Cherry Amour

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

So, for some reason everyone has started making Banana Bread! I think it must be because we all went out and bought a crate load of bananas at the beginning of the crisis and now their just too ripe to eat but oh so good turned into Banana Bread, (or awesome pancakes...more on that another time!)

Remo-what? I hear you cry... Well, a remoulade is a Danish chop salad or slaw, but takes its flavour notes from earthy, peppery tasting vegetables - usually celeriac. It is also usually creamy and speckled with wholegrain mustard, but in these times of making use of what you've got lying around and not travelling to shops unless necessary, this remoulade is much lighter using lemon juice and olive oil instead. It really lightens up the whole dish, and with warmer weather on the way, would be a perfect partner with BBQ meats, especially pork!

Apparently, 6th April is World Carbonara Day, and I've just finished reading this wonderful article by Manuela Spinelli of Eurotoques Ireland on the heart pounding merits of a good classic carbonara, and also reminding us that the principle of Italian cuisine is "generally three ingredients that marry together and become a paradise of flavours." I shudder to think what Manuela would say to me on spying the mushrooms I love to put in my carbonara, along with parsley and the wrong kind of pork and cheese.

My love for Lassi knows no bounds. I'd sooner have a Lassi over a milkshake, and of course they can be sweet or salty but always delightful.

A Food Writing Workshop and Food Tour in West Cork with Dianne Jacob and Kate Ryan ... COME WITH US!

I can't tell you how much I love this dish! I sometimes exchange the cheese for homemade Kofte, but using Macroom Buffalo Haloumi is a really great substitute for a Meat Free feast!

I made this recipe back in September just as the autumn was starting to make an appearance in earnest. And, despite it taking me a solid three months to get it up on the blog, thankfully all the flavours are still as relevant as we head into the end of one year and the beginning of a new one!

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.

Thanks to our never ending summer there is still loads of rhubarb knocking about, and this is probably one of the nicest ways to partake in it. This cocktail recipe was inspired by the Rhubarb Martini that my friend and all-round awesome chef, Caitlin Ruth, makes as Deasy's Restaurant in the tiny village of Ring just outside of Clonakilty.

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!

Awesome Banana Bread

So, for some reason everyone has started making Banana Bread! I think it must be because we all went out and bought a crate load of bananas at the beginning of the crisis and now their just too ripe to eat but oh so good turned into Banana Bread, (or awesome pancakes…more on that another time!)

Even Stephen Fry got in on the act, so I was delighted when the three bananas left in the fruit bowl reached the point of no return and I was ready in a flash to get going with my trusty recipe!

Now, I’ve been using this recipe for the bones of twenty years! It started as a WeightWatchers recipe and then I quickly substituted all the healthy stuff for delicious things and improved the whole thing massively as a result. I don’t know why I’ve never thought to share this, but seeing as everyone is stuck in their kitchens with a couple of over ripe bananas in their fruit bowl and too much time on their hands, it seems like as good a time as any to finally share it with you!

Awesome Banana Bread

Top Tip: Use a loaf tin for this. A nice little 1 lb loaf tin will give you a compact and high loaf, a larger tin a longer, thinner loaf; or if you have some individual mini loaf tins or even paper muffin cases you can use that too, but adjust the cooking time as needed: the smaller the portion the quicker the cook.

Ingredients:

  • 200 g Self Raising Flour
  • 1/4 tsp of Bicarbonate of Soda
  • 75 g of butter, plus extra for coating the loaf tin
  • 75 g of sugar (demerara and coconut blossom sugar are great for added caramel flavours)
  • 1 tbsp of honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 or 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • Handful of chopped nuts (walnut or pecans are perfect)
  • Handful of chocolate, a 50% dark milk chocolate is great
  • If you want, add some sultanas or even some fresh blueberries.

Method:

  • Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius fan.
  • Butter the loaf tin.
  • In a bowl, place the flour and bicarb.
  • In another bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and honey.
  • Add the eggs in one at a time. If the mixture is too dry, add another egg.
  • Stir the flour mix into the butter mix and combine.
  • Add the mashed bananas, chopped nuts and chocolate, mix well.
  • Pour into the tin and back for 1 hour. Skewer to test if it is cooked.
  • Turn out and allow to cool.
  • Slice and serve on its own, buttered or with some whipped cream.

