|Nigel, with Dr Noel Murray(left) of CIT and Conrad Howard of Market Lane Group.|
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Tuesday, March 12, 2019
Nigel Cotter. His Butcher to Chef Story
Nigel Cotter, the Douglas man who was recently awarded the Market Lane Culinary Scholarship with CIT, has taken a long road to cheffing. He is a qualified butcher and has spent over ten years in the trade.
And it was while working as a butcher that he began to appreciate quality of produce. He credits an early mentor, Flor Kent, with giving him a good all-round picture, of the trade, of food and of life. And that butcher background is now a massive plus as he studies to be a chef.
But cheffing had always been somewhere in his mind and that has much to do with his mother who was a farmer’s daughter. Her roasts were spectacular, memorable. But with a whole animal from the family farm available, she had to use all the cuts and they had meat, stews and steaks and so on, all the year round variety.
Nigel still appreciates the meat of course but nowadays tends to cook a lot of fish at home. “We are an island nation, we should be using more fish.”
And it is not just at home that Nigel cooks these days. As part of his CIT course, he had to find a restaurant that would give him 400 hours placement. Luckily, Brendan Cashman’s Gallo and Galetti, where both Nigel and his wife enjoy eating, took him on and now that 400 hours requirement has been well and truly exceeded.
He was delighted to accept the scholarship that will help him extend and enhance his culinary education, “It is an incredible opportunity for me.” Nigel, who is currently studying for a Certificate in Culinary Skills, will use the bursary to progress to the National Chef De Partie Apprenticeship Programme at CIT, which will set him on a fast-track to becoming a fully qualified chef with access to the best kitchens in the country.
He is an obviously determined young man. His studies currently take up two full days each week and then he works around that commitment. Does he get a chance to relax? He does indeed. He loves watching Rugby and American football. For the past seven or eight years, he has been playing Five-a-Side football out in Ballincollig, enjoying the exercise and the craic. Music is another big interest of his and indeed he “used to play for a few bands”.
He has been strong on getting local producers recognised and his thoughts on the subject were taken on board by Conrad Howard of Market Lane who will be including profiles on their menu in the coming weeks, introducing their diners to the fantastic, passionate producers that supply the restaurant with their produce.
Nigel’s interest in local producers was reinforced by Avril Allshire of Rosscarbery Recipes and Caherbeg Pork when she spoke to his group at CIT. “Avril gave us a great talk and very unselfishly promoted other producers as well.”
He is all for diversity and balance in diet. “We should eat better quality meat, but less of it, and definitely eat more fish and vegetables.
Has he a favourite chef? “Marco Pierre White, a working class man who shot for the stars. Also the Roux brothers, Albert and Michel, French-born restaurateurs and chefs in Britain. And I’m sure there are more!”
Nigel is a patient fellow. It has taken him a long while to get to this point but he is not jumping too far ahead. “Of course, it’s in the back of every chef’s mind to have his or her own kitchen and to run the show to his or her own standards. But I’m only at stage one. You’ve got to serve your time, got to learn, then find your niche.”
Monday, January 14, 2019
ORSO: Making a difference.
Superb new 3-course menu for €19.00
For the past six years, tiny ORSO has been making its own distinctive mark, serving fresh and vibrant flavours, in the heart of Cork City. This is Irish food but influenced by the Mediterranean, including the Maghreb and the Levant, and places further east. The Pembroke Street venue may be small but there’s a big variety here and now it's well illustrated in a delicious new 3-course menu for just nineteen euro!
This Prix Fixe menu is available between 5.00 and 7.00pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. And this is not just a January offer. It trialled in December, is now formalised and manager Dee Munnelly and her enthusiastic kitchen team hope it goes on and on. And the reaction so far indicates that it will.
We were there last week to try it out and can honestly give it a very enthusiastic thumbs up as we enjoyed every bite from start to finish and a bottle of their own (ORSO are part of the Market Lane group) Elbow Lane Jawbone Pale Ale. The drinks - wines, beers and cocktails available - are not of course included in the fixed price!
They have four starters on offer including a Chicken Manti with Tomato Ragu and Toasted Seeds and also a Courgette Carpaccio with Parmesan, and sumac and saffron oil.
