|Chris (left) and Luke|
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Sunday, November 19, 2017
Davidson's Craft Butchers
Standard Bearers in Montenotte
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.
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.
“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.
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.
Phone: (021) 451 8184
Tuesday, June 13, 2017
Taste of the Week
Sourdough Bread has fed humanity for 4000 years. That’s an opening statement on the Arbutus Bread website. The company itself doesn’t go back that far!
Declan Ryan founded Arbutus Bread in 1999, after selling his previous business [Arbutus Lodge Hotel]. “I knew that retirement would not suit me, and that I had to be active . So I converted a small two car garage in front of my house into a tiny bakery. My first customers were Isobel Sheridan of On the Pigs Back in the English Market and my brother Michael at Isaacs Restaurant in MaCurtain Street.”
Now Arbutus has customers all over the country, many outlets for their bread, baked in the Cork suburb of Mayfield. Whenever I’m in Mahon (or Midleton) market, I get a loaf or two.
The most recent purchase was a wholemeal sourdough,. a denser style of bread “with less holes!” It comes in mild and strong versions. The mild was my pick this time and it is excellent, very flavoursome, great for a sandwich and our Taste of the Week.
You can see all the different types of loaf on the Arbutus site https://www.arbutusbread.com/
Sunday, August 21, 2016
Iron Age Bread. And Butter.Boats & Bones too.
The Medieval Loaf from Declan Ryan’s Arbutus Bread has long been a favourite of mine. Last Saturday, at the Cork Public Museum, Declan introduced me, and quite a few others, to Iron Age Bread. And there was freshly made butter to go with it, all part of Cork Heritage Day.
The event focussed on Life, Farming and Food in South-East Ireland (Waterford and Wexford) in the Iron Age (c. 2500-1600 years ago). Excavations during the Celtic Tiger years and since have revealed important information about where people lived, the crops they grew and the food they ate.
|Basket of iron age bread|
For instance, the recovery of charred plant components tell us that people ate barley, emmer and spelt wheat and foraged wild food such as hazelnuts and berries. Kilns are a new development of the Iron Age and were used for the drying and malting of grain. Wonder if they made beer?
Cattle and pig bones were also found. The animals were kept for their meat but finds demonstrate that the farmers also practised dairying, hence the butter demo. I have quoted extensively from the leaflet handed out to visitors to the museum.
|A young Spaniard checks out these Irish bones|
The challenge for Declan Ryan and Arbutus was to reproduce a bread that might have been baked by an Iron Age baker. Declan knew they had barley and some spelt. He used barley mainly and a little spelt. He baked the loaves on the lowest shelf of his oven, a step or two up on what was available to his ancient predecessors.
Crusty, and soft in the middle, the bread had a spicy flavour and possibly tasted better with a bit of the freshly made butter. A very small churn was used to separate the butter from the buttermilk and water and even more of the latter two was squeezed out with a pair of butter paddles before we had the real thing. Young and old got a chance to handle the churn.
|A neat little churn|
And speaking of hands on, there was a table full of bones of prehistoric animals and the remains of ancient crops and they were popular and there was also the possibility of grinding corn on a prehistoric hand mill, examples too of bog butter (a story in itself) and a replica of an Iron Age vessel (a small boat), the original excavated in County Meath.
The event was presented by the Heritage Council INSTAR funded project ‘Seeing beyond the site - Landscape and Settlement in Later Prehistoric Ireland’, in collaboration with the Cork Public Museum and the Cork Butter Museum, each worth a visit at any time.
You can also follow the South-East project on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Beyond_the_site
You can also follow the South-East project on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Beyond_the_site
|Starting to turn - the butter emerges|
|The new butter and the discarded buttermilk|
|A pair of paddles is used to squeeze out any excess moisture;|
the more solids that remain the better the butter
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Taste of the Week
From Arbutus Bread
While buying my favourite Medieval sourdough loaf, not the best looking babe in the bakery, from Arbutus Bread at Douglas Market last Saturday, I spotted a knobbly knuckly cake. “What’s that?”
The young assistant quickly replied: “It is made with croissant dough, apple, cinnamon and sultanas.” “Okay. I’ll have one.” And that delicious one is our Taste of the Week.
