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What We’ve been Cooking at the School of Food

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Teaching how to make Citrus Curd

I started teaching an 11-Week Commis Chef Training course at Thomastown’s School of Food almost nine weeks ago and, I keep saying this, but I feel like the weeks have been flying! We got so lucky with an amazing group of diverse, very cool students from all walks of Irish life. They are really passionate about food and have made teaching an actual pleasure.

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Dermot giving a steak demo at our BBQ in Inistioge

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Most of the class (plus Dermot) in Inistioge

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Sylvia and her gorgeous citrus meringue pie, Inistioge

Dermot Gannon, my co-tutor, and myself have been teaching the group everything from how to use a knife to how to ferment. We’ve spent days helping the school’s garden caretaker, we’ve gone outside to make wood-fired pizzas, we’ve packed up the school’s massive BBQ and cooked lunch for visitors, locals and even some Failte Ireland reps at the park in Inistioge and we’ve visited some really inspirational food producers.

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Janine Vine-Chatterton taught the class about Kombucha and Kefir

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Mags Morrissey (Hedgehog Bakery) taught the class about sourdough and fresh yeast breads

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Ballinwillin Wild Boar Farm, Mitchelstown, Co. Cork

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Pat at Ballinwillin

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Wild Boar and Venison products at Ballinwillin

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Caroline Hennessey giving a tour at Eight Degrees Brewing, Mitchelstown, Co. Cork

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Beer and Cheese Pairings at Eight Degrees Brewing

At the end of our course, the students will put on a food fair at the school. Over the past few weeks they have excitedly been developing, pricing and marketing a food product to sell. I am really looking forward to the market, but I’m also NOT looking forward to it – it will mean the end of the course, and saying goodbye (for now, at least) to these wonderful human beings who haven’t just been great students – they’ve become our buddies.

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Mozzarella-stuffed meatballs

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Winner for best wood-fired pizza!

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Marian and her prize pizza

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Fresh-made Brioche

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Gateaux Basque

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Kimchi-Brisket Sloppy Joes

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Carrot Sesame Salad

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Fresh Hake Goujons

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Oatmeal Spice Whoopie Pies

Is it weird to love your job this much?

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Planting pea shoots

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Doing something really important

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Taking pride in their work.

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Great, local Camphill produce

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Getting their hands dirty

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Making life-long friends

 

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Being a Busy Bee

Oh, I am so busy.

Today, Ireland is in the midst of a snowstorm – a storm that may last well into the weekend. Not a normal occurrence. I only just started teaching the new 11 Week Commis Chef training course at the School of Food in Thomastown, Kilkenny and we’ve already had to cancel classes due to the extreme weather and messy roads.

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In preparation of the course, Dermot and I visited the local Camphill community in Jerpoint – just outside of Thomastown. What a beautiful place. What a wonderful community. Some of the gardeners at Camphill Jerpoint will be helping to maintain our gardens at the school and we are thrilled to be working with them.

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We are also getting regular orders of their seasonal vegetables for our students to work with – and hopefully some shorthorn beef when the time comes. They are such beautiful, gentle animals – I’m all for supporting ethically-raised beef but I know it would be hard for me to do these handsome fellows in! Just another reason I love the Camphill community for providing us with good, homegrown food.

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My recipe for Irish Bennies was recently published by the Food Bloggers of Canada – do check it out if you’re interested in an Irish brunch for Paddy’s Day.

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Speaking of Paddy’s Day (and the Food Bloggers of Canada), I will be sharing the recipe for these Irish Coffee Donuts (with spiced whiskey crème pâtissière and a deep espresso glaze) this March, so keep an eye out for that!

This coming weekend I am so excited to be attending the Parabere Forum in Malmö, Sweden. This is technically a work trip, since I’ll be writing articles about the forum for several publications, but I’m looking forward to meeting a lot of inspirational voices in food and food security. I know my horizons will be broadened. I’m going to learn a lot. And I’m going to be able to spend some time in one of National Geographic’s “Places You Need to Visit in 2018” with my husband and baby. So. Pumped.

And as I’ll be in Malmö for the weekend we will naturally also spend some time in Copenhagen. T’would be rude not to.

To close, here’s a picture of Ciara and her favourite friend.

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Happy March, everyone!

 

Interested in Becoming a Chef?

  • Are you Irish (or legally living in Ireland)?
  • Are you currently unemployed or working seasonally?
  • Interested in food?
  • Free for roughly the next 12 weeks?

You should take the School of Food’s new 11-Week Commis Chef Training Course!

I will be teaching this course alongside revered Irish chef Dermot Gannon of The Old Convent (located in Clogheen, South Tipperary – near The Vee!). Dermot has won numerous awards in the past several years for his inventive, delicious take on modern Irish cuisine. He’s a great guy to work with and learn from.

