Spooky Punch with Blueberry Eyeballs!

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.

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.

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.

Not your everyday mix of ingredients, maybe, but trust me when I say that Pea and Anise are two flavours that are made to be together!

Yet more things to do with Broad Beans - essential when one's personal harvest has been (bean?) too successful! This is delish though, so do give it a whirl!

Necessity is the mother of invention, and having a garden full of different peas and beans means the creative streak is at peak these days! Broad Beans, or Fava Beans, are top of the menu at the moment. Serve them up with a nice Chianti, or some Feta - like in this simple salad!

This article was published in the July 2020 edition of The Opinion Magazine.

Earlier this year, I was interviewed by Katia Valadeau of ProperFood.ie for her brilliant series "Women of the Irish Food Industry" - thank you Katia for including me!

This post is a review in two parts which I hope to seamlessly merge together into one engaging whole. If you're coming to this post thinking that there is actually a recipe at the end, prepare to be disappointed, but maybe stick with it anyway because this is a review about one very amazing book that I wish for everyone to read, and also a personal review of the past three-and-a-bit months.

Part of a collection of recipes I’m calling My Purple Passion

Part of a collection of recipes I’m calling My Purple Passion

Part of a collection of recipes I'm calling My Purple Passion

Spooky Punch with Blueberry Eyeballs!

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!

Spooky Punch & Blueberry Eyeballs

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

Method:

  • 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!

Mwahahahahaaa!

This recipe was featured along side two others (Mini Toffee Apples and Goulish Fruits) in the Autumn 2017 edition of West Fork Magazine with the Southern Star:

West Fork Magazine, Autumn 2017

Bangers and Colcannon

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.

Penny for the Guy (telegraph.co.uk)

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.

Bangers & Colcannon

Ingredients

  • 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)
  • 4 scallions
  • 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

Method

  • 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.

Enjoy!

Pumpkin & Rosemary Biscuits

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.

Pumpkin & Rosemary Scones

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

Method

  • 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.

Enjoy!

Pea, Prawn, Pistachio & Tarragon Risotto

Not your everyday mix of ingredients, maybe, but trust me when I say that Pea and Anise are two flavours that are made to be together!

I first came across the flavour pairing of prawn and pistachio many years back when I was running the Supper Club from Scannell’s Pub in Clonakilty. I was working with a young and gifted head chef, Izaak Bradley, and he told me to trust him that these flavours would blow my mind. And they did! Ever since I have been promising myself to attempt a dish with those flavours.

So in part this dish is inspired by that dish, but it is also a dish that comes out of necessity. You see, along with pretty much everything else in my garden this year, the peas are very, very abundant; as is French Tarragon – a herb I absolutely adored as a kid and usually linked to a Sunday roast chicken – the only dish Mum used tarragon in.

But what goes together with peas but tarragon! It’s sweet, grassy, aniseed notes are a match made in heaven. It also goes well with prawns. And so the four flavour pillars of this risotto meet together! To further enhance the flavour relationship, I swapped out white wine typically used in risottos for Vermouth.

As ever, a risotto is a risotto is a risotto – there really is only one way to cook one; but the potential for different flavours combinations is huge! You’ll find quite a few risotto recipes on The Flavour Files, and many of them are best suited to cooler, darker days when all that will suffice is a big hug in a bowl. But this one is lighter and brighter, perfectly suited to late summer when peas are at their plumpest and sweetest.

Pea, Prawn, Pistachio & Tarragon Risotto

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 1 tbsp light olive oil
  • 3 shallots, finely diced
  • 1 large / 2 small cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 225 g (or 1 cup) or risotto rice
  • 150 ml white vermouth
  • 850 ml good quality hot stock (vegetable or chicken)
  • 250 g fresh / frozen peas
  • 250 g prawns (rinsed and dried)
  • 1 tbsp fresh tarragon, finely chopped (or 1 tsp of dried)
  • 50 g pistachio nuts, shelled and roughly chopped
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Salt, pepper and EVO

Method

  • I like to use a deep saute pan when I cook risotto, but if you don’t have one a large frying pan would do too.
  • Heat the pan over a low-medium heat. Add the oil and the shallots and saute gently with the lid on until translucent. Add the garlic, stir.
  • Add the risotto rice and stir so it soaks up all the onion and garlic juices. Turn up the heat to medium, and cook for another 3 minutes.
  • Add the vermouth, stir until the liquid has been soaked up.
  • Start to add the stock, a ladle-full at a time. Stir the risotto constantly, only adding more stock as the previous stock has been soaked up by the rice. This will happen quickly at first, but slow down the more stock is added.
  • Once about half the stock has been incorporated, add the peas. Continue to add stock and stir.
  • Taste the rice, when it is almost cooked through add the fresh prawns. Keep stirring.
  • At this point you may have left over stock or you may need to add a little more. The rice should not be chalky, but not be too soft; and the risotto itself should be able to hold shape but not be too thick and stodgy or too watery. I find that risotto texture depends on the person – I prefer mind to retain a little body when served rather than a soupy mess, but it is up to yourself!
  • Grate a decent amount of parmesan – don’t be shy about it! Add a handful or so to the risotto and stir through to melt into the rice.
  • Add the fresh tarragon. Check for seasoning, add a little more salt if needs me and a couple grinds of black peppercorns.
  • Serve up on warmed plates. Scatter about with chopped pistachios and more of the grated parmesan. Finish everything off with a little drizzle of excellent quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Serve this risotto up with a simple leaf salad, and a glass of crisp, cool, summery rose wine.

