Monday, April 27, 2015

Treat Meat With Respect. Talking to Avril Allshire-Howe

Treat Meat With Respect
Talking to Avril Allshire-Howe


Avril, and books!
“Meat should be treated with respect.”

So said Avril Allshire during our recent visit to the Rosscarbery farm that she runs with husband Willie and their two sons William and Maurice. The small farm is home to two related enterprises: Caherbeg Free Range Pork and Rosscarbery Recipes. It is also the place where the young sons practice on their racing quads!

“Every little mouthful should be savoured,” she continued. “None of us can afford to gorge ourselves, we can't afford to waste meat.”
Pork Fruit Cake. Secret Recipe!
Avril was talking to me in her own home, surrounded by shelves and shelves of books, many of them food related. No surprise either to see that she is a big fan of Joanna Blythman, the English writer who constantly exposes the con-men of the big-food world and who will again appear at the 2015 Ballymaloe Lit-Fest next month.

Avril could well write a recipe book herself. She agreed with me that food producers should provide recipes to customers but only if they have something new to add.

She certainly has and you’ll see quite a few of them on her Rosscarbery Recipes blog. But there is one that she won't be publishing, won't be sharing! As we spoke we were treated to a slice of what looked like a normal fruit cake.

Spots (left) and Timmy
As we began to enjoy it, she revealed that it had “no eggs, no dairy”. She named this delicious creation, an exclusive one, Pork Fruit Cake, as one of the important ingredients is, believe it or not,  sausage meat! “It is an alternative to Christmas Cake, may well have been a forerunner of Christmas cake.”

Later, at lunch, she served us her Black Pudding lasagna, another of her originals, a flavoursome echo perhaps of the time when there were no convenience shops, maybe also a shortage of cash, and people had to use what was close at hand, what was in the cupboard. And indeed there was another echo of those days in her answer to the question What is your own favourite? “Depends on the humour,” she laughed. “But I’ll use whatever is in the house.”

“Has the success of any particular product surprised you?”, I asked.
“Yes, I have been surprised by the success of the black pudding, by the variety of people that like it, the young and the old alike. Eastern European peoples quite like it too. It is quite low in fat and useful for a variety of dishes.”

Awards galore
Husband Willie drove the rest of the family to the brink of frustration during the long 15 months he (and they) spent developing their black pudding, developing it to his and their satisfaction. But the passion paid off in a big way and the pudding has won a string of awards, mostly gold, in Ireland, the UK, Belgium and notably in France. “How do you know you have a good one?”, I queried. “The acid test,” she replied, “is to cut a sliver and eat it at room temperature.”


We discussed trends in the business.”Six or seven years ago, you could not give away belly of pork. Then the recession hit and everybody wanted it. The Caherbeg herd is quite small. We have limited numbers and not that much belly and so the Celtic Ross have exclusivity on our belly.” We had enjoyed that special dish in the local hotel the previous evening and it is worth travelling for!


Then it was time to take a tour of the free range pigs (a mixture of breeds including Gloucester Old Spot, Tamworth and Kune-Kune)  and we met some of the main characters including Spots, the mammy of many of them, and Timmy, the daddy. Pigs are not the only animals here. We met the dog and some of the five cats. And also Maa-aa, the growing lamb that they adopted from a neighbouring farm after its mother had rejected it. Maa-aa has been given a job! She'll be keeping the grass and weeds in control in their orchard! Two legs or four, you have to pull your weight in Caherbeg!


Read more about Caherbeg Free-Range Pork and Rosscarbery Recipes here
Rosscarbery Recipes Website: http://www.rosscarberyrecipes.ie
Rosscarbery Recipes blog: http://rosscarberyrecipes.blogspot.ie
Caherbeg Free Range Pork website: http://www.caherbegfreerangepork.ie


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Amuse Bouche

“I told you to keep Finlandia in this place,” Tim mutters, looking through the bottles, most of them magnums, at the bar. “She never has Finlandia,” he says to no one, to all of us.
“Oh god, Timothy. Can’t handle Absolut?” Evelyn asks…
“Bateman. Drink?” Price sighs.
“J&B rocks,” I tell him…
“Oh god. It’s a mess,” Evelyn gasps….
“The sushi looks marvellous,” I tell her soothingly.

from American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

Friday, April 24, 2015

A Taste of Tuscany. Warm, soft, and beautiful.

A Taste of Tuscany

Warm, soft, and beautiful.
Tuscany: warm, soft, beautiful.

