I love Tipperary. Especially in the summer.
Despite the drought we’ve been experiencing these past weeks, things are still fairly green. Each day, the sky is an array of gorgeously arranged clouds. My kids run around the yard (well, two out of three of them run… the baby bum-shuffles), playing in their playhouse and making mud pies, Pat is busy fixing things around the farm and helping his dad milk the cows.
And me? I’m on “holiday” from The School of Food. Which actually means I’m run off my feet chasing after children, hosting playdates, writing articles (like this recent one for Irish Country Living on the Keenan Brothers, who grow heritage grain), selling cakes and sausage rolls at the Thurles Farmer’s Market and doing pop-up restaurant nights with Lucy at The Green Sheep.
So I’m still working, I guess. Just not teaching! I will be taking a proper holiday next week and the week after – we will be going “glamping” in County Clare with the kids. We are so excited; can’t wait to tell you all about it.
Lucy and I also recently signed up for Traveling Spoon. If you don’t know what that is, it’s sort of like airbnb… but for food! Visitors can peruse the website depending on which country they’re visiting and choose from a selection of unique dining experiences. Some experiences are in people’s homes, while others – like ours – are in private dining establishments. When we get a reservation, Lucy and I close up the cafe and prepare the long, wooden communal dining tables for our guests.
We offer three types of experiences: a cooking lesson, dinner and local beer pairings, just dinner, or just dinner with beer pairings. We only take one group of visitors at a time, making it an intimate, unique travel experience.
The menu changes with whatever is in season and tasting good at the time, but last week, when we fed a group of Americans (visiting via Irish Fireside bespoke tours – a fantastic travel experience in itself!) the menu was this:
Comfrey Cottage Chervil & Chive Vichyssoise
Crawford’s Farm Pulled Chicken Empanada
John Lacey’s slow-roast Lamb Shoulder with Buttered Turnip, Crispy Kale and Gastrique
Ripe Cooleeney Cheese with Cherry Consomme, Walnuts and Lavash
Sweet Ricotta Dumplings with The Apple Farm Strawberries and Raw Lavender Cream
The menu featured all local (like within 50km of Thurles) ingredients and the group we had were all so wonderful and fun. They enjoyed their food (and beer pairings from White Gypsy Brewery) and even serenaded us in between courses.
I thought I would share the recipe for our first course because it’s so low-maintenance to make – it actually intensifies in flavour as it sits in the fridge. A classic French Vichyssoise is a chilled, creamy, mild leek and potato soup. It’s lovely.
At this time of year, in Tipperary, my friend Sarah at Comfrey Cottage has an abundance of bright, flavoursome chervil. I love its mellow, refreshing flavour – with a squeeze of lemon and a handful of chives, it literally transforms a classic into something entirely new and exciting.
This will keep in the fridge for up to four days. Do not add the fresh chervil until the soup has chilled – otherwise the lovely green colour will turn grey and the flavour will be less vibrant.
*If you can’t get fresh chervil, you can substitute with: 1 bunch flatleaf parsley, 1 bunch fresh dill, 1 bunch fresh chives, 1/4 bunch fresh mint
Comfrey Cottage Chervil & Chive Vichyssoise
1 Tbsp rapeseed (or olive) oil
1 Tbsp butter
3 leeks, pale green and white bits only, finely sliced
1 large onion, finely diced
3 stalks celery, finely diced
4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed (keep submerged in cold water until ready to cook)
4-6 cups/1L hot chicken or vegetable stock (depending on how thick you like your soup)
1 cup/250ml heavy cream
salt and pepper, to taste
Juice of one lemon
1 large bunch fresh chervil (around 200g)
1/2 bunch fresh chives
- In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat 1 Tbsp rapeseed oil and 1 Tbsp butter over medium-high.
- Gently cook the leek, celery and onion together until pale and translucent – you don’t want them to brown, just soften and cook through.
- Add the potatoes and gently cook, stirring regularly, for another 3-5 minutes.
- Add 4 cups of hot stock (reserve the extra for after, in case you want to thin out the soup) and bring to a gentle simmer.
- Simmer the soup for 20-30 minutes, until the potato is completely cooked through.
- Add the cream, stir, remove from heat and allow to cool for 1 to 1.5 hours.
- Once the soup has cooled, transfer for the fridge and chill completely for 1-2 hours.
- Add the chervil and chives – allow to steep into the soup overnight or for at least 3 hours. Continue to chill in the fridge.
- In small batched, blend the cold soup completely in a vitamix or good quality blender. A hand blender would probably work, but I haven’t tried.
- Once completely blended, season with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.
- Continue to chill until ready to serve, Garnish with chive flowers, nasturtium, a drizzle or oil and microgreens.
- Serves 8-10 people (starter size, approx. 200ml per person).