Deeply Dippy Broad Bean Dip

Yet more things to do with Broad Beans – essential when one’s personal harvest has been (bean?) too successful! This is delish though, so do give it a whirl!

Is it a dip? Is it a hummus? Is it a pesto? I’m not sure to be honest, but what I do know is that it can any of the above, but most importantly what it definitely is is DELICIOUS!

It is also really simple. So, if like me you are staring down the barrel of another three to four weeks of non-stop bean eating, this little whizzo of a dish will make a refreshing change in how to eat your beautiful sweet Broad, (Fava), Beans!

I created this the same night I tested out the Retro Tuna Plait recipe, and the two things together were just amazing!

Deeply Dippy Broad Bean Dip

Ingredients (makes about 200 ml of dippy/hummusy/pestoy/saucy thing)

  • 2 generous handfuls of Broad Beans in their pods
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Natural Yogurt
  • 1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
  • Sea salt to taste

Method

  • Pod, skin and blanch the Broad Beans.
  • Place all the ingredients into a blender/processor, and blend until smooth.
  • If a little too rough, add more yogurt a little at a time until the mix blends into an almost smooth consistency. I like a little texture to my hummus, but some prefer their totally smooth, so blend according to your preference.
  • Place in a bowl, drizzle a little more EVO over the top. I decorated mine with a vibrant orange nasturtium flower (edible), but herb flowers, calendula petals or some other edible flower would make a lovely garnish against the fresh green colour of the dish.

Although I used this like a vegetable condiment to my Retro Tuna Plait, this goes really well as a topping for toasted sourdough crostini; a dip for crudities, or even swished through long pasta with heaps of grated parmesan and black pepper.

Fava & Feta Salad

Necessity is the mother of invention, and having a garden full of different peas and beans means the creative streak is at peak these days! Broad Beans, or Fava Beans, are top of the menu at the moment. Serve them up with a nice Chianti, or some Feta – like in this simple salad!

I grew up eating Broad Beans – and hated them. But that was because we never did the double-podding – we were all about maximum fibre in our house, so the pods came off but the skins stayed on. Being an adult has at least some advantages, in that now I am prepared to sacrifice a small amount of additional food prep time to pod and skin my broad beans and the rewards are worth it.

Sweet, nutty, grassy Broad, or Fava Beans, especially when they are medium sized in their pods, are just wonderful eaten raw. But if this doesn’t sit right with you, (or if you are someone partial to a bit of gustatory fluctuation when it comes to beans), a quick blanch for a mere minute should help you get around this!

So aside from the time taken to double-pod your beans, the rest of this salad will be ready in about five minutes. I served it up with some Ras al Hanout spiced and BBQ’s chicken thighs with some potatoes and leaves from the garden too, but this also works well as a topping for sourdough crostini.

Fava & Feta Salad

Ingredients (serves 2, scales up easily):

  • 2 or 3 large handfuls of Broad Beans in their pods
  • 125 g Feta cheese
  • 25 g pine nuts, toasted (you could also use flaked almonds)
  • 1 spring onion, trimmed and finely sliced on the round
  • 1 tsp sumac
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt, Black Pepper
  • 1 tsp of lemon zest and juice from 1/4 of a lemon
  • Handful of herbs, roughly chopped: oregano and chive work well.

Method:

  • Remove the beans from their pods, remove the skin. If the beans are small to medium sized and sweet, they can be eaten raw. Any bigger and I would recommend blanching for about a minute before refreshing in iced water. If the thought of eating raw beans isn’t for you, whatever the size of the bean, then do this too!
  • Drain the beans, place into a bowl.
  • Crumble over the feta cheese, add the spring onion.
  • Toast the pine nuts (or flaked almonds) in a dry pan. Set aside to cool slightly.
  • Sprinkle the Sumac over the beans and feta. Add a small pinch of sea salt (the feta will already be salty), and a grind of black peppercorns.
  • Add the lemon zest and juice and a generous glug of EVO (about 1 tablespoon). Chuck in the herbs.
  • Mix all together and serve.

Enjoy…with a nice glass of Chianti, maybe. Fuhfuhfuhfuhfuhfuh…!