Enjoy!

Celeriac, Kohlrabi & Apple Remoulade

Remo-what? I hear you cry… Well, a remoulade is a Danish chop salad or slaw, but takes its flavour notes from earthy, peppery tasting vegetables – usually celeriac. It is also usually creamy and speckled with wholegrain mustard, but in these times of making use of what you’ve got lying around and not travelling to shops unless necessary, this remoulade is much lighter using lemon juice and olive oil instead. It really lightens up the whole dish, and with warmer weather on the way, would be a perfect partner with BBQ meats, especially pork!

So, I guess strictly speaking this isn’t a remoulade, but it’s close enough!

I have used celeriac but also Kohlrabi – a bulbous vegetable that has a crisp, crunchy flavour somewhere between a Granny Smith apple and Mooli (that long white radish used in Asian dishes). It’s used a lot in Northern Continental Europe, as well as in Germany too. I added in apple too, as celeriac, kohlrabi and apple are great together!

There is a lot of chopping that goes into making this salad, admittedly, so you can decide what is the best way to get it done for you. At the moment, I have a little more time on my hands, so I like to do this all manually and just zone out for 20 minutes peeling and chopping. Or you could use a box grater, or the grater or julienne attachment on your food processor. Whatever works for you, it really doesn’t matter!

This makes quite a large bowl of salad, so will go with a couple of meals, depending on the number of people you are feeding! It will keep well enough for two days in the fridge in an airtight container, but no more than that.

Top Tip: If you wanted to make this creamy, then substitute the lemon and olive oil for either Creme Fraiche, natural yogurt or sour creme, add in a generous dollop of whole grain mustard and sprinkle all over with some chopped toasted hazelnuts.

Celeria, Kohlrabi and Apple Remoulade

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 a celeriac bulb, peeled, sliced thinly and then julienned
  • 1 Kohlrabi peeled, sliced thinly and julienned
  • 1 large apple, peeled, cored, sliced thinly and (you guessed it), julienned
  • 1/2 red chili, remove seeds and chop into tiny pieces
  • 1/2 tbsp of caraway seeds
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice of
  • Handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped small
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Sea salt and pepper

Method

  • Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix to coat thoroughly.

Squash, Sage & Pork Carbonara

Apparently, 6th April is World Carbonara Day, and I’ve just finished reading this wonderful article by Manuela Spinelli of Eurotoques Ireland on the heart pounding merits of a good classic carbonara, and also reminding us that the principle of Italian cuisine is “generally three ingredients that marry together and become a paradise of flavours.” I shudder to think what Manuela would say to me on spying the mushrooms I love to put in my carbonara, along with parsley and the wrong kind of pork and cheese.

But as much as my Carbonara a la Anglaise may be derided for tearing up the Italian cuisine rule book, I feel quietly confident that the recipe below for a very un-Carbonara-like-Carbonara would warm the cockles of your heart all the same. Just like the real Italian classic, it has three primary flavours, but that aside, this would probably have Italians the world over rolling their eyes at my incredulity and arrogance, while also unable to deny the glorious flavour triumvirate that is Squash, Sage and Pork.

Squash, Sage and Pork Carbonara

In these times of Covid-19, when more than ever nothing should be going to waste in the kitchen, this recipe was born from the necessity to use up a couple of sausages and half a butternut squash. There is also sage, one of my favourite herbs for chilly days, a gentle hit of chili, garlic (because: well, garlic…!), and some lemon to freshen the whole thing up. It’s a surprisingly easy dish to make, but apologise to the evening’s pot-washer in advance as it definitely isn’t a one-pot wonder!

Top Tip! This dish will feed two people with plenty of left over sauce. This sauce can be thinned out a little the next day and heated up, drizzled with some chili oil and crème fraiche and served up with some thick crusty bread for a hearty soup for one the following day!

