Showing posts with label English Market. Show all posts
Showing posts with label English Market. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The Chicken Inn. All about Family and Flavour


The Chicken Inn. 
All about Family and Flavour
Civic recognition for the Mulcahys including
father Jack (left), mother Mary
 and Tim with citation.

The Chicken Inn has been in the English Market since 1955. They started cooking in the 1960s and at that stage a small rotisserie was sufficient to meet a fairly steady Saturday demand, a demand that grew during the summer when the holiday season kicked in and people regularly picked up a cooked chicken for the picnics.

They are still in the English Market of course and now have another base. Just last week, Tim Mulcahy, grandson of the founder John Lane, proudly showed me around their new facility at the Northside for Business Campus in Ballyvolane (just behind the fire station).

As demand for cooked chicken grew, the Chicken Inn bought in a special oven from the UK that allowed them cook slow and on the bone. And that oven has been transferred to Ballyvolane. Tim told me “the antique is going as well as ever”. Right alongside it is a new oven and each is capable of doing 375 chicken crowns at a go, all cooked on the bone by the way, “just 100% per cent meat, nothing added”. 

“Now we can do big orders with more confidence,” says Tim. “But we are not trying to get as much in and out as possible or as quickly as possible. It is still low and slow. We still are at the artisan stage, it is all about the flavour and that takes time and care.” The chicken is succulent. Check it out for yourself before you buy by sampling from the display plate at the market stall. (No retail at Ballyvolane, by the way!).
Ready to roll at new Ballyvolane facility


All about the flavour!
Both ovens cook with steam but in a different way. Water is fed into the new one from the top and directed onto the elements and then the steam is created. The “Antique”, now twenty five years old, uses a water bath to create the steam.

Tim gives huge credit to Denis, the man who oversees the cooking here. “He has been cooking with us for 49 years, has it down to a ’t’. He’s always had the touch and it is second nature to him at this stage”. Denis has seen huge changes during the decades and indeed is now in charge of the paperwork here as well.

And there’s a huge amount of it. Every single batch is tagged on arrival, each box of chicken has a label from the supplier and that label follows that batch all the way through - even gets cooked - to dispatch. And that means that each single chicken’s history (through reception, cooking, chilling) in the facility can be traced if need be. And that means reassurance for customers, both big and small.

“Our customers know what they are getting, they can rely on us. No one else is doing what we are doing. A big customer didn’t want any more plastic so we use greaseproof paper as a simple solution to packaging.” And because of the increased capacity and the increased ability to trace and track, the Chicken Inn has recently been able to secure two large local contracts.
Early days in the market

In the cooked/production area, the air is changed no less than twenty times per minute. You can’t move from one room to another willy nilly. If an opposing door is open, you won’t get access until that’s closed. It’s a bit like queueing to see the Last Supper in Milan. 

Cleaning is a constant. They also use a “fogging machine”. This reaches the spots that other methods can’t access, and it especially useful for fans and motors. And the regulations on hygiene - I had to get togged out with coat, hat and shoe covers - follow the chicken all the way through from inward delivery, through the different areas, to the blast chill (cold in there!) to their chill dispatch area.

New generation. Tim with daughters Judy
and Ali (right) at the Blas prize-giving.
Oh, the Chicken Inn continue to do their own spiced beef and turkey, that spice beef by the way is sold all year round. Tim told me a good yarn: “Only last week, a lady called and ordered, cooked turkey sliced, spiced beef and ham, for a confirmation lunch. And she told me she was going to tell her visitors, some from Dublin, that she’d prepared it all herself!”. Tim mightn’t be getting the credit but he took it as a great compliment!

And do watch out for their new product, which has been a while in development. Their Chicken Bone Broth, made here in a large stock pot in Ballyvolane, is now widely available in Supervalu and also from the market stall.

Tim had a lot of hoops to jump through as he set up the new facility, lots of help too though. “It is getting increasingly difficult, for small producers, to put a place like this together.” He showed me a “blucher drain”. He was quoted close to a thousand euro each and he needed 12! Luckily though, with help, he sourced them for a fraction of the original quote. The Chicken Inn has four people employed here, nineteen in total, 23 reasons to be proud.