But it was the Seared Watermelon that caught CL’s eye. It was a great choice, a lovely tasty and warm dish, the slices of warm melon served with Goats Cheese, Gremolata and pomegranate. Gremolata? It is a chopped herb condiment usually made of lemon zest, garlic, and parsley.
Meanwhile, I was just as enthusiastic with my Sardine Bruschetta. The little silver sardine was delicious and indeed the warmed bread itself, soaked with oil and covered with tomato and onion, would have made a fine starter on its own. We were up and running and looking for more.
I picked the Crumbed Hake, served on spiced lentils with a poached egg on top. What a bowlful! No shortage of quantity here. And certainly no shortage of quality either. A magnificent palate-pleasing mix of textures and flavours, great for a winter’s evening.
And it was much the same result at the other side of the table where the Chicken Harissa Tagine went down a treat. Tasty stuff all round. And we also had a side plate with red cabbage, couscous and a cooling raita.
Just two desserts but again two gems. I’ve never had Baklava like the fabulous ORSO version, a proper and very appropriate dessert considering the orientation of the cuisine here. And the other dessert, the Chilli Chocolate Pot, was also rich and delicious.
Nothing but good things to say about this Prix Fixe. So, happy out, as we say around here!
Tuesday, October 2, 2018
Catalan Take-over at the Castle Cafe
Chef Sessions Number Four!
Every now and then the young chefs of the Market Lane group get a chance to shine. The latest came on Monday evening at the Castle Café at Blackrock Castle where, under guidance from Executive Chef Stephen Kehoe, Sara Movilla Cobo, Jose Emilio Escobar Garcia Prieto, Marc Montserrat Vila and Marc Oliveras Duran, cooked a Catalan meal for a full house.
The four have become a core part of the team at the group (which also includes a micro brewery and city restaurants Elbow Lane, ORSO and Market Lane itself) as a result of the excellent recruitment programme that the group has had with CETT (Campus de Turisme, Hoteleria i Gastronomia) University in Barcelona since 2017.
That full house included Market Lane’s Conrad Howard. He was excited as any of the guests as he welcomed us and looked forward to the evening, the fourth in what has become known as the Chef Sessions. Neither he nor we would be disappointed.
We got off to a good start with a glass of Kir. Soon the breads were on that table and soon we were trying them. The selection of Spanish and Irish breads were accompanied by some lovely butters, one featuring beetroot, another garlic and kale, the third mushrooms. And they went down well with a glass of the Elbow Lane red ale.
|Black pudding, scallop|
Next up was the Salmorejo, a cold tomato soup with olive oil. It was served with cured Spanish ham (on top) and a boiled egg (at bottom). Enjoyed that and also the Black pudding, scallop and pickled carrot tapa.
|Eel and apple|
There were no less than five “units” in the next serving session. The highlight for me was perhaps the Courgette cannelloni with Cashel Blue cheese, a beautiful combination. The most unusual was the Kokotxas al Pil Pil. Kokotxas is goats neck in garlic oil, with an emulsion of olive oil and garlic and basil.
Also included was a cube of Foie Eel Apple, layers of eel and thinly cut apple with a caramelised top; a Croqueta de L’avia (traditional); and a Seafood Paella.
All the while, we were sipping our wine, two organic gems imported by Le Caveau. The red Almate has been described as “as outstanding within its type and style” and it certainly lived up to the Spanish Wine Lover description. The white, Château Beauregard Mirouze Campana blanc from Corbieres, was aromatic, elegant and with a long finish.
We were getting to the serious end of the evening now and our fish course was Hake with five sauces. I particularly liked it with the fennel. The meat was a well cooked piece of pigeon, served with pack choi and pear.
Getting full now! But dessert was on the way and a nice one it was as you can see by the top photo. And then there was a selection of petit fours to sample: a Hazelnut Financier, Bailey’s Bombon, and a Panellet. The latter is the traditional dessert of Catalunya. I think with all the delicious food displayed by the chefs at the Castle, a move to the north east of Spain would be no hardship at all. Meanwhile, we can all look out for the Spanish influence on the menus of the Market Lane group.
Monday, August 20, 2018
Bees’ Paradise in Myrtleville.
The Meadows of Hive Mind.
