Sunday, June 25, 2017

Herbs? Salads? Natur-Ellie. Watch this Green Space

Herbs? Salads? Natur-Ellie

Watch this Green Space
Ellie, with a few of her herbs.
In the unlikely setting of a unit in a commercial estate, we are talking micro-herbs, herbs and salads in general. They are growing all around us. 

Urban gardener Ellie Donovan has just moved from another similar location and tells me she never thought there’d be such a demand for her organic micro greens. ‘“The chefs love them,” she says. She started with lots of varieties but is now down to six, the ones the chefs really like!
The urban garden!
She has been boosted by the signing of a new contract with the Market Lane group of restaurants. Market Lane’s original venture in Oliver Plunket Street will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year and no doubt their other restaurants Elbow Lane (and its micro brewery), ORSO Bar and Kitchen, and the spectacularly situated Castle Cafe will join in.

And it was at the cafe in Blackrock Castle that Ellie first began to work with the group. Here she set up a small kitchen garden and now the cafe is self sufficient and look after it themselves. She has also grown some hops in a confined location at the top of Elbow Lane. “All the Market Lane places are excellent. I love them and we have a great relationship.”
Recycled fish boxes
It is a confidence building relationship too and that will help Green Space expand. But it's hard going on your own! 

More hops for the brewery are in the pipeline. She will be using an enclosed outside patch of concrete close to the unit and will be growing lots of plants, probably including hops, in pallets that she has been collecting. And the garden at her country home will also help her ambitions to grow more outdoors.

One of the advantages in being in a commercial centre is that it is something of a community and people tend to help one another out. For instance, a nearby unit gives her used fish boxes and they are ideal for her business.
Micro!
Ellie uses coco fibre (also known as coir) as a growing medium. It is a natural product and hers includes rooting hormones. And then she also uses liquid fertilisers. At present, she is using tap water but plans are in hand - indeed some of the gear is in place - to replace it with rain-water. And another plan is to get a solar panel on the roof.

She is getting used to the particular environment of her Ballyvolane unit, learning day by day. She lost some lettuce overnight during the recent spell of very hot weather. She is pretty happy with the natural light but also uses some hanging fixtures that give close to a natural light. And she has heat mats in place for propagation.
Hydroponics in action
And what does she grow? Well lots of little herbs (some larger ones too: Rosemary, Sage, Lemon Balm, Lemon Verbena, Parsley...). The micros include Basil (four or five varieties), Coriander, Chinese and other chives, Rambo purple radish, and more. Also salads such as Mizuna, Wild Rocket, Mustards, Pea shoots etc. 

And she’s always experimenting, trying something new. So be sure and watch this Green Space!

* Read more about Ellie’s career here

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Amuse Bouche


This time two waiters appeared. One placed a cocktail in front of each of us, while the other set down on the table an array of appetizers, traditional fare from the fabled bar upstairs - ’21’ Club mini-burgers, crispy chicken wings, jumbo shrimp cocktail, and a large charcuterie.
“Nobody’s mentioned the mob,” Mike said, dredging a shrimp in the sauce and moving it to his mouth without a single drip. “You know something we don’t?”


from Night Watch by Linda Fairstein (2012) Recommended.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Ballymaloe Cookery School and Gardens. Coffee Break turns into A Day Trip

Ballymaloe Cookery School & Gardens. 
Coffee Break turns into A Day Trip
The cock crows. He always does when I arrive at Ballymaloe Cookery School. Good to be back!

The Food Truck Café in front of the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry has just reopened for the season. So when a friend suggested a mid morning cup of coffee, there was no hesitation. Plan was to be there for just a short interlude but that stretched to a walk in the gardens and part of the farm, and, much later, a return to the Food Truck for a delicious lunch.
A productive day for the panels.

 You may have coffee and cafe here from 10.30am until 5.00pm and they serve a light lunch between 12 noon and 3.30pm. First question? What to have with the morning coffee? There is a short list of temptation and the Tunisian Orange Cake was my pick and a good one it was. But it seems the winner on the day was the Gooseberry Compote served with their Jersey Cream Yogurt. Absolutely delicious.

