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Posts from the ‘Farmer’s Markets’ Category

Derg Cheddar Stove-top Mac & Cheese

17815155688_ba31eb834d_z I hear tales of 30 degree weather in Canada right now, but here in Ireland it still feels like winter. Yes, we have some lovely weather for the month of April, but as my father-in-law says, “That was our summer, right there.” I’m currently bundled on the couch in my housecoat; a cat curled so far into my hip he’s almost invisible. There’s a fire in the fireplace and outside it’s absolutely dismal – wind, rain and very low temperatures. So much for our Irish summer! We’re busy on the farm, as always. We’re beginning to plan for cutting silage, but the growth is not as good as it should be due to the colder weather. We’ll have to wait for nicer weather to do that, anyway. Between our jobs, home life, farm work and Maeve being with her child minder during the week I barely have time to even think about blogging. But I need to keep this website going. It’s my portal to the rest of the world. And I love sharing our lives with you all (and thanks for deeming it interesting enough to follow!).

Diva Bakes stall at Ballymaloe Litfest

Diva Bakes stall at Ballymaloe Litfest

A few weeks ago I went to Ballymaloe Litfest. I’ve been going since the festival began – for about three years – and I have to say, it just gets better and better. The guest speakers, amazing chefs, food writers and food producers who come to the festival make it even more special. This year I ACTUALLY MET ALICE WATERS. For real. She is just as lovely in person as she seems, which is refreshing. She signed a book for Maeve, who will receive said book when she is off to university (yup, I’m going to keep it that long). I’ve looked up to Alice Waters for years and was thrilled to hear her speak and meet her.

The gorgeous falafel from Rocket Man

The gorgeous falafel from Rocket Man

My delicious masala dosa from Ayer's Cafe

My delicious masala dosa from Ayer’s Cafe

The food at Litfest was better than ever this year. The Rocket Man from Cork always impresses with their fresh salads and pickles, but this year they were doing falafel flatbreads which went down an absolute treat. I had an AMAZING dosa from Iyer’s Cafe in Cork – the best I’ve had outside of Asia, in fact – and we got Maeve a little wood-fired pie from Volcano Pizza. So, so good.

The love folk from Ayer's Cafe - such amazing Indian food!

The lovely folk from Iyer’s Cafe – such amazing Indian food!

Miss M was a bit out of sorts, so we couldn’t stay as long as we wanted to, but before we left I loaded up on Arbutus Bread (some of the best loaves in Ireland) and Cloud Confectionery marshmallows (they come in so many awesome flavours!).

Loved all the pickled/fermented product on display from My Goodness

Loved all the pickled/fermented product on display from My Goodness

When we got home we were a) committed to never travelling with a toddler ever again and b) exhausted. We needed some comfort food. I had a block of delicious Derg Cheddar, made just down the road in Nenagh (this cheese is amazing – made only from raw, summer milk when the cows are at pasture; it’s aged but manages to taste creamy and sharp all at once). I decided to make stovetop mac and cheese with crispy garlic breadcrumbs and it saved our lives.

18002974775_4dab097404_z Derg Cheddar Stovetop Mac and Cheese Ingredients:

½ lb pasta

60g plain flour

60g butter

1 bay leaf

½ L full fat milk

½ Tbsp Dijon mustard

Pinch of nutmeg

500g Derg Farmhouse Cheddar, grated

Salt & Pepper

For the breadcrumb topping:

500g fresh breadcrumbs

60g butter

1 clove garlic

Salt & Pepper

Chopped fresh parsley, thyme, chives and/or basil

Directions:

  • Heat a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. While the pasta is cooking, start the sauce:
  • In a medium-sized, heavy bottomed saucepan, melt the butter. When it starts to bubbles, add the flour and mix well. The mixture should look a bit doughy – this is called a roux. Let the roux cook for one minute, then add the bay leaf and half the milk.
  • Using a metal whisk, stir the mixture until it thickens completely. Make sure you’ve beaten out any lumps, then add the rest of the milk.
  • Allow the mixture to slowly come to a boil, gently whisking the entire time (the bottom will stick and burn if not!). When it comes to a boil and thickens, remove it from the heat.
  • Stir in the Dijon, salt and pepper, and finally, the cheese. When all is melted and combined, give it a taste and adjust the seasoning as desired.
  • When cooked, strain the pasta and toss with the cheese sauce. Make the breadcrumbs:
  • In a large pan, melt the butter and add the finely chopped garlic. Let it cook for 30 seconds, then add the breadcrumbs. Cook the breadcrumbs until the butter has been absorbed and they become golden brown and crunchy, stirring often. When finished, toss with the fresh herbs.
  • Serve the mac & cheese is bowls with the breadcrumbs sprinkled over-top. This makes four large servings.
We love Ballymaloe!

We love Ballymaloe!

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The Best Places I’ve Ever Been

Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

I’ve been off work sick for about a week. It’s torture. I love being busy – I’m usually overflowing with tasks, whether its mothering my daughter, cooking, keeping the fires going (we usually have two: one in the wood stove in the kitchen and one in the sitting room fireplace), or, of course, working my actual day job at Holycross Stores and The Tipperary Kitchen. I’ve also taken up writing a weekly food column for The Tipperary Star, where I focus on a different local producer each week and create a recipe from their product. I love my life here in Ireland. I loooove being busy.

Badaling, Great Wall of China

Badaling, Great Wall of China

This past week has been a shock to my system. Relying on my husband to keep the house clean and our daughter cared for and my father-in-law to keep the fire going was, at first, torturous. But the last few days have finally seen me getting used to it. I’ve been able to take the time to reconnect with friends in Canada and in other parts of the world. I’m reading more. I’m listening to the radio and my favourite albums. It’s been a nice trip down memory lane. That leads me here, to this post. I’ve been looking back on old photos and reliving some amazing past adventures. I thought I’d share some of the best places I’ve ever been with you and tell you why they were so life-changing. Aren’t we lucky to live in an age where we were easily able to record our younger lives and experiences? OK, here are my Top 5! I would love to hear/see about yours, too.

Patrick & I at Hwaseong Fortress, Suwon, South Korea

Patrick & I at Hwaseong Fortress, Suwon, South Korea

1. South Korea  I spent 2007-10 living and working in South Korea. It was the biggest, craziest thing I’ve ever done. I was fresh out of university, mad to travel, had absolutely no money and no cares. I found a job, they paid for my flight, found me an apartment, paid the rent and then proceeded to pay me about $2000.00 CAN a month. I almost missed my first flight and Air Canada let me on the plane, but refused to check my luggage, so I literally MOVED TO ASIA with only my carry-on and my handbag. And a camera.

Halloween 2008 - Trick or Drink! Visiting convenience stores around our neighbourhood

Halloween 2008 – Trick or Drink! Visiting convenience stores around our neighbourhood. I’m the panda.

I played with five year olds during the day and partied with the other expats at night. The expats came from all over the English-speaking world. We all hung out at the same bar and there were other Canadian teachers at my school, so even though I went to Korea knowing no one, I came out of it with lifelong friends and a life partner (that’s right, I met Patrick at the foreigner bar in 2008).

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Lifelong friends.

I learned enough Korean to get by and made wonderful Korean friends, too. I miss them all the time. I need to get back there, to someday show my kids where their parents met. To a young, travel-crazy individual, I can’t recommend teaching abroad enough. I have friends teaching in Turkey right now and it looks like they’re having a great time, too, so there are plenty of options out there.

Kimchi Pots

Kimchi Pots

Things I love about Korea: THE FOOD, the lifestyle of a carefree foreigner, the amazing group of international friends (will we all ever be in the same place again? Probably not.), the low cost of living, the Korean people (including their priceless reactions to my curly hair and how protective my Korean friends were of me).