Tim has great praise for the Northside for Business Campus, well placed for distribution on the North Ring Road. It is part of the Northside Economic Development Forum’s ‘Growing more than Apples’ initiative.  By working together the stakeholders aim to develop practical initiatives, with tangible outcomes, that support the regeneration of the 3 RAPID areas on the Northside. 

The  Northside Economic Development Forum itself is representative of Cork City Council, Cork City Enterprise Board, Cork City Partnership, Cork Chamber, Department of Social Protection, HSE, PLATO , The Revenue Commissioners, RAPID and the City of Cork VEC ad was set up in 2012 by the Cork City Development Board. Read more here  https://northsideforbusiness.ie/

1955 - John Lane started the stall in the English Market.
1960s - started selling cooked chicken.
1988 - suppliers to Michael Jackson concert in Cork
1992 - suppliers to Tall Ships, Cork
1993 - suppliers to Eurovision Millstreet
2010 - Their Honey Roast Ham won a Gold Star at the prestigious UK awards
2014 - awarded McKenna Guides plaque
2019 - new facility in Ballyvolane.

See Previous article on the Chicken Inn here



Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Taste of the Week. Big Red Kitchen’s Spiced Plum & Port Jam


Taste of the Week
Big Red Kitchen’s Spiced Plum & Port Jam

“We combine ripe plums with a hint of warming cinnamon and port in this wonderful seasonal preserve. Wonderful on bread and scones, but why not try serving it with pate or cheese?”

A big thanks to Margo Ann of the Roughty Foodie in the English Market for introducing me to this lovely jam. We had been thinking of trying it with seasonal items, such as the Christmas pudding but that wasn’t really an item!

In the meantime, Nicola (from Big Red Kitchen) had tweeted that it was a match with paté, cheese and duck. Plenty of opportunities over the Christmas to try it, although funnily enough no paté (though there is a small tin of Ostrich hanging around). Excellent with most cheeses, though I preferred a sweeter preserve (such as Fig Jam) with the blue cheeses.

But the outstanding match came when we had it with Skeaghanore Smoked Duck. Their richly flavoured smoked duck breast is a favourite here, even more so now that we have this delicious Big Red Kitchen jam - our Taste of the Week - to go with it. I’ll be in for more, Margo!

Tel: 01-6978092 
Mob: 086-1508462 
Email: nicola@bigredkitchen.ie 
Address: Simonstown Lane, Navan, Co. Meath, Ireland 

Monday, August 6, 2018

Taste of the Week. Cratloe Hills Sheep Cheese


Taste of the Week
Cratloe Hills Sheep Cheese

Bought a small wedge of  Mature Cratloe Hills Sheep Cheese in On The Pig’s Back on a recent Saturday. Should have bought more of this exquisite cheese, our Taste of the Week.

The story of Cratloe Hills cheese began in the mid 80s when Sean and Deirdre Fitzgerald began making it in County Clare on their Cratloe farm that overlooks the Shannon.

It is a delicious, full-bodied, intricate blend of tastes with layers of flavours. This is quite an experience as they say themselves:  “…each bite brings more hints of butterscotch and burnt caramel come to the fore”.

With such a tide of sophisticated flavour from the cheese on its own, you hardly need anything by way of accompaniment. I did try a gorgeous artisan-made Confiture Cerise Noire (from Sheridan’s) as this type of jam is often served with sheeps cheese in the Basque region. 

And while the combination is pleasant, I’d say the Cratloe is possibly best on its own. By the way, if you think you’d like something with it and can’t get your hands on the Confiture, then Follain’s Loganberry Jam is a good substitute.

The Clare product is 100% sheep's milk using only a vegetarian starter, rennet and salt. It is a natural product manufactured in a traditional way with no additives or flavours. 

