Clonakilty Veggie Pudding Falafel & Pickles

#AD Have you heard the news? Now there's a Clonakilty Pudding for Veggies...and it's seriously yum!

There were whispers about things of beauty being brewed and bottled in West Cork; things of a very adult nature indeed. Made to majestically pair with crafted spirits, but equally good on their own as a grown up tipple. This is the world of Fintan's - Small Batch Botanicals Handcrafted in West Cork.

There are many things I love doing with my down time: walking, eating great food, relaxing, playing with my dog, Buddy. I also love heading away for a spontaneous nights away in a lovely hotel to escape the everyday.

I'm starting to really appreciate bitter vegetables. It started on the lead up to Christmas last with chicory and doesn't see any sign of receding. Bitter is a taste that is only just started to be explored in more detail. I have a theory that our curiosity with bitter flavours has been piqued only because of our familiarity with gin.

The second we heard award winning chef Rob Krawczyk was back in West Cork with an eight-week residency at the beautiful Glebe Gardens in West Cork, we booked our table. This is my review of a dining experience that is almost impossible to describe, but simply has to be shared.

A Taste of West Cork Food Festival launches most cultured and cosmopolitan food Festival to date.

If ever there was a food stuff that bonded two countries together so closely, it is the Irish and French adoration of shed loads of butter/buerre. Whether you are still a butter skeptic, a butter convert or sitting firmly on the aluminium rails of the farmgate, there is one universal truth that the epicureans of these two great nations agree on - everything tastes better with butter!

I can't tell you how many times I have wanted to write this blog post. Well, since about mid-November 2016 to be correct. Ever since it properly sank in that I had just been commissioned to write a book. Well, a guide. A guide book. My first book!

My love of a good bowl of soup is well known by now I should think. I have written a lot about it being the ultimate "bowl food" experience, and because of the myriad flavour combinations, textures and ability to adapt to the changing seasons it is a meal that knows no end to variation.

The beautiful and welcoming seaside town of Clonakilty has a reputation for firsts.  The first Fair Trade town in Ireland; Ireland’s first EDEN destination of excellence; the first Cittaslow town in Ireland for celebrating the multiple benefits of slow living and slow food and recently voted the Greatest Town in Europe at the AOU Awards in London.

A few days before I made this recipe, I had a little rant via Facebook Livestream on the vagaries of food labelling and packaging.  It was a very successful broadcast which garnered a lot of interaction and reach - which was great because it's a topic I feel very strongly about and raising awareness is crucial. 

A couple of weeks' ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Caitlin Ruth, head chef of Deasy's Harbour Bar and Restaurant for our local radio station, Clonline Radio (listen to the interview here).  This was the second time I had the chance to interview Caitlin, and as before it was a lot of fun - more like having a chat, only that the wine was missing!

Clonakilty Veggie Pudding Falafel & Pickles

#AD Have you heard the news? Now there’s a Clonakilty Pudding for Veggies…and it’s seriously yum!

In my second original recipe in collaboration with Clonakilty Food Co., I got to experiment with their brand new Pudding to add to their Black and White range. Clonakilty Veggie Pudding delivers on texture, flavour and versatility, just like its older siblings, but is 100% vegetarian, suitable for Vegans and Gluten Free too!

Clonakilty Veggie Pudding Falafel & Pickles
Clonakilty Veggie Pudding Falafel, Pickles & Tahini Dressing

Made with onions, carrots, black beans, pea starch and Clonakilty Food Co’s distinctive mix of spices, this is a delicious and savoury alternative whether your veggie or just looking for inspo to go meat free!

In this new recipe, I wanted to celebrate vegetables and one of my favourite ways to do that is by adding delicious little bursts of piquant flavour with pickles. Versatile and full of moreish flavours, it matches the Clonakilty Veggie Pudding perfectly!

This recipe is so easy, but you can make it even easier by buying in your favourite pickles! Of course you can make your own really quickly too and is a great way of using up any odd bits of vegetables in your fridge or gluts from the garden. Play around with spices, citrus and herbs to create your own signature pickles too.

 Ingredients (makes enough Falafel for 2 people)

  • 1 litre of Sunflower Oil
  • 1 x 250g chub of Clonakilty Veggie Pudding
  • 1 free range egg, whisked
  • 50g panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 x flatbreads (Syrian flatbreads or Pitta Breads work best)
  • 1tbsp Tahini Paste
  • 2 tbsp Natural Yogurt
  • Zest of 1 lemon, juice of 1/2
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • Salad leaves, something peppery like rocket or mustard leaves
  • Pickles*

Method

If you have a deep fat fryer, get that switched on now. If not, use a sturdy deep saucepan and no more than half-fill it with 1 litre of sunflower oil. Bring it up to temperature perfect for quick deep frying.

While the oil is heating up, make the Tahini dressing. Mix together the tahini, natural yogurt, half the lemon juice and a sprinkle of sea salt. Mix well together until a pouring texture. If too thick, either add a little water or more lemon juice. Check for seasoning and flavour balance.

