I started The Flavour Files in 2012 and have added recipes celebrating our wonderful Irish produce ever since. My recipes show great produce is as much at home on our kitchen tables as on a restaurant menu. It's not just recipes though - there is news, reviews & other writing too!
I was invited to attend a virtual launch of the second release of two whiskeys from Bushmills Distillery, the oldest Irish whiskey distillery in the world. Read all about the 2011 Sauternes Cask and 1995 Marsala Cask releases here…
Following the launch of The Causeway Collection to worldwide acclaim last year, Bushmills® Irish Whiskey is set to make waves again with its new series of exclusive and elusive Causeway Collection releases for 2021.
The ground-breaking Causeway Collection is a selection of extremely rare and unique aged and cask finished Irish single malt whiskeys from The Old Bushmills Distillery – the world’s oldest licensed whiskey distillery.
This year’s collection features twelve new releases to be launched worldwide across 8 markets, and includes two bottlings exclusively released for the island of Ireland, the 2011 Sauternes Cask, a first for Bushmills Irish Whiskey, and a 1995 Marsala Cask aged in rare Marsala casks for an unprecedented 15 years.
The 2011 Sauternes Cask was first aged for over seven years in oloroso sherry butts and bourbon barrels and then in rare Sauternes wine casks for two years. The French casks that have housed this sweet white wine from the Sauternais region of Bordeaux bring an abundance of delicate summer fruit flavours and fresh grapes.
The 1995 Marsala Cask has matured for over 10 years in oloroso sherry butts and bourbon barrels, before being aged in rare Marsala casks sourced from the island of Sicily for 15 years. Having been soaked deeply into the oak grain, this dark sweet Italian wine imparts succulent spiced fruit notes and a brown sugar sweetness.
A stone’s throw from the distillery, the Giant’s Causeway has been a source of inspiration to Bushmills’ master distillers for centuries. An elemental and enigmatic place of wonder, legend and geology, it extraordinary hexagonal basalt columns, shaped over millennia, form a unique interlocking series of steps found nowhere else in the world. Like the columns, Bushmills Causeway Collection is forged in salt-laden air and mineral-rich water. It is the legacy of giants before and giants to come, with each layer building on the last.
Colum Egan, Bushmills Master Distiller, said: “All the whiskeys used in The Causeway Collection have been expertly crafted and cared for in a unique whiskey-making tradition passed from generation to generation for more than 400 years here at The Old Bushmills Distillery.”
“The Causeway Collection celebrates our extremely rare and unique cask finishes, our passion for single malts and honours our rich heritage. It’s a privilege to work with such rare liquid, these special cask-finished whiskeys really are our greatest treasures.”
“Both the 2011 Sauternes Cask and the 1995 Marsala Casks are sensational whiskeys that stand with the best of Irish single malts, giants in their own right. We are delighted to bring these exclusive releases to our fans across the island of Ireland.”
To celebrate this special release, Bushmills Irish Whiskey has collaborated with three renowned Irish artists to craft a short film that brings together words, music and images to reflect the home of the Causeway Collection. Irish spoken word artist, Stephen James Smith, has used his poetry to bring to life the story of Bushmills accompanied by photography from Ruth Medjber and music by Kormac.
The film, inspired by the heritage and craft of Bushmills Irish Whiskey, celebrates connections between people, the whiskey and the land, as well as the creative connections that happen when we come together.
These rare whiskeys will be on sale online from 4pm on 23rd September and also via select specialist retailers from 24th September. Only limited bottles of the 2011 Sauternes Cask are available, bottled at 56.3% ABV, non chill-filtered and priced at €110/£95 for 700ml. Only limited bottles of the 1995 Masala Cask are available, bottled at 57.8% ABV, non chill-filtered and priced at €410/£380 for 700ml.
2011 SAUTERNES CASK TASTING NOTES • NOSE: Delicate aromas of fresh white wine that deepen into ripe peaches and apricots with a hint of vanilla sweetness • TASTE: Our signature Bushmills sweet and spicy flavours give way to layers of vanilla and honey, followed by hints of citrus and toffee apple • FINISH: A long and warming summer fruits finish
1995 MARSALA CASK TASTING NOTES • NOSE: Full-bodied with an intriguing aroma of dried fruit, spices and charred wood notes • TASTE: This triple wood aged malt has a deep rich honey character with spiced fruit undertones and pleasing notes of sweet nuts derived from oloroso sherry casks. The Marsala wine cask imparts notes of caramelised brown sugar with hints of char and roasted black coffee to create a perfectly balanced single malt whiskey • FINISH: Complex flavours linger on the palate in a long finish with hints of warming ginger
Bushmills by Stephen James Smith
Someday you should walk the causeway route along Runkerry beach and follow the River Bush beside the train tracks adorned with blackberries, buttercups and dandelions which lead into Bushmills village.
People that know better than me say about 50 millions years ago a volcanic fissure eruption formed around 40,000 interlocking basalt columns. However, I like to think it’s just as easy to believe the old myth where the Irish hunter Finn McCool built these hexagonal steps creating a link to Scotland.
Time might move on, but a singular path leads us here. To a fertile valley where an underlying geology of basalt makes the water hard, but it’s not hard to see how life can be idyllic here and why the waters flow with Atlantic salmon and brown trout.
It’s time to cast aside aspersions and immerse yourself in what connects us all. Are we not all tributaries of the same old river? So if a place makes a people, and people make traditions, it’s the intergenerational family values distilled into the water from St Columb’s Rill that creates this elixir.
Honouring heritage is more than the malting of barley, it’s more than ancient copper kettle pots with their swanny necks, it’s having the resilience and confidence to have faith in what you do, rarity should be held dearly.
Here, it’s the hands of 3rd and 4th generation Coopers that hold things together, who risk splinter and hammer blow to bung a barrel. With a touch they understand the swirls in the grain of a white oak. Amongst all the iron hoops and mild steel, there is something more solid that solders these kin to this atelier.
You know this is just part of our story The first raising of a glass toasting the Angel’s share You know it’s people and new encounters that makes us dare. You know it’s in following the river we can find the path of least resistance It’s in meeting each other halfway we learn to shorten the greatest distance. Someday that journey you promised to make will start today.
Listen to Stephen recite his stirring poem here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBMq2UEg71s
Stephen James Smith – Poet Stephen James Smith is a Dublin poet and playwright central to the rise of the vibrant spoken word scene in Ireland today. To date, his poetry videos have amassed over 1 million views online. Stephen has performed his poetry at high profile events and festivals around the world. His work has been translated into Irish, Spanish, Slovenian, Polish, Dutch and Italian.
Ruth Medjber – Photographer Dublin-born and globally based Ruth Medjber has regularly contributed to Hot Press, NME, Rolling Stone, Kerrang! and Classic Rock. Medjber’s portfolio includes portraits of Grace Jones, Hozier, Metallica and the Foo fighters. Most recently, she documented Arcade of fire on their tour of the UK and Europe, as well as covering the Glastonbury Festival for the BBC. Her book “Twilight Together” was nominated for the Irish Book Award.
Kormac – Composer Championed by everyone from Annie Mac to DJ Yoda, Kormac started out as out as a hip-hop scratch DJ and MPC beat-maker. He has matured into an artist who brings a totally unique approach to his art, twisting samples and meticulous recordings of acoustic instruments into something entirely unique. His last album was nominated for the Meteor Choice Music prize. He is currently writing the soundtracks for two multi-episodic TV series and recording his next album Equivalent Exchange with The Irish Chamber Orchestra and guests.
Heading to Cork city this weekend and looking for something new to sink your teeth into?
With so many great outdoor dining options in the city, included the much-lauded Prince’s Street transformation and Marina Market, you might be looking to try something else this weekend. I’ve been taking opportunities to pop up to the city as often as possible these last few weeks, and with this weeks announcement by the Government that indoor dining is pushed back for the foreseeable, dining alfresco and getting weather hardened is just what we’ll have to do to support local hospitality businesses and enjoy the kitchen efforts of some of the city’s gifted chefs.
So, without prejudice, here are my top tips for dining out this weekend. Keep an eye out in The Echo a new four part series on alfresco dining and drinking this summer from mid-July every Wednesday.
Market Lane / Elbow Lane / Goldie Fish & Ale – Oliver Plunket Street
While Cork’s Princess Street’s gains from pedestrianisation have been well documented, many traders on the inner city’s Oliver Plunkett Street also regard the move by Cork City Council as a ‘life saver’.
Tracey Sweeney, co-owner of the Market Lane Group, which operates three restaurants on the street says “With the addition of permanent outdoor seating along the spine of Oliver Plunkett Street we’ve been able to regain 30% of the covers we had pre-covid, albeit when the weather is accommodating. This not only helps us recover as a business, but creates new, exciting opportunities, particularly for smaller traders on the street, that simply didn’t exist before. It really helps us future proof our businesses, as we think that the move to outdoor dining is becoming more and more important to cater to.”
As well as its mothership, Market Lane Restaurant, the group has Goldie and Elbow Lane restaurants on Oliver Plunkett Street. Pedestrianisation has allowed the group to establish covered, outdoor seating areas outside the restaurants. In addition, due to the support of non-hospitality businesses, restaurants have been able to use the foothpaths and loading bays outside other shops on the street when they are closed for business, which has been invaluable. Lisa Grainger of the up-market Olori boutique, one such business, feels that the efforts made by hospitality operators to jazz up the area really adds to the ‘city experience’ and creates a huge buzz on the street. “This ultimately benefits everyone,” she says.
“This generosity has also bound us together as a neighbourhood” continues Sweeney, “which uniquely consists of mostly independently-owned businesses. There is a palpable sense of hope and enthusiasm amongst traders that with enhanced pedestrianisation, Oliver Plunkett St will continue to be a real destination for locals and tourists alike. This is a huge bonus for the inner city.”
This enthusiasm has been heightened by the recent announcement that Cork City Council have gone out to tender for the development of the adjoining Beasley Street, one of the few fully cobbled streets left in Cork city. Plans for the quarter now include a music and literary stage, food trucks and stalls, vegetable and herb plots, and much more.
The Castle Cafe at Blackrock Castle Observatory is also part of the Market Lane Group and have utilised the courtyard dominated by the castle tower to create a very special space that a little bit of sanctuary away from the hurley burley of life!