Amphitheatre
Time on our hands then, time enough for a walk through the garden. There are some 70 varieties of herbs in the herb garden, laid out in a formal parterre edged with box hedges. Plenty of fresh herbs for Ballymaloe House and Cafe and the school.

The Herbaceous Border, planted in 1996, has thrived here, though not without a great deal of care and attention. Deep borders of fabulous perennials and grasses make it one of the very best of its type.
Gooseberry compote
 At the end of the border is the Shell House, with shell decoration by artist Blott Kerr-Wilson. We had been in these areas before - read more here


There is something new, always something new in Ballymaloe where their creatives just do what comes naturally. One striking feature, near the border, is the Garden Amphitheatre, a mini one. But it is capable of holding up to sixty people and is good for a cookery school lecture, even better for a wine tasting and lesson!

The Urban Garden
And not too far away, an Urban Garden was being constructed. The “entrance” sees you going out the back door of your home to see how your plants are coming along. Lots of good ideas packed into the small place, that includes a composting bin, a frame and a little greenhouse. Well worth a look for city-dwellers, even country dwellers whose gardens are on the small side.
Drying in the glasshouse
 I mentioned the Jersey cream earlier and soon we were passing those very ladies, at rest in the lush grass. Nearby were the free range pigs, at least the younger ones, a mix of Gloucester Old Spot, Tamworth and Saddleback. They were busy pushing one another near the water trough, looking to cool down on what was a very warm day. One even had his head buried in the wet mud nearby. Not too far away, some young hens gathered in the shade.

Glasshouse grapes
 I hadn't seen the kitchen garden before so that was next on the walk. All neat and tidy, all organic, lots of vegetables and flowers too for dishes and drinks. And a scarecrow hiding in the high fox gloves!

Head down

 Oh I almost forgot. We also had a tour though the glasshouse. It was baking! It is a fertile place, again supplying the restaurant, the cafes (both here and at the house), and the school itself of course. Always something being harvested, something being set, everything here is grown from seed and a no-dig policy is implemented.

Lunch taco
 You may buy a selection of the produce at the shop. I was looking for some honey but none available, not until August. All those stories you hear about bees being weakened by pesticides and other -ides are not fiction. Far from it. But I did get a few things including a white yeast loaf, one of the very best I've ever tasted.


We were just about to go back to the nearby carpark when we realised it was lunchtime. So why travel further? We sat under the canopy opposite the Food Truck for the second time and studied the  light lunch menu. It included a Tart of the Day, a Taco and a Salad.
Food truck

The Taco came with lamb, avocado, rocket, chipotle & horseradish mayo and crunchy veg, all for €7.50. Every single ingredient played a part here and the result was a slightly spicy and full of flavour meal. 


CL’s Super Food Salad was served with “Bread Shed” breads and included red lentils, quinoa, haricot, red kidney beans, roast parsnip/beetroot/carrot/red onion/mixed seeds/peanuts (7.00). Massive! Thought she might walk back to Cork after that. But no!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Have you met Dornfelder? Let me introduce you.

Lingenfelder Dornfelder 2011, Grosskarlbacher Osterberg Pfalz, 12.5%, €18.95 O’Brien’s

The Dornfelder grape is a modern (1955) crossing which is well suited to the cool climate of Germany (and getting popular in England too). It is packed with red berry fruit and soft round tannins and this delicious example is reminiscent of good Pinot Noir.

The Lingenfelder brothers, Karl-Friedrich (left) and Georg, gave me a crash course on the grape when I met them at O’Brien's November Wine Fair. Their Dornfelder grapes come from a single vineyard Osterberg (Easter Hill). 

They practice sustainable viticulture and promote bio-diversity on all their vineyards and in the cellar there is no yeast culture addition, no fining, minimal filtering and no chaptalisation. The family, centuries in wine-making, are best known for their Rieslings.

The Dornfelder, which has spent six months in big oak barrels, ancient containers, has a rich ruby colour. The fresh and fragrant aromas speak of red fruit, floral notes too, herbs, maybe something even wilder. It is full bodied, red berry fruit (cherry, blackberry), slightly spicy, a touch tannic too. I found it very satisfying at the Wine Fair last November and this bottle confirms that good first impression. Very Highly Recommended.


