a vegetable tea becomes a chunky vegetable broth becomes a creamy soup. The same liquid can find its way into ragouts, stews, casseroles and all manner of sauces.” 
Ingredients I gathered for vegetable tea and vegetable broth

If you are on a budget, this book is for you. “It may seem at first glance that we are using humble, cheap everyday ingredients, but for the most part these are what our bodies need and crave. We have become very wasteful as a society. We like our meat to be neat little red fillets. 

But much, if not most, of the nutritional benefits of eating meat at all are to be found in and around the bones, the marrow, the collagen-rich elements like cheek and trotter. We buy breast of chicken and ignore the rest of the bird, despite knowing through history that a soup made from the carcass has always been given as a restorative. So too was beef tea.”

Vegetable tea, the basis..

Let us go through the section headings. We’ll start with Vegetable Tea. It is the first recipe you’ll see and that is the start, and also the basis, for many more, including Potassium Broth (“If you had to live on one simple recipe, then this might be a good choice”), Kale Vichyssoise, Laksa and Gazpacho (for when the temperature rises above 25 degrees!).

... for the broth
Now we move on to Chicken (Drew is not a fan of buying poultry in pieces) and other birds. Start here with chicken broth, roast or poached. Then hop around the world with Quick Tom Yum, Cockaleekie, and the French St Hubert’s Soup (pheasant with lentils).

The red meats are next, beginning with the Basic Beef Bone Broth and that can be the basis for so much more. There's a Proper Borscht, a Rich Man’s Pho, a French Potée (a soup, broth and stew all in one), and the legendary Italian bollito misto.

There is a shortish, but no less interesting, chapter under Fish, including Fish Chowder, Jane Grigson’s Lobster Bisque, Dalston Bouillabaisse, and a magnificent Oyster Soup!

And we stay with the sea as we turn the focus to Kombu. How about a Japanese Bonito Broth? Monkfish in dashi with ginger? A Tonkotsu Ramen? 

My chunky vegetable broth

It is much the same pattern all the way through. Start simply and build from there. So, in the end, it may be more to accurate to say that soup (the food that is), is expanded, enhanced, deepened, in this well laid out, well illustrated, book, while happily admitting that soup (the word) is well and truly stretched.

* In addition to the recipes, there is advice on buying your produce and on the equipment you’ll need. And a list of various garnishes too.

  • Drew Smith is the author of Oyster: A Gastronomic History with Recipes and translator of La Mère Brazier. The former editor of The Good Food Guide, he has been a restaurant writer for the Guardian and has won the Glenfiddich award three times.

* Broth to Bowl: Mastering the Art of Great Soup from Six Simple Broths by Drew Smith - Modern Books, published October 2017, Hardback, 4 colour with photographs, 160 pages, RRP: £20.




Vegetable Tea



This is a sequence. It starts out as a light tea, becomes a soup and then transforms itself

again and again. You can drink this first-stage broth as an alternative to tea and coffee.

Once you get the hang of it, vary the spices, vegetables and herbs with the seasons.

Put 4 litres of water on to boil in a deep pot or saucepan while you deal with the vegetables. Peel and trim the carrots and cut into thirds. Peel and quarter the onions. Dice the leek. Quarter the potatoes – you can leave the skin on. As the water comes to the boil, drop the vegetables in and add the spices. Trim the top leaves off the parsley, save for arnish, and throw the stalks in the mix. Cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Strain and discard the vegetables, keeping only the liquid. Warm through, garnish with a few leaves of parsley and add a slurp of olive oil if you like. Serve in a mug or glass or take a thermos to work.

COOK’S TIP: There’s nothing wrong with the leftover vegetables. You can have them for dinner, dressed with a little meat broth. Or take out the potato and carrot, dice and mix with mayonnaise for a cold salad.

Ingredients:

3 CARROTS
2 ONIONS
1 LEEK
2 POTATOES
6 BLACK PEPPERCORNS
1 BAY LEAF
Bunch of fresh PARSLEY
SEA SALT to taste
OLIVE OIL to serve (optional)
MAKES 4 LITRES