Harley’s StrEAT, near Mary Elmes Bridge
The range of pop up food trucks appearing on this little side street in front of Mary Elme’s Bridge is growing every week. Right now, there is Bev’s and Brews for coffee and cocktails, Taco Rebels for the ultimate food on the go, Cork Sultan Delight serving up flatbreads with everything on, and Cool Wok who promise to “Wok You” with their pan-Asian offering of noodle and rice dishes.
There is also Birdsong in the City, a new pop up over-the-fire-cooking venture from The Glass Curtain and chef-proprietor Brian Murray. Provenance of ingredients is key here, so expect sustainable fish, grass fed and free range meats, seasonal veg, inventive cocktails, and the best ice cream sandwiches known to man.
This pop up was only supposed to run for two weeks, but with indoor dining pushed back on the never-never, expect Birdsong in the City to be hanging out on Harley’s StrEAT for the next while. So no excuse to not check it out. My advice? Come early, come hungry, and eat the menu!
There’s also some pretty funky merch for sale by Hairy Baby Tees too!
The Terrace @ L’Attitude 51
Two for the price of one – experiences, that is, when you visit L’Atitude 51 on Union Quay, and now you can come for the wine and stay for the wine thanks to the little Terrace outside the shop overlooking Cork’s River Lee. Make use of the extensive knowledge proprietor Bev Matthews has of their 200+ bottles of wine available to buy to take home, or by the bottle or glass sat in the sunshine Leeside watching the world go by!
This is Cork’s best Cave a Manger experience by far, and great to see it rising again literally from the ashes. Also serving West Cork Coffee too.
Shines Seafood recently donated 1,000 tins of their new product: Tinned Winter Mackerel, to the charity Inner City Help the Homeless in Dublin.
Shines Seafood from Killybegs in Donegal have launched a new range of tinned winter mackerel products. Winter Mackerel is three times higher in Omega 3 fatty acids that Summer Mackerel providing a valuable source of nutrition.
The new tinned mackerel line comes in three delicious varieties: Brine, Sunflower Oil and Tomato Sauce.
Company founder, John Shine, said: “We had so many requests from supermarkets looking for another product to go alongside our tuna and sardines, that we decided to launch the mackerel.”
To mark the launch, Shines have donated 1,000 tins to the homeless charity, Inner City Helping Homeless, based in Dublin.
“It’s been a tough time for everyone” said company director, John Shine. “We wanted to give something back and this charity helps 45,000 people.”
“We are so grateful to Shine’s Seafood for their kind donation of 1,000 tins of non-perishable items to support our ongoing food distribution programme” said Head of Communications and Fundraising Brian McLoughlin.
“ICHH distributed over 2,000 food hampers to families in emergency accommodation or living in food poverty in 2020 and it is estimated that 680,000 people, including 200,000, live under the food poverty line in Ireland.
“Our food distribution programme is growing year on year and we couldn’t do it without the support of companies like Shine’s Seafood.”
Shine’s products are available in SuperValu, Dunnes and independent stores across the country, as well as via their online shop which also stocks gift packs and hampers too. Shine’s products are sold across Ireland and are also exported to the UK, Singapore and Korea. They are also sold extensively across Europe on the Amazon Germany website.
I recently asked 143 V Café for top tips for Vegan lunch on the go for an article. Proprietor Lauren Marples came back with some – and a whole lot more. What couldn’t be used in the article now has a home here!
143 V Café opened in 2017, a diminutive and unfussy space serving scratch made vegan dishes for breakfast, brunch and lunch; coffee, fruit and veg juices as well as sinfully delicious sweet treats too.
When I asked Lauren for her top tips for Vegan Lunches On The Go, she kindly sent back far more information than I could fit into the article I was compiling for The Echo (due to be published on 18th January 2021). But such was the value of the information provided, it felt wrong to just cast it aside as a mere casualty of the cutting room floor in my edit, so I asked Lauren if I could share her information here instead – and she agreed.
Before we launch into this, which includes a weekly menu plan and a recipe for a delicious Vegan Chili Burrito Bowl, show 143 V Café some love by liking them on Facebook and Instagram. Just take a look at the grid for 143 V Café’s IG feed:
Lauren also wanted me to let you know that, if you are starting to get sick of the sight of your own kitchen during Lockdown 3, then help is at hand! A three-course vegan meal is available to order and collect for takeaway for the month of January. Check out the Menu below, then call them up to order on (021) 241 4204.
Over to you Lauren…
Hi everyone, I’m Lauren Marples, owner of 143 V Cafe in Cork.
I am now celebrating 5 years since I became vegan. Some benefits I have noticed in that time have been an increase in my energy levels, I no longer feel bloated after I eat, I no longer suffer from PMS, and my muscle recovery time is so much faster after exercise – just to name a few! I have become in tune with my body because I am more conscious about what I eat. I’ve never enjoyed cooking as much as I have since going vegan as I have infinite opportunities to be creative and experiment with my meals.
Happy Veganuary and Happy Plant-based Cooking!
Week Lunch Plan
Planning ahead for lunchtime is essential to eat well on a plant-based diet – and especially during a lockdown when your usual lunchtime vegan eateries are not open or you find yourself once more working from home. Here are my tips for getting prepared for lunchtimes with some easy to make and make-ahead dishes that transport well if you are on the move, or perfect for lunchtime al-desko dining!
Monday: Burrito Bowl or Wrap
Tuesday: Tofu “Steak” Sandwich and Soup
Wednesday: Noodle Stir-Fry
Thursday: Sundried Tomato Pesto Pasta
Friday: Chickpea Curry and Rice
Snack ideas to be brought every day:
Celery or Carrots Sticks + Hummus,
Vegan Protein Bars,
Recipe for Chili Sin Carne for your Burrito Bowl:
This recipe allows for easily increasing the quantity of ingredients to scale up for batch cooking. Store in air tight containers in the fridge for up to 3 days, or freeze.
2 Onions Diced
1 Red/Yellow Pepper Diced
1 Large Carrot Diced
3 Cloves of garlic Chopped Finely
1 tin sweetcorn
1 tin of your favourite beans (kidney or adzuki or black beans) or a mixture
2 tins chopped tomatoes or 500ml passata or 10 fresh tomatoes
2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 cup of Soy Mince TVP (Organic + Non GMO)
Season with salt and pepper
In a large saucepan, sautée the onions. Add the garlic, peppers, and carrots.
Add the tomatoes, chili, sweetcorn and beans. Bring to the boil and let simmer.
Add the soy mince, smoked paprika and season with salt and pepper to taste. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes.
Enjoy in a wrap, or with rice and guacamole and don’t forget your favourite vegan cheese.
Huge thanks to Lauren for this guest blog post, and a happy Veganuary!
Looking for some excellent quality Vegan-friendly wines this Veganuary? Fionnuala Harkin from Wines Direct and the wonderful Wine Shed gives her top picks for vino-loving vegans this January…
Fionnuala is a woman of many talents when it comes to wine! Not only is she a wine merchant for the wonderful Wines Direct, she is also a wine consultant for the hospitality industry, a WSET course instructor and also founder of the brilliant Wine Shed West Cork.
She has an immaculate palate, and her wine knowledge is immense! Back in the time before the C-word, Fionnuala established Wine Shed – a boutique gathering of people who love wine, great company, delicious nibbly bits and wanted to wrap all of that up as an excuse to learn more about wine. I attended, I think, three of the events and they were always brilliant. Since we found ourselves in Covid-restricted times, when such jovial gatherings are on hold until some hopeful point in the future, Fionnuala took to her @wineshedwestcork Instagram account to give a regular Wine O’Clock virtual tasting on new and interesting wines. It kept the Wine Shed community going, and also brought her knowledge to a whole new audience. One day, the gatherings will commence again, but in the meantime, I encourage you heartily to follow Fionnuala and @wineshedwestcork.
Of course, it’s January, and that means it’s also Veganuary – a time when we are encouraged to try and up our quotient of plant-based foods or go completely Vegan for one month as a way to raise awareness of the movement. Even though I am a carnivore, after the Christmas excesses, Veganuary seems a good idea as a way of getting used to eating in a normal, and healthy, way again!
It is not widely known that wine is not always guaranteed Vegan, and in fact it may not always say it on the label either. This is where having a connection with a local wine merchant, like Fionnuala, comes in fierce handy – they will know which wines are and are not Vegan friendly.
So I asked Fionnuala if she could share with me her recommendations for excellent quality January wines for Veganuary. And note that excellent quality doesn’t translate automatically as ‘pricey’ and there are wines here for every budget.
Wines Direct have about 150 excellent vegan wines available – but here is a small selection that Fionnuala really rates! Price per bottle in brackets, and links to the correct Wines Direct page are included too.
Ciu Ciu Merlettaie (16.50) An interesting local grape, Pecorino, gives us great texture and tingly freshness in this gorgeous organic wine from Marche in Italy.
Chateau la Baronne Les Lanes (17.45) Organic, Biodynamic and natural, this blend of Carignan and Grenache from Corbieres, made by husband and wife team Anne and Jean Lignieres, has become a from favourite with Wine Shed viewers.
In the ‘natural, unfiltered, for the more adventurous drinker’ category, Fionnuala recommends:
These milkshakes are strictly for adults only. If, like me, you loved the Cocktail at Home craze of this Covid Year, you’ll adore Hard Milkshakes. Just don’t let the kids near them…
A few years ago, I found myself in London by myself for one night. I was going to be spending a couple of days there with my Dad, but he wasn’t due to arrive up on the train until the following day. I was in a part of London I wasn’t very familiar with, it was winter, very dark, cold and wet. I needed entertainment, but I didn’t want to stray too far.
I opened up Google Maps to see what I could find. I saw some quite wonderful reviews for a two-screen cinema just a short walk from the hotel that seemed to be my idea of heaven: a great little movie theatre doing rave burgers (by all accounts), and with an interior that looked as though the entire place was licked in soft velvet in tones of mustard yellow, scarlet red and teal.
I grabbed my handbag and went out into the night. While I waited for the movie to start (I think it was Hamburger Hill – I do love a war movie), I ordered the burger with indecent amounts of blue cheese and French fries. At the bottom of the menu, I spied something called “Hard Milkshakes”… Obviously, I ordered one, and then ordered another one to take into the screen with me. Needless to say, I don’t remember much about the movie, except there was a line that could have won Cringiest Movie Line Ever and that the main actor did a lot of rope pulling and had very sore hands by the end of it.
