Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Black and White Pudding with an Oriental Touch

Black and White Pudding with an Oriental Touch

Last week we told you about the spiced up cheddar by Leah’s Gourment Foods. This week the focus is on their Black and White Puddings.

Leah has married into the Sweeney family in Kerry and they have a long tradition in food, in cheese, butter and smoked salmon.  Leah's husband is Billy and his grandmother Nell produced her own special recipe black pudding which was sold throughout the local area, and indeed Billy's grandparents on his mother's side, the O'Briens from Ballyduff, were quite renowned locally for their black pudding recipes which were handed down.

And there is also a strong black pudding connection on Leah’s side. Black pudding is a delicacy in her native Philippines. Throughout the years, Leah often made her black pudding recipe to be enjoyed by family and friends, and she was often encouraged to make it commercially. That came about a few years back. The solid base was provided by her own heritage and Billy’s family recipes. And now they have  a blend of the finest of both Filipino and Irish traditions.
I've been sampling the black pudding (and white) in recent days. The Kerry tradition has been given a spicy twist through the addition of fresh chillies, fresh ginger and fresh garlic to the blend. And it is amazingly successful. The spices are not at all overpowering; in fact they are quite moderate but their inclusion fundamentally enhances the pudding which, full of attractive flavours, is a delight on the palate, at breakfast or indeed at other other time. Besides, it doesn’t have the very salty taste of some other puddings.

Leah helpfully includes a few Black Pudding recipes on their website. She doesn’t include the Dinuguan (a very popular black pudding dish from her homeland) but she does include one for Black Pudding Scotch Eggs and that’s the one we tried.

The recipe is easy to follow and you’ll have no bother getting the ingredients. Besides, it may be made in advance. Have to say, we enjoyed it very much indeed indeed

Leah’s are included in the recently published Kerry Food Story and their products are available online and in the following places:
·         Cahill’s SuperValu, Ballybunion
·         Garvey’s SuperValu, Castleisland
·         Garvey’s SuperValu, Dingle
·         Garvey’s SuperValu, Listowel
·         Garvey’s SuperValu, Tralee
·         Lynch’s SPAR, Castlegregory
·         Cliff House Hotel, Ballybunion
·         Dingle Skellig Hotel, Dingle
·         Listowel Arms Hotel, Listowel

See last week's article on Leah's Cheddar here.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Aresti Stars in Red and White

Aresti Stars in Red and White
Classy Chilean Collection
Kevin, the Curico Valley, and Jon.
Jon Usabiaga, Chief Winemaker at Chile’s Aresti, was in town last week and brought a stellar line-up of the company’s wines with him. We tasted nine of the best at the SuperValu tasting in the Hayfield Manor.

Started off with a couple of the Special Release range, a Sauvignon Blanc 2013 and Chardonnay 2013, two completely different wines but both very good indeed, both Premium level wines.

The Sauvignon, from the cold Casablanca Valley (close to the ocean), has had two months on its lees and is a very refreshing wine, well balanced. In answer to a question, Jon advised drinking it as soon as possible. It could last well for two years but won't improve!

The Chardonnay, or at least part of the wine, is aged in oak and also “a little bit on lees”. It is from the same valley “but completely different… more tropical fruit..more complex". But the same price! Both bottles are selling at ten euro for the next few weeks.

Perhaps the first surprise of the evening was the Trisquel Gewűrztraminer 2012. A German connection led to this wine being grown by Aresti in the Curico Valley. Gewűrz is scarce in Chile and Aresti are now one of the biggest growers of the grape.

Kevin O’Callaghan, Wine-Buyer at SuperValu, says this has much less sugar than your normal Gewűrztraminer, less than 3 grams per litre. “I see it as a food wine, with Cheese, Asian and so on. A great wine for someone who wants to experiment!”

This was followed by another Aresti ace: Trisquel Sauvignon BLanc 2013. As Jon detailed where the vines are raised - in the cool climate area of the small Leyda Valley - I was sampling and thinking it was similar in style and quality to a good Marlborough. Kevin agreed, highlighting how the fruit, the punchiness and the overall lushness was balanced “by mouth-watering acidity. Right up there with Marlborough!”

The reds started with two from the Special Release: Merlot 2012 and Cabernet Sauvignon 2012. Jon loves the Merlot from specially selected vineyards in the central Curico: “..a little colder..very special conditions to grow Merlot..a perfect fit”. The Cabernet comes from a different warmer valley and the wine produced is well balanced and great value, especially with the current discount.

And then we were on to a gem: Trisquel Assemblage 2011. And a good story from Kevin who recalled a lady who used visit the wine store where he once worked. She always checked the bottles closely. One day, she forgot her glasses and Kevin stepped in and asked how he could help. “I want to know the voltage,” she replied. Well, the ABV on this one is 14%. Kevin loves it: “...very smooth...lots of tannin but nothing too grippy...well balanced”.