Tuscan wines feature in the current Italian wine sale at SuperValu (on until April 29th). I copied the warm, soft and beautiful from one of the bottles and it refers to the region but could well apply to the wines below. The Il Capolavoro is another gem and the Prosecco is well worth checking out.

Villa Pani Rosso 2013 (Tuscany IGT), 13%, €9.00
If you want a simple very gluggable wine at under a tenner, take a punt on this fresh and fruity red from the warm and beautiful Italian area of Tuscany. Made from the area’s best known grape Sangiovese (familiar to many of you through Chianti), this medium bodied red, new to SuperValu, is an excellent drop and recommended.
Sammicheli Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2011 (DOCG), 13%, €15.00
This is another Tuscan red, similar in style to Chianti and made mostly from Sangiovese. It is more aromatic than the Pani. On the palate, it is smooth, fruity and dry, more intense than the Pani and with a longer finish. Full bodied with fine tannins, this is highly recommended. Perhaps get the Pani for the party, and a bottle or two of this for yourself!

Il Capolavoro Appassimento Rosso 2014, 14%, €10.00
This palate pleasing beauty is new to SuperValu but could be turning up there for years to come. It is produced from grapes that have been partially dried (appassimento) and the result is a rich red colour and, more importantly, a greater concentration of fruit flavours. And that concentration means a very pleasant easy drinking wine with a little spice both on nose and palate. Add in a silky mouthfeel and you've got a winner. Very Highly Recommended..

Lunetta Prosecco Brut (DOC), 11%, €15.00

If ever you've been lucky enough to visit Venice and unlucky enough to see the way the gondoliers handle the Prosecco they dish out to tourist groups, then your respect for the famous Italian sparkling wine took a nosedive. At least, that was the case with me. And the respect didn't improve when I tasted some of the feeble stuff served up at some receptions.

But that respect is on the rise again, thanks to this Lunetta. The blurb promises peach and apple on the nose and it is delivered. No shortage of small bubbles either. And it also delivers on the palate and through to a decent finish as well. This is a pretty good example, is well priced and Highly Recommended.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Taste of the Week. From Gan Gluten

Taste of the Week. 
From Gan Gluten

Potato and Onion Tart
If you're at the Mahon Point Farmers Market this Thursday, you'll find our delicious Taste of the Week at Clare O'Brien's Gan Gluten stall. Gan Gluten are makers, bakers, and home caterers of Gluten and Wheat free foods. This is one of our favourites and can be a standalone lunch. Could even be the basis of a more substantial meal, if you add a salad for instance. Either way, it is well worth a try. Clare will be delighted to advise you on this and her other foods.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

California Wines Charity event in Galway!




High-end Burgundy Wines at Zamora Evening. Excellent Matching Food As Well

High-end Burgundy Wines at Zamora Evening


Excellent Food As Well

Edouard Leach (left) and Billy Forrester.
Zamora got its wine events off to a great start with a superb Burgundy tasting event at the new Academy Street venue last Monday.


The top end wines, three white and three red, came via Bubble Brothers and Maison Francoise Chauvenet who were able represented by Edouard Leach. And Edouard’s task of showcasing the marvellous Chardonnay and Pinot Noir of the region was made all the easier by the matching food served up by the Zamora kitchen under the direction of Pat Browne of Ballymaloe Cookery School.

Burgundy, unlike Bordeaux, is a land of small plots. There are some 3,500 growers with an average 6 hectares. Once it was the the negociants who dominated but now 1000 growers bottle themselves. As the growers go for more control at the end of the operation, so the negociants seek more control towards the start.
In the meantime, Maison Francoise Chauvenet brings together grapes from various parcels and makes some brilliant wines and those on show at Zamora were made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

First up was the Marguerite de Bourgogne Chardonnay (2013). This is the signature house blend of wine from four Cotes de Beaune vineyards. Edouard said it sets the style and is drinking perfectly now. This was matched with A salad of Jerusalem Artichokes with smoked almonds and preserved lemon dressing. Simple, but an excellent match. We were off to a very good  start indeed.

And it got better. The kitchen delivered their Carrigcleena Duck Liver Paté with crostini to pair with the Pouilly-Fuisse 2013. Edouard: “This is considerable step-up. The fruit is more concentrated and it goes well with the paté.” Chauvenet themselves say this is the undoubted king of the Maconnais region and Edouard emphasised that the quality here is down to a very deliberate low yield policy.
Fish
Our next visit was to the small village of Puligny-Montrachet, one of the places in the famous triangle near Beaune. “There is a huge demand for the triangle wines”,  Edouard said. “This 2012 is slowly opening up and, in two or three years time, it will be even better, will have attained full complexity.” Not bad as it was though and a serious partner with the House smoked Salmon and Hake, served with seasonal greens, roasted red and yellow peppers and a black garlic aioli.