The Hard Milkshake however…well, that has stayed with me ever since; and seeing as this Christmas is all about throwing out the rule book, I figured why stay tame with dainty little cocktails when you can unleash your inner punk and go all out brassy with a hard milkshake – or three…
I have two tips for this: Firstly, just stick with vanilla ice cream. You wanna taste the booze, so confusing the whole thing with fancy flavoured ice cream will cool the mood significantly. Secondly, use whatever booze you like – I mean you could even use stout if you wanted, and it would be rather festive! I like dark rum (especially a spiced dark rum), vodka, cherry brandy or something like a port cask aged whiskey.
Are you gasping? What am I at? Taking a beautifully crafted cask aged whiskey and firing it into a Milkshake? Yes, yes I have told you to do that. Now shut up and make one, and then you can come back and apologise to me properly.
Large handful of ice cubes
150ml good quality vanilla ice cream (softened)
60ml whole milk
50ml of booze
Whipped Cream and garnishes (thick chocolate, cherries, crumbled cookie pieces etc – frankly, the trashier looking the better!)
Combine everything except the whipped cream and garnishes in a blender and blitz on a high speed until smooth.
Decant into a glass vessel of some kind (you could go completely rouge an pop it an old jam jar for instance), top with whipped cream and garnishes, land in a paper straw and flounce about the place drinking your Hard Milkshake completely in love with Christmas!
Rich Black Pudding combined with Irish Black Butter was a mad experiment that turned out delicious. Good for snaffling down with a glass of festive porter. A proper canape!
Irish Black Butter isn’t butter at all, but an old Irish tradition that goes back hundreds of years to a time when Armagh was known as The Orchard of Ireland. It’s made of apples, a thick rich spiced conserve that is Ireland’s answer to quince jelly!
Irish Black Butter is made from Armagh Bramley Apples (an EU PGI protected variety of apple), cider, brandy and spices. It’s versatile, good as a savoury or sweet accompaniment with cheese and meats, as a glaze, spread on bread or even mixed into natural yogurt!
It’s a taste I find I need to get accustomed to, and because of that I often look at it in my fridge pleading with me to find something to do with it that I find tasty and interesting!
I received a #gifted box of traditional pork products from O’Herlihy’s in Ballincollig, a family business about to celebrate its 60th year in business in 2021. They do porky products that have a distinct nostalgic quality to them (their sandwich ham has a fabulous texture and taste you don’t often get in packed ham anymore, and they also do sliced corned beef the likes of which I haven’t seen since I was a kid!).
In amongst all the porkie goodies was a chub of their family recipe black pudding. Made from pork, oatmeal and a gentle peel of spices, its a little smoother than other black puddings that frequent this house, which happens to make it very good for molding!
So I had the idea to pair O’Herlihy’s Black Pudding from Co Cork with Irish Black Butter from Co Antrim and made these glorious little Black Pudding Truffles – an absolutely divine combination of flavours, you must try these!
There are a little fiddly to make, so take your time; and chilling the truffles well before crumbing and frying them is essential if you don’t want them to fall apart in the fryer! Do try them, you’ll be so surprised how good they are!
300g chub of O’Herlihy’s Black Pudding
3 tbsp of Irish Black Butter conserve
Oil for frying
Into a bowl, crumble in the black pudding and gradually massage it into a softer, more malleable paste.
Take about 1 tablespoon sized amount of the black pudding into your hands and gradually press and form into a ball. Repeat until finished.
Take each ball and, forming a cup shape with one hand, press the ball out to create a small bowl shape. Turn and shape keeping the meat all together. Take the time to do this, thinning and lengthening the walls of the ‘cup’ to create a space to drop in the Black Butter paste.
Using a spoon or a piping bag if you have one, put in about a 1/4 teaspoon of Black Butter into the dip.
Then start to close the sides of the cup over the conserve to reform the black pudding into a ball again. Set aside and repeat until they are all done. It is a messy job!
Chill the formed truffles in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Heat the oil in a deep-sided saucepan pan or a deep fat fryer to a medium high heat. Coat the Black Pudding Truffles in panko breadcrumbs (or whatever breadcrumbs you have to hand) and drop carefully into the hot oil to quickly deep fry. When the breadcrumbs are golden brown, gently take them out of the oil and drain on a piece of kitchen paper.
While researching for old Christmas cake recipes for an article, I came across lots of mentions of a Caraway Seed Cake that no-one seems to make anymore…
So I asked around, and it turns out those who remember it from their childhood never used to like it because of the caraway seeds. One person told me they used to fastidiously pluck out every single seed before they would eat it.
Now, to some this kinda feedback might dissuade you from the desire to taste such a thing. But if you’re me, and I am, then this simply yells *challenge* – after all, how bad could it be?
I happen to love the flavour of caraway seeds which puts me at an obvious advantage to those who don’t. I’m sure when this cake was the height of popularity in Cork, it was considered sophisticated for its use of such spices. Cork being a major trading hub for all kinds of foods coming into Ireland from near and far thanks to the international butter trade, to be so extravagant as to put such exoticisms into a tea cake is a display of Total Notions for which you only truly get away with at Christmas time!
Caraway seeds are used a lot in German cookery. It is often mixed with sauerkraut and used as a topping on a bratwurst along with hot mustard. It is also combined with apples for a very traditional Bavarian accompaniment to roast Goose. It is also used to flavour breads, biscuits and cookies, so it is versatile for use in both sweet and savoury dishes. I love it!
But to pull the Irish Caraway Seed Cake out of purgatory and turn it into something altogether more indulgent, I took inspiration from apples to really elevate this tea cake into something much more indulgent and festive!
And here’s how you do it…
180g soft unsalted butter
150g white caster sugar
3 medium eggs
225g all purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
3/4 tbsp whole caraway seeds, toasted
4 tsbp / 50ml of apple liqueur (I used Kilahora Orchards Pomm’O)
150g fresh apple puree
Royal icing sugar and either a dash more apple brandy or apple juice
Chocolate covered apple sticks to decorate (I like Lismore Food Co)
To make the apple puree, peel, core and quarter 4 – 6 apples in a saucepan with a dash of water. Cover and cook until broken down into pulp. Spoon out into a bowl, set aside and allow to cool. Any puree you don’t use for the cake will be lovely used for breakfast in porridge or with yogurt.
Set the oven temperature to 170 degrees Celsius, fan.
In a dry frying pan over a medium high heat, toast the caraway seeds lightly then place into a small bowl to cool.
Grease a cake tin, either a 20cm circular spring form or a 1lb loaf tin.
Put the butter and sugar into a large bowl, and beat together until light and fluffy. Using an electric whisk of some kind makes this even easier!
Add the eggs one by one and whisk each one in until fully combined.
Sift the flour and baking powder into the same bowl. Add half the amount of caraway seeds and fold the mixture together.
Then add the apple liqueur and the apple puree. Beat together to form a light batter.
Pour into the cake/loaf tin, and bake in the oven for 1 hour, checking at 50 minutes. Test with a skewer, if it comes out clean the cake is cooked.
Take out the oven and allow to cool completely.
Mix up some royal icing with either the apple liqueur or apple juice to a consistency you like. I like mine not too thick, more like a frosting. Pour over and let drizzle down the sides of the cake a little.
Garnish the cake with the remaining caraway seeds and chocolate dipped apple sticks.
Cut a generous slice, and, leaving all the seeds in situ, devour with a freshly brewed pot of tea, or even a snifter of apple brandy. Enjoy…
Need some helpful advice on what foodie gifts are out there this year? Check this out! More will be added regularly so visit often for an ogle!
Every year, I’m asked to compile a few Christmas Gift Guides for the various publications I write for, but I am always pressed for space and although I try my best its impossible to get everyone into these guides. Add to that most of them have a very fine Cork focus means that any ideas emanating from outside the Rebel County don’t get a look in – and that is a big shame.
So for the first time ever, I’m putting together a Christmas Gift Guide that will cover everything I love or has caught my eye and want to give a shout out too. Most things will have a foodie slant in some way, (one or two that don’t), and I will add to this over the coming weeks as more and more products launch their own Christmas gifting ideas.
So browse away! Scroll through the headings if you’re looking for something in particular, or ogle everything as you plan your gifting for this year.
Two things to note: please support local and Irish made this year – lord knows they need your support. Secondly, none of these links are affiliates or sponsored – these are things that honest to god I either have bought myself, sampled along the way or big fans of personally making this list about as unbiased and independent as you can get!
Happy browsing… it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!
I’ve always been a fan of hampers, and earlier on this year I predicted that Hampers would be the standout gifting option for Christmas 2020. I have been proved right, with some really amazing hampers curated by some of the best in the business and available for ordering online for delivery, or pre-order for collection.
The Glass Curtain have just celebrated their first year in business – I bet chef proprietor Brian Murray didn’t see what was coming down the line when he opened last year! Let’s hope 2021 is a little more plain sailing for him and his team!
Open for dining in as restrictions allow and bossing it to the max with their At Home service when they can’t, they have now also just released a range of three Christmas tote hampers for pre-order and collection on the 23rd and 24th December. Stuffed full with gastronomic delights and a bottle of champagne to get the festivities going, this is guaranteed to put a smile on your face because the cooking has been done for you – and all with the Glass Curtain’s signature flair and heady flavours!
Choose from The Cool Yule for €90, The Jolly Holly Vegetarian for €120, or the all-out Deck the Halls for €140 (picture above).
Sample contents for Deck the Halls are:
Bottle of Piper-Heidsieck, Cuvée Brut, NV, Champagne
Venison & Black Truffle hand-raised Pie & Pickled Walnut Relish
Milk Buns & Chicken Schmaltz
Duck Liver Paté & Mulled Wine Jelly
House Cured Salmon Pastrami & Herbed Crème Fraîche
Ballylisk triple cream Brie
Aged Ballinsrostig Gouda
Chocolate Chip Cookies & Salted Caramel Sauce
Popcorn: Caramel Crunch / White Chocolate & Macadamia Nuts / Dark Chocolate & Chilli Mince Pies
Mulled Wine Spice Bag* to be immersed in 750ml of red wine (not the best in the house), warmed over the stove with 100g of sugar, 2 slices of orange and lemon, and a dash of brandy.
Sounds heavenly doesn’t it?! Pre-order online at the website.