Get Creative with your BBQ this Summer

This article was published in the July 2020 edition of The Opinion Magazine.

I just adore cooking and eating outside. The incredibly good weather of late has meant, here at Flavour HQ, that we are doing both a lot more and improving our low and slow cooking game, experimenting with different heat, charcoal and smoke too.

There are two things you need to know about Barbecuing. Firstly, you really don’t need to spend a lot of money on a BBQ to get good results. If you want to put your money somewhere, invest in good quality charcoal that will give you a long, slow burn time opening up options for both fast and slow cooking. Secondly, pick good ingredients and think outside the box when it comes to what to cook. You can cook burgers and sausages any day of the week inside over electric or gas, but if you’re going to the time and trouble to build a good stack of embers then think differently about what to cook too.

Here are some of my favourite things to Barbecue – hope this inspires you to try something different too!

Try Different Meats

Ballinwillin House in Mitchelstown raises free range, organic venison, wild boar and goat; Skeaghnore offer duck winglets which are great cooked low and slow, and from Twomey’s Butchers there is rich Buffalo meat. These meats are a great alternative to beef, pork, lamb and chicken. Burgers made from wild boar and buffalo are incredible in both flavour and texture, or marinade chunks of goat meat and make the best Souvlaki skewers with buffalo halloumi ever tasted!

Try Different Cuts

Caherbeg/Rosscarbery Recipes are offering the most incredible Cote de Boeuf directly from them or for collection via your nearest Neighbourfood. Cote de Boeuf is a prime rib steak on the bone from grass-fed cows; the fat marbling and bone all lend extra wonderful flavour during cooking. Cook over indirect hot embers, and, if you have some, a sweet smoke wood block or hickory chippings, until medium rare. One Cote de Boeuf will feed between 4-6 people depending on what else is served with it.

Caherbeg Cote du Boeuf

Fresh Chorizo

Swap traditional sausages for something with infinitely more bang! Fresh chorizo, (important not to use the dried cured chorizo), cooked on the BBQ is heaven. Cook in the same way you would traditional sausages, but instead over indirect heat (this means pushing white hot coals to one side of the BBQ and food items the opposite side allowing for slower, gentler cooking). The high fat content of fresh chorizo will start to render down, caramelising the outside and intensifying the sweet, spicy, smoky flavours of the chorizo. Incredible!

Smoked Garlic and Onions – cooked direct on the coals

Fish and Shellfish

Fresh fish cooked on the BBQ is heaven! Skewer fresh shell-on langoustines to prevent them from curling up and cook quickly over a high heat until slightly charred and sweet. Get a fish cage and place inside a gutted whole fish, (e.g. sea bream or red snapper); brush the skin with a little oil, salt and pepper, fill the cavity with slices of lemon, parsley and dill. If you have a Dutch Oven, fill with fresh, cleaned mussels; add butter, white wine, garlic, lemon and herbs and cook directly on the coals, lid on, until the shells open. Serve in the Dutch Oven with chunks of crusty bread.

Vegetables

Vegetables become magical cooked over the coals. These are my favourites!

Sweet Corn: This time of year, you will see fresh sweetcorn for sale still in its husks. Simply place the whole thing on the BBQ over indirect heat for about an hour. When cooked, pull back the husk and cook for another five minutes. Served lashed with melted butter, salt, pepper and a squeeze of lime.

Pork Ribs & Charred Sweet Corn

Aubergine: Over a high heat, even while still flaming, cook aubergines turning every couple of minutes until the skin in completely burnished. This might take 10 minutes or more depending on size of the aubergine. Take off the heat, cut open and scoop out the tender, pulpy flesh into a bowl. Add garlic, tahini paste, extra virgin olive oil, salt, lemon zest and juice and mash together to make a paste. Add pepper and finely chopped parsley, check for seasoning. Serve drizzled with more olive oil and garnish with pomegranate seeds if you have them. This is Baba Ganoush and it is so much better than hummus!

Charred Broccoli with Pomegranate Molasses and Spiced Almonds

Sweet Potatoes: Two ways I like best. Leave whole, prick all over and rub the skins with olive oil. Place on low indirect heat and cook for an hour or until they are soft to the touch. Slice in half and season with sea salt and pepper. Alternatively, cut into 5cm chunks and place on a piece of foil, season with olive oil, whole garlic cloves, rosemary, salt and pepper. Tie up into a parcel and place next to the coals to cook for about 25-30 minutes. You can also do this with regular white potatoes.

Sweet Potato with Oregano and Garlic

Dessert

Two of my favourite fruits to cook on a BBQ are peaches and pineapples.

Peaches: Slice in half and remove stone. If not serving this to kids, brush with a little bourbon on the cut side. Place face down on the BBQ for 5 minutes, turn and repeat. They are done when the fruits are soft but still hold their shape. Serve with vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of Nolwen’s Street Food salted caramel sauce.