Monday, July 30, 2018

Taste of the Week. Kay O’Connell’s Wild Sea Trout


Taste of the Week
Kay O’Connell’s Wild Sea Trout

Nosing around the English Market last Friday and spotted a hand-written* sign up on the O’Connell Fish Stall drawing attention to their Wild Sea Trout. Brought a couple of fillets home and the Official Blog Chef turned them into our Taste of the Week.

This noble trout, full of flavour, is worth every cent. Pan-fried, skin side first. Peas and spinach from the garden were recruited. Potatoes were diced, garlic and herb added, and cooked in a very high oven before the other veg were added and tossed with the potatoes.

So there you, no great fuss but a fantastic Taste of the Week.

* He’ll probably type them when he opens in Bishopstown!

K O’Connell Fish Merchants
English Market
Grand Parade
Cork

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Taste of the Week. Wicklow Bán Brie


Taste of the Week
Wicklow Bán Brie

Encouraged by the immediate success of their multi-award winning Wicklow Blue, the Hempenstalls soon followed up with this equally delightful creamy brie cheese.

The family have been making cheese since 2005 and they credit the farm’s proximity to the Irish Sea with adding a distinctive flavour all of its own to these seductively addictive Wicklow Farmhouse cheeses. And this is distinctive. It is mild, creamy and buttery and our Taste of the Week.

Apples, berries, pears and many other juicy fruits are known to pair well with Brie. We came across another variation. We just happened to have some dried baby figs (from the Olive Stall in the English Market) in the house and they, along with a few grapes, made for a delicious plateful. If you want to make it even better, add a glass of that gorgeous Pom ‘O from Killahora Orchards.

Wicklow Farmhouse cheese is widely available. I got this piece at On the Pig’s Back in Cork’s English Market.

Curranstown House, 
Arklow, 
Co. Wicklow
Phone: +353 (0) 402 91713 
Mobile: +353 (0) 872515980 
Web: www.wicklowfarmhousecheese.ie

Monday, April 16, 2018

Mise en place saves your ass. Chatting with Oyster Tavern Head Chef Kate Lawlor


Mise en place saves your ass 
Chatting with Oyster Tavern Head Chef Kate Lawlor
Kate in her Fenn's Quay days with John and Sally McKenna (left). See Kate
on RTE 1 on April 18th (8.30pm) in Healthy Appetite

Kate Lawlor, for so long associated with Fenn’s Quay, is now enjoying her Head Chef role at The Oyster Tavern in Cork city centre. And the team there, quite a young one, have a great chance to learn from one of the hardest working chefs around but one who enjoys “teaching others the joy of cooking, taking raw ingredients and making wonderful dishes.  I also enjoy heading to the English Market and meeting suppliers”. 

Her aim now is make the Oyster and its food offering better known among the public. We caught up with Kate after a lovely meal in the Oyster and enjoyed this chat.



I know you were sad to leave Fenn’s Quay. But you’re still on familiar ground and things have worked out well?
 After a little break after closing Fenn’s, it felt right to take on the role in the Oyster with its history and of course its location on Market Lane into the English Market. It’s taken me a few months to settle into new surroundings but, with the support of Bob (general manager) Dee (restaurant manager ) and Chris Curtin (assistant head chef)  and team, menus are coming together nicely. 

What direction is cooking here at The Oyster taking? What can we expect in the near future?
It’s very much a simple approach to good quality produce sourced within the English Market with a few Fenn’s classics popping up such as the flourless chocolate pudding  and the warm chicken salad on the lunch. There is a big emphasis on steaks and fish which will continue to evolve with the seasons. 

How did you start in the business? Was there a good cook at home or other family inspiration?
 Having taken up Home Ec in Secondary School my first summer job was in a cafe kitchen aged 16. I really enjoyed it, the cooking, the creating, so it was suggested I apply to what was then Cert in Cork Institute of Technology and the rest you could say is history. In later years I returned to complete a degree in Culinary Arts. 

Do you shout in the kitchen?
I tend not to. I learnt early on I didn’t like being shouted at and therefore I shouldn’t shout at someone, it only makes the situation worse. 

