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It might sound strange but Neven Maguire reminds me of Christy Ring. At least in his approach to his cookery school students. He takes it step by step, building confidence from the start and lots of discreet back-up along the way.
I remember “Ringy”, back in the day, teaching a few of us to take a sideline cut. He just didn't throw the sliotar down and order you to strike. No, he found a high sod and placed it there and, if you made a half decent connection, you hit a good sideline ball. “Hey, I can do it!” After that confidence boost, the rest came with practice.
Christy displayed the technique and dispensed good advice as did Neven in MacNean House last Saturday.
Presentation is important but getting the flavours right is even more so.
That was an early nugget from Ireland's favourite chef during our one day Christmas Cookery Course with him, in his own Cookery School in Blacklion (County Cavan). It used to be a hairdressers but there’s a different kind of style now on display here, right next door to Neven's restaurant MacNean House.
The school has been open for twelve months. “It has been a great year,” said Neven. “A great year for me and a great year for my team. We are booked up every week from now until next June. But the Chef’s Table, a new venture of ours, is not too well known yet and that is not booked up.” The Chef’s Table (for 12 to 20 people) is situated here in the school and you’ll have Neven and his chefs cooking in front of you and serving you as well.
Neven always has great praise for his staff and many of them have been with him for years. His right hand people in the school are Olivia and Clare. “They keep it immaculate.” Looking back at the year, Neven said it was a great one for him personally as he was voted Best Chef in Ireland and his new book Fast was voted best cookbook in Ireland.
As he took the varied group of students through the course, he was free with advice. He “ordered” everyone to buy a “plastic” wooden spoon, revealed that local Asian markets are “best for spices” and said that “broken walnuts are half the price of whole nuts”. Looking for vanilla, then try Vanilla Bazaar. For Thai products look up Thai Gold in Wexford.
But Christmas Made Easy was mostly about the cooking. Everything from Mulled Wine to the Turkey was covered. The full title of the turkey lesson was: Buttermilk Brined Roast Butterfly of Turkey with Orange and Rosemary.
We got to make a Citrus Harissa Butter for the Turkey Crown. You can get the Harissa paste in most areas nowadays but if not available try sun-dried tomato paste instead. The Butter can also be used on grilled steak, pork chop, roast chicken and grilled fish (like hake).
We did a Pine Nut, Cranberry and Apricot Stuffing. By the way, dried cranberries are “very good in soda bread”. The other big item during the busy morning was the ham. Neven and his team were taking care of the ham itself but we got to do the Glaze and the Pineapple Salsa. Again, the glaze can also be used with Pork Chops while the Salsa goes well with grilled prawns.
Speaking of prawns, we got to make our own starter for lunch, a Prawn Cocktail with the traditional Marie Rose Sauce. To tell the truth most of it was done for us but we certainly picked up tips and hints galore. Besides, it was quite a nice starter.
But the Turkey and Ham were just fantastic, so full of flavour and the turkey so moist. Lunch was followed by a Wine and Cheese Tasting conducted by Blaithin McCabe who has been here since 2007.
We started with La Contesse Spumante Prosecco and then a lightly oaked Potel Aviron Macon Villages 2011. The red was a Cotes du Rhone by Domaine Coste Chaude (2011) and then we enjoyed the Quinta do Noval 10 Year Old Tawny Port before sipping a MacNean Mulled Wine.
Perhaps the best match of the tasting for me was the Port and Cashel Blue cheese, made from cows milk. Also on the plate were Corleggy, a hard goats cheese from Cavan, Tipperary’s Cooleeney made from raw cows milk and Coolea (Cork) made from fresh cow milk.
Following an interesting tour of the kitchen, there were more lessons, including Chestnut, Wild Mushroom and Bacon Soup with Smoked Duck, Mulled Fruit Truffle, a Fruit Cocktail and Mulled Wine. Sadly though we had to hit the road earlier than most and missed the final session! Will have to go again in the future.