The honey, in its tallish jar, is of a light colour though a bit cloudier than usual. But there is a natural explanation. It is produced by the bees at Hive Mind in Myrtleville and is unfiltered. The aromas are attractive, mainly light and floral I think. No wonder, these bees are spoiled, meadows of flowers and herbs set out for them. I am enjoying this sample with its smooth consistency, pleasantly coating the palate, the flavours and aromas persistent.
Hive Mind themselves have persisted since 2014 and the bees are enjoying their meadows by the sea, meadows planted with herbs and flowers (the seed has been organically sourced) that include: Berseem Clover, Borage, Buckwheat, Calendula, Caraway, Chinese Mallow, Cork Cockle, Cornflower, Dill, Fennel, Phacelia, and the beautiful Sainfoin.
|Aishling and Mark|
The variety of flowers and blossoms from the meadows and the hedgerows help balance the flavours of the honey. Buckwheat on its own yields a dark brown honey which is pungent, the flavour a distinctively malty. Clover, on the other hand, gives a sweet and delicate result, closer to a “normal” honey. The bees love clover but there are quite a few varieties of the plant, so not all clover based honey is the same.
“It’s not too surprising to find that the magical, cliff-edged village of Myrtleville, with its stunning views of the sea, is producing some of best wild honey in the country today,” says Aishling Moore, head chef of award-winning Elbow Lane restaurant, who rates Hive Mind amongst the best honey she has ever tasted. And the good news is that you too can help Hive Mind continue to stretch out a helping hand to the Irish honey bee.
Mark Riordan's apiaries and bee meadow are located at his family farm in Myrtleville House. To create a sustainable business Riordan has started 'renting' his hives to organisations and individuals in exchange for his honey. And the Market Lane restaurant group has committed to financially supporting three colonies of honey bees at Riordan's farm.
|A meadow at six weeks|
His collaboration with Moore, the first with a restaurant, will not only provide for the restaurant’s honey needs throughout the year but it also means that Riordan gets solid financial support to build up his bee stocks and increase the number of hives. It will also help to maintain a vibrant, healthy habitat for these bee colonies and help Riordan to engage other beekeepers to spread the word.
Hive Mind is now making an appearance as a hero product on the menus at Elbow Lane, which is part of the progressive Cork-based Market Lane Group of restaurants. The talented, young Moore has woven this wonderful honey into dressings, sauces and spun it into ice-cream and cocktails.
Factors such as weather, parasites and pesticides have meant that local bee stocks are diminishing every year so Riordan sees that initiatives like Hive Mind will be vital for the survival of the honey bee into the future. These black and yellow-striped flying friends are key to the country's biodiversity and economy. It is estimated that they contribute some €53m* to the Irish economy every year.
Riordan, who has a Masters in horticulture and years of experience as a beekeeper, set up Hive Mind in 2014. “I am delighted to be working with Aishling and the Market Lane Group. This company is so well established and respected for its ethical and sustainable approach to sourcing. It is a perfect partner for Hive Mind. It is also a vital link into the city for me.”
The Hive Mind goals are:
- Promote the growth and development of a national passion for beekeeping.
- Set up provincial apiaries to carry out a nationwide service.
- Arrest the decline of the honey bee on a local level.
- Aid in educating and inspiring as many people as possible.
To buy by the jar, shoppers can go online and fill in an ‘expression of interest’ form. They will be contacted when the next harvest is completed at the beginning of Autumn. See the website here.
Wednesday, March 7, 2018
The Chef Sessions. Bone marrow, lambs hearts, cauliflower stalks, tripe, pigs tail, pig skin pasta, and more.
The Chef Sessions At ORSO
Bone marrow, lambs hearts, cauliflower stalks, tripe, pigs tail, pig skin pasta, and more.
In a remote restaurant in Sweden, Chef Magnus Nilsson saws a bone lengthways as his customers look on. The marrow is scooped out and mixed with other ingredients, a bowl for each guest. Fäviken* is the name of the restaurant and it is in the world’s top 50. No such theatre at ORSO on Monday evening when the Market Lane young chefs presented their latest Chef Sessions, the first one open to the public, but we did have bone marrow, lambs hearts, cauliflower stalks, tripe, pigs tail, spent grain brioche, pig skin pasta, even a stout wort fudge.
The focus here in these sessions is very much on using the previously unused, rarer cuts of meat, little known fish, and on avoiding food waste. But the focus, and the challenge, is sharpened by the imperative to cook and present the unusual to a very high standard. The confident crew did very well indeed and their nine course meal took us beyond the familiar comfort zone and was a delicious delight of taste and imagination.