Ingredients:

  • Half a butternut squash, peeled and chopped into medium chunks
  • 2 pork sausages, skinned and ripped into small bite sized pieces
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and sliced
  • Red chili: either a few dried flakes or some fresh – to taste, background heat only!
  • Handful of sage herb, leaves only
  • 1 tbsp of fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp of sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Long pasta: either spaghetti or linguine
  • Olive Oil and Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Parmesan Cheese

Method:

  • Steam the butternut squash until tender.
  • Place a large pot of well salted water onto boil. Just as the butternut squash is tender throughout, place the dried pasta into the boiling water.
  • Meanwhile, in a frying pan cook down the sausage meat in a little olive oil until browned and glistening. Take out of the pan and place on kitchen paper.
  • Reserve the meat cooking juices in the frying pan, and cook slowly the sliced garlic. Drain and place onto a piece of kitchen paper.
  • Just before the pasta is cooked, place the tender butternut squash into a blender with the garlic, chili, lemon juice, sea salt, a generous twist of pepper, most of the sage and remaining meat juices from the frying pan. Add a little dash of water, (I use the water from steaming to retain the flavour), to help it along and blitz until completely smooth. Set aside.
  • Drain the cooked pasta and place back into the saucepan. Dress the pasta with some Extra Virgin Olive Oil and set aside.
  • Back to the frying pan and fry off the remaining sage leaves until crispy. Drain on kitchen paper.
  • Pour the butternut squash sauce over the pasta a little at a time to coat it thoroughly and luxuriously. Don’t worry if there is a lot of sauce left over – you can have that for lunch tomorrow!
  • Portion out onto warmed plates, top with nuggets of the browned sausage meat, crispy sage leaves, a final flourish with the pepper grinder and plenty of grated parmesan cheese.

Enjoy with a chilled, crisp white wine!

Sweet Golden Lassi

My love for Lassi knows no bounds. I’d sooner have a Lassi over a milkshake, and of course they can be sweet or salty but always delightful.

It is currently Mango season, so I’m getting beautiful mangoes in my organic veg box regularly. And just like pears, rarely do they arrive in perfectly ripe condition, so there is an element of waiting for the perfect moment of peak ripeness. Use up the mangoes we must do, and having them in a Lassi is one of my favourite ways to enjoy them!

We are blessed in West Cork to have Gloun Cross Dairy on our doorstep (more or less, West Cork is bigger than you might think!) I adore their milk, their cream and their Buttermilk too. It’s proper stuff, thick and full of goodness with just about the most perfect texture for Lassi making! Because its February, and because our immune systems are screaming for sunshine and warmth, (still a good few weeks away yet), I added organic, whole turmeric root here. It helps to boost the golden, sunshiny colour, but also is a great immune booster, good for the gut and to help ward anyway any nagging aches and pains with its anti-inflammatory properties. Despite its colour, it’s not sweet, but earthy in flavour, so a little goes a long way!

Sweet Golden Lassi

I added West Cork honey for some additional sweetness and goodness, and a little spritz of fresh lime juice just to enliven the natural acidity in the buttermilk to make the whole thing sing. Your blender does all the work for you, making this a perfect fuss free breakfast drink that sings of the warmer, sunnier days to come!

Time saving tip: keep ready to use frozen mango in your freezer, and simply add two handfuls to the blender!

Ingredients (makes 1 Lassi):

  • 1 ripe mango, peeled and chopped;
  • 2 cm piece of fresh turmeric root, peeled and grated (wash hands afterwards to prevent staining);
  • 150ml of fresh Buttermilk;
  • 2 tsp raw honey;
  • Spritz of fresh lime juice;

Method:

  • Place everything into a blender. Blend on high for 2 mins (or more if your blender is less powerful), ensuring everything has been well blended.
  • Pour into a glass and consume with glee!

Enjoy…

Talking of mangoes… Dianne Jacob won the MFK Fisher award for her essay, The Meaning of Mangoes. Have a read of it HERE.

If you liked that, you might be interested to know that Dianne will be coming to West Cork in October this year to co-host a food writing workshop and food tour with yours truly called Food With a Story to Tell. Full event information and online booking can be found HERE

Early Bird offer runs until 31st March 2020!

Food with a Story to Tell…

A Food Writing Workshop and Food Tour in West Cork with Dianne Jacob and Kate RyanCOME WITH US!