Pineapple: Peel and core the pineapple then cut lengthways into 6-8 pieces. Place on the BBQ and turn every minute or so until they begin to caramelise all over. Serve with a simple sugar syrup flavoured with dark rum, fresh finely chopped chilli and mint and lime zest; and ice cream.

ProperFood.ie Interview

Earlier this year, I was interviewed by Katia Valadeau of ProperFood.ie for her brilliant series “Women of the Irish Food Industry” – thank you Katia for including me!

Access the interview here: http://www.properfood.ie/kate-ryan/

Kate Ryan is a woman I admire.
I first met Kate Ryan, just like I met Jennifer Opperman, around a table, on a panel for the Irish Quality Food Awards. Her fierce passion and deep knowledge of all things Irish food was obvious from the very start. I have read her work for many years now and I always feel inspired by the amount of detail she puts in her storytelling.

I’m going to say it loud and proud, I think Kate Ryan is a fantastic writer and I can’t wait to go on one of her famed food tours.

I’m talking to women in the Irish food industry. How did your career path bring you here?
Very circuitously! I always wanted to be a barrister, and got into one of the best law schools in the UK, but realised I was probably a bit too soft for the law so ended up moving away from that dream. From 21 to 35 then, I worked for a lot of different companies in the private and public sector in project management and procurement while trying to figure out what I was supposed to do once I knew a lawyering life was not for me. In the end, it was a single Facebook post of a Wild Mushroom Risotto I made for dinner one night that kicked everything off! I was fascinated by the craze for posting pictures of “the dinner” on Facebook, and people seemed to like the look of what I posting up and started asking for recipes. In the end, it was getting all a bit cumbersome trying to reply by text and email, so I asked my husband, who, for those who follow me will know he makes an appearance now and again as “Mr Flavour”, to set me up a basic website so I could start blogging. He also found the domain name that ended up being the name of the business: Flavour.ie

So I started blogging in late 2013, and then in 2014 I started a Supper Club at home – it was the only one in County Cork I think at the time. I opened my home for up to 10 people to come and dine. I developed the dishes, set the menu, cooked and hosted with Mr Flavour, (his real name is Jason), helping me as my waiter and head-mopper-of-my-perspiring-brow on the night. It was fabulous and created a community of people coming together over a love of food at a time when people were looking for something different to the staid restaurant experience. The same year then, I started getting commissions for writing articles for a few local publications and I also launched The Clonakilty Walking Food Tour; again, at a time when no-one else was offering food tours in West Cork – something I couldn’t get my head around, surrounded as we are with the lion’s share of Irish artisan food producers and their rich stories.

In 2016, the Supper Club was getting too much for me to handle at home, so I took it away from there and started working with talented local chefs and food producers to create pop up events: Supper Clubs that would move around to different venues, workshops, and masterclasses with really talented people in their field. The same year I began to get requests for private food tours, so as well as heading into 2020 as my 6th summer season for The Clonakilty Walking Food Tour, I also am busy year-round developing private food tours and dining events for groups big and small, for families, friends and corporate groups.

In 2017, I was commissioned to write a book. The Artisan Food Guide is an extension of A Taste of West Cork Food Festival, which takes place every September for ten days. The guide is a comprehensive collection of food producers, farmers’ markets and specialty food shops right across the region, with maps and suggested itineraries for people to create their own self-guided food adventure in Ireland’s breadbasket.

In 2019, I was invited by the Irish Food Writers’ Guild to become a Member – an accolade that is really special to me because it is acceptance of my work as a food writer by a panel of my peers, all of whom are respected in their field.

My days are spent meeting those who dedicate their lives to creating wonderful things for us to eat, and giving a voice to their stories and achievements through my food writing for a variety of different publications in print and online, as well as my own blog. Food Adventures, (tours, events, and workshops), take up what time remains, but for sure, writing is my first love.

How does your career fulfill you?
For so many years I didn’t know what was meant for me after I left the law behind. I would look at people who were in love with what they did and wonder: why can’t I have that? Now I do! I can’t believe that I get to write for a living, and I’m always telling people I have the best job in the world, but no-one believes me! Of course, it’s not always a walk in the park, just like any profession, there is a great deal of time spent marketing and selling – freelancers pitch ideas for articles constantly, but I am very lucky that I have amazing relationships with my commissioning editors, and as a result, I have a lot of freedom to write about what inspires me or spurs me into action. Not a lot of writers have that, so I am extra lucky and extra grateful for that.

Food is the ultimate topic to write about too because of its flexibility and pervasiveness in our lives. I’m no restaurant critic, but I love telling other peoples stories. But another day I could be fired up to write about food justice and food poverty; environmental issues pertaining to food, food history, farming, and then round off the week with a bit of popular food philosophy! Is there any other topic that can be as wide-ranging as that? Certainly, no other topic has as much human connection, that’s for sure.