On a plate, pour out the panko breadcrumbs. Crack the egg into a ramekin and whisk with a fork. Slice the Clonakilty Veggie Pudding into rounds about 1.5cm thick. When the oil is hot enough, take each round and dunk in the egg wash then roll in the panko breadcrumbs. Gentle place into the hot oil one at a time until golden brown. Take out with a slotted spoon and place on kitchen paper to drain off any excess oil. Repeat until all the rounds are cooked. Turn off the heat and leave the oil to cool down completely.

Plating

Fill the flat bread with a selection of peppery salad leaves. Add in a selection of your favourite pickles, the Clonakilty Veggie Pudding Falafel and pour over your tahini dressing.

* Pickles

A simple quick pickle can be made by mixing equal parts vinegar and water and heating to a boil. Sterilise an empty glass jar and fill with a selection of aromatics: spices, citrus, herbs – whatever you think best goes with the vegetable you want to pickle. Add in the vegetables (individually or a mixed veggie pickle) and then fill with the hot pickling liquor. Add sea salt, or substitute with sugar for a sweet pickle. Close the lid tight and allow to cool. Shake every now and again to help the flavours mingle together. Chill in the fridge and serve with everything!

Something for the weekend…

There were whispers about things of beauty being brewed and bottled in West Cork; things of a very adult nature indeed. Made to majestically pair with crafted spirits, but equally good on their own as a grown up tipple. This is the world of Fintan’s – Small Batch Botanicals Handcrafted in West Cork.

Pamela Weaver and Janet Paterson are foodies and brewers – and from their home near Bantry in West Cork they have created a range of Botanical Syrups and Shrubs from exotic aromats and locally harvested berries.

Ireland is home to some ingenious small batch distillers, and for Pamela, it seemed disingenuous to their time and effort that there wasn’t an equally well-made mixer to pair with it.

Having gone as far as she could experimenting brewing beer at home, Pamela decided to try her hand at brewing tonics instead. The result is a small but beautifully curated range of Botanical Syrups and shrubs to compliment a craft spirit, or simply virgin, on its own, with some sparkling water as a refreshing adult-friendly non-alcoholic drink.

Having finally got my mitts on a bottle of each, I set about experimenting to see what goes well with each. I still haven’t cracked what to do with the Blackberry and Lime Shrub (my earlier attempts were lacking in something, so I have to return to it again!), but for Botanical Syrups 1 & 2 I am happy indeed with the results! The good news for you is that, like all my cocktail recipes, you don’t need any fancy kit to make them! So dive in, chin-chin, and set your watch to Cocktail O’Clock!

The range of Fintan’s come with a handy set of tasting notes. These helped enormously in identifying other flavours and craft spirits that I thought would work well with each.

Botanical Syrup No. 1 : Orange and citrus notes with an edge of tartness. Whole green cardamom and allspice berries round things out with a light spice note in the background.

By order of the king

Working the orange and cardamom hints and warming spicy background of Botanical Syrup No.1, I decided to bring it together with the rather superb Kinsale Mead Co’s Wild Red Mead, rich with tart berry flavours, and The King’s Ginger, a luxuriously warming ginger liqueur. The vanilla sugar dusted rim helps to soften the spices, heat, acidity and sweetness to give a pleasing finishing mouthfeel.

  • 50ml Kinsale Mead Co Wild Red Mead
  • 25ml Fintan’s Botanical Syrup No. 1
  • 10ml The King’s Ginger
  • 130ml Sparkling Water
  • Vanilla Sugar and Orange to garnish.
  • Muddle Mead, Syrup and King’s Ginger with slices of fresh juicy orange. Brush the rim of a glass with orange juice and dust with vanilla sugar. Strain and pour the mixture into the glass and garnish with orange.

Botanical Syrup No. 2 : Genuine cinchona bark gives this its classic, ultra-dry tonic notes. Wood and spice undertones complement the hit of quinine, with grains of paradise for a little pepper, rounded out with grapefruit and fennel.

Fintan’s Passion

Fintan’s Passion

I knew that I wanted to pair Botanical Syrup No.2 with gin, and my favourite of all is Beara Ocean Gin. It is distilled from West Cork whey and flavoured with sea water, sea kelp and fuchsia botanicals among many others. I’ve always been drawn to gin and passionfruit as a winning flavour combination, and with the prevalent grapefruit coming from No. 2 syrup for me, this just made sense! This is a juicy, tangy and uplifting cocktail, suitably able to transport you to somewhere hot and full of palm trees…

  • 50ml Beara Ocean Gin
  • 25ml Botanical Syrup No. 2
  • Seeds and juice from 2 passionfruits
  • Sparkling water and passionfruit garnish
  • Muddle and then shake together vigorously with ice cubes the gin, syrup and passionfruit. Strain and pour into a martini glass, top with sparkling water and garnish with a passionfruit round.

Liss Ard – the gem of gems in West Cork

There are many things I love doing with my down time: walking, eating great food, relaxing, playing with my dog, Buddy. I also love heading away for a spontaneous nights away in a lovely hotel to escape the everyday.