Brand new from Sligo Food Trail are two fabulous Christmas hampers, The Deluxe Sligo Food Trail Hamper and The Taste of Sligo Food Trail Hamper, showcasing the very best from the north west. It’s like a tasting tour around the county, a combination of delicious tastes and flavours with sweets, savouries and more besides.
As the old adage says “there’s eating and drinking in it”. In fact, there’s reading in the Deluxe Sligo Food Hamper too – with a copy of seaweed queen Prannie Rhatigan’s “Irish Seaweed Christmas Kitchen”. Most of the goodies will be enjoyed immediately, but the elegant Lough Gill Brewery beer glass, the charming Sligo Oyster Experience candle, a Yeats print from WB’s Coffee House and the book will all find permanent use in your home. A reminder to buy again next year perhaps?
Sweet treats include handmade chocolates by award winning chef Alan Fitzmaurice of the Glasshouse Hotel alongside sweets from Mammy Johnston’s better known for their world beating ice creams and sorbets.
The ruby-coloured ‘Christmas Cordial’ comes from the lovely folks at Murson’s Farm as does local Apple Juice, chutney and preserve. Along with aromatic coffee from Carrow Coffee and handmade Granola from WB’s, that’s Christmas breakfast done and dusted. A Christmas Pudding from The Gourmet Parlour and some craft beer from Lough Gill Brewery complete the festive hamper.
For Toonsbridge Dairy, 2020 was the year they opened a branch far far away from their West Cork based – in Dublin! Both shops, as well as their perennial stall at the English Market, have been flying with provisions as well as online sales, so no surprise that they are also offering a variety of hampers for online purchase available for collection at either their original Toonsbridge shop near Macroom, or their Dublin site; as well as some items available for nationwide delivery.
I’m particularly taken with their cheese and cracker hamper, if only for the Hay-Smoked Scamorza – one of my favourite cheeses from this dairy!
Scroll down to the Sweet Treats section for another little surprise from the dairy that you should beat a path down the road for…
The large Blas Box may have already sold out, but the Blas team have put together their Little Blas Box available to order from their website.
The Little Blas Box features a little treat of coffee and handmade chocolates from 2 of this year’s Gold Award winners. The little parcel of treats includes Velo Coffee from Cork and Clotilde’s Handmade Boozy Truffles from Co. Sligo. The little Blas Box is €20 which includes postage to anywhere in Ireland. The perfect stocking filler!
The renowned Burren Smokehouse in Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare has the perfect selection of hampers to gift a taste of Ireland this Christmas with prices starting from €50.00.
The “Burren Basket” and the “Burren Breakfast Basket” were launched earlier this year in response to the adverse effects of the pandemic on visits from tourists and feature a selection of products from the region as a result of collaboration between members of the Burren Food Trail.
The Burren Basket comes in two sizes and includes smoked salmon from the Burren Smokehouse, St Tola Irish Goat Cheese, gouda from Aillwee Cave, black and white pudding from Market House and beetroot chutney from Burren Fine Wine & Food.
The Burren Breakfast consists of a brown soda bread mix and granola from Stonecutters’ Kitchen in the Cliffs of Moher, Burren Whiskey Marmalade from Burren Fine Wine & Food, Burren Gold Gouda with Garlic and Nettle from Aillwee Cave, Burren Cold Smoked Irish Organic Salmon and Burren Hot Smoked Irish Organic Salmon with Honey, Lemon and Pepper from the Burren Smokehouse.
Christmas Shoppers can also create their own personalised hamper from a selection of products in the online shop and for the ultimate gift, the Luxury Hamper by the Burren Smokehouse showcases a multitude of products from the Burren and the Wild Atlantic Way along with a bottle of champagne, Galway Crystal champagne flutes, a bottle of JJ Corey “The Banner Blend” Whiskey from Co Clare and Galway Crystal whiskey tumblers.
Gifts can be delivered to every corner of Ireland and beyond. A number of items may be shipped to non EU counties including USA and Japan.
Fionntán Gogarty of Wildwood Vinegars has produced a truly exquisite seasonally-inspired gift box for the Christmas market. Just 365 individually numbered Wildwood Four Season Collection gift boxes have been made; one for each day of the year. Within it, nestling amongst seeds, spices and lichens are four special edition barrel-aged Balsamics, each the essence of its season:
Wild Elderflower and Wild Rose Petal for Spring
Wild Mountain Thyme and Wild Fuchsia Blossom for Summer
Wild Blackberry for Autumn (aged for 6 years)
Wild Elderberry with Star Anise for Winter (aged for 6 years)
The gift box itself is beautifully presented, and is in itself a voyage of discovery, featuring inside a sheet entitled ‘The Seasons at Wildwood’ with a thoughtful exploration of each seasonal offering accompanied by a relevant quote. This also explains the Wildwood ethos – recycling Italian glass bottles, sustainable Portuguese cork and offsetting carbon used in foraging and delivery through seven acres of fields reserved for birds and a forest of 30,000 trees. Also included is a pack of wild bee and butterfly seeds encouraging each recipient to continue the cycle in their locality.
The Wildwood Vinegars Four Season Collection gift box costs €80 and is available exclusively available through www.husseysfarm.com for delivery nationwide. Fionntán Gogarty can be contacted at email@example.com
Could this be the hamper we’ve all been waiting for?
This time last year, those of us who frequented Deasy’s Restaurant just outside Clonakilty in West Cork to dine on Ciatlin’s exquisite food were heartbroken to hear she would be leaving the kitchen behind and embarking on a new adventure. But on more than one occasion this year, Caitlin saved many of us with her incredible food as she struck out on her own! Firstly with her Meal and Cocktail Kits through Neighbourfood, virtual cookery classes and then, as restrictions lifted, popping up with her new food truck serving up incredible food as well as a sell out four week residency at Levis’s in Ballydehob.
Now, to get us all through the Christmas, she has literally handcrafted two different hamper offerings. A Hot Box full of steamy hot chili delights using every one, it seems, of Jonathan Doig’s organically grown West Cork chillies and made for gifting to the hot sauce lover in your life. The other, a Christmas Eve Box, Caitlin promises to fill with as much lovely stuff as she possibly can so you don’t have to do any cooking on Christmas Eve! Simply unpack, heat a few things, and lay out a feast for you and whoever you can be with this Christmas Eve and relax with them instead of worrying about cooking! Comes with a choice of a bottle of red or white wine.
Be quick to order, there are only 100 each of the boxes available and I’ve already got my order in! Order direct from Caitlin via her Instagram page, or these items will also be for pre-order via Timoleague and Lisavaird Neighbourfood markets.
This Christmas hamper has a special bottle of wine that will put a smile on anyone’s face!
With it’s F**K Covid label the Antolini Moropio Amarone, from Pier Paulo Antolini is elegant, rich and full bodied- with balancing acidity & soft tannins. Paired with gorgeous cheeses that includes, Stilton, Durrus & Irish cheddar, Ditty’s oat cakes, a selection of delicious Spanish charcuterie, Diva fig & cranberry chutney & spiced nuts. This hamper can easily serve four as a pre-dinner treat or a generous cheese & charcuterie board for two.
I visited the Skellig Six18 distillery back in September on our staycation, tasted the gin and was blown away by the quality of this new Irish gin, distilled on the Skellig Coast in County Kerry.
With a total of ten botanicals, the defining aromatics of Skellig Six18 Gin include locally foraged Yarrow, fresh Douglas Fir needles and Birch sap, delivering a herbaceous Gin with citrus and pink grapefruit notes. The perfect aperitif.
Their neighbours further along the coastline, Skellig Chocolates, have joined forces with Skellig Six18 for this Hamper collaboration, who have fused Skellig Six18 gin and pink grapefruit in a delicious Skellig Chocolate truffle.
1x Skellig Six18 Pot Still Gin 70cl, 43.4% Alc. Vol
Ballyvolane House have compiled three gorgeous hampers with either their house-distilled Bertha’s Revenge Gin or seasonal Sloe Gin as the centrepoint. Choose from The Great Indoors, The Great Outdoors or House Favourites.
The Great Outdoors Hamper caught my eye, and is the perfect gift for the adventurous type who loves to explore nature and the wild along with a cheeky tipple!
Award winning Bertha’s Revenge sloe gin 50cl (distilled at Ballyvolane House)
Opinel 8.5cm pocket knife
Stanley green hipflask
“Wild Food” Foraging Book by Biddy White Lennon and Evan Doyle
The Roots Larder Box is a curated larder collection of preserves, pickles and ferments inspired by Chef Proprietor, Rob Krawczyk’s, culinary heritage. These are core root ingredients that Rob uses in his every cooking, and puts a little bit of Michelin-starred Restaurant Chestnut into your everyday cooking at home too!
The Lismore Food Company family history in fine food and drink stretches back some 200 years as grocers, bakers and wine and spirit merchants in both Cork city and Lismore, Co. Waterford. They are proud to continue this fine tradition of delivering excellence and sharing their passion for deliciousness and visual splendour with you.
Hands down, probably some of the most beautifully packaged hampers I’ve seen this year. Prices start from €30 to €120 and include Vegan and GF options, all packed with their luxury sweet and savoury treats.
Clare Nash curates one of Cork’s best loved selection of hampers, and are the end result of a whole years’ worth of research, tasting and testing to ensure only the best goes into their incredible hampers. Everything, including the packaging, can be either used or eaten and will always include a book selected by Claire and a number of exquisite fine wines and spirits. Prices start from €160 all the way up to the show stopper at just shy of €500.
Situated in the heart of Clonakilty’s Creative Quarter, Lisa Tongue’s design shop draws on the best of Cork’s makers in art and food to offer customisable gift boxes starting from as little and €2.90 – set your own budget and choose what to go into the gift box. Nationwide delivery available, or click and collect.
Kevin Aherne is Cork’s Renaissance Man! Having taken the decision to put down the tweezers and turn his Midleton restaurant into a casual neighbourhood eatery, Covid hit and so he created Sage 2gO, a click and collect takeout service and provisions store of locally made and produced foods and drinks as well as a weekly changing selection of heat and eat at home dishes.
Keeping up with this new found fleet footedness comes Sage 2gO Bespoke Hampers for the Christmas season! Choose from a selection of curated hampers ranging in price from €60-200, as well as a range of wine hampers and even the nicest presented Bag O’Cans for the beer lover in your life! The one thing Kevin didn’t pivot away from in 2020 is his 12-Mile ethos, so you can be sure that everything is as local as it can possibly be!