What are your professional ambitions? What’s next for Kate Ryan?
Right now, there are three things that are present in my everyday company!

Firstly, I went back to school in September! I joined up as the first intake of students to do the Post Graduate Diploma is Irish Food Culture at UCC. It’s a transdisciplinary subject and so far we have covered food philosophy, dairy science, food history, a bit of folklore, and an in-depth look at the Irish food system. We’ve just begun our last module of the first year which is food and creative practice. I’ve not even looked at what we have next year! It is brilliant, but it’s like studying for an MA – not easy when you’ve all the other adult concerns of running a business, a home, and family commitments. But I have been non-stop fascinated by everything the brilliant lecturers have presented us with. The challenge will be to know what to do with all this new information once it’s all done!

Secondly, I’m in the midst of writing my second book. Something completely different to the first, much more personal in style. I’ll say no more on this right now…who knows, maybe it’ll be a shelf-emptying best seller!

Thirdly, I’m hosting a four-day Food Writing Workshop and Food Tour in West Cork 8 – 11th October with the amazing Dianne Jacob. I can’t wait! Dianne wrote the seminal book for any aspiring food writer called: “Will Write for Food”, and this is only her second time coming to Ireland to teach so it’s pretty special. The title of the Workshop and Food Tour is “Food with a Story to Tell…” and is all about exploring food writing through the medium of story and storytelling – something that I feel is wonderfully engaging for readers. We’re combining Dianne’s teaching sessions with a food tour visiting some great chefs, farmers and artisans who have wonderful food stories of their own. I’m currently running an Early Bird offer at the moment until the end of May – check out all the information on my blog – it’s a small group on purpose and we already have a few places booked, so I would encourage anyone who’s interested to book in sooner than later!

In your opinion, what challenges do women face in the food industry in Ireland?
This is a difficult one for me because I am one of the lucky ones never to have experienced any issues with getting on in any of the industries I have worked in before. I have had great bosses and not great bosses, men and women alike; so, for me, I think it’s about putting myself forward in a confident, but not arrogant way, that loudly and proudly says: I work hard, I do good work, and I can easily measure up against anyone and be as good as the person I’m stood next too.

The charge is often thrown out that women undervalue themselves, not rating their value and contribution, and I firmly believe that that’s where the work begins. We can put ourselves confidently “out there” in a way that demands respect and credibility instead of asking politely for it. Shout all you want for a fair hearing and equality, but be the woman to put it on the table rather than accepting someone else’s version of it.

So, yes, women owning and understanding their own value and worth – we are our biggest challenge.

Tell us of one woman in the Irish food industry who consistently inspire you and why?
There are so many, aren’t there; and in Ireland particularly we have an embarrassment of riches of strong voices and inspiring leaders – it almost seems a disservice to pick just one!

I’m actually going to champion someone who I recently nominated for an award – and won! That woman is Allison Roberts of Exploding Tree. Allison is a bean-to-bar chocolate maker in Clonakilty, West Cork – but what she does is so much more than that, and is why I nominated her for the Irish Food Writers Guild Environmental Award. Allison is Ireland’s only Bean-to-Bar chocolate maker working with exclusively Fairtrade ingredients. She is the Treasurer of Clonakilty Fairtrade, (the town was Irelands first Fairtrade town, nearly 17 years ago); she is a founder of the Clonakilty Bike Festival and a co-founder of the Clonakilty Bike Circus – a weekly repair and advice clinic for bike users, and an advocate for more Green and Cycle Ways. All of her packaging is made from post-agricultural waste and 100% compostable – as well as being beautifully designed; and her range of chocolates vary from the unusual (e.g 100% Cocoa) to her innovative Oat and Goat milk chocolates suitable for lactose intolerant and vegan/dairy-free, but all are delicious!. Her business is designed around sustainability, environmentally friendly practices, closed-loop production methods, Fairtrade and a heart that bursts for the value and contribution that small businesses make to the communities they are in. Oh, and did I forget, she’s an advocate, an educator as well as a mother, wife and friend. She is unstoppable and gives a huge amount to the people around her. Just an awesome powerhouse of a woman. Go check out what she does – you can buy her chocolates online too!

What do you think can be done to help raise the profile and visibility of women in the food industry in Ireland?
I spend a lot of time talking to other women in the food industry and giving a voice to their story. It fascinates me how many times they don’t think they have a story worth telling. Again, it all comes down to understanding and owning your own worth and value. Women are integral to Ireland’s food story – past and present, and we shouldn’t forget that or let it slip from the collective consciousness. I see so much opportunity for women to make their story a central part of their food offering. Yes, the product is important too, but what separates your bread/cheese/cakes from someone else’s – that’s where story comes into play.