  • When: 8th – 11th October 2020
  • Where: The Celtic Ross Hotel, Rosscarbery, West Cork, Ireland
  • Early Bird Offer until 31st March 2020 – BOOK TODAY

Food with a Story to Tell is a writing workshop and food tour taking place over four days in the bread basket of Ireland: West Cork, with US-based award-winning food writer, Dianne Jacob, and West Cork-based food writer and local tour guide Kate Ryan.

Kate Ryan
Dianne Jacob

Home to 70% of Ireland’s artisan food producers, West Cork is on the south-westerly edge of Ireland on the Wild Atlantic Way. It is a fertile and creative space where pioneers of food culture have created some of the most revered produce in Ireland and on the global stage.

An intimate grouping of food writers, from all backgrounds and different stages of their writing life, will be immersed in a workshop and food tour over four days packed with culinary inspirations. Our days will combine guided writing sessions by award-winning food writer Dianne Jacob with tours and meals organised by local guide and food writer Kate Ryan.

“Guests will visit local artisan food producers, dine on sumptuous gourmet lunches and dinners, take time to enjoy the glorious scenery and beaches of this coastal community,” says Ryan, who curates food tours of the area. “The tastes, sights and stories of the food we will connect with, the landscape surrounding us and the tales from the people we meet will be channelled into our writing. The goal is to discover or develop a writing voice through food, as storytellers.”

As well as workshops, there will be excursions, lunches and dinners each day and free time to enjoy the local area, or simply to write using what guests have learned and experienced.

About the Workshop and Food Tour

Inspired by beautiful views from Warren Strand beach and the Atlantic Ocean, the group will explore the importance of storytelling in food writing through instruction and workshopping. The excursions, chefs and food producers have been selected not just for the quality of food they produce, but also because of their rich story. There are lineages stretching back generations; stories of a different life before the pursuit of creating artisan cheese or growing organic vegetables; and seasonal plates to eat, layered with flavour and texture.

“Through these experiences, the workshops will guide our writers on how to find their authentic writing voice through personal essay and first person writing. We will develop the importance of story in food writing,” says Dianne. “The group will be small, affording plenty of time to write, talk, explore and gain insights from Kate and I as well as the group. Time spent together, whether around the workshop table or the dinner table, provides opportunity to share stories, absorb the atmosphere and environment, and consider how those experiences shape what and how we write.”

Attendance includes a private half-hour consultation with each instructor providing a one-on-one opportunity to discuss writing and career goals. At the end of the food writing workshop and tour, participants will leave with improved writing skills, a better understanding of the importance of story in food and how to use it, and practical, inspiring advice on pursuing their own writing projects.

What’s Included

In addition to the writing workshops and private consultations, we include:

  • A private dinner on our first evening, complete with drinks pairings
  • A visit to a nearby dairy farm with an orchard and bee hives where we will enjoy lunch made with produce from the farm;
  • Dinner in a local restaurant that regularly wins plaudits for its hyper-local food ethos and minimal waste;
  • A visit to one of the greatest of all Irish food producers for an exclusive tour of its award-winning cheese and charcuterie production, organic vegetables, drinks and world-renowned knife-making, (acclaimed Argentinian chef Francis Mallman cited these as the best knives in the world), with smorgasbord lunch;
  • Dinner in a Michelin-starred restaurant where the Head Chef will take us on a seasonal culinary journey with a multiple-course tasting menu designed around nature.

“Food with a Story to Tell” Food Writing Workshop and Food Tour includes all workshop sessions with food writing instruction, 2 personal consultations, 2 lunches, 3 dinners (one in a Michelin-starred restaurant), a selection of drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) served with meals, 2 excursions and round-trip transportation to those excursions.

The Early Bird offer of €1300 per person is available only until 31st March 2020. After that the fee is €1500 per person.Accommodation is not included, but a special group rate is available for guests wishing to stay at Celtic Ross Hotel. Personal travel costs are also not included.

There is only space for 15 students, so people are encouraged to sign up quickly to ensure their seats as places have already begun to fill.

Visit www.flavour.ie/workshop for more information.