This course will equip applicants with the necessary skills needed for an immediate start in a restaurant kitchen. From week 7, the students will spend one day per week working in the industry under one of our roster of great local chefs.

Oh… I forgot to mention: it’s fully funded (we are operating in conjunction with Taste 4 Success Skillnet) which means successful applicants will have to pay €0! We’ll even buy their uniforms. It’s a great course to take if you’re wondering if a career in food is right for you.

At 11 weeks, the students will be professional-kitchen- ready. They will have attained a transferable skill, a certification (QQI Level 4 Equivalent) and all the necessary safety/sanitation training.

If you’re interested in this course – or know someone who might be – click on the link here, email us at info@schooloffood.ie or give us a ring at 056 775 4397. We’d love to meet with you!

Listen here to my radio interview with KCLR 96FM for more info (starting at minute 20).

*Classes start on February 26th.

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Green Sheep Charity Tapas Pop-Up

On November 25th, The Siùcra Shack (my small business), Hedgehog Bakery and The Green Sheep got together for a pop-up tapas night in Thurles. Ìt came about because my friend Lucy, who owns The Green Sheep, was involved in a fundraiser for the Mill Road Riding Club. Members of the riding club were hosting “Come Dine with Me” style nights in efforts to raise money to purchase a special needs saddle for the club.

Lucy thought she would take it one step further and host a pop-up restaurant night with live music, tapas-style eats (meaning food you can eat while standing up!) and a few drinks.

Since I run my business out of Lucy’s cafe, it was natural for me to get involved. We invited our friend Mags to join the fun – she is a boulangiere extraordinare and, if you were at Savour Kilkenny this past October you may have seen her demo on the live stage. A lady of many talents.

Together, we developed a menu for the night: local cheeses (Knockdrinna, Cashel Blue, Derg Cheddar, Cooleeney) and charcuterie (from Irish Piedmontese Beef and The Wooded Pig) with our own pickles, Mags’ bread and chutney from Ayle Farm were the first course. For a starter, I made fresh haddock and cod fritters with warm lardons and preserved lemon salad with buttermilk herb dressing. Then, for the main course I made bulgur wheat salad, tahini-infused remoulade and slow cooked harissa lamb shoulder. We finished the evening with my chubby churros (they were extra eggy; therefore, extra chubby!) and hot fudge sauce.

We sold tickets for €30 per person or €50 per couple. A full house ensued, and we had such a fabulous night. Not without a few hiccups, but it being our first pop-up we were expecting the unexpected. Food producers around the community donated food for the night and everyone says they had a wonderful time.

Now that I’m headed off to Canada from Christmas, I will be sourcing some very special ingredients for our next pop-up. I’m not giving anything away, but I hope everyone who attends likes pork. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

For now, enjoy this mix of photos and video clips I put together from the night. Most of said photos and videos are from the lovely Sinead of Delalicious – I don’t think we would have had nearly as good as night if she hadn’t shown up! What a great human being she is.

‘Til next time, friends.

 

Warm Yule Ol & Bacon Dip with Pretzel Bites

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*Is this post sponsored? No, but I am friends with the owners of this business, I get free samples sometimes and they have donated to events I’ve put on in the past. That said, I wasn’t asked to write this. I like this recipe; it’s seasonal and relevant. I hope you like it, too!*

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Yes, folks, it’s officially the holiday season in Ireland. My Siùcra Shack Christmas Cake is on sale at The Green Sheep, I’ve been very, very busy with holiday parties, craft fairs and our first Green Sheep pop-up event (which will be explained in greater detail in my next post).

It’s also that time of year where my favourite local brewery brings out their Christmas beer! I wrote recently about White Gypsy, a craft brewery in nearby Templemore run by my friends Cuilan and Sally Loughnane, during Indie Beer Week when they had an evening barbecue. It was a great night and, with their recent rebrand, a great way to launch their new look.

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Cuilan developed this special Christmas beer, called Yule Ól, fashioned after the holiday beers found in Scandanavia (generally called Juleøl; for more information on Scandanavian Christmas beers this Serious Eats article is great).

White Gypsy Yule Ol is an easy-drinking, medium-dark beer that’s been aged in an oak barrel. I first tried it two years ago when I was featuring White Gypsy in an article for The Tipperary Star. That’s when I took these photos, so while the branding in this post is a bit dated (see above photo for the new look), this recipe is one I’ve been using ever since.

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Crispy bacon lardons, sharp cheddar cheese (I like to use our local Derg Cheddar, but any aged cheddar will do) and a scattering of spring onion, along with the beer, make this an irresistibly delicious dip. The most appropriate accompaniments for a hot beer dip are pretzel bites – preferably homemade. They are really easy to make, so do give them a try alongside the dip recipe. Crispy pretzels will not be as good; soft store-bought pretzels are a fine substitute.