It costs €4.50 but we got quite a few slices out of it. It is delicious on its own and we found two ways to enhance it. The first is to serve it with custard or vanilla sauce (as they call it in Vienna, according to Rick Stein on one of his long weekends). This gives you an really high class bread pudding. You can add butter if you like!
And the second is to match it with a rosé. This is the time of the year for the pink. And one of the best is a long standing favourite at Karwig Wines, the Domaine Houchart Côte de Provence (2015). I tried that pairing at Monday’s BBQ and it worked a treat.
Thursday, November 12, 2015
Arbutus: Five Star Bread
|He can talk the talk|
Go easy on the dough. Don’t beat the shit out of it.
That was the advice from founder and owner Declan Ryan as he welcomed a group from the UCC Fermentation Society to his Mayfield bakery, Arbutus Bread, this week. He recalled various enthusiastic people hammering the dough all over the place but gentleness is the answer. Apparently Jamie Oliver was one of those overly eager bakers, not in Mayfield though. But he took the advice and said that not only did his bread-making skills improve but so too did his love-making.
|and walk the walk!|
Declan has been in love with bread-making for a long time, even when he was scaling the heights of cuisine back in the day when the family’s Arbutus Hotel was the place to eat in Cork. And not just for locals, particularly after Declan was awarded Ireland's first ever Michelin star.
But then things changed for Declan. The old enthusiasm wasn't here any longer. “I got burned out…. was tired as a chef.” Retirement, he knew, wouldn't suit him and so, he turned to his hobby which was baking.
And he began Arbutus Bread in his converted two car garage, making the deliveries himself by jeep. Now an new enthusiasm fermented and he learned more about the trade and the art from some of the very best. He tracked down a course in France and here his two tutors were two of the top bakers in France, Pierre Nury and Xavier Honorin “who were inspirational in their enthusiasm”.
You may read more about the early days of Arbutus Bread here.
Declan met us himself and showed us some early vessels associated with bread, one of a type used in the time of the Pharaohs. Spelt was the grain used at that period. Then he showed us a Greek urn from 340 BC and by now the bakers were using wheat. He had a trio of harvest masks on display including a very impressive one from Nigeria.
|Harvest mask from Nigeria|
Arbutus breads are based on the French artisan tradition and he uses a French wheat Bagatelle Red Label La Farine Type 65, no less than four tonnes a week to produce 2,000 to 3,000 loaves a day! You may see the full list of their breads here.
That two car garage has long been left behind. Indeed, five years after its founding, Arbutus moved to the current premises in Mayfield and, just a couple of years back, they doubled the space but stayed in the same site. Now they have 17 employees, spread across five nationalities.
|The barrel sized sourdough maker and keeper,|
the heart of Arbutus.
While Declan’s ingredients are limited to the traditional three or four (unlike the multiples of that seen on many commercially made breads), there are other factors that are critical to the production. One is temperature and here you have to bring all the elements to an average of 23 degrees for the dough mix. Salt too is critical, not just for taste but “for structure”.
And then there's the butter story. Arbutus do produce some sweet things, eg Brioche but especially croissants. You need butter for the latter, a special “dry” butter. Kerrygold produce it but it is not available here. It is exported to France by the container load. Then it is bought by various companies over there. One is Elle & Vire. They package it nicely, with the Eiffel Tour and the French tricolour prominent and sell it in France and some of it finds its way back to Dublin where Declan purchases it for his croissants!
And the determination that only top notch ingredients be used for Arbutus Bread is further underlined in their Pain aux Chocolat. Many would settle for ordinary chocolate but only the best, Valrhona, will do for Declan.
|That sourdough culture taste is ...well.... Sour?|
As the tour drew to a close, he found time to hand out great praise to a hero of his, Donal Creedon of Macroom Mills, an outstanding producer and "one of a kind". And credit also to his grandmother. The Arbutus Soda Bread recipe (with only slight alteration) came from her. And then it was time to tuck into tea, breads and some sweet stuff that he had lined up for us.
A big thank you to the UCC Fermentation Society for the invite. Other recent Society events included a Tasting Quiz, a wine basics trip to L’Atitude 51, and a visit to Rising Sons Brewery. For future events check out their Facebook page here.