The importance of prepping. Do you ever have enough time in the kitchen?  
Some days are easier than others. There is  a great saying “mise en place saves your ass “ and it’s true. Still, you do have days when you feel you’re never on top of it but, with a great team behind you, you get there in the end.

Sourcing and provenance is important to you?
For me it is. It may cost a bit more but it’s worth it as I like to know the person behind the products and learn about how it’s made 

Have you ever come up with a dish by accident, a fluke?
Specials for me are always a bit of a fluke as always last on the prep list. Recently I cooked some pearl barley with carrots onions and some fennel seeds, added cabbage & prawn & a dash of lemon served with turbot & butternut squash purée. It truly was a dish I was super proud of.  

Meat as back-up, not the main feature in a dish? Will that happen?
Attitudes to food are changing but still our meat sales outweigh the vegetarian at present so I can’t see that happening. 

What non-Irish cuisine do you like most?
At present Japanese. Its clean flavours in the broths and the precision is mesmerising .

What is the best meal you’ve ever had?
Hard to pick out one in particular. Really enjoyed Nathan Outlaw and JP McMahon's collaboration in Aniar, Purnell's in Birmingham , 1826 in Adare. But best in the last 12 months was when I collaborated with Derry Clarke’s menu at the Oyster last November. 

Kate is set to star, along with Donegal's Gary O'Hanlon, in the first episode of a new RTE cooking series called Healthy Appetite, which is all about good food.  Episode one kicks off on RTE1 on Wednesday, April 18th at 8.30pm. 


See A Specials Evening at The Oyster Tavern.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

A Specials Evening at The Oyster Tavern


A Specials Evening at The Oyster Tavern
Lamb

The Oyster Tavern may have been established in 1792 but while nostalgia for the (more recent) good old days (and nights) will gain you some goodwill you've got to keeping putting quality on the table. And in April 2018, The Oyster is doing just that. During our visit last week, we enjoyed two of the best main courses that we've come across in a long while. Working under renowned local chef Kate Lawlor, the team’s Pan-fried Halibut and Rack of Lamb were absolutely outstanding; and neither of the evening’s specials needed a heavy sauce.
Carpaccio

That rack of lamb, like much else here, comes from the English Market next door. And Tom Durcan's rack was perfectly cooked (pink) with pearl barley, cabbage stew and turnip purée, Irish food at its best. Great flavour from the tender meat and I reckon I'd have eaten a bowlful of the accompaniment on its own.

I enjoyed every bit of that but think I was beaten to the line by CL who hardly spoke, just purred now and then, as the fish disappeared. The Halibut, a lovely piece of fish lovingly handled in the kitchen, its delicate flavours respected, was served with charred tender stem broccoli, pickled beetroot and oyster sauce. And there was a tasty side of crushed potato with dillisk and tarragon.
Cheers!


The main choices also included a range of steaks (from Tom Durcan), baked sea-bream, two vegan friendly dishes Cauliflower Steak and Char-Grilled Aubergine Charlotte, a Chicken Cordon Bleu (from the market's Chicken Inn) and more.

We began our guest visit with a couple of lovely cool draught beers, both by Franciscan Well, the Chieftain Ale and Rebel Red, and a look at the menu. No shortage of starters: soups, chowder, oysters (of course), scampi, a Knocklara Cheese Salad included. 

CL enjoyed Durcan's spiced beef carpaccio, with cracked black pepper and sea salt on a bed of rocket leaves while I was also impressed with the flavours and textures in the Pork and Onion Croquettes (Clonakilty black pudding and apple sauce).
We were in early on the Tuesday after Easter Monday and had a chance to have a “good look”. Great welcome by the barman downstairs, a bit of chat and then he guided us to the lift, and that kind of service continued right through upstairs, and at the very end when the same friendly fellow engaged us again in a bit of banter. The restaurant looks fantastic, the island bar a feature as is a secluded area off to your right as you enter (great for a large private party). The main area has lots of booths with very comfortable seating, some lovely chairs around the bar as well (see Oyster pic below). 