As a committed dog parent, spontaneity isn’t always possible; because, like any responsible parent, we have to get a minder or beg, plead and borrow for a boarding kennel at 11th hour notice. But I do so love it when I can indulge in all the things I love about my down time and am able to combine it with an escape to the countryside where my pet is as welcome as I am, and then add all manner of bells and whistles and what you have is one of my favourite places of all time to walk, dine, relax and have adventures with Buddy, my dog. Welcome to Liss Ard Country House Estate.

Liss Ard is less than five minutes’ drive from the bustling west Cork market town of Skibbereen. The elegant Georgian estate is nestled in 163 acres of gardens and peppered with unique vignettes such as James Turrell’s award winning Sky Garden. The elegant Country House, built in 1856, is hidden from view until arriving virtually at its doorstep. It has an immediate welcoming air, relaxed and dripping with understated luxury.

Liss Ard has changed hands many times in its 165 year history, but in the hands of the Stern Family based in Switzerland it is undergoing something of a renaissance.

Since 2017, a small but ambitious chef team has been built busy reimagining what it means to be a restaurant in a hotel. Head Chef, Danny Barter, along with a young talented sous chef in Josh Graddon, have been garnering a reputation for Liss Ard as an exciting and creative dining destination.

There are orchards, lakes, walled gardens and areas rich for collecting wild foods and mushrooms that grow in abundance in the grounds. In late Spring when the grounds reopen to the public, the woodland walks are carpeted in bluebells and the apple trees are heavy with blossom. But to really appreciate what Liss Ard has to offer, one simply has to stay and dine!

Throughout the year, Liss Ard host sumptuous dining events; tasting menus created by Danny and Josh and a welcoming experience curated by Aidan, Mags, Paul and David. Over the past two years, I have dined four times at Liss Ard, three times at their dining experience evenings. Most recently, Mr Flavour and I dined at their A Taste of Romance event on 16th February, two days post Valentine’s on a Saturday evening.

Segueway back to my dog, Buddy. Of course, you can stay in the human-friendly and rather grand surroundings of the Country House itself. The elegantly appointed rooms come with views and vistas of rolling green fields and beckoning forests as far as the eye can see. But where I love to stay is in the adjacent Mews Cottages; a handful of miniature houses-cum-apartments that open out into individual courtyards that back onto an expanse of immaculately kept lawn and head gardener, Sally’s, walled vegetable garden. These are Liss Ard’s pet-friendly cottages.

These apartments are sleek and modern and full of the comforts of home so your pet can feel like they are having a holiday and adventure in a home from home! Where practically replaces opulence, quaintness, privacy and your own courtyard patch with seats for when the sun shines more than makes up for it. You and your pooch will love it – and that’s before they have even started to explore the numerate trails, paths and super-fun spots that will leave them with their legs walked off. Perfect timing, in fact, for when you settle them in for the night as you head across to the big house, the restaurant and an evening of delectatious dining!

We are welcomed by the site of something fizzy and giddy being poured into glasses, as the sounds of piano and violin echo through the galleries and spacious drawing rooms of the first floor. Ever since we arrived to check in, there have been deep, rich, meaty aromas drifting on the breeze, catching our noses and making our tummies gurgle with desire.

We are called to dinner with a tinkling bell, and Aidan, the General Manager, requesting the pleasure of our company in the restaurant, situated downstairs. Tables are decorated simply but elegantly, and I am delighted to see that the tradition of tonight’s menu presented on an antiqued scroll is maintained.  An amuse bouche to kick things off; a playful pear dish to start; followed by duck, gin cured salmon, charcoal flame-grilled Cote de Boeuf and a buffet assiette of desserts to finish. It was an outstanding menu, a great night, super comfortable stay and a brilliant breakfast the morning after too. Plus the opportunity to walk it all off and to head home full, happy with one delighted Buddy in tow too. Now, that’s how to make everyone jealous on a Monday morning when your colleagues ask you, “What did you do this weekend…”

Read on below for my best attempts at describing how wonderful each course was. By the time you’ve gotten to the end, you’ll be looking to book into their next event, or visit, or stay, or maybe start figuring out if maybe you could just live there forever…

Follow Liss Ard on social media to get first hand news of their dining experiences, or their fantastic value stay and play packages. Bring the kids; bring the dog – make the most of every second at this gem of all hidden gems in West Cork. Have a peak around… www.lissardestate.ie

Amuse Bouche

Our first course was a mouth tingling Gazpacho. A light and refreshing heirloom tomato water topped with red onion and chili and a drop of herb oil. The tingle of chili and onion really set our taste buds alight – we were ready for the next five courses!

White Wine Poached Mini Pear with Baked Walnut Crumb, Pomegranate Seeds, Goats Cheese Snow, Quince Jelly, Thyme & Cranberry Dressing
This was such a fun starter! The dainty look of the dish belied the great punchy flavours. The goats cheese snow melted creamily on the tongue – it’s the perfect time of year for super creamy fresh goats cheese as the new kidding season gets underway. Walnut and thyme are perfect partners to both the pear and goats cheese. It was the cranberry gel that was the delight of this dish though… candy sweetness with a hint of tartness seemed to be bring all the elements together harmoniously.