About Dianne Jacob

Dianne Jacob is the author of the multiple award-winning book Will Write for Food: The Complete Guide to Writing Cookbooks, Blogs, Memoir, Recipes, and More (Da Capo/Lifelong Books). She is also the co-author of two cookbooks with Chef Craig Priebe: the national award-winning The United States of Pizza (Rizzoli, 2015) and Grilled Pizzas & Piadinas (DK Publishing, 2008).

As a freelance writer, she has written for Lucky Peach, The Washington Post, and Gastronomica. Her 2016 essay “The Meaning of Mangoes,” was the grand prize winner of the M.F.K. Fisher Awards for Excellence in Culinary Writing from Les Dames Escoffier International. It also won Best Essay from the Association of Food Journalists, and was included in Best Food Writing 2016.

A former journalist and publishing company editor-in-chief, Dianne is a full-time writing coach, author, and freelance editor. Her well-known blog Will Write for Food is aimed at writers and covers trends, issues, and techniques. Dianne has spoken and taught at events and workshops around the world for more than a decade, including in London, Dubai, Vancouver, Turkey, France and Australia.

About Kate Ryan

Kate Ryan is a freelance food writer based in West Cork, Ireland. Originally from Bristol in the UK, Kate grew up in a family growing their own food, cooking from scratch and making the most of seasonal gluts. She studied Law at Bristol University, but kept returning to her dual passions of food and writing until, in 2014, Kate established Flavour.ie as a way to share her food experiences in West Cork.

In 2017, Kate was commissioned to write The Artisan Food Guide to West Cork as a resource for others to connect with food producers in the region and re-establishing close connections between grower and eater.

In 2019, Kate was invited to become a Member of the prestigious Irish Food Writers Guild.

As well as writing for a number of Irish publications, both online and print media, Kate also creates experiential food adventures, fully immersive tours and events that highlight the central theme of her writing and Flavour.ie to bring people together over great local food.

Aubergine, Tomato & Halloumi

I can’t tell you how much I love this dish! I sometimes exchange the cheese for homemade Kofte, but using Macroom Buffalo Haloumi is a really great substitute for a Meat Free feast!

There are a few elements to this dish, but actually if you follow the sequence in the method, you’ll find that it’ll all be done in under 40 minutes. Also worth noting is that this sauce will make more than you need, but don’t fret – this sauce goes with everything! Just portion off what you don’t use for this and use for a quick and easy pasta dish another night!

Aubergine, Tomato and Halloumi

Ingredients:

  • Two tins of tomatoes
  • 1 medium red onion, finely diced
  • Olive oil and a generous knob of butter
  • Sea salt
  • 1 large aubergine, sliced into rounds
  • 1 or 2 egg whites
  • Panko breadcrumbs, seasoned with black pepper
  • 1 pack of Macroom Buffalo Halloumi, slice in half length ways
  • Dried oregano
  • Green herby pesto: either homemade or a good quality shop bought one

Method:

  • In a deep saucepan, add 1 tbsp of olive oil and the butter. Gently fry off the onion until its softened but not taken on any colour. Add the tomatoes and cook for at least 30 mins on a low heat, stirring every so often.
  • While the sauce is cooking, place the aubergine slices in a colander and salt over generously. Set aside.
  • When the sauce is cooked, place everything into a blender a wiz until super smooth. Check for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper. Place back in the saucepan ready to warm through.
  • Pat the aubergine slices with kitchen paper, then brush both sides with the egg white. Pane on one side only with the breadcrumbs.
  • In a large heavy based frying pan, heat some oil and then cook the aubergine slices on the naked side first, then flip and cook through on the crumbed side until golden brown. Set aside.
  • Warm through the sauce until it just begins to bubble.
  • Prepare the halloumi with a light brush of oil and sprinkle a small amount of dried oregano on both sides. Fry off until golden brown in the frying pan used for the aubergines.
  • Spoon a generous amount of the tomato sauce onto a place and frame with slices of the aubergine. Place the halloumi in the middle of the tomato sauce and top with a spoonful of pesto.

Enjoy!