Served with some excellent beer (their own) and organic wines, this turned out to be a thought provoking nine courses of excellent dining. Keep an eye on the Market Lane and Chef Sessions social media accounts for future events (which may have a different theme but with the same talent behind this “evolving, exciting eating”).
Last Monday's theme was underlined by the welcome drink, Blood Orange Fizz, a delicious cocktail of Beara Gin infused with waste from segmenting blood oranges and topped with Prosecco. Bread and butter was served, the brioche made from spent grain, a by-product of their brewing process. The delicious cultured butter is a fermented butter. Then smoked Cods Roe “criminally underused in our opinion” was served as a mousse on a squid ink cracker. At this stage we were enjoying a bottle of their Jawbone cloudy beer, a superb drink with the food.
|Smoked cods roe on squid ink cracker|
Then a combination of classic Cork and classic France: Tripe and gribiche. The tripe was slowly braised, pressed, cooled and cut unto rings before dusting with flour and deep-frying. Looking at it, you’d have thought you had calamari on the plate. Then came the bone marrow, served and roasted in the bone and topped with an oil based sauce, flavoured with parsley capers and lemon. Another excellent pairing.
|Their own beer|
Next up was the Coffee Grounds Baked Beetroot, Hive Mind Honey, ricotta, and malt cracker. Hadn't heard of Hive Mind before but they are a County Cork company, a kind of co-op really, that for a fee will look after hives for you at their location and give you the honey at the end of the season; more info here. Market Lane have invested in hives and the honey here came from a fennel meadow. The ricotta was made using leftover buttermilk from making the cultured butter and the malt cracker was made from malt from the Elbow Lane micro brewery. And, by the way, all these ingredients came together very well indeed.
The following dish, Pigs Tail and Garlic broth, was also full of flavour. The tails, with the inner bone removed, had been slowly braised, pressed and pan-fried while the broth was made from the skins of roasted garlic which is often wasted. I thoroughly enjoyed that one.
Another interesting combination followed: Cauliflower stalks, parmesan rind custard, and smoked ham. The stalks had been "confited" in duck fat and the cheese sauce garnished with ham crumb. Time for a palate refresher then and that was a Cucumber sorbet, pickled watermelon rind. Apparently, there is a fair bit of waste with cucumbers and here the outer skin and inner seeds were used to good effect.
Pig skin “pasta” with clams got us going again. Had really been looking forward to the next one and the Lambs heart, potato fondant, kale and lamb demi glace didn’t disappoint. Far from it.
Burnt toast and “barmalade” parfait Barry’s Tea ganache was the tasty dessert. Citrus fruit waste from the bar was used to make the “barmalade” and the white chocolate ganache came from used Barry’s Tea bags. “Using used tea bags you get a more caramel flavour and lose the harsh tannin flavour from the tea”. All a bit complicated to the outsider but no bother at all in cleaning that plate!
We had, a long time back, started on the wines, both by Le Caveau. The white was a Judith Beck Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) from Austria while the red was Inspiration by Domaine de la Ville Rouge in Croze-Hermitage and both were excellent.
The coffee then appeared along with a selection of “petit fours”. More invention here. The coffee and walnut was filled with a coffee grounds infused custard. The Beetroot aqua fava Macaron saw the egg white in the recipe replaced by water from Chick pea tins. My favourite was perhaps the Angel Stout wort Fudge. Wort is a by-product of the brewing process, a sweet and malty one.
Just another surprise on the night. At the start, Conrad Howard of the Market Lane group had promised us “a treat” even if many of the ingredients were by-products, discards, or waste. He was spot-on. So well done to all involved, to Lorenzo Luzzani, Chef de Partie in Market Lane, Janos Schmidt, Chef de Partie in the Castle Cafe and Liam Flynn, grill chef in Market Lane and to young Aishling Moore sous chef at Elbow Lane, who once again headed up the team. They also benefited from the regular input of the Group's executive chef and Elbow Lane owner, Stephen Kehoe.
* The 'Chef Sessions’ are the result of an intense collaboration among the young chefs working in the Market Lane Group’s four restaurants (Market Lane, Elbow Lane, Castle Cafe Cork & ORSO Kitchen & Bar) who, over a six week period, create a menu to present on the night. CorkBilly was a guest at ORSO.