…you know that thing in a murder mystery where the person who did it is revealed at the end, turning out to be the person you didn’t even notice earlier in the movie? That’s what the cranberry was like here! I wasn’t sure if it would be a flavour too far, but in the end it was pivotal to everything else working together perfectly!

Pan-seared Skeaghanore Duck Breast, Confit Leg Bon Bon, Garden Pea and Pearl Onion Cassoulet, Pickled Blackberries and Creme de Cassis Jus
WOW! This was our favourite course of all – and that is something as the whole menu was epic last night!
Perfectly, and I mean PERFECTLY, cooked duck breast flavoured subtly with anise; the confit bonbon with a hint of bright orange zest, sweet pickled carrots and juicy bright pickled blackberries. A total triumph; but then the pea and pearl onion cassoulet licked with the deep, rich, sweet/sour jus provided a glorious bedrock for everything else on the plate to sing. There was nothing left on our plate after this – the cooking and flavour balance were spot on.

I loved that nothing was smoked here – something that seems to happen a lot these days as a “modern twist” on cooking duck, and although I am partial to a smoked meat or two, when duck is in the hands of a chef who understands how to cook duck right, it has a delicate flavour that can be easily overtaken by smoking. Here, this dish is all about quality of the primary ingredient – the duck, and the skill of cooking it with classic flavours put together in a well considered way. Nothing sticky or crying here – these flavours are fresh, light, clean and brilliantly balanced!

Fresh Strawberry & Garnish Island Gin Cured Salmon, Elderflower Tonic Gel, Pink Grapefruit and Black Mustard Seed
After such a rich dish previously, this light and refreshing fish course was a great way to refresh the taste buds!

Thick slices of house cured salmon had taken on the flavour of the floral Gin, and the tonic gel complimented perfectly, the quinine tang balancing the rich fattiness of the fish. Pink grapefruit both cleansed the palate and partnered with the tonic gel and gin cured salmon effortlessly. The black mustard seeds were an inspired change from black pepper offering both nutty flavour and mustard heat rather than just pepper heat! It’s all in the quality of that salmon.

Charcoal Flame-Grilled Côte de Bœuf, Baled Marrow of Leg, Crispy Shallot Rings, Pickled Land Mushrooms, Broccoli Chutney, Blackened Merlot Jus
Be still my beating heart… Before this awesome plate of beefy loveliness was placed before us, we were asked if we would be happy for our meat to be served medium rare, and also that it would be served to share. This was when we started to get excited about what was coming!

Where to start… this was such a phenomenal tasting piece of beef. Started on a charcoal grill, the bark yielded unbelievable flavour, kicking off the malliard process and unlocking all that flavour potential in the marbling and aging. So perfectly pink, so so tender, layers of flavour and endlessly satisfying. The blackened merlot sauce was thick enough to glaze the meat adding extra umami. Crisp from shallots, zing from pickled but meaty mushrooms and an ingenious sweet broccoli chutney (broccoli still had plenty of bite – perfect!)

Frankly, the nicest piece of beef I have had in a long time. I love how the chef team@had taken the time to select an amazing prime ingredient at its peak and doing very little to it allowing it to stand by itself and take all the praise. It takes a confident chef to do that, to avoid over complicating something and running out the uniqueness that inspired a dish in the first place. We couldn’t finish it all, but insisted what was left was boxed up so we could take it away with us. Something this good should never be wasted! I want the recipe for that broccoli chutney, and if I only ate beef once a year from now on, this would be my beef dish of choice. So, so good! Bravo chef!

Dessert Buffet: Raspberry Macaroon, Chocolate Mousse, Honeycombe Pieces; Lemon Meringue Tartlet; Cheesecake with Rhubarb Gel
I’m not quite sure how anyone else managed to eat one whole plate of these to themselves, they did, but we didn’t! Everyone of these miniature desserts were a delight, it’s hard to know which I enjoyed most! Was it the chewyness of the macaron against the velvety texture of the chocolate mousse; or maybe the marshmallowy Italian meringue or the vanilla rich cheesecake?

Ah, hell, it was all so good!! We did our best to demolish as much as we could and finished the whole thing off with a dram of West Cork Distillery bourbon cask finished Irish Whiskey. Put a fork in me, I’m done! Only thing left is to walk the whole thing off around the estate grounds!

 Buddy seal of approval! WOOF!

Carrot, Radicchio, Orange and Ricotta Salad

I’m starting to really appreciate bitter vegetables. It started on the lead up to Christmas last with chicory and doesn’t see any sign of receding. Bitter is a taste that is only just started to be explored in more detail. I have a theory that our curiosity with bitter flavours has been piqued only because of our familiarity with gin.

Gin itself can be biter from juniper, but look at what is happening with tonic waters. My prediction that craft tonic water will start to be a trend that sees us choosing that over a Ballygowan has yet to take flight, but I am rarely wrong about such things, so bear with me!