The Roughty Foodie, at the English Market Cork City
A treasure trove of wonderful things to eat, The Roughty Foodie has been offering Self-Care Hampers since Lockdown 1, and are no strangers to putting together a generously filled hamper – even if you’re one of those running around at 4pm on Christmas Eve looking for a last minute gift! Made up to order, or pre-made up to slip away with, there’s plenty to choose from and always fantastic value for money!
A meat hamper might not be the first kind of hamper that springs to mind, but this will be the perfect gift for a committed carnivore, someone who loves nothing more than to BBQ in the middle of winter or adores a cooked breakfast. On a practical note, this could also be a great gift to give to a friend or family member who might be struggling a bit with grocery shopping in this Covid year, either getting out to the shops or finding it hard to afford a really good quality piece of meat this Christmas.
A lovely range of hampers from the small Breakfast Cracker Hamper at €19.95 to the all-out King of the Castle Hamper at €185 (see above), with lots of options in between to suit any number of budgets!
Twomey’s have outlets in Macroom, Bantry and Bandon as well as an online order and delivery service direct from their website.
Festive hampers from Fiona Uyema, Ireland’s Japanese cookery-at-home specialist! Centered around products from her successful Fused by Fiona Uyema range, she has curated a variety of fun hampers for sweet and savoury tastes. At the moment, buy direct from her online shop and get 10% off all orders for delivery to ROI and NI.
Ruth Healy, proprietor of Urru Culinary Store in Bandon, the gateway to West Cork, knows a thing or to about what it takes to put together a great hamper! Such is the trust I place in Ruth means I can just phone up, give a budget, pay and collect without ever having to worry about a thing!
Ruth is always happy to help with those nervous with still heading into shops, so orders can be placed via phone, email or online at www.urru.ie. Delicious things, always!
COURSES & TOURS
Food tourism took a battering this year, but what has been heartening is how cookery schools and food tour guides found ways to move what they do online. They’ll be back in person just as soon as they can, and they have offerings for that, but there are online and socially distant offerings too, and you’ll find information about that here too!
Éalú Experiences is a curated collection of gift experiences including exclusive video masterclasses from the very best of Irish experts, handpicked Irish products and recipes for memorable moments. Whether it is for your friends or family, an Éalú Experience is the perfect gift and way to celebrate and connect this Christmas and all-year round.
Each gift box is a one-off collaboration, featuring recipes, ingredients, cocktail kits, and other delights from renowned stars and includes a video masterclass with the relevant expert, easily accessed by a QR code and link for you to watch and enjoy at a time of your choosing.
A sample of the selection of experiences on offer include:
For the Perfect Night In: Classic Wine & Cheese with Brigid O’Hora: Enjoy a delicious selection of Irish cheeses Brigid’s introductory masterclass offers a little bit of wine intrigue in a fun yet informative way. Her enjoyable format is designed to offer some empowering tips and tricks, enabling you to make more informed choices on your own personal wine journey.
For the Family: Family Baking Masterclass with Kevin Dundon: Have some fun in the kitchen and enjoy this gift box with Kevin demonstrating how to make his family-favourite, Rainbow Cake. Then have some light-hearted fun with our Monopoly Deal Card Game, while enjoying our mix of classic treats for the whole family (you can even choose to add a bottle of wine for the adults!).
For the Chocaholic: Chocolate Lovers’ Experience with Paul Kelly of The Merrion Hotel: Bring your chocolate fantasies to life with this themed gift box with a video masterclass from Paul Kelly, Executive Pastry Chef of The Merrion, Dublin. One of Ireland’s best pastry chefs, Paul will demonstrate how you can create your own indulgent Chocolate Fondant and Toffee Popcorn dessert at home. Plus, in the second video masterclass in this gift box, mixologist Federico Riezzo will create the perfect Baileys Christmas Cocktails to enjoy while you watch!
Other experiences include The Irish Coffee and Macaroons Experience from Dublin’s Michelin-starred Chapter One, Chocolate Lovers’ Experience with Paul Kelly of The Merrion Hotel and Tacos & Gin Cocktails with Virtual Chef Erica Drum and Mixologist Federico Riezzo.
Éalú Experiences gift boxes can be delivered to yours or your loved one’s home address across Ireland and abroad. Prices from €42.35.
A day learning the basics of Bee Keeping is such fun! I went on one myself a few years ago in Cork and I still have fond memories of it and fervent dreams of one day being a bee keeper myself – if only there were more hours in the day!
On the edge of an ancient woodland in the shade of the Galtee Mountains, a visit to this honey farm, famous for producing excellent quality honey flavoured with wild botanicals the bees feed upon, as well as their handmade bees wax candles, you can indulge in day learning all about the fascinating honey bee!
Dates available June 12th, June 26th, July 10th. Please make a note when ordering your preferred date and time and the farm will contact you to confirm the date. Group size is a maximum of 8 and the experience lasts for up to 2 hours. Put on a beesuit, open a hive and see the bees up close! Taste 6 honeys (3 rare ones not for sale), sample a glass of Mead (optional) and learn about History & Heritage of Beekeeping; Honey; Beeswax; Propolis; Pollen; The Life of Honey Bees and Biodiversity.
To book your experience, visit the website and navigate to the shop, browse all the amazing products! Here you will find half day and full day Experiences to purchase for yourself, and if buying as a gift, let them know and they will ship out to you a gift-wrapped voucher!
The wonderful, effervescent and talented Lily Ramirez Foran has just launched her new Virtual Kitchen offering a series of Live Cooking Demonstrations, Online Masterclasses and, when it is safe to do so once more, In Person Classes too!
Getting a spot on one of Lily’s small in-person classes has been a challenge that I have not yet overcome, so to hear that Lily has spent this year designing and creating new online content to reach more people means that now I can book in from the comfort of my own kitchen and learn from Dublin’s mistress of Mexican cookery!
Lily says: “Let us bring the warmth and conviviality of Mexican food directly to your home anywhere in the world. Whether you want to master your tortilla making skills, or to add a few traditional Mexican home cooked recipes to your repertoire, our virtual kitchen is ready for you any time! So join us for one of our scheduled live cooking classes, or for one of our Masterclass experiences on demand.“
I says: “YES!”
This is all still very new so Lily will be uploading content and scheduling classes over time. In the meantime though, consider purchasing a Masterclass voucher worth €85 which can be used towards any of the Masterclasses when they go live. I can’t wait for this – it’s going to be great!
During this Covid Year, Ballymaloe Cookery School unveiled their virtual school! Running paid for courses as well as free to view livestreamed demonstrations, to debates and more, all the while working on a catalogue of video content from foraging walks in the gardens with Darina, to talks with the gardeners, fireside chats with renowned chefs, as well as wine tasting, cheese making, bread school and all of those cookery demonstrations usually held in person at the school.
It’s an impressive collection of materials and they all now make up The Ballymaloe Cookery School – Online. Membership is €100 per month of €500 for the year, and if you are a past student of the cookery school, you’ll get an extra €100 off the annual membership cost. It’s brilliant, and I sincerely hope this lands into my Christmas stocking this year!
Sheena and Gosia will be back giving their well-loved tours just as soon as restrictions are lifted (and you can buy a voucher in advance of that), but in the gap between, the duo worked to create their tours in book form – a great idea!
The Galway Food Tours Guide Book brings together over 40 of Sheena and Gosia’s personal suppliers as well as most loved parts of the city.
This keepsake pocketbook reveals what they particularly love about Galway, its people and the great places to eat, drink superb wines and creamy pints; attend small, independent cultural events and share the simple pleasures in life.
Of course, there is the inside track on where to visit, eat and drink but also vouchers and discounts in their collaborative partner’s locations too. It’s all Galway really!
In 2019, Sally Barnes, founder of Woodcock Smokery and a master of her craft, set to work developing a new workshop space on the site of her famous smokery, called The Keep. The scene was set for a great year of interactive learning experiences; booking were looking sweet – it looked like the gamble would pay off. But then – Covid. Instead, 2020 has seen Sally and her small team work tirelessly to preserve the bounty from ocean and river and find new routes to market for her incredible fish – embracing online sales and delivery.
Sally has come out of this even more resilient, and is even more ready to say Adios to 2020 and welcome people to The Keep in 2021 for her workshops. Book now, and receive a 5% discount on selected course fees when using the Discount Code ‘KEEPTHEFIREBURNING’ at Checkout. Courses are due to commence again from March 2021.
Suzanne Burns took her Kinsale Food Tour and recreated it as an activity for small groups of friends or family, a seaside picnic and foraging tour and even a Dine At Home version where tastes of the tour would be delivered to you at home! These options are all ready to go for when restrictions linger longer, as well as returning to the traditional format as soon as possible!
Contact via the website to inquire about all of these options, and be ready for when Suzanne is ready to once more take groups around with her in the beautiful town of Kinsale!
Spend a fun hour exploring mead and honey through Irish legends, tales and history, sample a selection of our Irish Meads and learn about some delicious food pairings and easy to make mead cocktails for autumn and winter as we guide you through tasting four delicious mead samples.
Take your seat in the comfort of your own home and join Kate & Denis Dempsey, Ireland’s leading Mead-makers, on Zoom, live from the meadery.
New courses are posted up in the Mead Shop online – note there is a Book By date fo each course to allow time for your mead tasting kit to get sent out to you. This is a brilliant way to get-together for friends and family too, to contact the Meadery to see about booking a private group event just for you too!
The Tasting Kit includes:
4 x 50ml Mead miniature sample bottles: Atlantic Dry Mead, Wild Red Mead and Hazy Summer Mead as well as our limited edition Merlot Barrel Aged Wild Red Mead
5% discount on your next purchase from our online shop.
Guided tasting with Mead Makers, Kate & Denis, live on Zoom.
A new online adventure sampling and talking about all things mead online. Ask a friend or two to join in as well with their own tasting kit, and Kate & Denis will even send out suggested easy-to-prepare snacks to pair with each mead, savoury and sweet.
The Irish School of Cheese, Academy of Cheese, Level 1 online course is suitable for anyone who loves cheese! Previous delegates include cheese lovers from around the World, chefs, sommeliers, hospitality industry and foodservice specialists, café and delicatessen owners. All are welcome.