Now we were on to the reds. Would they match up? Would they what? Billy Forrester of Bubble Brothers introduced the first, the entry level Marguerite de Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2013. He was very proud of it: “A wonderful old world Pinot Noir. Delicious.” He must have been proud too of the matching dish: Boeuf Bourguignon with Kale and scallion champ potato. We could have been in Lyon!
Boeuf Bourguignon
Edouard was somewhat puzzled by the fact that the next wine, the Mercurey 1er Cru (2013), was not so popular in Ireland. Mercurey is the best red wine village in the Cote Chalonnaise, between Beaune and Macon and “this is a huge seller in France, Belgium and Holland. It is quite soft, nice and generous.” And went well with the soft and mild Buche de Chevre.

Both the kitchen and the wine company came up with a terrific finalé. Zamora’s final contribution was an Organic Rhubarb Bread and Butter Pudding, with compote and softly whipped cream. A dessert delight.
And the final wine was a very serious one: Nuits-Saint-Georges 2011. Edouard advised: “This needs time. It is still relatively closed, needs more age”. And speaking of age, he had some advice if you are thinking of keeping a few bottles of this. “Pinot Noir is very fragile, can lose everything if kept too long. If you have a case, use one bottle every year!”.

Though, nowadays, quite a few areas around the world are making excellent Chardonnay and  far fewer areas Pinot Noir, you will still hear that Burgundy is the spiritual home of both. Don't think there were too many arguing with that after this particular evening.
Cheese

The partnership between Bubble Bros and Maison Chauvet is a relatively recent one but is has started well with the promise of other excellent wines to come. Currently, there is ten per cent off the Chauvenet wines. So do keep an eye on their website for all the latest news from Burgundy. And also for news of further wine evenings at Zamora.


  • By the way, I always thought that Cotes d’Or meant golden slope or golden hillside. But I just read in The Finest Wines of Burgundy by Bill Nanson that it is actually  a contraction of Cote d’Orient - East-facing Hillside. I could have asked Edouard had I read that before the evening!
Dessert


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Islands in the Sun. Ferries and Food in West Cork

Islands in the Sun
Ferries and Food in West Cork
 It was sunshine all the way for last week's two day excursion to West Cork. It looks as if there is no shortage of sunshine this week either.


Once we knew the weather was “settled” we determined to re-visit two islands, Garnish near Glengarriff and Sherkin near Baltimore. West Cork of course has many more islands and most have a ferry service. Check here for island and ferry details and do look out also for the Ten Island Tour.

Our base was the Celtic Ross in Rosscarbery but Garnish was our first destination so we took the R585 via Crookstown and headed off down on the old Bantry line. On reaching Kealkil, where our road joins the R584 from Macroom, we felt the need for a quick pit-stop as we did have a specific time for the boat from Glengarriff.


Italian Garden on Garnish
At the junction we spotted a board saying Cully & Sully Soup and Brown Bread for three euro. The Gala shop, also the Post Office, is right there and, within minutes, on the seats outside, we were tucking in to a tasty lunch, great value too.

On then to Glengarriff where we caught the ferry (€10.00) from the Blue Pool to Garnish. But first there were a couple of stops to see the many seals basking on the rocks around Seal Island. Lots of close-ups taken!

Garnish (€4.00 entrance) is an amazing mixture of gardens, arboretums, clock tower, Italianate buildings, even a Martello tower and will look even better in the weeks and months ahead as the trees, shrubs and flowers put on their summer show. Great views too over the bay and mountains.
Dessert at the Clonakilty Hotel
Back then on the ferry, and again a stop, this to say goodbye to the seals. Next call was to Manning's Emporium for a cool drink and a chat with Andrew. Manning’s will of course feed you, and feed you well, but we had a dinner date that evening. Soon we were making our way through Bantry and Skibbereen and then we got a lovely warm welcome as we checked into the spick and span Celtic Ross.

That evening’s dinner was in the restaurant of the Clonakilty Hotel, very enjoyable too. Afterwards we spent a hour or so in the Celtic Ross bar sipping a pint or two of Franciscan Well’s Rebel Red, available on draught.