This gorgeous dining area gets lively at weekend nights, with some of the musicians known to strut their stuff on the counter! Mightn't be the best time for fine dining then but you may still eat here as platters are part of the late night service. There is a separate weekend menu (including steak and eggs) and also a Pre-Theatre menu.

We finished up though with a couple of desserts, a Sherry Trifle and a Tarte Tatin and a lovely chat with Chef Kate Lawlor who joined last October and is very much enjoying her new challenge here. Earlier, we met up with restaurant manager Deirdre Caldwell.

Check a previous visit (last September) to the Oyster here.
And keep an eye for our chat with Kate Lawlor - coming soon.



Monday, March 12, 2018

Food Photo Exhibition At City Library. Cork Food Policy Competition

Food Photo Exhibition At City Library
Cork Food Policy Competition

"Haddock Man" by John Dempsey
It is amazing that so many Irish people have very little idea as to where their food is coming from. Most of us city dwellers are barely a generation removed from the countryside, which for many of us is still just a short drive away. 

Yet I got a shock myself last year when a thirty something visited our garden; only then did she learn that peas grow in pods! Had she been born sixty years or so earlier, she’d have been sent to the corner shop for a bag of unshelled peas. Back home, she and her siblings would then get to "work" on shelling the sweet green peas.
Eleanor Attridge receives her prize from yours truly

Last week, over half-a-dozen or more magpies were making a massive racket on a bare tree in a school avenue but neither the mother nor the offspring walking underneath looked up. In the good old days, your mother or father would have plenty to say on the magpies - remember one for sorrow, two for joy.… 

So how did this disconnect with food and nature happen? Rather than looking for someone to blame (parents, educators, farmers, supermarkets), would it not be much better to concentrate on mending that “break”? 

There are quite a few people already doing so, including the Cork Food Policy Council who recently organised a photo competition where the categories were:
1- Food and Health - where does it come from?
2- Cork Food. What’s eating Cork and what’s Cork eating?
3- Community. What could a sustainable food system look like?

The categories were all well chosen to make the photographer think a little before pressing that shutter button and the winners of the inaugural Cork Food Policy Council’s Food Photo Competition were presented with their prizes at the Cork City Library in Grand Parade last Friday evening. You may see all 43 entries there, in the library foyer, until March 26th.

“A competition like this presents an opportunity to tell a different story about what we actually eat and where it really comes from,” Keelin Tobin, Coordinator of Cork Food Policy Council as she introduced the winners.

"Olive" by Annelies Verbiest
“This competition is an opportunity for photographers to showcase and celebrate the efforts being made towards a sustainable food system in Cork,” said Ellie Donovan of Green Space and Member of Cork Food Policy Council Steering Committee.

Annelies Verbiest won the ORSO sponsored prize for the Food and Health category. Her photo of Olive the hen was taken the day “Olive arrived in our garden”. “At 18 months, she was deemed too old for the industry as she had stopped providing an egg each day. She lived with us for a year, until she died. Her featherless body shows the true cost of cheap eggs in high production environments.”

The Cork Food category was the most popular one and the judges, who included professionals Giles Norman and Monika of Pepperazzi, picked two winners here. Beekeeper Eleanor Attridge’s honeycomb pic was one, “nature at its best, straight from the comb”. “It looked well and tasted better,” she said on the night.
Eileen Duggan receives her prize.

Frances Deasy’s photo of a grandmother and grandson gardening was the other winner. “Growing and eating my food is a pleasure, sharing with family a joy,” she said. Both Eleanor and Frances received a voucher from the English Market.

The Community Category prize (from O’Leary’s Camera World) was won by John Dempsey for his Haddock Man, a portrait of fish-monger William Martin at his stall in the English Market. Keen photographer John will enjoy spending that voucher.

Joleen Cronin's shot (left) of a fisherman landing his catch was the winner of the Giles Norman Selected Prize. The fisherman was pictured coming in after several days at sea, “the last fishing trip before Christmas.” The vessel, the Buddy M, arrived in Crosshaven at 3.00am on a wet and cold December morning.