It takes a bit of “assembling” too according to Jon who revealed they first make it on a small scale “until we’re happy” and what they are happy with here is Cab Sauv 44%, Syrah 42% and Petit Verdot 14%. “There are very complementary characteristics among the three grapes,” said Jon.

Yours truly with Jon.

The Trisquel Syrah 2012, from the Maipo Valley, then made its bow, to general approval. “Smoky on the nose’, said Kevin. “Very rich on the palate..bit of grip..lovely black fruits..plus vanilla from the barrells...well integrated”. Jon revealed that the grapes have come from the same block every year for the past ten. “This is really a high quality Syrah, more elegant, more on the fine wine side.”

“It is not often a wine makes you sit up and take notice”, said Kevin as he introduced the outstanding Family Collection 2009, a red blend. “The nose keeps changing...the complexity keeps coming out slowly… It is still in its infancy, perfectly balanced with potential to age… 5 to 10 years more in this.” By the way, the “voltage” is 14.50%.

The blend is Jon’s pride and joy. “With this wine, I enjoy being a winemaker - fun to mix everything!”. Here are the stats: Cab Sauv 59%, Merlot 12%, Syrah 10%, Petite Sirah 10% and Malbec 9%. John though does manage to also squeeze in one per cent Viognier to give “that little pinch of something else”.  It all adds up not to 101% but to an outstanding wine!

SuperValu has been working directly with Aresti Estate Wines, a family run Chilean winery, for almost ten years. During this time they have developed a terrific partnership resulting in Aresti Estate wines becoming Ireland’s 5th biggest imported Chilean range. The Aresti family estate supplies SuperValu exclusively as part of the Specially Sourced range. Looks like a winning combination!

My favourites
White: The Trisquel Gewurztraminer and the Trisquel Sauvignon Blanc.
Red: The Trisquel Assemblage, The Trisquel Syrah and the Family Collection.

At present, until September 24th, reductions (some quite substantial) are available on many of the wines mentioned above.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Amuse Bouche

‘What will you do first?’ said Oswy.
‘Drink some of my own beer,’ said Wilfrid without any hesitation. ‘God! Get below the Trent and they have no idea what beer is. The stuff we have been putting up with for all those weeks. Bilgewater - straight out of a Grimsby collier.’
Oswy eased his horse round a pothole. ‘I think I shall go for a good roast. …. I have not had a good Lincolnshire roast since November.’

from The Last Viking by Berwick Coates

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Ballymaloe Garden Fest Blessed by the Sun

Ballymaloe Garden Fest Blessed by the Sun
On Again Tomorrow
The sun came out today and I followed it to the Ballymaloe Garden Festival. It was lunchtime and the question came: Where is the food? In the Big Shed, of course.

No shortage of options here but we stopped at the stall where Frenchman Laurent and his bubbly crew were dishing up the galettes. Mine was packed with Poached Ballycotton Salmon, Homemade White Wine Hollandaise, Chard, Tomatoes and Garden Leaves.

That deliciously satisfied the hunger pains. Well, almost. Just couldn’t resist stopping at the Yum Gelato ice-cream stall and helping myself to a double scoop. Superb, especially the mixed fruit element.

 Before we left the shed, we enjoyed a lovely conversation with Julie Calder-Potts of Highbank Orchards in Kilkenny and got lots of tips on using their famous and delicious Orchard Syrup. Julie tells me they’ll have Ireland’s “smallest legal distillery” up and running by October and will produce a limited run of Apple Spirit! Get your orders in.

We then took a stroll around, starting with the Walled Garden where a new garden has been laid out to celebrate fifty years of Ballymaloe. Lots of veg and flowers in this large enclosure including an amazing amount of rhubarb!

Irish Bees
 Garden stalls galore around  the sunny place today, everything from tiny pot plants to trees  and including some amazing furniture from Beara, the highlight being the picnic table that folds back into a seat or maybe the seat that folds out into a table!

Lots of talks and demos on as well and they'll do it all again tomorrow. Look out for Caroline Robinson, busy on the Coal Quay every Saturday, who will share her wealth of experience of running a small market garden enterprise, for Johann and Tom Doorley who will concentrate on the uses of edible flowers, and Michael Kelly who will present “A GIY guide to growing your own food”. Many more as well, plus all the stalls again (don't forget the food!) and you can see all the details, including times, here.


Top Posts for Past 12 Months (to end of August ‘14)

Top Posts for Past 12 Months
(to end of August ‘14)

Very little change this month but delighted to see the Top 2014 Wines scrape in, just reaching the minimum 700 hits. Take a look if you have a chance, some decent wines there, mainly between twelve and twenty two euro.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Loughbeg Farm Ice-cream. So Creamy. Amazing Flavours

Loughbeg Farm Ice-Cream
So Creamy. Amazing Flavours

World Champions?