Cork’s Brown Thomas launched their Food Emporium with music, wine and, of
course, food in the store last evening. And it turned out to be a very
Cheese producers were there
in force. Great to meet, however briefly, Padraig O’Farrell of CarrigalineCheese but we’ll see him again next week on their open day. Also
there were Cooleeney,Durrus and Gubbeen, the latter with their cheese and impressive Cheese Oatcakes.
Got a glass of wine on the way
in and was soon comparing it in various glasses under guidance from Martin
Turner of Riedel, in town
especially for the event. The proper glass sure makes a difference – you can
take that from an ex-sceptic! And the experience was repeated later with a
lovely Pinot Noir (innocent Bystander) from Ballymaloe Wines , who have been in
the Emporium for the past few months.
Ballymaloe indeed strongly
supported the event last evening and there was a sweet finish with their pastry
chef JR Ryall providing us with some gorgeous chocolate truffles to
match with the dessert wine.
But before that we had some great
tastings. The Castlemartyr Resorteven had a menu of good things to try and there was no
shortage of volunteers. Tom Durcan, delighted with his Gold at the Blas as the weekend, had his corned and spiced beef on show.
Met Burren Smokehouse's Birgitta Curtinagain, after the
Blas Awards in Dingle, and this time got to taste her glorious smoked salmon.
There too was Arun from Green Saffron dishing out a perfect
Chicken Korma. By the way, look out for his new Spice Blends and those
luxurious Cook-in Sauces, so easy, so good.
It is a busy time too for Timoleague’s
Anthony Creswell of Ummera Smokehouse. He smokes salmon, duck, bacon and chicken, all
terrific and regulars on menus on top restaurants, now at the Emporium and also
available online. And then we had Una’s Pies, a really top product as her regular awards at Blas Na
hEireann underline. Una is also a regular at Mahon Point Farmers Market.
And from the kingdom itself
came Sam of Cloudberry Bakerywho make artisan cakes and desserts - anything from
colourful cake pops and cupcakes to show-stopping wedding cakes. Cloudberry was
a Blas winner in 2012. So pop into the
Emporium and treat yourself.
Very good but better in Riedel
We were very well treated
last night – even got my pic taken with Rachel Allen – and there was a bonus of
a goodie bag on exit. Well done to the folks at Brown Thomas and best of luck
for the Christmas season.
Had heard only good things about Kilkenny’s Highbank Orchards Syrupwhich was launched in 2010. Spotted the bottle in Iago in the English Market recently and snapped it up. The price is close to 10 euro and looks high for 200ml but the organic product has a long shelf life and is very versatile.
"Ireland's answer to maple syrup", this sweet and delicious, pouring, organic syrup, is the first of its kind. Grown and produced by Highbank Orchards in Kilkenny, Ireland. With years of research, Highbank launched the Orchard Syrup in 2010 at Savour Kilkenny.
There was a little leaflet hanging from the neck with quite a few suggestions. Drizzle it on your porridge was one. I tried that but didn't find it very successful. More joy though when I added some to cheese.
Uses suggested on the site are: Drizzle on porridge and muesli, pour on ice cream, pancakes and desserts, glaze your ham, sausages or vegetables, flavour your stews, oat cakes and breads. As a hot healthy drink or in whiskey. Drizzle on cheese (particularly blue cheese), on paté and game terrines. Delicious on bananas as well as poured on Waldorf Salads!
Tipperary’s Cooleeneywas the cheese in question. Met them at their stand at the recent Cork TasteFest and, for three of those controversial Corkers, I got a small round of their Dunbarra Farmhouse Brie (this with garlic).
Cooleeney make quite a range as you can see on their site. They often suggest a matching wine and Pinot Noir was their choice here. Just happened to have one and yes that New Zealand Marlborough Little Beauty and Cooleeney got on well together. But perhaps the best match was between the Tipp cheese and the Apple Syrup from neighbouring Kilkenny.