The Monika Coghlan Pepperazzi Selected Prize went to Eileen Duggan for her shot of a bee, busy at work. “No bees, no honey. The bee was working very hard to gather nectar. Our bees are a very important part of our food chain, therefore we need to protect them.” 

Monika, “a great help throughout the competition”, also took the presentation photos  (some reproduced here) at the library. Other sponsors for the opening were Rocket Man and Green Space.

* Don’t forget to drop in to the library entrance where you’ll be able to see all the photos until March 26th.




Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Taste of the Week. Cantabrian Anchovies from the Real Olive Co.


The Deli's on the right!

Taste of the Week
Anchovies from the Real Olive Co.

If ever you are lucky enough to be in Getaria, on the Basque coast between San Sebastian and Bilbao, be sure and call to the Salanort deli and get your hands on the local anchovies. I thought that was my only way of getting these beauties but I found out the other day, they are much closer to home and are my Taste of the Week.

All you have to do is to call to the Real Olive Stall in the English Market and get yourself a few tins of the Cantabrian anchovies caught off Getaria and other nearby towns, in particular the can marked Cantara. The little fish are caught and the treated in a traditional way and are of the very finest quality.
Anchovies with grilled onions at Nerua in Bilbao's Guggenheim

What is so different about these anchovies? Well for a start, they are cold water as distinct from the anchovies of the warmer Med. But, maybe because of that, they have a fantastic flavour, pleasant and mild (not as salty as those from the Med) and texture is almost creamy. By the way, they have some delicious sardines at the Real Olive as well - I like the ones in the spicy tomato sauce but there is quite a choice and I'm told that those in Extra Virgin Olive Oil are amazing!
This is the tin you want!


Sunday, February 11, 2018

Olives beyond Tuscany. Buffalo Return To Toons Bridge

Olives beyond Tuscany. Mozzarella beyond Italy.

Toby Simmonds Tells Two Stories.
Nyons olives, via wikipedia
Toby Simmonds, telling us about The Real Olive Company and Toons Bridge Dairy, was the star of the show as the Munster Wine & Dine Circle launched it's 2018 programme at a packed L’Atitude last Thursday. 

The gathering may have been expecting a genteel tasting of his imported olives and his Toonsbridge Irish cheese; well they got that, and much more, with Toby pointing out the snobbishness surrounding olive oil, the very limited varieties available in the supermarkets (like Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon in wine and not too much else), the overuse of caustic soda (the Spanish Cure) in olives. And his cheese story is just as interesting.
Took this pic of a very old olive tree in the Charente in 2009

Toby came into a challenging scene when, with the aid of a three figure loan, he started off here in 1993. But since then farmers markets have taken off in a big way, the English Market stall has been and is a huge success for him and  partner Jenny Rose Clark (Jenny Rose also runs the Sandwich Stall in the market).

The snobbery comes across often at a market. “Is those olives from Tuscany?” When the answer is no, the potential customer walks away. Toby sees this as “missing the point” and something of an insult to all those communities around the Mediterranean who take their olives seriously and produce “good stuff”. 

And, as regards the limited choice now available in the supermarkets, he says that that diversity is everything. “Olives present a great story”. By way of illustration then showed a slide of himself and a 4,000 year old olive tree. “That same variety is growing as a five year old in the grove across the road.”

So then we got down to the business of tasting a string of his olives, starting with the Kalamata from the centre of Greece. As we moved on, he mentioned the overuse of caustic side in curing. “A little bit is fine. But too much takes the goodness out of the olives. It is happening all the time.” The green Picholine olives from France, though now grown all over the world, have a “little bit of caustic soda” in their cure, were among the samples we tasted.
Toby's Burrata

Others in the tasting were the Galega (my favourite on the night) from Portugal’s Alentejo, the very expensive Nyons variety from Provence, the dry and wrinkly Beldi (“will be even better in three years time”), and the little baby olives which Toby finds hard to sell outside of Cork where it is a firm favourite, not least with the kids.