Kale & Pumpkin Orecchiette

I made this recipe back in September just as the autumn was starting to make an appearance in earnest. And, despite it taking me a solid three months to get it up on the blog, thankfully all the flavours are still as relevant as we head into the end of one year and the beginning of a new one!

With some dishes I come up with, I wonder where a dish transforms from being a mere assemblage of ingredients into an actual recipe, and this is very much one of those dishes. So whichever it may technical set upon, the ingredients and method, such that it is, is noted below. But aside from all of that, this is the kind of dish that is pure comfort and joy. Don’t stimp on loading the roasting tray for the squash/pumpkin with endless cloves of garlic so that the kitchen is filled with that: the best aroma of all!

Kale & Pumpkin Orecchiette

Ingredients (serves 2):

  • Enough Oriecchiette pasta for two people
  • 1/2 Butternut Squash, peeled, deseeded and cubed into 1inch pieces
  • Lots of garlic – at least 5 cloves, in their skin and smashed
  • 20g of blue cheese (Shepherds Store works well)
  • 1 pack of Gubbeen streaky bacon, sliced into thin lardons
  • 2 generous handfuls of seasonal kale, destem and tear the leaves.
  • Handful of toasted pumpkin seeds
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil, sea salt and pepper

Method:

  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius, prepare the squash and arrange it on a baking tray. Toss in the smashed cloves of garlic, drizzle over a small amount of olive oil. Toss through and roast until the squash is tender. Turn once during cooking.
  • Bring a pan of well salted water to the boil, add in the pasta, a drizzle of olive oil and cook until tender. Drain and set aside.
  • Fry off the bacon until all the fat has rendered out and the bacon has gone crispy. Drain on kitchen paper and set aside.
  • Keep the bacon fat, and once the squash is cooked through heat up the bacon fat again and quickly cook the kale leaves until they have softened.
  • Into a large sharing bowl, add the drained pasta, squash, pumpkin seeds and the crumbled blue cheese, season with sea salt and black pepper and toss together.
  • Scatter about the kale, then crumble the bacon over. Finally, using a veg peeler, peel off some Parmesan cheese over the whole dish and serve immediately.

Enjoy!

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!

Rhubarb Ocean Gin Martini

Thanks to our never ending summer there is still loads of rhubarb knocking about, and this is probably one of the nicest ways to partake in it. This cocktail recipe was inspired by the Rhubarb Martini that my friend and all-round awesome chef, Caitlin Ruth, makes as Deasy’s Restaurant in the tiny village of Ring just outside of Clonakilty.

I would never profess to be as much a master at the art of cocktail making as she is, but I think that this is pretty damn good go! I’m using Gin as my martini base, but of course you could just as well swap this out for the classic vodka and vermouth combo. The other twist here is that I am using juice from raw rhubarb here so no cooking involved!

Rhubarb Ocean Gin Martini

Ingredients (makes min 4 cocktails): 

  • Liquid from 1 bunch of rhubarb, trimmed, chopped, pulped and strained
  • Per person: 50ml of Beara Ocean Gin
  • Juice of 4 sweet oranges (Jaffa/Blood)
  • 1 tbsp Sugar syrup / Agave syrup
  • Vanilla Dusting Sugar

Method:

  • Into a blitzer of some kind (smoothie maker, processor etc), add the chopped rhubarb and process until the rhubarb is completely pulped. You may need to add a dash of water to help this process along.
  • Arrange some muslin/clean tea towel over a bowl or jug and spoon out the rhubarb pulp into the cloth.
  • Gather up the ends of the cloth and pull tightly into a ball. Begin squeezing the juice out from the pulp into the bowl/jug. Get all the juice out, this might take a few minutes to do properly.
  • Once all the juice has been gathered, decant into a large mason jar or a cocktail shaker. Add in the gin, orange juice and sugar syrup or agave and add plenty of ice.
  • Prepare your cocktail glasses by running the empty orange segments around the top of the glass and then dusting with the icing sugar. Do this by placing some of the sugar onto a plate and dipping the glass rim into it. The orange juice will help it to stick to the rim.
  • Shake the cocktail mix vigorously and then strain into the prepared glasses.
  • Garnish with a small slice of orange and ENJOY!

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