Continue reading “Carrot, Radicchio, Orange and Ricotta Salad”

Review: Rob Krawczyk Residency at Glebe Gardens

The second we heard award winning chef Rob Krawczyk was back in West Cork with an eight-week residency at the beautiful Glebe Gardens in West Cork, we booked our table. This is my review of a dining experience that is almost impossible to describe, but simply has to be shared.

Chefs are a wandering sort of folk. It’s in their nature, I feel, as curiosity gets the better of them and the urge to untether and head off on some new adventure gets too much to handle. That curiosity takes many forms: travel to discover new ingredients, food cultures and cookery practices and pop ups are the most obvious examples of this curiosity in action.

But if you have been paying attention, you may have noticed that some of these curious and wandering chefs are reappearing in very out of the way venues for a defined block of time: these are Residencies, an experimental hybrid of established venues and guest-chef takeovers that are producing extraordinary results.

Rob Krawczyk

One such residency is original West Cork native, former chef of Brabazon at Tankardstown Hotel and voted Best Leinster Chef in 2015 and 2016 Rob Krawczyk. Mr Flavour and I took a spin out to Glebe Gardens in Baltimore, West Cork at the beginning of Rob’s first week. We were, still are in fact, blown away by our experience.

I saw something wiz by in my Twitter feed about Rob and Glebe and immediately phoned through to book a table for two on the first Saturday night of Rob’s residency. We managed to get a table at a really early time, but I took it – no way was I missing out on this chance!

Sunset in Baltimore – view from the Glebe

If anyone reading this has never visited Glebe Gardens before, then put it in your list! Part café, part shop, part edible gardens, part outdoor amphitheatre for the best gigs in Ireland (yes, even if it’s raining – especially so maybe!) it is a magical place. It takes hard work and passion to run such a multi-purpose business with the kind of relaxed effortlessness that is on display here. In the café by day, Tessa Perry runs a kitchen turning out a brunch/lunch menu that utilises as much produce from the garden as possible, and sources everything else locally. The food is fabulous; the service is warm and genuine and then of course there is that incredible setting – cascading gardens down to a rocky overhang that plunges into the Atlantic Ocean. It was already perfect. And then Rob came along.

Rob had left Brabazon earlier on in the year with the purpose to come back home to West Cork and set up a restaurant of his own. But what to do in the meantime whilst waiting for the perfect location to show itself. A good friend of his, food writer Joe McNamee, had suggested that maybe the Glebe maybe interested in hosting a residency over the summer. Access to garden fresh produce and surrounded by a wealth of award winning food producers, you can imagine there wasn’t much in the way of arm twisting to be done. Clearly a deal was struck, and he is now roughly four weeks into the Residency. I simply urge you to book a table. Mr Flavour and I will certainly be looking for a gap in the diary to get back down there again ourselves before it’s finished. And I will fight you for it.

Rob’s ethos for the menu is simple: just 4 elements on the plate, don’t overcomplicate things and let the ingredients speak for themselves. The menu reads simply as just the four elements of each dish. The dishes are presented with precision, as you would expect, pretty as a picture with every element clearly defined. The technical skill being employed behind each element is obfuscated by the harmony of flavours. You’re not being faced with a brash Tchaikovsky symphony that bashes the living shite out of every instrument and doesn’t know when to stop. Instead, it’s an exquisite performance of a string quartet playing all the right notes in all the right order: brilliance in simplicity.

Bread & Butter

Two delicious house made breads with butter whipped with Dillisk (seaweed) and finished with gold salt.

Bred & Butter, Mackerel Cones

Doesn’t everyone just have that hiding in their cupboard?! I loved the idea of putting a precious item such as gold ontop of a humble ingredient such as butter. Irish butter is of course the gold standard, so why not!

Amuse 1: Whipped Mackerel Cones

Nestled inside a mini waffle cone was a creamy mousse made with smoked mackerel (we guess from the Woodcock Smokery), flavoured with horseradish and topped with some pickled red onion and marigold petals. Quite frankly, we would have been happy if we left at this point! A solitary mouthful of the kind of joy that shouldn’t usually be expressed in a public setting.

Pickled Baby Beets, Horseradish, Soil

Amuse 2: Pickled Baby Beets, Horseradish, Soil

Two dainty baby beets: one deep purple, the other golden pickled just so with the leaves still intact and filled with a fresh horseradish cream. These two flavours is one of my most favourite parings and this didn’t disappoint. The soil was a mix of dehydrated olive, burnt onions and something else we couldn’t quite make out – a balance of sweet and earthy that literally rooted the sweet beets and horseradish together. Presented in such a way as to encourage you to eat the whole thing and leave nothing behind. By this stage, we knew we were going to be in for one amazing dinner!