San Gimignano in Italy regards itself as a great ice-cream centre and, indeed, when I visited a few years back, boasted the World Champion among its narrow streets. The ice-cream there, fresh and full of fruit, is gorgeous (my cappuccino was not!) but I reckon Loughbeg Farm from Schull, in County Cork, has come up with a few world class contenders.
The farm is well known for its goats, under the care of Josephine (mainly!) and Walter Ryan-Purcell, and this ice-cream is based on goat’s milk but it also contains cow’s cream, along with sugar and egg yolk.

First came across these at the Schull Sunday Market a while back but now they are ready for public consumption and on sale at the Fresh From West Cork Stall in the English Market. Very Highly Recommended. Watch out San Gimignano!
Watch out San Gimignano!
My first tasting this week came from the Strawberry pot. I thought it was absolutely amazing, a great mix of milk, cream and fruit, more like a high class sorbet than a mere ice-cream.

Next up was the Banana! A total surprise, a delicious one. I thought the strawberry was good but this was magnificent, the true banana flavours shining through.

Anticipation was keen as I spooned out the Vanilla. But I needn't have worried! This is yet another beauty, a creamy flavoursome classic. Didn't get to sample the Chocolate but I'd bet my house on it, bet it is every bit as tasty as the others in the range.

This gorgeous range is really worth a try and I’m sure there are some chefs out there who could turn out fabulous desserts with it. Over to you!

Also available at Hegarty's Centra, Schull, and Field's SuperValu, Skibbereen

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Winning Grenache from a Solera in Gigondas

Winning Grenache from a Solera in Gigondas
Saint Cosme Little James Basket Press, Non Vintage Red (Vin de France), 13%, €15.99 (12.79 August) at Curious Wines

The Rhone cased Chateau de Saint Cosme (est. 1570), a negociant-vigneron, uses the Solera blending technique, usually associated with sherry, to produce this excellent non vintage Grenache.

Unlike a vintage wine, Little James “is a permanent creation of a solera, which gets more and more complex every year with an irresistible crunchy fruit”. The typical bottle has fifty per cent of the current vintage and fifty per cent from wines of the previous decade.

There are aromas of darker fruits (plum and cherry for me) and some pepper in this dark red wine. On the palate, you'll find lots of fruit and that pepper again and great flavours all the way through the long finish. “A winner” according to Robert Parker. Very interesting and Very Highly Recommended.

Happy Day! Dining in Gigondas

East Meets West

East Meets West.
And spices up the cheddar!
Part 1
East meets West in Kerry and the results are good, very good. From a mountain village in the Philippines to a coastal village in North Kerry comes Leah. She met husband Billy in London and together in Littor Strand they’ve put their respective food experiences and traditions in the mix and now you can sample some very interesting products indeed.

Billy’s  grandfather William T. Sweeney founded Shannon Vale Creamery in the 1900’s; his father, Rory (Bill), was the General Manager of Cadbury’s Chocolate Factory in Rathmore, Co. Kerry before taking over as General Manager of Rattoo Creamery.  

So dairying and cheese was very much part of Billy’s background and it is not so surprising that cheese is one of the products now produced by Leah’s Gourmet Foods. But cheese with a twist, as Leah has added a touch from the Phillipines, a spicy one!

Leah’s Gourmet Cheese sees the traditional Irish Farm Cheddar get an “injection” of red chillies, garlic and ginger. The initial attack could take you by surprise but you do get used to it quickly.

Many of us Irish look for a cool way to counter the heat of the spices and I’ve got one. Had tried a few relishes, including a Mango (a pretty good match). But the best pairing I came across was with a beautiful jar of red currant jelly made by Toni’s Homemade and bought at Bandon Market. A perfect match between Cork and Kerry.

Next time, we’ll tell you all about Leah’s Black and White puddings. They also do other products including Irish organic smoked salmon and a lovely line of boards and slates.

Just seen that Leah’s Gourmet Foods have been chosen as an "InterTradeIreland Business Ambassador" and have been invited to The Mansion House & Áras an Uachtaráin to meet President Michael D. Higgins, Minister Richard Bruton along with many other TDs & senators, VIPs and leaders of the business community in Ireland.

“We're so looking forward to this event at the beginning of October and so we'll have to dust down the tuxedo's and fancy gowns to get ourselves ready to meet with the great and the good of Ireland's business world!”

Part 2 next week!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Taste of the Week

Taste of the Week
Skeaghanore Smoked Duck

Many of you will be familiar with the award winning Skeaghanore West Cork Duck, produced by Eugene and Helena Hickey near Ballydehob.  Recently, I spotted a pack of their Smoked Breast of Duck at the Fresh from West Cork stall in the English Market. I could see the duck through a "window" in the pack and couldn't resist. Traditionally smoked with oak, it is fully cooked and ready to eat. It is absolutely delicious, a really top notch product, tender and succulent and naturally plump but, in this case at least, with a lot less fat than you'll see on similar products. The 220 gram pack costs nine euro and is our Taste of the Week.

* A few weeks back, I highlighted a trio of quality ready to use dishes by Yumm! Since then, they have come up with another gem, called Lisheen Lasagne, also available at the Fresh from West Cork stall.