* For more on the story of this remarkable restaurant and indeed for behind the scenes accounts of restaurants past and present from around the world, do try and get your hands on In The Restaurant (Society in Four Courses) by Christoph Ribbat (2017). I got mine in the local library.
Tuesday, December 26, 2017
Meals with a Difference 2017
Night of the Long Table
400 dine out on Cork's South Mall
Bayview Fish Special
Market Lane (Blasket Island lamb)
SpitJack (Cheese & Fortifieds)
Barnabrow's Gourmet Evening
JP McMahon at Greene's
Night of the Long Table
400 dine out on Cork's South Mall
Bayview Fish Special
Market Lane (Blasket Island lamb)
SpitJack (Cheese & Fortifieds)
Barnabrow's Gourmet Evening
JP McMahon at Greene's
Sunday, October 15, 2017
Blasket Lamb Buzz at Market Lane.
Also at ORSO, Castle Cafe and Elbow Lane
Also at ORSO, Castle Cafe and Elbow Lane
There’s always a buzz when Market Lane announces that its annual allocation of tasty Blasket Lamb has arrived! Well in case you haven’t heard, now is the time for 2017. Just a short window during which you may get it at Market Lane and its associated restaurants: ORSO, Castle Café and Elbow Lane.
Grabbed an opportunity to taste it last week, had it in both starter and mains, and enjoyed every little bit. The Oliver Plunkett Street venue was indeed buzzing as we arrived to a warm welcome and lots of info on the lamb. We had no other interest on the night, well dessert maybe, so that made it easy for our enthusiastic and well-informed server.
Time perhaps for a bit of background.
This story begins with small holder, Donnacha O Ceileachair, who raises a small flock of sheep on the Great Blasket Island. When the April-born lambs are ready, he brings them by ferry from the Island onto the mainland. Award-winning Dingle Butcher, Jerry Kennedy, selects out the premium meat for the Market Lane Group.
“The impeccable provenance of this product is reflected in its quality and flavour; we are proud to be the only restaurants in Ireland to serve it to our customers. This truly is a farm to fork experience with everybody in the supply chain really respectful and excited about the product.” – Pamela Kelly, Head Chef, Market Lane. And we met Pam on the night and delighted to be able to congratulate her and her team on a job well done!
The starter was Spiced Blasket Lamb croquette with Velvet Cloud sheep’s yogurt, crispy mint and pomegranate. All the ingredients, including the mild spice, the chickpeas in the croquette, the smooth cooling yogurt from Mayo, each played a role in a lovely plateful.
Server Yuliyan was coming up with some excellent drink matches but we were keen to renew acquaintance with their own Elbow Lane beers and so he recommended the Wisdom Amber Ale with the starter. He was spot-on with that as he was when suggesting the sharper Elbow lager would do well with the mains.
And, if the starter was five star, then the mains was all of that but even more outstanding, hors catégorie as they say in the cycling world. I’ll give you the full description: Blasket Lamb Rack and pressed lamb belly with fondant root veggies, Elbow beer vinaigrette, and buttermilk mash. This was a duo of lamb to remember, tender and tasty, perfectly cooked and served.
Would we like dessert? Well, we’ll look. Yuliyan recommended the Marmalade and vanilla bread and butter pudding. “The massive one?”, I asked (having had previous). He confirmed with a smile. We decided to share and loved it.
It is just one of about a dozen desserts here. Lots of starters too and the same applies to the mains; here you’ll see the names of local suppliers such as Coolea, Goatsbridge, St Tola, Ballinwillin, Tom Durcan, and Toonsbridge. But, at present, the Blasket Lamb is the star of the show. You’ll need to get in soon as the limited supply won't last for very long!
Monday, October 9, 2017
The Market Lane Group Celebrates Blasket Island Lamb
Across all their Restaurants in October
|Jerry and Donnacha|
Cork’s Market Lane Group of restaurants will celebrate the unique, award-winning lamb from the Blasket Islands on all their food menus from . This highly anticipated event is now in its 8th year, and given the popularity of this delicious, rare meat, the chance to experience it usually only lasts until the end of the month. This celebration of Blasket Island Lamb is exclusive to the Group.