Also, opportunities like this, Katia, that you offer, for women to speak some of their truth, is an important platform – I 100% support more of this!

What was the proudest moment of your career so far?
As fabulous as it was to see my first book come off the press, it has to be the moment I was invited into the Irish Food Writers Guild. The wonderful thing about the Guild is that you cannot simply buy your way in – you have to be nominated by a current Member, and then it has to be approved by two other Members at their AGM. Only then will you receive your invitation to join. So it is very special because it is a jury of your peers. Also the role-call of Members past, present, and honorary is quite the list of inspiring people. To be amongst them is a wonderful honour.

What advice would you give your younger self?
Every decade you’ll foist massive life changes upon yourself – go with it, everything will shake out in the end and you’ll always be doing the right thing at the right time, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

What are the top skills required to do your job and why?
· Organisation: planning, planning, planning – research, pitching, interviewing, writing, publishing, getting paid – just be organised so there’s less feast and famine and more consistency.

· Be willing to say No. You won’t lose out because you’re just making room for something even better that you’ll actually want to do!

· Discipline. I could just stay in bed, or scroll for another 15 minutes, but there’s work to do!

What’s an underestimated spice?
Oh I love this question! Without a doubt it’s Fenugreek! I adore it’s smoky, heady aroma – it’s the sultry seductress of the spice world, and hardly anyone uses it! I love it in delicate fish and vegetable curries. A chef friend of mine makes an exquisite Aubergine and Fenugreek chutney – divine! She’s just gone out on her own, check her website out.

Recipes worth living for…

This post is a review in two parts which I hope to seamlessly merge together into one engaging whole. If you’re coming to this post thinking that there is actually a recipe at the end, prepare to be disappointed, but maybe stick with it anyway because this is a review about one very amazing book that I wish for everyone to read, and also a personal review of the past three-and-a-bit months.

Continue reading “Recipes worth living for…”

Cherry Amour

Part of a collection of recipes I’m calling My Purple Passion

I had been knocking around in my head the idea for this cocktail ever since I made the Cherry Brandy Brownie. There was something so heady about the combination of cherry and chocolate that sent me off in search of a cocktail that would make the most of those flavours in a truly adult way.

If you’ve ever read my Tea with Granny series of blog posts, you’ll know that Black Forest Gateaux holds a very dear and special place in my heart. I also created for you one of the best cake recipes I’ve ever concocted as a ridiculously sumptuous version of an old classic. Check out those posts HERE and HERE. So, in a way, this cocktail is like a Black Forest Gateaux but in a drinkable form and oh so adulty!

What took me so long in getting round to making it was trying to figure out how, in the middle of a pandemic, could I get my hands on a Chocolate Bitter. In the end I decided to make my own using just three ingredients and one patient week of waiting. The good news though is that, like with all bitters, you only need a little to go a long way, so you’ll have enough for 6 cocktails with what you make here.

Equipment wise, you’ll need a cocktail shaker – my current one is plastic and broken so you know, whatever works…even a clean jam jar with a tight fitting lid would work. Something to accurately measure your measures with, lots and lot of ice and a fancy pants glass to drink from. Simples.

Cherry Amour

Ingredients: Makes 1 Cocktail

For the Homemade Chocolate Bitters

  • 1 tbsp of roasted cocoa nibs
  • 1 tbsp of cocoa husks (also known as Cocoa Husk Tea)
  • Enough Irish whiskey to cover fully – about 150 ml
  • Both the Nibs and Husks can be purchased from Exploding Tree

For the Cocktail

  • 50 ml Irish Whiskey (I used West Cork Distillers 10 year old)
  • 75 ml Kinsale Mead ‘Wild Red Mead’ (flavoured with cherries and blackcurrants)
  • 125 ml tart organic cherry juice (e.g. Biona)
  • 1 tsp of Homemade Chocolate Bitters
  • 1 egg white
  • Ice

Method:

For the Homemade Chocolate Bitters

  • Place all into a sterilised glass jar with a tight fitting lid, shake and store in a cool, dark place for a week.
  • Strain the liquid from the solids using a tea strainer or a piece of muslin cloth.
  • Store in a sterilised jar or bottle.

For the Cocktail

  • Add all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker, fill with ice and shake vigorously for 30 seconds or until a thin sheen of ice appears on the outside of your cocktail shaker.
  • Pour into a martini glass and garnish with some more roasted cocoa nibs.

Cheers!

Goat-Goat-Beet

Part of a collection of recipes I’m calling My Purple Passion

So, I hold a deep conflict when it comes to anything Goaty. If I ever have enough land to keep animals, the first thing on my list would be a goat. They are such lovely creatures – cantankerous but full of personality. When my parents used to live in the Welsh mountains, they had three Cashmere Mountain Goats called Flymo, Black and Decker – I know, you don’t need to say anything. Aside from my parents and their dogs, I always looked forward to seeing the goats. I’ve loved them ever since, but the thing is, I also adore their milk, yogurt, cheese and, yes its true, their meat.