Songsan Ilchulbong in Jeju, South Korea

Songsan Ilchulbong in Jeju, South Korea

If you go you must experience: Mudfest, Jeju-do (a semi-tropical island off the South coast), jjimjilbang (Korean saunas), kimchi-making, island-hopping off Incheon, travelling along the beautiful East Coast, hiking Suraksan, eating strange, raw sea creatures (when you’re by the sea).

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Gunung Bromo after a pre-dawn hike (and slight meltdown)

2. Indonesia Patrick and I spent a month backpacking around the Western part of Indonesia in 2009. We started in The Gili Islands, then worked our way across Bali, Java and Sumatra. It was one of the best, worst and all-around craziest experiences of my life.

Borobrodur, Java

Borobrodur, Java

Patrick got a cheap (but safe) scuba diving PADI cert in The Gilis and, as a result, saw some amazing undersea creatures. I lounged on the beach and chatted with the local ladies. We ate barracuda, satay, curries, nasi goreng and copious amounts of sambal. We drank litres of Bintang beer. We lived very well for about 20 bucks a day.

Browsing the market in Ubud, Bali

Browsing the market in Ubud, Bali

In Bali we shopped for (and shipped) art. We saw dance performances and ate the ubiquitous babi gulung (roast pig stuffed with spices). We took the bus to Java and were dropped off in a random place in the middle of the night. We got a drunk taxi driver who drove five metres and then got out of the car and left us. We got another taxi and, at dawn, climbed an active volcano. We spent several blissfull days in Yogyakarta and saw ancient temples. A guy asked me to name his newborn baby.

Hanging out with the locals in Yogyakarta, Java.

Hanging out with the locals in Yogyakarta, Java.

We got spooked in Jakarta, boarded a massive ship and sailed for three days to Sumatra. We were segregated by sex (a Muslim country) and the women in my cabin thought I might be related to Britney Spears. They fed me fruit and looked inside my makeup bag.

My roomies on the ship to Sumatra.

My roomies on the ship to Sumatra.

We drove to the jungle and hung out with orangutans. One of the best experiences of my life. I popped xanax on a daily basis because I have an unhealthy obsession with natural disasters and tropical diseases. Indonesia in a nutshell.

This experience is up there with getting married and having a baby!

This experience is up there with getting married and having a baby!

If you go you must experience: Bukit Lawang (home of the orangutans), Yogyakarta, Borodrodur, Gunung Bromo (the volcano), travelling on an “ekonomi” train, eating Padang, swimming with sea turtles and giant clams, riding on the back of a motorbike “taksi”.

Pastel de nata in Belem, Lisbon

Pastel de nata in Belem, Lisbon

3. Portugal We’re coming up on a whole year since our first-ever family trip. Last year, Maeve was seven months old and couldn’t yet crawl or walk. It was the perfect time to take her on vacation as she was perfectly content to be strolled around – she would NOT be OK with that now!

Costa Nova, Aviero, Portugal

Costa Nova, Aviero, Portugal

I had been wanting to visit Portugal my whole life. Growing up in Cape Breton, I wasn’t exactly surrounded by multiculturalism. That said, my best childhood friend (and still a wonderful friend) is half Portuguese. I spent so much time in her home, with her Portuguese Dad and all of the photos, stories and culture she was exposed to. When she travelled to Portugal for visits, I always wanted to go, too.

Costa Nova

Costa Nova

So when I finally got to go last year I felt like a kid again. I got to spend time with my friend’s dad and he opened up his Lisbon home to us. We took the train to Porto and fell in love with everything about that city – the medieval, winding alleyways, the River Douro and the most delicious cheeses, wines and cured meats. Maeve was a prime attraction for locals, with her blond hair and bright blue eyes. We were cooed at and smiled to wherever we went.

Porto

Porto

We went to the coastal university town of Aviero. We spent time in Costa Nova at the beach, eating fresh seafood and enjoying the gorgeous scenery. For a first family vacation, it was perfect in every way.