Starter 1: Sea Tomato

Sea Tomato

It may look like a tomato and smell like a tomato, but it isn’t a tomato! A gel made from red tomatoes is cloaked around a ball of ocean fresh Irish Albacore Tuna Tartare. Hidden underneath is a puree of lovage – a herb that is making a comeback on restaurant menu’s this summer, but a flavour I haven’t had since childhood when my mum grew this herb that none of us knew what to do with! It is a distinctive flavour and aroma – somewhere between parsley and medicinal, but a flavour that instantly transported back to being a child in the garden with my mum and granddad in Summer, tending the garden and picking vegetables, fruits and herbs for dinner. This little mound of nostalgia sat atop a soil of dehydrated black olive – the perfect earthy setting. A tomato stem was placed on top of the whole arrangement so you are enveloped by the aroma of vine fresh tomatoes from the greenhouse as the plate is set before you. Such a divine little mouthful I haven’t experienced for many years: the creativity, the fun, the superb flavour combinations and of course the complimentary, and most welcomed, trip down memory lane.

Tomato Carpaccio, Peas, Chickweed

Starter 2: Tomato Carpaccio with Peas and Chickweed

If anyone else was to present you with a dish that was essentially raw vegetables and some weeds from the garden, you’d think they had lost their minds. But in Rob’s hands, orbs of golden cherry tomato sliced thinly and dressed in a raw pea puree, dotted about with just-podded raw peas and finished with a precision scattering of chickweed, amaranth and allium flower petals was not only a work of art, but a showcase of a chefs appreciation of the beauty of natural ingredients and their ability to do all the hard work for you! This is a demonstration of a well-trained palate and the modesty of a chef who knows that sometimes the chef does not have to impose themselves on every plate of food created. Another trip down memory lane too, of being kids and picking fresh peas; podding and devouring too many leaving not many for the pot for tea. Happy days…

Refresher: Rhubarb and Sugar

Rhubarb & Sugar

Pretty sure if we’d have done a straw pole of the diners before this course came out, we all would have expected a sorbet. Well, we would have all felt collectively silly at our lack of imagination! Instead we were served a Sherbert: sticks of compressed rhubarb dusted in fine sugar. A grown up version of a sherbet dip if you will – sweet and sour at the same time. It was a total hoot!

Hake, Squid Ink, Fennel Pollan

Fish Course: Hake with Fennel and Ink

Hake is the king of Irish fish. Meaty, flavoursome and flaky – it’s the perfect advertisement for how perfect our local fish is. Wrapped in thin ribbons of courgette and finished with dots of fennel pollen,majestically seated in a lemony pond of buerre blanc brazenly juxtaposed with a swirl of black squid ink and the chlorophyll green intensity of fennel oil. The four predominant colours on the plate: white, green, black, lemon are almost punkish in contrast to delicate flavours of this dish. Triumphant!

Meat Course: Hay Smoked Duck with Yeast Cauliflower, Onion, Nasturtium 

Hay Smoked Duck, Yeast Cauliflower, Nasturtium

Skeaghanore Duck is such an amazing product that it’s hard to know what you could do with it to improve upon it. This course did just that. We guessed that there was probably no less than three stages to cooking the Duck: sous vide (the duck was melt in the mouth tender and still red inside), smoking and pan-frying. We could be wrong, and certainly wouldn’t profess to know in which order these would happen, but it was the only way we could account for how the duck could be so beautifully tender, yet the fat so well rendered down leaving just the crispy skin and of course the wonderful aroma of hay from the smoking. I don’t profess to understand what Yeast Cauliflower is precisely, but what is creates is a puree smoother than any silk and a flavour of roasted cauliflower that is sweet, earthy but completely bereft of the sulphuric bitterness that is so common of brassica’s. The onion was like no onion I have every tasted before – intensely sweet and burnished, a duck jus perfect for mopping and nasturtium leaves for a peppery, vegetal hit. This was Mr Flavour’s favourite dish of the night – more astonishing for the fact that he usually refers to cauliflower as “The Devil’s Vegetable”. Quite a turnaround then!

Sabayone, Meadowsweet, Olive Oil

 Dessert: Sabyone with Meadowsweet and Olive Oil

For anyone that doesn’t know, Meadowsweet is a wild flower that grows in hedgerows and ditches all summer long and has an intense honey sweet aroma. The whole plant has medicinal values – flower, stem, leaves and root and in medieval times was used to sweeten honey mead known as “Mead Sweet” or nowadays, Meadowsweet. In the past couple of years, this wild flower has been slowly making its way into our lives – firstly by foragers, and now by chefs, like Rob, who like to bring in a wild element to dishes. This dessert was light enough to float away and resembled a cloud too – scattered with meringue pieces, chopped pistachio’s and almonds – it almost had a nougatine quality to the finishing flavour. It was the best encore to the courses that came before it.

We finished the remainder of the Italian red, and sunk a couple of espressos. We were delighted with what we had just had the honour of experiencing. Hats off too the hard working staff both front of house and in the kitchen – particularly to the Perry sisters for opening the space for evening dining and the vision to see the mutual benefit of someone of Rob’s calibre to nestle in for eight weeks.

Throughout the meal, Rob had taken me back to a journey through my childhood: lovage, fresh peas, tomatoes from the greenhouse, hay, sherbert fizz and nougat. Like a Peter Pan meal, we were allowed for one evening to be like kids again but in a very grown up kind of way. I simply cannot wait to go back, and what’s more I cannot wait for the day when I can book a table at Rob’s own restaurant.