In the past few years, goat meat has been appearing on menus here and there and across the country there are a small number of goat farms raising goats for their meat. It’s been hailed as a sustainable alternative to meat production and consumption, but it isn’t a cheap meat and, for the most part, producers in Ireland mostly service the restaurant industry. But, with Covid-19 that market has been lost to the producers and are focusing their efforts to sell direct to normal customers, like you and me, a lot more. This is great news for those who have been curious about working with goat meat, but found it difficult to source exceptional quality, Irish reared goat to cook with at home.

There is Broughgammon Farm in the north of country, and a scattering of others around the midlands. Down south is the wonderful Ballinwillin House in Mitchelstown, Co Cork. On this farm on an old estate, Pat and Miriam Mulcahy produce wild boar, venison, beef and goat meat all grass fed and semi-free range. Everything happens on site, including their own abattoir, butchery and smokehouse. In terms of production, it has virtually zero food miles – that and, of course, it is meat of the most exceptional quality.

Thanks, in part, to Covid-19, Ballinwillin House is now selling their produce through Neighbourfood – an excellent initiative that I have championed since the first collection day in the Old Apple Market in Cork city on a bitterly cold and wet winters’ evening in 2018. Ballinwillin are a newcomer to our corner of the world here, through Neighbourfood. Choosing items for my weekly order, I stumbled upon their Goat Salami. A lover of salami, you can imagine, I was immediately intrigued so that went in the cart. Then I spotted that the lovely Siobhan from St Tola Goats Cheese was also starting to sell that week, and her newest product, St Tola Divine, described as a fresh and creamy goats curd, also caught my eye, so that went in the cart too.

I had a suspicion that these two ingredients would be a dream together: the rich funkiness of the goat salami and the sweet silkiness of the goat curd. And what goes so well with goats cheese? Beetroot of course! And what goes well with beetroot? Fennel and Chili, naturally – a favourite flavour combo of mine that I discovered many years ago when I developed my classic Beetroot, Fennel and Chili Soup (check it out here!).

The only cooking in this dish really is steaming, peeling and slicing the beetroot. But look, if you can’t be bothered to do that you could substitute for those ready cooked and peeled vac-packed beets you can get in the supermarket these days, but you know I’ll always prefer to encourage people to buy beets that have been grown seasonally and locally because, frankly, there is no comparison on taste!

What I will say is this: this dish deserved its place in My Purple Passion collection of recipes. So simple, and so delicious served as a summery shared starter al-fresco in the late evening sunshine. Best served with fresh bread – we found a pillowy focaccia works best.

Goat-Goat-Beet

Ingredients – this will serve 6 – 8 people as a nibbly starter

  • 100 g Ballinwillin House Goat Salami
  • 30 g St Tola Divine Goats Curd
  • 2 large fresh beetroot, steamed, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp Maldon sea salt
  • 1/8 tsp fennel seed
  • 1/8 tsp chili flakes
  • Fresh thyme, leaves and flowers
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Method:

  • If your beetroots come with their leaves still attached, remove them and save them to use as you would chard or spinach another time.
  • I find steaming the beetroot whole works best as you don’t lose flavour and is a very gentle way of cooking. Depending on the size of the beetroots, this should take around 30 – 40 minutes. They need to be cooked through, but I prefer the beetroots to retain a small bit of bite to them, but you may prefer them softer still so then cook until completely tender all the way through.
  • When cooked, allow the beetroots to cool slightly so you can handle them to peel them. I use a small pairing knife to scrape, rather than peel, the skins off. Top and tail and slice thinly using a knife or, if you have one, a mandoline.
  • In a pestle and mortar, place the salt, fennel seed and chili flakes. Grind into a seasoned salt mix.
  • Arrange the disks of beetroot on a platter and scattered all over with the salt mix.
  • Arrange slices of the goat salami on top and add small dabs of St Tola Divine Goats Curd.
  • Finally, dress with some fresh thyme leaves and flowers if you have them, (they are delightfully pinkish in hue too), and drizzle over with some great quality EVOO.
  • Serve with focaccia bread, and a glass of crisp, dry white wine.

Enjoy!