The course is a great way to brighten up an evening in the comfort of your own home or direct to your pc no matter where you are. Learn about the world of 25 of the World’s most iconic cheeses on a date that suits you, perhaps even join up with friends. The course is structured in a fun way to include group exercises, videos, slide presentation, group discussions and lots of cheese tasting.
The course fee includes:
Three 2.5 hours session over three weeks delivered over Zoom by Avril Molloy;
11 cheeses delivered to your door (Republic of Ireland only) if you choose the ‘including cheese’ option in the course booking;
Delegates who choose the ‘without cheese’ course will be sent a list of the cheeses they will need;
The Academy of Cheese Delegate pack, including their book of 25 Level 1 cheeses and Academy branded tasting notes, tasting wheel and Standard Approach to Tasting sheets;
One year’s access to the Academy of Cheese website including the Cheese Library containing 100’s of cheeses;
Personal login to the Academy’s online study tool the ‘Learning Road’ which tracks your progress through the syllabus;
Access to the Level 1 online exam of 30 multiple choice questions in 30 minutes;
Upon successful passing of the exam, you will receive a frame-able certificate and pin badge;
A maximum of 10 people per course.
Cork has become well known for its independent coffee houses, and the past five years have seen the independent coffee roasters follow on producing simply brilliant coffee. Each roastery has its own approach, style, ethos and methodology meaning that no two coffee subscriptions will never be alike! We’ve been subscribers to an artisan coffee roaster for over two years now and we haven’t looked back! There’s just no better was to appreciate you morning Cuppa Joe! Here are my pick of the best roasters from Cork. Check them out, but also check out whose roasting coffee in your area and see what they are doing too!
John and Tom are the musicians and coffee roasters extraordinaire. Fantastic lads roasted great coffee. They’ve just expanded their operation too, so now’s a great time to hook into what these guys are doing.
6 and 12 month subscriptions priced at €75 and €150 respectively.
Where I gravitate to whenever I’m in Cork City, and I can’t deny that I have serious Grá for this coffee house. The coffee is designed to be strong enough to keep the fire going inside – perfect for when the workload is heavy!
3, 6 and 12 month subscriptions available priced at €40, 80 and 160. Order online, roasted and posted to your door.
The success story of Velo coming from a cafe in the city centre in 2017 to supplying a major multiple retailer on a nationwide basis gives you some small sense of the achievement of founder Rob Horgan!
A variety of subscription packages available from €10.50 – €28.50. Order online, delivered to your door ensuring you never run out of coffee again!
Chocolate, sweets and cakes – whether an adult or a child, they bring out the happy in a big way.
The things I would do for Cannoli… whipped and sweetened mascarpone cheese flavoured with chocolate, pistachios and candied citrus – a divine little mouthful, sinful and utterly worth every bite!
Toonsbridge Dairy is selling boxes of their handmade Cannoli from their stall at The English Market, Cork and their Dublin branch too. Too delicate for delivery, collection only applies. Rumours abound of a permanent Cannoli stand at the English Market for the month of December. Yum…
Luxury baked treats and indulgent cake slices, handmade to order and 100% Gluten Free! Wildberry Bakery is a multiple award winning GF bakery with indulgent treats that are just gorgeous – whether you’re GF or not! Earlier this year the bakery began taking orders on a delicious range of brownies. 15 tasty treats in each box with flavours such as Pistachio and Rose (above), Salted Caramel, Peanut Butter, Chocolate Orange and more!
Order before Friday for next week nationwide delivery.
Making a second appearance in this Mega Post is Diva Boutique Bakery with their Christmas Cookie Gift Box – perfect gift for someone…or make that someone you and enjoy a beautiful buttery selection of handmade cookies and cakes!
Order online for delivery or collection from under the Hatch in Ballinspittle! €30.
Marrying exquisite flavours with artistry and craftsmanship, Arcane Chocolate’s whimsical Christmas collection should be on every chocolate lover’s list this year. Created by Dublin-based Belgian chocolatier, Erik Van der Veken, each piece is handmade and decorated using the finest techniques and ingredients.
Chocolate Christmas Trees Handmade in 70% dark couverture or 38% milk couverture, these magnificent limited edition chocolate Christmas trees are the ultimate centrepiece for your festive table this year. Individually decorated with caramelised hazelnuts, honey-roasted pecans, Iranian pistachios, goji berries and dried cranberries, each bejewelled chocolate tree is designed to be devoured. Stands 18cm tall on an 18 cm wide base. €59.
Christmas Jewels The perfect stocking filler for chocolate connoisseurs, each box comprises 9 handmade and hand painted Christmas chocolates, each filled with an exquisite festive centre. Flavours include rich Black Forest with Kirsch and Wildwood balsamic reduction; Irish Cream, with silky white chocolate ganache and bourbon vanilla; Mulled Wine with Chianti ganache and Irish honey; Marrakech, a zesty mandarin caramel with Moroccan spiced ganache; and Salted Caramel, Arcane’s signature filling with Irish butter and Tahitian vanilla. €16.50.
Arcane Chocolate Christmas Trees (550g) cost €59 each available online at www.arcanechocolate.com for local pick-up (Dublin only). Arcane Chocolate’s Christmas Jewels gift boxes cost €16.50 and are available from The Butler’s Pantry, Cliff at Lyons, Fallon & Byrne and Forest Avenue Green Grocers and Arnotts, Dublin 1.
There’s always plenty to choose from Exploding Tree’s online shop: the truffles, fruit and nut mendiants, gift bundles of chocolate bars and The Experimenters Kit which is a great way to explore all the other ways you can cook with and eat chocolate. There is also a Chocolate Subscription – there isn’t much moe exciting that the prospect of chocolate dropping through the letterbox every month.
But I also love the Chocolate Selection box, and that’s what I want to showcase here! The Exploding Tree Selection Box contains 8 x 25g bars and a tasting card. The perfect gift for a craft chocolate lover, perhaps paired with a bottle of craft whiskey or a nice bottle of red? Choose from:
Mix with Milk – contains : Salt & Seaweed, 100% Pure, Dark Orange, Creamy Oat, Garden Mint, Eighty Eight%, Goats’ Milk, Irish Milk
Shandon Sweets is a traditional Irish, multi-award winning Sweet Factory and shop located in the famous Shandon Quarter of Cork City. Sweets have been made at this site by the Linehan family since 1929. Their sweets are handmade, using traditional methods & original machinery, dating back to the early 1900’s. The process hasn’t changed much over the years and to this day everything is still made by hand.
The famous sweet shop is open Monday – Friday and some Saturdays too (check social media for seasonal opening times) for anyone that needs to fulfill a lifelong dream of being a kid in a candy shop! Goodie bags and sweetie hampers are available from the Shandon shop, and a new webshop is currently in process for local collection initially, but deliveries to follow!
I firmly believe Cocktails were the saviour of 2020! Cocktail parties on zoom and new craft cocktail mixers keeping us in expertly blended cocktails without any of the faff – just shake and serve. I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely keeping this going over Christmas…and beyond! But of course, it’s not just about the cocktails – there’s also craft beer and spirits to consider too!
The cocktail bar over the Franciscan Well was flying high before 2020 kicked it in the balls, however with the ever innovative and creative Kate Clancy keeping the engines fired and moving forward, was it ever a surprise that they are now selling Cocktail gift boxes online! A choice of four different batched cocktail flavours (Espresso Martini, Pornstar Martini, Sex on the Beach and Old Fashioned) in a variety of different gift boxes are just the thing for the cocktail lover in your life. Jut shake and serve! But if beer is not your thing, don’t dispair! Craft beer gift boxes are also available, as well as growlers too.
Citywide delivery via Deliveroo and Nationwide by courier too.
Host with the Most this Christmas with the ‘Love Foxglove’ Christmas range! ‘Boxed Love x Foxglove’ cocktail mixer gift box contains 3 mixers, 3 garnishes and a recipe card so everyone can become a bartender this Christmas!
All 3 mixers can be paired with vodka, gin, whiskey or sparkling water. We have changed our packaging slightly for this box, so they will last 8-10 weeks, before opening.
‘Boxed Love x Foxglove’ €20
Also available is their ‘Mulled wHyne’ Mulled Wine Mix, perfect for entertaining with each jar suitable for 2 bottles of wine! Just combine the dry mix with 2 bottles of wine over the stove, and wait for that incredible Christmas aroma to engulf your home!
‘Mulled wHyne’ Mulled Wine Mix €6
All packs are available from Foxglove at Mahon Point Market, or DM them via their Instagram Page and collect your order for Collection Friday afternoons on Lancaster Quay in Cork City.
The Mitchelstown brewery are partnering with Mitchelstown Roastery Badger & Dodo for this years Beer and Coffee Gift Pack, featuring beers from the breweries recent Munro series.
Contains 2 x 440ml cans of IRISH MUNRO Series releases: The Black Road Campfire Porter + Fort of the Fianna Belgian IPA + 1 x 250g bag of Badger & Dodo Blackwater Blend coffee (ground) in a branded box.
The Shelbourne Bar, Cork, Whiskey Gift boxes are the perfect way to enjoy premium Irish Whiskey in the comfort of your own home. Each bottle is accompanied by individual tasting notes, enhancing the delicate tastes and complexity of each whiskey. Each box also includes a QR code, allowing the recipient to download a video in which they are guided through the tasting experience of each of the whiskeys by one of our whiskey experts.
They are also a fantastic way to sample a Premium Irish Whiskey without purchasing a full bottle. Not everyone wants to buy a full bottle of Redbreast 21 or Bushmills 16 but would relish the chance to try it, and The Shelbourne are proud to afford that opportunity to their customers.
Prices start from €45 for the Rebel Intentions Gift Box, €50 for the Dream of Whiskey Gift Box, €60 for the Shelbourne Collection Gift Box and €70 for the Curator’s Choice Gift Box.
There certainly isn’t the usual bevvy of cookery books that we would usually have this time of year, but there are some really interesting titles out all the same, some about cooking, some not, but all perfect for delving into during the long winter nights!
More than ever, your local bookshop needs your support. While stores are closed for browsing, many have developed online stores or are offering Click & Collect or over-the-phone ordering services. Making that extra bit of effort this year means more to them than ever.