Chefs in each restaurant (Market Lane, Orso, Elbow Lane and Castle Cafe) create special lamb dishes that reflect their own in-house style of cooking and the full range of cuts will be used. These will be carefully partnered with drinks recommendations from the group’s wine and beer experts.
The habitat on the islands is what makes this product so special and gives it such a great reputation. The animals graze in a marshy meadow full of heather, natural grassland and wild herbs such as rosemary, sage and thyme. The grass is salty from sea spray which gives the lamb its highly valued pre-sale flavour. The animals are free to roam so the lamb is leaner creating a perfect fat to meat ratio.
Pamela Kelly Gough, head chef of Market Lane, who has been working with Blasket Island lamb for many years now says “We are delighted as a group to shine a light on this very special organic Autumn lamb, which is different in many ways from the more usual Spring lamb” she says. “The impeccable provenance of this product is reflected in its quality and flavour; we are proud to be the only restaurants in Ireland to serve it to our customers. This truly is a farm to fork experience with everybody in the supply chain really respectful and excited about the product.”
This story begins with small holder, Donnacha O Ceileachair, who raises a small flock of sheep on the Great Blasket Island. When the April-born lambs are ready, he brings them by ferry from the Island onto the mainland. There, they are rested for up to a week on Donnacha’s farm in Dun Chaoin, to recuperate from their choppy journey across the Dingle Sound. Award-winning Dingle Butcher, Jerry Kennedy, then picks out the premium lambs which are sent for slaughter. When the annual Market Lane order is delivered, the remaining lamb is sold to the public directly from Kennedy’s Butcher Shop on Orchard Lane, Dingle or via www.dinglebutcher.com
Diners at The Market Group can look forward to dishes such as;
‘Elbow Lager lamb pie, pommes anna and glazed heritage carrots’, “Blasket lamb leg in fish sauce with seaweed gratin’, ORSO ‘Moroccan braised lamb shank with ras-el-hanout cous cous, preserved lemon, pomegranate and red onion pickle’ and ‘Anchovy and rosemary leg of lamb steak, creamed polenta, with caponata and crispy shallots.’
Check out the new menus, drinks, specials, menu changes and availability of lamb dishes on the social media channels for the restaurants within the group including www.marketlane.ie an
d facebook; Market Lane.
Sunday, June 25, 2017
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.
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.
Sunday, June 11, 2017
Stellar Food and Crew at the Castle Cafe
Some go to Blackrock Castle to learn about the Universe, extreme life forms on Planet Earth and to explore life in outer space! Some go to explore the local food on their plate in the Castle Cafe. And it is very good food indeed as we discovered on last week’s visit where we enjoyed a delicious meal in a delightful venue.
The iconic Cork landmark dates back to the 16th century but the Caste Cafe is much younger than that. Indeed, the Market Lane group (which includes the cafe, Market Lane itself, Elbow Lane and ORSO) is celebrating ten years in business. And congratulations are in order!
It may be in a castle but the café is an easy-going informal place catering to locals and visitors alike. Service is friendly but very much on the ball. You have quite a selection of menus to choose from including A La Carte, Early Evening Offer, Set Lunch, Set Dinner, Children's Menu.
We were on the A La Carte, with quite a lot of choices. For the mains, I skipped the normal courses and the selection of salads and, for a change, went for a pizza.
From five, I picked the Goats Cheese, charred aubergine, soft egg, pecorino, spinach and truffle oil. Each and every element, even the baby spinach that had been added at the last minute, looked well and tasted well. And it was excellent overall.
CL’s choice was the Lamb tagine, sweet potato, pearl couscous, tzatziki and homemade flat bread. It was another excellent combination and she loved it but the portion was very large indeed.One good thing about the cafe is that they have their own Elbow Lane beers and I enjoyed a pint of the Wisdom Lane Pale Ale. No shortage of wine either and plenty of soft drinks too, including home-made lemonades.
We enjoyed two excellent starterss. CL especially loved the broth that came with her mussels, full description: Local Mussels, Rosscarberry Black Pudding, shallot, cider and cream broth.
Mine was the Bresaola, olive and anise tapenade, Gorgonzola and pickled kohlrabi. Delightful mix of textures and flavours, especially the kohlrabi.
Just room for a shared dessert: Mango and passionfruit sorbet with fresh fruits. It was a lovely finalé, not least because of the excellent mix of fruit. So it was two happy diners who took a lingering look at the castle as we strolled down to the nearby public car-park.