Grapes and Wine may not go as far (perhaps they haven’t tasted the Lingenfelder version) but admit the grape, the second most planted red in Germany, has a certain honesty: “..it doesn't pretend to be more than a well-coloured, juicily fruited grape… and it fulfils that role very well.”

Pinot Noir is the most important red wine grape in Germany. Known as Spätburgunder, nearly 11,5% of the vineyard area is planted with it. On the white side, Riesling and Müller-Thurgau account for some 43% of Germany's 105,000 hectares of vineyards. (source: http://www.germanwines.de/ )

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Taste of the Week. Cascade by Cotton Ball Brewing

Taste of the Week
Cascade by Cotton Ball Brewing
Cascade-ing at Cork Summer Show
A lovely pint from Brian.



Cascade is a relatively new addition to the Cotton Ball Brewing Company’s  portfolio and I made its acquaintance at the Cork Summer Show at the weekend. It’s a beauty and our Taste of the Week.

It is a well balanced celebration of the hops of the same name, a single hop beer with terrific flavour, slightly spicy too but with flavour galore and the ABV is just 3.8%. Well done guys, a superb Pale Ale for the summer sessions and indeed any session.


There is a picture of Humphrey Lynch, the original owner of the Cotton Ball and grandfather of current owner Jack, on the brewery's bottles. His is a fascinating story and includes fighting in the American Civil War and dealing in cotton (hence the name for the pub he bought on his return to Ireland). More here.  

Monday, June 19, 2017

Cork Summer Show 2017. Town and Country Get-together in the sun.

The Cork Summer Show 2017

Town and Country Get-together in the sun.
Ford 100

The organisers of the Cork Summer Show got the weather they, and it, deserved this weekend and once again it proved to be a very enjoyable occasion, a chance to catch up with old friends, to try something new (like the Cotton’s Ball’s Cascade beer), to pick up info from the County Council tent on the many things to see and do from Mitchelstown to Allihies, from Youghal to Newtownshandrum.
First friendly face we recognised was Sandra Murphy. She had been up late at the previous night's fashion show in the Cork International Hotel but was in bubbly form as always at their desk. We entered a competition there, so fingers crossed!


Then we met Rebecca at the Taste Cork tent, all busy preparing for the day-long schedule of cookery demos. Up and down the rows of trade stalls then before arriving at the County Council stands where we collected quite a few information leaflets on places like Spike Island and Camden Fort Meagher, along with those handy town maps for places like Clonakilty, Youghal etc.
One Horsepower!

It was getting busy at the western section as owners (often with the whole family) prepared the cattle and horses and more for the judges. The equine judges were first in action and I must say I was taken with the side saddle event even if there were just two competitors.

Something cool was now in order and we got a delicious ice-cream from Clonakilty Ice-cream (I recommend the honeycomb!) before moving on to see the petting section. Luckily for the pigs and hunting dogs (there were two packs) here, the tops of their cages were partially covered so that they could enjoy some shade.

The poultry section had quite a few exotic breeds including a big line-up of bantams. The owner of one helpfully opened the cage door for me and I was able to get a close-up of his Polish Bantam hen; the cock was next door but that cage stayed shut! “A high maintenance couple,” the owner confided.
The newly elected City Lord Mayor Tony Fitzgerald was being shown around as we got back to the entertainment area where many families were sitting on anything from long wooden seats to bean bags) having a bite and a drink and listening to the music or enjoying the magician. 

A bit early perhaps but we did enjoy a glass of that Cascade, a well hopped deliciously flavoured beer from the Cotton Ball, with an abv of just 3.8%. Lots of other choices here too, including local gins and whiskeys. 


By now, lots of old Ford vehicles were motoring into the grounds, cars, vans and tractors, as the show organisers recognised the company’s 100 year old links with the city and county. Some lovely old, and not so old, vehicles here and we got a personal run-down on a 1947 Prefect, even info on courting in the back seat! My Dad had one of these in the early 60s
Polish Bantam

How about a bit to eat? The only problem here was making up your mind; there were so many stalls, big and small, selling food to eat on the spot. A few months back, I got some Peri Peri sauces to sample from Athula and when I saw he was doing food here, I had to try it. And yes indeed, his Peri Peri Chicken Pitta was delicious and nicely spiced (I had asked for medium!). That and a glass of water was dispatched while standing at a barrel table as the sun beat down.