Did I almost forget to mention, that this feast is priced at just €50p/head? Pinch yourself…

For more info, visit the website: www.glebegardens.com 

A Taste of West Cork Food Festival 2017 – Programme Launch

A Taste of West Cork Food Festival launches most cultured and cosmopolitan food Festival to date.

Flavour.ie was delighted to be at the launch of the 2017 programme for A Taste of West Cork Food Festival. Every year we all agree the programme is the most ambitious yet, but this year the festival has surpassed ambition equal to the task after being crowned Irish Festival of the Year in 2016.

Flavour.ie has 5 events in the programme this year, each very different on their own and in our own signature style bringing always back to where our food comes from and why it should be celebrated. Below are links to information about the events and to book your spot. Further on is a message from the Festival Committee about this years’ upcoming programme…

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Restaurant Review: BIA, a new tasty mouthful for Bantry

If ever there was a food stuff that bonded two countries together so closely, it is the Irish and French adoration of shed loads of butter/buerre. Whether you are still a butter skeptic, a butter convert or sitting firmly on the aluminium rails of the farmgate, there is one universal truth that the epicureans of these two great nations agree on – everything tastes better with butter!

BIA Restaurant, The Bantry Bay, Main Street, Bantry T: 027 55789

 

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My First Book

I can’t tell you how many times I have wanted to write this blog post. Well, since about mid-November 2016 to be correct. Ever since it properly sank in that I had just been commissioned to write a book. Well, a guide. A guide book. My first book!

Having been sworn to a thinly veiled secrecy about any details about it right up until it’s launch of it on Thursday last week (22nd June), I have had to keep this project under lock and key – and I am someone who finds it very difficult to keep good news to themselves. All I wanted to do was talk about this opus I was busy creating!

Even at the point of the official launch photoshoot surrounded by PR and those wearing medals of office, to the launch event itself in Vertigo – the room with a 360 degree view at the very top of the high rise Cork County Council offices, surrounded by the very people who I admire for crafting tremendous things to eat, with beautiful words of praise and thanks being heaped upon me and feeling incredibly awkward at the same time – it still hasn’t sunk in!

I’VE WRITTEN A BOOK AND PEOPLE LIKE IT!

I realise I have come this far in the blog post without actually telling you what this book is! Well, it’s full and proper title is: “A Taste of West Cork Food Festival: Artisan Food Guide – a definitive guide to the best artisan food producers, farmers’ markets and speciality food shops from Bandon to Beara” – phew, a mouthful, wha’?

Indeed.

I’ve been a fan of the Festival ever since I settled in West Cork. Nowadays it takes place over 10 days in early September and covers the breadth of West Cork over many towns, villages and islands. Last year there were 188 events, this year there will be over 200! It has won Best Festival in Ireland and countless number of recognition and awards. It has a stalwart of a Chairperson in Helen Collins whose love of West Cork is unmatched (even by mine), who has grown the festival over the past 4 years of her direction to the best Festival in Ireland. Her colleague, friend and personal counsel is Fiona Field – someone whose eye for design and attention to detail is beyond compare.

It’s not that often that there is a meeting of minds and the synchronicity of fate to bring those minds together. As someone whose foundation stone for creating Flavour.ie was to champion local food producers and to get people using the beautiful foods created in our region daily, I had already noted on the mental post-it notes that are “The Flavour.ie Business Plan” that I would work up some sort of directory for Food Producers.

Roughly at about the same time, it seems, Helen and Fiona has noted that outside of the Festival, there wasn’t a definitive guide for locals and visitors alike to be able to know, find and visit our amazing food producers at anytime of the year. With this kernel of an idea, they went looking for funding which came through Cork County Council and Taste Cork thanks to the council’s CEO Tim Lucey.

With the idea fixed and funding secured, next they needed someone to write it. In mid-November I was invited to a chat over a cuppa with Helen and Fiona. This was the fateful day that they pitched their idea to me and asked if I would be interested in writing it for them.

To say I almost bit the hand off of Helen is probably an understatement! It was as though the universe had stumbled upon my mental post-it note and decided for me that this was something I really, really should do!

I began researching and writing the manuscript in late January this year. By early May the manuscript was finalised and we went into editing and design mode. The printed copies flew hot off the press on Tuesday 20th June and they were being eagerly picked up and picked over at the official launch just two days later. Down to the wire is an understatement.

Launch 4 The result is over 100 food producers and 40 or so speciality food shops and farmers’ markets encased within 80+ pages of a guide complete with maps, directory containing information about each producer, shop, market; information about visiting, contact information and where to buy. There is also a suggested itinerary for each section of who to visit and for what.

It is a guide that is as useful for local people as it is for visitors from home and abroad. It’s vibrant, clearly laid out and, most importantly to me, it is written like a story…a whole raft of mini-stories about place and people and great food!

AND I LOVE IT!

And I am very proud of it! It may not be a book in the traditional sense, but to me it is my first book. One off the bucket list!