Then we were on to the amazing Toons Bridge cheese story, a story that saw them “in crisis” just a few years after the original Buffalo/Mozzarella partnership ended in “divorce”. Flying in frozen buffalo milk from Italy wasn't a success but new cheesemaker Franco then turned up with a local solution and made it from cows milk.

A key factor in Mozzarella is the whey starter (“a bit like sourdough”); yesterday's whey is used as a starter the very next day.” The starter is essential for texture and flavour and the Mozzarella is the same as you get from Italy. 
Cheese plate by Toons Bridge at L'Atitude

So the Toons Bridge cheese story goes on and the good news is that they now have their own little herd of 22 young buffalo with another twenty on the way - you'll have to wait a while for this herd's cheese though. Currently, Mozzarella (from cows milk) is delivered fresh to their English Market stall on Wednesday and Friday mornings. Eat it at home as soon as you can, maybe even eat it on the bus on the way home! It is not meant to be kept!

The challenge presented by that crisis though has turned into an opportunity. With no fresh buffalo milk available to them anymore, Toons Bridge have creatively filled the gap by adding a string of gorgeous Italian style cheeses to their range.

One is Caciocavallo. This can age marvellously, turning the soft, rubbery paste so hard and flinty that it needs to be broken in shards. The flavours can be huge, as they harness all of the various raw milk bacteria to ripen the curd. This cheese was made by the ancient Greeks and they got it from the Babylonians. “It is one of the oldest in history.”
Olives trees. Took this shot from the spectacular fortified site of Les Baux in Provence

They also do Halloumi and Ricotta (try with Highbank Orchard Syrup). And then there’s the Pecorino Vincenzo.  Pecorino is the general name for sheep’s cheese in Italy. This pecorino is made in Toons Bridge by Vincenzo to a family recipe from his native Marche region.  

Vincenzo has a small flock of sheep and he make this gorgeous Pecorino right here. Another must try from this rural hub of creativity, imagination and passion and, every now and then, a little bit of well deserved luck!

Another of their cheeses is Scamorza which is a simple stretched curd cheese that is hung (you can see the mark of the string) for a short period of time to air dry. It is similar to mozzarella and melts well. It is sweet and delicate. They do both smoked and unsmoked versions and I must say I enjoy the smoked one (great when stuffing those big flat mushrooms) or, as Toby suggested at the tasting, “..it is great in a sandwich, like hanging out with gypsies”.
Cheeses, mainly Caciocavallo, in Toons Bridge

The enthusiasm is amazing. They are a long ways from finished here. More cheeses on the horizon. Keep a look out in the near future for the Toons Bridge Cardoon Cheese, featuring a flowering vegetable used in cheeses in Spain and Portugal. From the Med to Macroom, the links keep growing.

So big thanks to Toby for his amazing talk. Thanks to Andrew O’Dwyer of Market Place for supplying the Prosecco and to L’Atitude for the canapés.

Munster Wine & Dine Chair Eithne Barry filled us in on what is in store for the year. First event, on March 24th, is a Wine Trail (led by Colm McCan and with tastings!) around the historic streets of Cork, stopping at various places associated with wine, including the old bond. 

There will be some long distance tours during the summer, nearby producers too to visit, before the finalé, a tour and Sunday lunch in Longueville House, an incredible experience when we visited three years back. 

Lots to look forward to in the months head. So do join up (application form here)  and enjoy.



Monday, December 18, 2017

Taste of the Week. Christmas Special. The Nibbles Christmas Pudding

Taste of the Week. Christmas Special

The Nibbles Christmas Pudding

Once upon a time, Irish housewives made the Christmas pudding, some made three or four or more, in mid-summer. All windows and doors were thrown open and the steam drifted out, some aromas too, to the open air.

But then came the age of inconvenience and nobody was left at home to cook up the necessary battalions of puddings and now we rely more and more on providers. Some of those providers though are so much better than others and I found one last week who has served up my Taste of the Christmas Week.