Cherry Brandy Brownie

Part of a collection of recipes I’m calling My Purple Passion

Right back at the beginning of the pandemic, I, on purpose, installed myself on an almost permanent basis in the kitchen. Of course there was the day to day business of cooking enough food to keep up well fed and happy, including snacks, but there was also a backlog of recipes that I was long overdue to test…some for this blog, some for another project I’m working on. I cracked on, cooking dish and dish and generally procrastinating about work and study. Back then I definitely didn’t think I should be reserving my energies and enthusiasm for as long a haul as it has been, and is still yet to come. I guess I just thought I should get through The Backlog as soon as possible before everything returns back to normal. Well, folks, lets just say this: don’t rely on me to predict the future of anything. I’m clearly useless! Anyways, after my fit of cookery began to equalise out to something much more sensible, one evening, scrolling through the seemingly unending collection of photographs of the food cooked over the past 12 weeks, and I noticed a bit of a trend – towards purple food. Purple like: red onions which I am currently addicted to roasting in the wood fire; red cabbage in so many different variations of chopped slaw salads, beetroot and, my favourite fruit of all, cherries.

So this blog post kicks off my homage to these purple foods that have kept me company. Three recipes in total: this ridiculously delicous recipe for a Cherry Chocolate Brownie that is definitely only for adults, a delicious starter of Beetroot, Goat Salami and Goats Curd with Fennel and Chili Salt, and finally my indulgent Cherry Amore cocktail. I hope you enjoy them.

It’s probably not a coincidence, but one of my favourite writers in the world is Alice Walker, and The Color Purple is probably one of my favourite books. One of the most famous lines in the book is thus:

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it. People think pleasing God is all God cares about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.”

Now, religious is the last thing I am, but replace God with nature and that’s where you’ll find me!

To kick off proceedings, I made this Cherry Brandy Chocolate Brownie at the very beginning of Lockdown in Ireland. Cherries were coming in season and my friend and Chocolate Maker extraordinaire, Allison Roberts of Exploding Tree, was, (still is), selling Experimenters Kits containing Raw Cocoa Beans, Roasted Cocoa Nibs, Coconut Blossom Sugar, Untempered Cooking Chocolate and a bag of Cocoa Husk Tea. Experimenting with these brownies was the first thing on my list!

I used fresh cherries here, but you could use tinned – just don’t throw away the juice! If you are using fresh cherries, allow at least two days for them to macerate in the juice, sugar and brandy before making the brownie mixture. If course, if you’d like to make these for your precious little ones, just leave out the brandy. Shame, but needs must – this I understand!

Cherry Brandy Brownies

Ingredients – makes 12 – 16 brownies depending on portion size!

For the macerated cherries:

  • 125 g cherries, pitted and halved
  • 3 tbsp of coconut blossom sugar or golden caster sugar
  • 150 ml tart organic cherry juice
  • 100 ml brandy

For the brownie mixture:

  • 265 g butter, cubed
  • 265 g dark chocolate – I used Allison’s Oat Milk Chocolate (60%)
  • 125 g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 300 g coconut blossom sugar or golden caster sugar
  • 4 eggs

You will also need:

  • Velvet Cloud Sheeps Yogurt
  • Retain the liquid from macerating the cherries
  • More chocolate for grating over
  • Thick cream whipped to a soft peak

Method:

  • Place all the ingredients for macerating the cherries into a sterilised jar. Close the lid tightly and shake. Leave that to work its magic for at least two days. Give it a shake each day. No need to refrigerate but keep out of direct sunlight or sources of heat.
  • To make the brownie, preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius, and line a 22cm square brownie tin.
  • Place the butter and chocolate in a glass or metal bowl over a gently simmering saucepan of water. Ensure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl, melt gently and stir together. Take off the heat and set aside.
  • Beat together the eggs and sugar until fluffy, then add the chocolate mixture and stir well to combine.
  • Mix the baking powder through the flour then add the flour mix to the chocolate and egg mix gradually to ensure a beautifully smooth texture.
  • Drain, but retain, the liquid from the cherries. Add about half the cherries to the batter mix, stir through then pour into the prepared baking tin.
  • Place the remaining cherry halves so they just sit in the brownie mix without sinking, and drizzle thick, silky lines of Velvet Cloud sheep’s yogurt over the top.
  • Bake in the oven for between 40 – 45 mins. I prefer my brownie to have a crust on top, mostly solid with a slightly fudgy but not oozy centre. Ideally things should still wobble a little under the crust. As the brownie cools down it will firm up, so don’t fret too much!
  • Remove the brownie from the oven and allow to cool in the baking tin for 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile take the reserved cherry and brandy juice and place into a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer to thicken and reduce the sauce by about a third – it should coat the back of a teaspoon.
  • Use a bamboo skewer or something similar to make small holes all over the surface of the brownie. Using a pastry brush, brush over the reduced cherry stock to soak into the brownie. Be generous, but don’t use it all up otherwise the brownie will collapse. Reserve it for drizzling over when serving!
  • Cover and place in the fridge to cool right and firm up.
  • To serve, remove from the baking tin and cut into squares (between 12-16 depending on portion size – I am not here to judge!).
  • Plate a square of brownie, grate over some more chocolate, drizzle over some of the left over cherry stock and serve with a generous mound of pillowy whipped cream.

Enjoy!

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