So, where can you get a copy?

Well, like with all quality publications, there is a price to purchase – but it’s just €5 – one of them small blue notes or a wee pile of coins, that’s all! It’s going to be available across West Cork and in the City too. The Festival Committee are working up a list of stockists at the moment that is growing. I will add details of Stockists below as and when they are confirmed.

Please buy a copy and support the work of the Festival, all our local food producers and myself as well – it would mean the world to me to have your support!
If you do buy a copy, email me: kate@flavour.ie and let me know what you think.

Thank You: to all the producers who are so inspiring; Helen Collins and Fiona Field who do such important work through the medium of the Festival and for Cork Co Council and Taste Cork for supporting the project with vital funds. And finally, to Fintan O’Connell of Inspire.ie who was the driving force behind the creativity and bringing my idea of a “hand made book” to life in such great quality design and print.

STOCKISTS!

ARTISAN FOOD GUIDE – Available a from the following shops:
Aylmers Newsagents Bantry
Bandon Books, Bandon
Bantry Tourist Office, Bantry
Fields Supervalu, Skibbereen
Hickeys Newsagents, Skibbereen
Mannings Emporium, Ballylickey
McCarthy Newsagents Clonakilty

The Olive Branch, Clonakilty
McCarthy Newsagents, Macroom
Meades Newsagents Clonakilty
O’Farrell’s Newsagents , Bandon
Olives West Cork at various farmers markets across West Cork
Time Travellers Bookshop, Skibbereen and Cork
Urru, Bandon
Yin Yang Whole Foods Skibbereen

…more being added all the time…!

Celery and Blue Cheese Soup

My love of a good bowl of soup is well known by now I should think. I have written a lot about it being the ultimate “bowl food” experience, and because of the myriad flavour combinations, textures and ability to adapt to the changing seasons it is a meal that knows no end to variation.

I came up with this recipe for Celery & Blue Cheese soup during a spell of weather in early May that was all blue sky and sunshine. So, loosely I am calling this a summer soup as for me it was inspired by the prospect of BBQ’s and dipping hot smoky chicken wings into a cooling blue cheese dip with sticks of crunchy, crisp celery on the side. So yes, I feel I am at liberty to call this a summer soup, although of course it would be just as comforting eaten beside a roaring fire, post walk on a rainy November day so, you know, whatever floats your boat!

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Clonakilty – Ireland’s Premier Foodie Town

The beautiful and welcoming seaside town of Clonakilty has a reputation for firsts.  The first Fair Trade town in Ireland; Ireland’s first EDEN destination of excellence; the first Cittaslow town in Ireland for celebrating the multiple benefits of slow living and slow food and recently voted the Greatest Town in Europe at the AOU Awards in London.

Now, the multi-award winning town on the south west coast of Irelands’ Wild Atlantic Way is holding claim to being the hidden gem in Ireland’s foodie crown; and a collaborative project of the towns’ best food and creative people have produced an inspiring short film about its top class foodie credentials to prove it.

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Potato, Leek and Smoked Salmon Baked Galette

A few days before I made this recipe, I had a little rant via Facebook Livestream on the vagaries of food labelling and packaging.  It was a very successful broadcast which garnered a lot of interaction and reach – which was great because it’s a topic I feel very strongly about and raising awareness is crucial. 

I had chosen to “pick on” smoked salmon, greek yoghurt and butter.  I had purchased quite a bit of these in order to be able to demonstrate my points.  Ergo, I had a lot left over and because I am anti-food waste, I needed to find a way to make use of it.

A quick sconce through the fridge and cupboards to see what I had to hand, and voila, off I was making this super tasty dish. There’s not too much prep in this – mainly the potatoes and making the white sauce, but really these things are not taxing and can be completed in the time it takes for your oven to come up to heat so it’s efficient with your time too!

The trick is to not get to over zealous with the amount of smoked salmon here.  Stick to the amount suggested below and you will achieve the perfect balance of flavour.

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Caitlin Ruth’s Baked Squash

A couple of weeks’ ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Caitlin Ruth, head chef of Deasy’s Harbour Bar and Restaurant for our local radio station, Clonline Radio (listen to the interview here).  This was the second time I had the chance to interview Caitlin, and as before it was a lot of fun – more like having a chat, only that the wine was missing!

During our interview, Caitlin mentioned a recipe she made for a vegetarian friend who came for Christmas Dinner one year.  A whole baked squashed, stuffed with loads of yummy things, served up whole and sliced at the table.  I immediately fell in love with the notion of the humble squash being given as glorious a treatment at the turkey itself.

baked-stuffed-squash-2

When I asked for the recipe, I didn’t think Caitlin would actually say yes, but she did.  True to her word, a few days later arrived pictures and the full recipe of how to make her Baked Squash. I’m sharing this recipe with you as I feel now is about the time that there are people out there starting to have a melt down about what to make their vegetarian dinner guest on Christmas Day that isn’t a totally predictable nut roast.  Well, thanks to Caitlin you no longer have to worry – we’ve got you covered!

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