This article appeared in the June 2022 edition of The Opinion magazine.Continue reading “Take a Taste Tour this Summer”
Surf Clams with Nduja & Sherry
Perhaps one of the best things to come out of the pandemic is that fantastic quality Irish seafood is now more accessible thanks to online fishmongers, like The Gannet in Galway.Continue reading “Surf Clams with Nduja & Sherry”
Braised Carrots and Lentils
This dish came about as the result of a rummage and came together as a deeply satisfying dish. It just so happens to be dairy and gluten free and vegan friendly too!Continue reading “Braised Carrots and Lentils”
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!
Ingredients (makes enough for about 15 servings):
- 1 ltr of Cranberry juice
- ½ ltr of Apple juice
- 150ml of Grenadine syrup
- Juice of 1 lime
- Handful of blueberries
- Get a couple of disposable gloves (food grade, not the Marigolds!), fill with water and tie off at the end. Place in the freezer.
- In an ice cube tray place a blueberry in each compartment, fill with boiled and cooled water and place in the freezer.
- In a large transparent bowl, place in the juices and syrup and mix together. Decorate around the base of the bowl with spooky fairy lights.
- When the water filled gloves and blueberry ice cubes are frozen solid, pop them out and place in the bowl.
- Hey presto Spooky Punch with Ghostly Hands and Blueberry Eyeballs!
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:
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.
In England, Bonfire Night is 5th November and celebrates the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605 by Guy Fawkes to blow up Parliament, overthrow the Protestant King James I and restore Catholicism as the dominant faith. As kids, every year at home in Bristol, my sister and I would make an effigy of Guy Fawkes using old clothes donated by Dad or Grandad. The ends of the trouser legs were tied and stuffed with newspaper; an old shirt or jumper the same, the arms tied off at the end; and either a balloon or a plastic shopping bag, stuffed with paper with a face drawn on it for the head. Local kids would sit outside shops or go house to house with their Guy asking, “Penny for the Guy” and on Bonfire Night, Dad would place our Guy on top of the bonfire and light it. We’d let off fireworks in the back garden and hope the sparklers wouldn’t burn our hands! Afterwards, we’d all tuck into Bangers and Mash, hot apple juice and Cinder Toffee.
One of the first party nights I hosted at our home in West Cork was to recreate Guy Fawkes night. I remember that year feeling a little homesick and deeply nostalgic for the things I had grown up with and known my whole life. Ireland and England may only be a short hop across the Irish Sea, but at times, the customs and traditions can be hugely different. Bonfire Night being one of them. It was a crisp, clear chilly night, just like I remember from childhood. Bonfires and fireworks are illegal in Ireland, except for strictly controlled events, so instead we lit our firepit, wrote our names in the night air with sparklers, whacked a piñata and let off glitter bombs. Then we all tucked into our food and warmed our hands around hot cups of mulled cider, apple juice for the children, and stood around the fire pit sharing stories.
What precisely constitutes Colcannon is ferociously debated in Ireland. I recently attended a talk about it where I learned that in some parts of New Foundland where there is a huge Irish ex-pat community going back generations, their Colcannon doesn’t have any potatoes in it all! In Wexford, it’s quite typical to have parsnips in the Colcannon, or to boil the potatoes and cabbage together and mash it up in one big pot. But it would always have cabbage in it – although traditionally not Kale.
However, Kale is a type of brassica, so while it might not be the traditional variety of cabbage usually the staple of Irish Colcannon, I like it and, along with the scallion/spring onions, and an almost obscene amount of butter, makes for a seriously tasty plate of spuds. When it comes to the bangers (sausages), get the best quality you can and cook slowly – I usually place them in a cold frying pan and cook for up to 30 minutes over a low to medium heat turning every five minutes or so. Likewise, with the onion gravy: take your time! Time is the secret ingredient in truly brilliant onion cookery, so don’t rush it. Comfort food should never be rushed anyway – in my mind both the cooking and eating of food like this is what calms the soul and nourishes the body.
- 8 pork sausages, minimum meat content 80%
- 1 kg of floury potatoes, peeled and diced
- 250 g butter, cubed
- 50 ml whole milk
- Bunch of Russian Kale (apx 2 handfuls)
- 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
- 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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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!
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
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!
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…
- Friday 8th September: The Clonakilty Walking Food Tour www.flavour.ie/clonakilty-food-tour
- Saturday 9th September: West Cork Cheese and French Wine Tasting www.flavour.ie/cheese
- Sunday 10th September: Pitmaster Masterclass www.flavour.ie/pitmaster
- Friday 15th September: The Clonakilty Walking Food Tour www.flavour.ie/clonakilty-food-tour
- Sunday 17th September: New Hampshire Beach Clambake www.flavour.ie/clambake
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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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