This hot dip just screams Christmas to me. My brother made it for me a few years ago (obviously with different beer, but I digress), so I have to credit him with the idea (thanks Rory!). Make it this Christmas and share it with your family and friends. You will be popular. If that kind of thing matters to you.

Interested in other Winter beers you can find around Ireland this year? This article from FFT.ie is a good place to start!

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Hot Yule Òl & Bacon Dip with Pretzel Bites

Ingredients:

For the pretzel bites:

4 1/2 cups/600g plain flour

3 Tbsp baking soda

1 Tbsp dry active yeast

1 tbsp honey

1 1/2 cups/375ml warm water

2 tbsp salt

1 Tbsp oil

Flaky Sea Salt (for pre-bake sprinkling)

For the dip:

1/2 cup/125ml White Gypsy Yule Òl (or another lager/ale)

1 package pre-cut bacon lardons or pancetta (about 100g)

2 Tbsp butter

2 Tbsp plain flour

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 heaping tsp dijon mustard

3/4 cup/200ml milk

1 1/2 cups/400g shredded sharp cheddar-esque cheese (Derg Cheddar or Daru – both Tipperary cheeses – are divine in this dip)

Sliced spring onion or chives, for garnish

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Make the pretzel bites:

  • In a bowl, activate the yeast by combining it with the honey and warm water. Let this sit for 5-10 minutes until the yeast is “blooming”. Add the oil, salt and flour.
  • Mix and knead for 5 minutes. Place back into the bowl, cover with a clean cloth and let rise one hour.
  • Punch down the dough. Divide into six portions. Roll each portion into a long rope, then cut each rope into 2 inch pieces.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the baking soda, then boil each piece of dough until it floats to the top of the water. Place the pieces on a clean towel, briefly, then transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  • Sprinkle each piece with a generous amount of flaky sea salt. Bake in an oven preheated to 200°C (400°F) for about 15 minutes. The bites should be a dark golden brown and chewy but soft.

Make the dip:

  • In a heavy bottomed saucepan, fry the bacon or pancetta until crispy. Remove and drain on paper towel.
  • In the same pan, add the butter and then, once melted, add the flour. mix well and cook over medium heat for one minutes. Add the beer and cook for another minute before adding the milk. Cook slowly, stirring constantly, until thick. Remove from heat.
  • Add the cheese, dijon and cayenne. Stir until the cheese is melted and everything is incorporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Pour the dip into a bowl and scatter the bacon over the top, as well as the finely chopped spring onion/chives. Serve immediately or reheat the next day to serve with the pretzel bites.

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Gateau Breton aux Pommes

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This time last year, I was frolicking (OK, well, no – I don’t actually frolic) around Brussels with a great group of girls. We took off for a weekend of rest, frivolity, food and shopping. I actually had the best time, even though I was pregnant, sick with a horrendous chest infection and couldn’t imbibe in Brussels’ famous beers. I swore I would go back, and I will – probably with my husband – sometime in the next few years.

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Even though I couldn’t drink with the rest of my friends (save for one, who was as pregnant as I was at the time), bon vivant I am,  I still over-indulged. Friends, being pregnant in Brussels isn’t so bad. Sure, you can’t drink the beer, but you’re surrounded ON ALL SIDES by waffles and chocolate. And, my personal favourite, speculoos!

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I packed so much eating into those two days, I’m amazed they didn’t roll me off the plane when we got back to Dublin. Waffles three times a day were a must.

“Just plain, no toppings, please! I’ll take six to go.” Hot and fresh off the iron, biting into a doughy Liege waffle was like taking a bite into heaven. I never wanted to be far from those angelic delicacies.

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Belgian frites were a must, at least twice a day. Triple fried in beef fat with a side of truffle mayo? Why not. I’M ON VACATION.

Moules-frites, fricadelle, chocolate (MOUNTAINS OF CHOCOLATE), nougat, pain au chocolat – I even over-indulged in some Turkish cheese pastries I found on our final morning. Everything was delicious. Drunk food and pregnant food are basically the same thing, and Belgians are really good at both drinking and creating drunk food.

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Can I let you in on a secret? The absolute, VERY BEST THING I ate while in Brussels wasn’t Belgian; it was French – from Normandy, to be exact. It was a caramelized apple pancake at Chez Leon, an old-school restaurant best known for their moules-frites. I didn’t enjoy my moules-frites very much, but I would return to this restaurant just for the desserts.