The McKenna’s are Ireland’s most respected and lauded food writers. Their latest book, simply titled, MILK, is an in depth look at Ireland’s most culturally important food stuff, including commentary from dairy scientist Dr Alan Kelly, and food historian Regina Sexton both from UCC, a number of industry bodies and nutritionists. It explores the Irish dairy industry paradox as the leading supplier of milk and dairy products globally while maintaining and protecting the supply chain of Ireland’s Grand Crú with its network of small, independent, family farms. The book comes complete with a comprehensive, and delicious sounding, selection of delicious recipes from the great and good of Ireland’s restaurant scene.
The Joy of Food: A Celebration of Good Things to Eat, Rory O’Connell (Gill, €24.99)
O’Connell’s third book is a celebration of great ingredients and the joy that comes from cooking food and sharing food with others: a mixture of recipes, stories and shared memories. However, what I adore about this book are the beautiful illustrations drawn by Rory. That’s when you realise all the illustrations that grace the menus, event posters and brochures at Ballymaloe all come from his skill as an artist.
Trisha’s Transformation, Trisha Lewis (Gill, €19.99)
This book follows the incredible weight loss journey of one of Cork’s most colourful chefs, Trisha Lewis of Jacob on the Mall. Her journey to achieving an eight-stone weight loss was spurred by her lifelong struggle with weight and the emotional rollercoaster that came with it. The book is a collection of delicious recipes as well as tips for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and diet.
Midweek Meals, Neven Maguire (Gill, €22.99)
There’s a lot to be said about the timeliness of Neven’s latest book. Stuck in the kitchen mid-lockdown, sometimes just looking at the cooker can make you want to scream! But Neven’s book of Midweek Meals puts the spark back into your meal planning, or lack of, by giving you a nudge in the right direction whether you have the luxury of time (Low and Slow), think you have absolutely nothing in for dinner (Cupboard’s Bare), are in a rush to get something on the table (One-Pan Suppers), or just grabbing something quick on the way home (Supermarket Sweep). And with Neven’s approachable style and family-friendly focus on flavour, simplicity and time it will become your right-hand man in the kitchen as quick as the kids can say: What’s for dinner?
Vegan Cooking for Everyone, David and Stephen Flynn (Penguin Ireland, €20)
David and Stephen’s latest vegan cookery book positions itself as the go-to vegan bible for every kind of kitchen! Whether thinking of going vegan, already vegan but looking for new inspiration, or just someone who wants to cook more plant-based foods, this new book is a timely release as we head into the festive period so you can be on the front foot for cooking for vegan friends and family.
Nigella’s latest offering rides effortlessly on the wave of the growing popularity for food memoir with recipes. Personal essays on everything from anchovy’s (“the bacon of the sea”), to a rapturous shout out for brown food – the kind of food that brings instant comfort to the eater. Her voluptuous prose is joined at the hip to recipes you simply just want to cook. And with the inevitable pairing of a new TV show to go with the book, we are invited to live all these expressions of food love vicariously from the comfort of our sofa, too.
Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds and Shape Our Futures, Merlin Sheldrake, (Bodley Head, €20)
If you have read Peter Wohlleben’s phenomenal book, The Hidden Life of Trees, then you may be somewhat prepared for the jaw-dropping revelations of a life form that we are only really starting to understand: fungi. Entangled Life is the kind of book that will leave you looking at the world around you in a completely different way as it explores an entire biology that exists out of view. Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of fungi, but their underground mycorrhizal networks can stretch for miles in multiple and interconnecting directions in what is blithely referred to as the Wood Wide Web. This book is essential in understanding the intricate biology that makes up our wild and wooded places.
A Taste of the Mizen, The Townhouse (self-publish, €10 + P&P)
This caught my eye in my newsfeed, and really wanted to let you know about it too. Owner Aislinn O’Driscoll of The Townhouse Gastropub in Schull, West Cork, came across an old copy of a cookbook she compiled 20 years ago with schoolfriends Eoin Kelleher, Lorraine McCarthy, Emer Griffin, Derek Cotter, Daniel Hurley and Brian Goggin for their Transition Year project titled “A Taste of the Mizen.” Aislinn is producing a limited-edition reprint of the booklet with all the proceeds going to West Cork Underwater Search and Rescue. A total of 45 recipes are included: all 30 original recipes and 15 new from the Gastropubs repertoire. The book can be purchased direct from The Townhouse, call (028) 28692 to order a copy.
CRAFT & KITCHENALIA
I don’t know about you, but I am a sucker for beautiful things for my kitchen and dining rooms! I’m a value driven kinda gal, so if something can look beautiful but be useful and endlessly practical too, then I am all in! Ireland is a treasure trove of craftspeople and artists, and even though this post really IS mega, I still can’t fit everyone in, so I am drawing on the work of those who grace my own home and whose work I absolutely adore!
Sarah’s work is beautiful, thoughtful and heavily influenced by nostalgia. I adore her Impressed Collection of ceramic plates, bowls, cups, platters and cheeseboards. Sarah has collected wallpapers and created moulds from them then impressed into a flat piece of clay. The triangular plates are ergonomically designed to sit in your hand easily. Available in a variety of sizes, colours and patterns across the whole range, and importantly, made to be used!
Eamonn O’Sullivan forages the wood, seasons the wood then hand carves beautifully finished spoons, scoops, butter knives and butter paddles using nothing more than an axe and a knife. The results of his craft are incredible, and meant to be used – in fact their maleability improve with use. Eamonn released a collection of items for sale via his online shop every month, but be quick – he work is in high demand and items sell out quickly – especially this time of year.
Alternatively if you’re thinking of learning how to carve your own spoons, check out his workshops (we’ve done one and they are great fun!), either in person once restrictions permit again, but he has also been operating courses and workshops online too.
Knives & Knifemakers – Ireland-wide
A well made knife can make a huge difference in the kitchen. They are, after all, the most valuable tool you can have. Ireland has a cohort of genius knife makers and they are well worth the investment.
Other knife makers of note are: Dunn Bladeworks and Sam Gleeson (This is What I Do). Quality craftmanship, each with their own signature style, flair and engineering. Take your time choosing the right one for you, and it’ll be your kitchen companion for life!
Anne Harrington Rees’ bold botanical designs have been gaining much attention this year in the big glossy interiors’ magazines. And while most of us could only hope to have the kind of cathedral-like interior space for one of her spectacular wall hangings, her creative design can be enjoyed around the table with her range of table runners and tea towels.
Wicker work has never been more popular and chic; and as foraging is here to stay, a hand-made wicker basket is the ultimate accessory. As well as being beautiful, sturdy and made to last, it is an eco-friendly way of carrying produce gleaned from foraging or the weekly farmers market visit. Wild Rose Basketry takes commissions for handmade baskets (note a lead time of 4-6 weeks is required), and, as restrictions permit, founder, Rosemary Kavanagh, hosts basket making workshops in West Cork and West Limerick in groups or on a one to one basis.
Baskets: price depends on type and size of basket. Courses: from €50 – €95 pp, one-on-one tuition €140.
Now that butter is no longer a crime against humanity, butter dishes became the surprise must-have kitchen accessory of the year! The simple and elegant design of the butter dish from Dunbeacon Pottery in Durrus is on my wish list this year, but why stop there? Plates, cups, jugs and more in the soft washed tones of Dunbeacon-ware are all beautiful too.
One of only two organic seed savers and farmers in Ireland, Brown Envelope Seeds are 100% organic, with loads of interesting heritage varieties all of which have great rates of germination and produce delicious produce from your garden!
These are gifts that grow. Gift boxes contain selections of seeds in robust cardboard boxes attractively labeled and tied up with string, and their Fair Trade Organic T-Shirts are hard wearing and allegedly make you weed faster!
Bert, AKA The Designer of Things, is a graphic designer of immense talent (he also did a brilliant job on my rebranding last year and this website too!). His has a bit of a mini obsession with Lighthouses and has produced a range of reinterpretations of lighthouse designs from around Ireland. For 2021, he has collected his favourites into 28-page illustrated wall calendar: Lighthouses of Ireland 2021 calendar, available from his Etsy shop.
Each month displays a different lighthouse with a daily space to write you events in and a blank space for notes at the bottom of each page.
Features the following lighthouses:
January: Fastnet, Co Cork February:St. John’s Point, Co Down March: Poolbeg, Co Dublin April: Hook Head, Co Wexford May: Galley Head, Co Cork Old Head of Kinsale, Co Cork Loop Head, Co Clare North Bull, Co Dublin Ballycotton, Co Cork Tuskar Rock, Co Wexford Valentia Island, Co Kerry Mutton Island, Co Galway
As you can imagine, as a writer, I get through a LOT of notebooks, so I know a good one when I see – and feel one. I love Badly Made Books, producers of handmade recycled paper notebooks, journals & planners. All books are made with a minimum of 70% post-consumer waste materials.
Badly Made Books … are rubbish! They use recycled materials, risograph printing and hand-operated, “used machines in combination with our unique binding method to create lay flat recycled books for various uses.” Quality notebooks, be in no doubt about it!
I love everything that Two Green Shoots do, from their open days to tours of their wonderfully creative and edible Garden of Reimagination, to their Feast Escapes. But, what about gifting someone a Virtual Gardening Advice Session with head gardener Adam Carveth. With years of horticultural knowledge and experience behind him with the RHS in the UK, and as head gardener at Bantry House & Gardens too, there’s nothing Adam can figure out for you and your garden during this session!
Not sure when best to prune a particular shrub, what that plant is in the corner of the garden or how to care for it, what soil you have and what things to grow in it?? Then this session is for you!
Solve specific garden problems, get your questions answered as well as tips, tricks and practical advice. Suitable for beginners or more experienced gardeners. €65.
The pennies may be stretched this time of year, but if you can spare a few euro, please consider donating to any or all of our favourite charities that we support every year and as often as we can!
Cork Penny Dinners is a warm dry place in the heart of Cork City with a welcoming atmosphere. The premises is open to all 7 days a week all year round, No questions are asked, no judgements are made.
Cork Penny Dinners is currently serving up to 2000 freshly made meals per week at our premises compared to approximately 150 or less per week prior to the recession. All their services are free of charge to those that need them. Their friendly volunteers ensure that their service users are well looked after on a daily basis. Their door is always open, they never judge, they serve serve.