More info on the Castle Cafe website here.
Friday, November 28, 2014
Elbow Lane Brew & Smoke House
Best of goods in small parcels
Best of goods in small parcels. An old Irish saying beloved of mothers.
And like many old sayings, there is some truth in it. Take the Elbow Lane Brew and Smoke House in Oliver Plunkett Street, Cork. The brewery here is so small, they call it nano rather than micro and the restaurant area, which can accommodate 25, is one of the smallest if not the smallest in the city. But you certainly get good stuff here.
Got the tour from Gerry O’Sullivan (you'll know him from the Castle Cafe) yesterday morning and you can see he enjoys his work here (he is also a home-brewer!). But then you realise that all the crew you meet here are on the same level of enthusiasm. Take a look at the top right of the menu and you’ll read: We’re really round of the beers that we make here. This is not marketing speak. It is true!
Perhaps, that enthusiasm has rubbed off from their beer guru Cuilan of White Gypsy. Elbow Lane folk are loud in their praise of the help and advice give by the pioneering Templemore brewery, especially Cuilán and Jamie.
The new Cork brewery is divided into two floors. The brewing and fermentation takes place downstairs while the conditioning takes place above. To save space, Gerry explained that they have an initial multi-purpose tank replacing the mash tun and lauter tun that you see in bigger breweries. Everything starts here and then the spent grain is neatly removed in its perforated container by a small hoist and no need for anyone to pop into the vessel with a shovel!
Gerry explained that hops can be added at different stages to the wort but with different effects. In general, hops added early in the boil will contribute more bitterness, but at the expense of flavor and aroma. Hops added at the end will have a more pronounced flavor and aroma, but will not contribute significantly to the bitterness of the beer.
|Gerry, Conrad and brewer Russell|
Hygiene is all important and is given the highest priority here. And Elbow Lane have also invested in temperature control, a key element in helping the brewer. Patience is also required, especially with lager. A German style lager can take up to six weeks while an Ale or Stout will be ready in 12 to 14 days.
There is a set of conditioning tanks upstairs - again you’ll see much bigger ones in other craft breweries. They are also known as Bright Beer Tanks. But the beer goes in cloudy. “All our beers here are unfiltered,” Gerry tells me. “They are naturally cloudy.”
The Cascade hop is one of the most popular and indeed, Gerry tells me there could well be a shortage of this particular type in the near future. They use it sparingly here, in pellet form. All the Elbow Lane beers are relatively lightly hopped, mainly because of food matching considerations. You don't want an over-hopped beer destroying the food flavours.
Indeed, the new brewery owes it existence to the food produced in the restaurants, Elbow Lane itself and big brother Market Lane next door, nearby ORSO and the Castle Cafe in Blackrock Castle. Owner Conrad Howard says they wouldn't have started a standalone “retail brewery”. But this one fits really well with the company's four food outlets, each with its own style. The Brewery has kegging and bottling facilities but that is to distribute the beers to ORSO and Blackrock. Market Lane is piped into the system!
And what kind of food do they do downstairs in the Elbow Lane Smokehouse? Well, very popular stuff by the looks of it. You'll find it difficult to get a seat after 7.00pm. Head chef Stephen Keogh is the man in charge and his pride and joy is the wood grill imported from the US.
Virtually everything you get on your plate here has been through the in-house smoker, the smoke coming from apple wood. Oak is used under the grill and here the T-Bones, the duck and fish (last Thursday night it was Sea Bream), is finished off.
And it really is going down very well. “There is a great feedback from all age groups”, says a delighted Gerry. “What’s your favourite?”, I asked. “Oh give me a T-Bone with that smoked Béarnaise butter and I’ll be a happy puppy!”
Sounds very good indeed. Pity it was early in the morning when we met! Must go back and try the cooking, the ribs are also highly rated. And it is a very different menu. Even the desserts! Where else would you get Passion Curd, eucalyptus and tamarind jelly?
At present, there are some five beers in the Elbow Lane range: Elbow Lager, Wisdom Ale, Liberty Porter, Angel Stout and Jawbone Pale Ale. Check them out here. Oh yes, you may also drink wine here, even tea and coffee!
4 Oliver Plunkett Street
021 239 0479.