It was perfect. Sweet, but not too sweet, cooked table-side by our very entertaining waiter, served hot with a dollop of vanilla ice cream melting over the top – it was just what I needed after a highly anticipated, then disappointing dinner. My friends ordered other desserts but nearly everyone ended up taking a bite (or two) of my pancake; it was just so scrummy.

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Now, a year on, I’m just after turning 33. For my birthday I really wanted to replicate these flavours – my favourite flavours. I’m lucky to have an October birthday in Ireland – it’s peak apple season. Using tart cooking apples (like Bramleys) in this Gâteau Breton aux Pommes is a must, but equally important is the salted caramel sauce to drizzle over top.

This cake uses A LOT of butter and eggs, but no milk. The consistency post-bake is nearly custard-like, or that of a baked pudding. Your fork slides through the layers of sponge and apple with ease and the caramel adds the perfect amount of sweetness. I think this will be my birthday cake for years to come.

Recipe via Bon Appetit

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Vegan Creamy Tomato Soup with Foccacia

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I’ve learned so much over the past few months.

I’ve learned that it’s possible to function on one hour of sleep. I’ve learned that you can learn to function on one hour of sleep and absolutely no coffee because coffee affects your baby’s reflux. I’ve learned that you become a really awful person when you only had one hour of sleep and no coffee, and your other children tend to bear the brunt of that (sorry Maeve and Ciara; I’m going to make it up to you!).

I’ve learned that, whenever possible, you shouldn’t have a baby around silage/calving time. I’ve learned to let some things go – ok, a lot of things – ok, ALL OF THE THINGS.

I’ve learned to give my husband some extra credit, because he works really, really hard and is a good human being.

Most importantly, I think, I’ve learned to go easy on myself. Because this parenting thing is hard. Because I, like so many other women out there, am my own biggest critic. And I don’t blog enough/exercise enough/play with my kids enough/read enough/socialize enough. And I drink too much wine/avoid annoying tasks/spend too much money/am too selfish. Enough, already.

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Life is short. You’ve heard it before. But in the past few weeks there has been a lot of death – deaths in Canada, deaths here in Ireland, horrible atrocities committed around the world in the name of religion/ideology. And I’m here, safe and healthy with a safe and healthy family. In any case, life is far too short to spend it irrationally angry and blaming myself for not being perfect.

My posts have become a lot more introspective lately. I really think writing helps work out the kinks in my brain (and there are many). I also think the early days of motherhood can make you lose sight of yourself and your abilities. This can be kind of devastating in a first-world-problem kind of way, when you’ve spent your life having a really firm, if fluid/constantly changing, view of who you are. When I write down phrases like “first world problem” I tend to cop on a bit.

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The way you treat your body helps work out brain kinks, too. Now, I’m in no way vegan. I’m not really interested in giving up cheese. Or my thrice daily latte (doesn’t bother the baby anymore!). But I have drastically changed my diet, and it’s not only helped me lose that last bit of baby weight – combined with a good daily dose of vitamin supplements, it’s helped my mental health a great deal.

I love this soup because it has all of the comfort and warmth of a full-fat cream of tomato soup with none of the dairy. The coconut milk is just sweet enough to balance the acidity of the tinned tomatoes and the whole thing comes together in just a few minutes.

The foccacia is made with my mom’s famous pizza dough recipe. I make the recipe and allow the dough to rise for around 1.5 hours. When it’s doubled in size, I punch it down, divide it in half and press each half of the dough into two rectangular cookie sheets. You can roll it out on a floured surface to fit the pan or just press it into an oiled cookie sheet with your hands.

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Once it’s spread out, I gently dent the dough all over with my fingertips, brush the top with olive oil and sprinkle with an array of toppings. The toppings can literally be anything (olives, roasted peppers, rosemary, garlic) but if I’m rushing I just give the top a good sprinkle of flaky sea salt and dried mixed herbs. Bake it in a really hot oven (up to 500°F/250°C) for 20-25 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and crisp. Use another sweeter in the dough if you’re vegan and don’t like honey. This is the perfect dipping bread for a creamy soup. Like this one!

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Vegan Creamy Tomato Soup

Ingredients

1 large onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 carrot, diced

1 Tbsp coconut oil

2 cans diced tomatoes

1 can full-fat coconut milk

2 cups/500ml hot vegetable stock

Salt and pepper, to taste

Fresh basil, for garnish

Directions:

  • In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and carrot and sauté for 10 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.
  • Add the tomatoes and hot vegetable stock; bring to a boil.
  • Turn the heat down to medium and simmer for 20-30 minutes, adding more stock (or water) if necessary.
  • Blitz the mixture using a hand blender and return to the heat. Add the coconut milk and bring back to a simmer. Cook for another 10 minutes, then season liberally with salt and pepper.
  • Serve hot, garnish with basil and serve with warm foccacia.
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