After a hearty breakfast we were off on another island trip, making the short journey to Baltimore to connect with the ferry (€10.00) to Sherkin Island. We thought we'd be the only passengers until a large bus parked up and some forty Italian students joined us. You’d be hard pressed to find a more well mannered, well behaved bunch.
Horses graze on Sherkin.
 Like Garnish, Sherkin is noted for its peace and quiet. Some good walks too that we enjoyed though again the place will look better in a month or so when the fuchsias are in full bloom. We made our way back towards the ferry point as lunch time approached and called up to the nearby Islander’s Rest where we got one (well two) of the best fish and chips ever. Hake was used and it was so well cooked.


I don't know how many of you know about the pirate raid on Baltimore by Algerian pirates in June 1631 when 107 locals were taken away to be sold into slavery and never seen again. You can read all about it and indeed see some artifacts of the time in the newly restored Baltimore Castle (also known as Dún na Séad). More history too in this recently restored building that started life in the 13th century. An interesting visit (€4.00) and from the top you get terrific views over the town and the harbour.


Beach on Sherkin
Off then towards Rosscarbery again, this time via the villages of Glandore and Union Hall (where you see from the memorial to those drowned at sea that it isn't always as nice as it had been to us these two sunny days).

Dinner that evening was taken in the hotel dining room. With chefs of the calibre of Graeme Campbell and Alex Petit, we were expecting good things and that’s exactly what we got. The highlight was my main course of local pork belly served with a White Bean and Chorizo cassoulet. The pork comes from the Allshire’s nearby and is only available here. Well worth a detour.


Fish & Chips at Islander's Rest
 Indeed, our final visit on the following day was to Caherbeg to see the free-range pigs and have a chat with Avril about her busy life in food. It turned out to be a lovely visit, memorable for many things, including a lunch of her special Black-pudding lasagna! And the sun was still shining as we headed east and back to the city.
Somebody's shopping arriving on Sherkin!





Monday, April 20, 2015

The Clonakilty Hotel’s Copperpot Restaurant


The Clonakilty Hotel’s Copperpot Restaurant
Goats Cheese
Glad I followed up a recommendation from a friend the other day and called to the Copperpot Restaurant in Clonakilty for an evening meal. The restaurant is part of the Clonakilty Hotel but has its own entrance as well on the corner of Wolfe Tone Street and College Street.

It has an Early Bird menu - two courses for 19.95, three for 24.95 - but we were at our leisure and went for the A La Carte. This is also fairly priced and is available from 3.00pm. Starters included Soup of the Day, Chowder, Chicken and Bacon salad, a Chicken Liver Pate and also Fried Scampi.
Sea-Bass
You regularly see Deep-fried Brie as a starter but they came up with a Golden Fried Goats Cheese, Crumbed and deep-fried and served with a red onion and mixed pepper jam. This was a terrific starter, very flavoursome, for €6.95.

While I was studying the menu I was tempted by the Mussels Thai Style (6.95). I remembered a dish they used do at the former Thai restaurant in Bridge Street in the city where they served very large mussels. But the Copperpot used local mussels with a hint of chilli and ginger and served with crispy baguette. This was a great change to the usual Moules Mariniere, indeed a delightful one. I was very happy with that choice and would pick it again without hesitation.

Pork
So we were off to a good start. How would the main courses measure up? No problem here either. There is a quite a choice on the regular menu but we picked two from the specials board. Mine was Pork Fillet served with a Mushroom Sauce (11.95). A great piece of pork, tender and delicious and enhanced no end by the sauce.

CL went for the Sea-Bass with its Chilli Cream Sauce (16.50), another perfectly executed plateful, a satisfying combination of flavours with the sauce a well judged addition rather than an overpowering mask. The side vegetables were perfectly cooked as well.

All the while I was sipping away at my Stonewell medium dry cider and that really came into its with the pork. Hopefully the cider is the first of local craft drinks to appear on the menu.


It had been a long time since a quickly snatched lunch so this time we had room for dessert. CL picked the Poached Pear in a Cinnamon Syrup and with Vanilla Ice-cream. Very impressive! I hadn't heard of Glenowen ice-creams so I said I’d try the Selection of Glenowen Farm Hand-made ice creams from Middleton(?). It came in three delicious flavours. Still not sure though who makes it, haven't been able to find anything on the internet. Have any of you heard of it?

Overall though this was a very satisfying meal indeed and you can add the Copperpot to your Clonakilty list.
Pears