Words cannot even describe the incredible work the volunteers at West Cork Animal Welfare do. Its heartbreaking work and often times, thanks to their commitment to the rehabilitation and rehoming of forgotten, neglected and desperately ill animals, find loving homes for dogs and cats so they can look forward to a second chance at a good life.
Both of our dogs, Maisie who passed away two years ago, and Buddy who is still with us thank goodness, both came from WCAWG, so this is cause very close to mine and Mr Flavour’s heart.
There are many ways to donate: a lump sum; a text donation of €2 to 50300, or purchase one of the gorgeous calendars or packs of Christmas cards featuring the happy smiling faces of many of the successful animals rehomed and living it up big time with their new families!
The Simon Communities support over 16,700 men, women and children each year. We are a network of independent Communities based in Cork, Dublin, Dundalk, Galway, the Midlands, the Mid West, the North West and the South East, responding to local needs and supported by a National Office in the areas of policy, research, communications and best practice. To support or find out more about your local Simon Community please donate online to your local area.
This Covid year has seen the incidences of domestic violence rocket, and in a cruel twist of fate, restrictions often mean that outreach services cannot be provided face to face to those who need them. I’ve been fortunate to not have experienced domestic violence, but I have known and know plenty of women and men who have not been so lucky. Services such as West Cork Women Against Violence Project are needed now more than ever. This project recognises that domestic violence can affect men as well as women and children. Their work supports anyone who needs it and is a free service.
Over the past 5 years, I have lost too many dear family members to cancer. Irish Cancer Society is a community of patients, survivors, volunteers, supporters, health and social care professionals and researchers. Together they are transforming the experiences and outcomes of people affected by cancer through our advocacy, support services and research.
This is one from the archives that I had almost forgotten about, but it’s so hugely fun to look at and easy to make, I’ve decided to recycle it for the blog! If nothing else, it’ll make you giggle like a kid, plus it tastes pretty good too.
And of course there is always the option to ‘Go Hard’ with this by adding it a decent amount of vodka, but maybe wait until the kids have had their share first before doing that!
For an extra bit of fun, serve it in one of those old-fashioned champagne saucers!
Ingredients (makes enough for about 15 servings):
1 ltr of Cranberry juice
½ ltr of Apple juice
150ml of Grenadine syrup
Juice of 1 lime
Handful of blueberries
Get a couple of disposable gloves (food grade, not the Marigolds!), fill with water and tie off at the end. Place in the freezer.
In an ice cube tray place a blueberry in each compartment, fill with boiled and cooled water and place in the freezer.
In a large transparent bowl, place in the juices and syrup and mix together. Decorate around the base of the bowl with spooky fairy lights.
When the water filled gloves and blueberry ice cubes are frozen solid, pop them out and place in the bowl.
Hey presto Spooky Punch with Ghostly Hands and Blueberry Eyeballs!
Bonfire Night in Ireland means something completely different to Bonfire Night in England. In Ireland, Bonfire Night is on 23rd June to celebrate St John’s Eve, and like most of Ireland’s feast days, the roots are in Celtic pagan times that cross over into religious celebrations.
To burn bonfires on St John’s Eve is to herald the start of a good harvest as well as the usual pagan nods to fertility, and close to the summer solstice as well.
In England, Bonfire Night is 5th November and celebrates the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605 by Guy Fawkes to blow up Parliament, overthrow the Protestant King James I and restore Catholicism as the dominant faith. As kids, every year at home in Bristol, my sister and I would make an effigy of Guy Fawkes using old clothes donated by Dad or Grandad. The ends of the trouser legs were tied and stuffed with newspaper; an old shirt or jumper the same, the arms tied off at the end; and either a balloon or a plastic shopping bag, stuffed with paper with a face drawn on it for the head. Local kids would sit outside shops or go house to house with their Guy asking, “Penny for the Guy” and on Bonfire Night, Dad would place our Guy on top of the bonfire and light it. We’d let off fireworks in the back garden and hope the sparklers wouldn’t burn our hands! Afterwards, we’d all tuck into Bangers and Mash, hot apple juice and Cinder Toffee.
One of the first party nights I hosted at our home in West Cork was to recreate Guy Fawkes night. I remember that year feeling a little homesick and deeply nostalgic for the things I had grown up with and known my whole life. Ireland and England may only be a short hop across the Irish Sea, but at times, the customs and traditions can be hugely different. Bonfire Night being one of them. It was a crisp, clear chilly night, just like I remember from childhood. Bonfires and fireworks are illegal in Ireland, except for strictly controlled events, so instead we lit our firepit, wrote our names in the night air with sparklers, whacked a piñata and let off glitter bombs. Then we all tucked into our food and warmed our hands around hot cups of mulled cider, apple juice for the children, and stood around the fire pit sharing stories.
What precisely constitutes Colcannon is ferociously debated in Ireland. I recently attended a talk about it where I learned that in some parts of New Foundland where there is a huge Irish ex-pat community going back generations, their Colcannon doesn’t have any potatoes in it all! In Wexford, it’s quite typical to have parsnips in the Colcannon, or to boil the potatoes and cabbage together and mash it up in one big pot. But it would always have cabbage in it – although traditionally not Kale.
However, Kale is a type of brassica, so while it might not be the traditional variety of cabbage usually the staple of Irish Colcannon, I like it and, along with the scallion/spring onions, and an almost obscene amount of butter, makes for a seriously tasty plate of spuds. When it comes to the bangers (sausages), get the best quality you can and cook slowly – I usually place them in a cold frying pan and cook for up to 30 minutes over a low to medium heat turning every five minutes or so. Likewise, with the onion gravy: take your time! Time is the secret ingredient in truly brilliant onion cookery, so don’t rush it. Comfort food should never be rushed anyway – in my mind both the cooking and eating of food like this is what calms the soul and nourishes the body.
8 pork sausages, minimum meat content 80%
1 kg of floury potatoes, peeled and diced
250 g butter, cubed
50 ml whole milk
Bunch of Russian Kale (apx 2 handfuls)
1 tbsp parsley (any kind), finely chopped
4 medium red onions, peeled, halved and sliced
Olive oil and butter
100 ml red wine
Fresh thyme leaves
250 ml chicken or beef stock
Salt and pepper
Place the sausages into a cold frying pan, place over a low heat and cook slowly, turning every few minutes to brown all over. Add a little olive oil if your sausages are a high meat, low fat content. Depending on the size of sausages, cooking could take up 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the potatoes into a pan of salted water, bring to the boil. Do not cook to the point of mush, the potatoes must hold their shape.
Drain and allow to airdry in a colander for 10 minutes. Return to the pan and break the potatoes down with a masher, if you have a potato ricer you can use that instead. Begin to the add the butter a few cubes at a time and beat through using a wooden spoon. Repeat until you have a creamy texture. You may not need to use all the butter.
Add the milk, you may not need all the milk, it depends how floury your potatoes are.
I prefer not to cook my kale and scallions. The kale will wilt gently amongst the warm potatoes and that is sufficient. Remove the kale stems and finely slice the leaves. Top and tail the scallions and finely slice into rounds. Mix all through the potatoes with the chopped parsley.
Season with black pepper and salt to taste.
Place the colcannon into a serving dish, cover with parchment paper and place in the oven, no more than 100 degrees Celsius, to keep warm.
For the onion gravy, into a saucepan over a low-medium heat, add a glug of olive oil and a knob of butter. Add the onions and stir to coat with the fats. Cover with a lid and cook the onions down slowly, stirring every now and again. The onions should brown but be careful not to burn. This should take between 15-20 minutes, the longer the better.
Add the red wine and allow the alcohol to cook off for a minute. Then add stock and thyme leaves. Stir and cook uncovered for the stock to reduce and thicken.
Serve up the sausages on a large serving platter, alongside the bowl of creamy colcannon and a large jug of the onion gravy.
When I say biscuit, its part that and partly scone. Bready and toothsome, deeply savoury and just about the perfect partner with a serving of Bangers & Colcannon or a hearty rooty soup to warm the cockles on a chilly day.
Mr Flavour swears he can taste bacon in these biscuits but I assure him there’s not, because there isn’t. Pumpkins and squash have magical properties: they are the chameleon of the food world, able to be sweet and savoury and can evoke buckets of umami. That’s what he was picking up as he scoffed into a freshly baked batch. I hope!
I recommend steaming the squash, rather than roasting and boiling, to reduce moisture intake (boiling) and moisture release (roasting). Steaming retains the pumpkins goodness, natural sweetness and shape. After steaming to perfection, I allow to just sit and air for about 10 minutes. It doesn’t matter if the squash gets cool because it’s going into the dough and then being baked anyway, but its an important step in getting rid of any excess moisture which can impact texture and rise. I like to roughly mash, mostly smooth but with some texture, to add a little bit of bite and interest to the finished scone.
The dough that you made will be quite sticky, so prepare to feel deeply uncomfortable when you’re handling the dough! Also, I can’t legislate for the type of pumpkin or squash you will use – there are so many varieties and each will have a different water content. So just be aware that if you are looking at your dough thinking: this can’t be right, it’s too wet, it probably is so just add a little more flour until such time as you have a dough that you can pick up and handle – but is still quite sticky too!
I use buttermilk for an extra hit of savouryness, but you can of course use normal milk.
Ingredients (makes 12 – 14 scones using a 6cm cutter)
275g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp caster sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp fresh rosemary finely chopped
60 g butter (chilled and cubed)
125 ml buttermilk (+ a little extra to brush with)
250 g pumpkin/squash, peeled, deseeded, cubed, steamed until tender and mashed/pureed
Toasted pumpkin seeds
Pre heat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius, fan
Add the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, nutmeg and rosemary into a bowl.
Add the cubes of chilled butter and crumble through to create a breadcrumb texture.
Add the buttermilk and mashed/pureed pumpkin and stir everything together to combine well and to create a sticky dough.
Flour the works surface and turn out the dough. Knead lightly into a smooth dough and form into a round about 2cm thick.
Cut out the dough using a 6cm cutter and place on a lined baking tray. Gather the remaining dough up, and reform to cut out more. Repeat until all the dough has been used up.
Brush each scones lightly with some buttermilk and scatter toasted pumpkin seeds on top.
Place in the oven and back for about 20-25 minutes until doubled in size, golden and cooked through.
Serve up with Bangers and Colcannon, or slather with the Pumpkin Spice and Maple Butter as a delicious mid-day snack.