We were into the afternoon now and, having arrived early, stamina was running out. Besides, the dog, who had been left at home, would need to be walked, so we retreated from Curraheen, meeting many people on the way in. This is a huge attraction for town and country and deserves all the support. And they came in record numbers. It is estimated that 27,000 people attended the show on Saturday and a further 33,000 attended on Sunday. 

Perfect Prefect


Night of the Long Table. Four Hundred Dine Out on Cork’s South Mall

Night of the Long Table

Four Hundred Dine Out on Cork’s South Mall
Phil (standing) wishes Happy Birthday to fiancée Veronica; they get married today.
A night out to remember for the over four hundred diners who gathered on Cork’s South Mall for an outdoor dinner, the second running of Cork’s Long Table. And the sun came too, making it a glorious occasion for the organisers and their partners including Bord Bia, Failte Ireland, Cork City Council and Cork Midsummer Festival.

There was a choice of drink on the way in, anything from Prosecco to cider to beer to a cordial. The first suppliers we met were Colm McCan (what a hat) and Pascal Rossignol of Le Caveau, helping out on the night.
All calm before the service

Soon we were seated at our table, strangers to the right of us, strangers to the left. A few minutes later though and strangers no more! 

A tasty oyster signalled the start of the serving and then came the Producers Boards with Smoked mussels and mackerel, crab with lemon mayo (perhaps my favourite), black and white pudding, spiced beef, crubeens and ham hock terrine, chutney, breads, mozzarella. That got us talking and sharing and there was something for everyone!
Welcome to the Long Table from Colm(left) and Pascal of Le Caveau

The mains meanwhile were being prepared in the kitchens of the nearby Imperial Hotel and distributed to the various staging posts on the pavement. It was worth waiting for, not that we were waiting at all. The rack of lamb with pea purée, salsa verde, mixed leaf salad and loads of superb British Queens, not forgetting Glenilen butter, was totally satisfying though a few of us volunteered for seconds when the opportunity arose.

And the dessert, a very generous one indeed, was Strawberries with crushed meringue, cream and rose petal, another delight. And to finish we had cheese: Milleens to remember the late Veronica Steele and Hegarty’s Cheddar.
Starter board

All the while, the wine, the beer, the cider, whatever you fancied was being served and the brass band played. There was even a birthday surprise for Veronica, served up by fiancé Phil; all go for this couple who get married today. We wish them well!

Once announced, the Long Table Dinner sold out within hours, such was the feeling that this was going to be a good one. And once you saw the list of quality suppliers, you knew the basis was there for a terrific meal. 
Lamb

Suppliers included Frank Hederman, K. O’Connell Fish, Tim McCarthy’s, Rosscarberry Recipes, McCarthy Meats, Haven Fish, Glenilen Farm, Waterfall Farms, Bumblebee Flower Farm, Dave Barry’s Farm, Bushy Berries, On the Pig’s Back, Murphy’s,  Longueville House, 9 White Deer, Le Caveau and Counterpoint.

I've often heard chefs say they are nothing without the producers but the restaurants and chefs have a major role to play in getting the best from the produce and that certainly happened last night with Ali’s Kitchen, Electric Fishbar, The Farmgate, Fenn’s Quay, The Imperial Hotel, Isaac’s Restaurant, Jacob’s on the Mall, Jacque’s Restaurant, L’Atitude 51, Nash 19 and the Rocketman all playing important roles. Cheers to the hard-working owners and staff.

* I’m glad too that Rebel Chilli were also involved as it was in their competition that I, having been caught out by the early booking rush, won the tickets that got me to the Mall. Thanks, folks!

It's a wrap for 2017

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Amuse Bouche

The convoy set out across the Blasket Sound and on their arrival the wedding feast began in earnest… Nine barrels of Bandon Rattler, brewed by Allmans in west Cork, were consumed at this feast, according to Méiní, and the fact that in Maurice Keane’s memory it was eight barrels plus a gallon of whiskey confirms that it was certainly an occasion when thirsty souls were amply refreshed… and no doubt the island musicians did their share.


from Méiní, The Blasket Nurse, by Leslie Matson (1996). Recommended.