Eleanor Leahy is the lady and Nibbles is the name of her Millstreet company; her puddings (and cakes, by the way) are available at farmers markets, at Nibbles Bakery and Café in Millstreet, and also in Roughty Foodie in the English Market where I got mine from Margo Ann.

The Nibbles pudding is not as dark as the traditional one but, packed with fruit, stout and whiskey too, it has the all the flavour you need and comes in a variety of sizes. Just add a slather of the Brandy Butter from Crossogue Preserves, also available from Margo Ann, and you have a festive treat that’s hard to beat.
The Nibbles Christmas Cake is pretty good too!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Farmgate Café. Traditional. Seasonal. Regional. Food of the land and work of local hands.

Farmgate Café. Traditional. Seasonal. Regional.

Food of the land and work of local hands.
Irish stew. Bacon and Cabbage. Just the mention of these traditional Irish dishes can get some modern “foodies”, some chefs too, on their high horses. They don’t want us posting pictures  of our peasant food on the internet, preferring instead those “decorated” with colourful drops from a squeegee bottle. 

I like my stew, like my bacon and cabbage. Just as the French like their hardly photogenic Coq au vin. And when I saw the lamb stew on the menu during last Saturday's visit to The Farmgate, above the English Market, I had no hesitation in ordering it. It was a cold day and the warming stew was the ideal comfort food. And reasonable photogenic as well.

The Hartes (Kay and daughter Rebecca) are in no doubt about the value of tradition. “Farmgate Café embraces much of what is unique and traditional to Cork along with new influences in this dynamic multicultural food market and port city. Centuries old traditional, seasonal, regional, even ‘forgotten’ foods are at the core of the Farmgate ethos, and also form a visible link between the menu and the wonderful array of produce downstairs.”

“This allows Farmgate Café to provide a uniquely Irish eating experience both reflecting and playing a small role in a vibrant Irish food culture truly embracing how good indigenous ingredients and food products are.”

The popular Farmgate is divided into two sections, as you may know. You may well need to book to get a table in the Dining Room while most of the rest of the mezzanine, the Balcony, is informal so you just queue and order and the order, if not self-service, will be delivered to your table. 

We had booked and were lucky to get a table in an outdoor room adjoining the Dining Room. We were told it would be cold but no problem. There are glass panels up to head height (where you sit), heaters overhead and, just in case, blankets!

No need for the blankets though as we ordered from the regular list. There are always at least three daily specials: meat, fish and tart. The Lamb and Potato stew (€14.00, a euro less on the balcony) has regular company in Chargrilled Chicken, Traditional Pork Sausages with lentils, a Cured Fish plate, a Market Mezze, and a Warm Salad of free range chicken. Traditional yes but not hidebound by the past either.

In any case, that Lamb stew was delicious, the meat flavoursome and tender, the vegetables spot-on, and the potatoes were perfect. And here you’ll have no problem enjoying the last of the tasty liquid as, in addition to knife and fork, they also provide a spoon.

Lunchtime queue for the Farmgate lunch
on the Balcony while the market continues
below.
This was peak lunchtime on Saturday yet the staff, in their smart seasonal clothing, were excellent, very helpful all the way through.

I’d finish up also with a traditional touch. Had been swaying between the Christmas Pudding and the Mince Pie (3.50). The Brandy Cream swung it for the Pie which had a nice layer of crumble on top. 

CL wanted to experiment so she went for the non-traditional Salted Caramel Confit Banana with Rum and Raisin Ice-cream (5.00). A brave woman to take on the ice-cream but it was a seriously delicious finish.

The Farmgate believes in supporting local food. And local drink too. Ciders come from Longueville House and Stonewell, beers from Eight Degrees and Dungarvan Brewing, while the wines are all European.

We had been taking the odd peek down to the floor of the market and, after settling up, we joined the crowd down on the floor. Eventually we had a stroll through Glow and then visited Christmas markets in St Peter’s and The Franciscan Well (this is on again next Saturday).




English Market
Princes Street
Cork
T12NC8Y
Tel: 021 427 8134. Int: 00 353 21 427 8134
Email (general enquiries only): info@farmgatecork.ie