Piri Piri at Bonjardim

Piri Piri at Bonjardim

Theive's Market, Lisbon

Thieve’s Market, Lisbon

If you go you must experience: Piri Piri Chicken with Creamed Spinach at Bonjardim (Lisbon), Fiera de Ladra (the “Thieves” Market) in Lisbon, Taste Porto Food Tours, Costa Nova in Aviero, pastel de nata and espresso EVERY MORNING, drinking Sagres in the main square in Porto.

No pollution control at the Tsingtao brewery

No pollution control at the Tsingtao brewery

4. China When I told my Korean friends I was going to China for my Christmas break they begged me not to go alone. “Someone will take you! They will sell you as a bride!”

Wangfujing Night Market, Beijing

Wangfujing Night Market, Beijing

Sometimes Koreans can be a little anti-China. That said, there were times, travelling alone, that I got into certain situations and remembered their words. I played on the safe side. Just so you know, though, sometimes proper taxis in China are just unmarked vans. This was my first solo-vacation (and my last, incidentally) since meeting Patrick. He went home to Ireland for Christmas and so I wanted to go somewhere, too.

Noodles in Tsingtao

Noodles in Tsingtao

Here’s the thing, though: I hate airplanes. So. Much. I will go really, really far out of my way to avoid flying. So that’s why I took a ferry to China. It took 18 hours. I was in a cabin with three women who were studying in Korea. The ferry docked in the city of Tsingtao (yup, where they make the beer). I spent a day or two there. The Germans occupied Tsingtao during the World War, which is why the beer is so lovely. I think Tsingtao would be much nicer in the summer, but I still had fun drinking beer and slurping noodles.

Temple of Heaven, Beijing

Temple of Heaven, Beijing

I took an overnight train to Beijing. The crowd at the train station was scary and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find my car. Just as the train was announced a young woman appeared out of nowhere. She grabbed my elbows, stuck them out, and helped me push my way through the crowd. She found my car, showed me where to go and was gone before I could practice my Mandarin and say thank you.

Wangfujing, Beijing

Wangfujing, Beijing

I had no seat. A woman was sitting with her three children in four seats. She took her youngest on her lap and gave me one of their seats. The children shared their snack with me (chicken feet from a convenience store), then we all fell asleep. Every time I woke up, a different child was sprawled across my lap. Beijing is one massive contrast. Communist and strict; mystical and spiritual. Amazing sights, smells and markets. Elderly folk having dance parties in sub-zero temperatures. The Great Wall is way more impressive than Karl Pilkington said. It (and the wind) took my breath away. The Ming Tombs were cool, too.

If you go you must experience: Travel by train, Beer Street in Tsingtao, The Temple of Heaven, The Silk Market, The Summer Palace, Peking Duck on Ghost Street, Wangfujing Night Market (where you’ll find all those lovely scorpion kebabs), The Great Wall, Hot Pot, Hutongs, Beijing Park Life.

Lakes of Killarney

Lakes of Killarney

5. Ireland Can you blame me for including my adopted home in this post? Ireland has changed me. I wasn’t a mom before I moved to Ireland. I was living in Canada’s biggest city prior to moving here – concrete on concrete, business attire every day, brunching on weekends and trying to stay on top of trends. All of that changed when I moved to Ireland.

Carvery Lunch in Dublin

Carvery Lunch in Dublin

I’m happy here. I’m settled. I love the fresh, local ingredients I have available to me. I love that Dublin, Waterford and Cork are less than two hours away. Limerick is less than an hour. I love being back on a farm. I love being surrounded by a large, extended family. Ireland is home.

The Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland

The Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

If you go you must experience: The Antrim Coast, The Copper Coast, nights out in Galway, the Lakes of Killarney, wandering around Cork, Ballymaloe Litfest, quiet pubs in Tipperary, visit a farm, eat lots of butter and cheese, drink tea, hike around Glendalough, go to the Avoca in Wicklow for tea and shopping.

Where to Eat for Winterval

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You may or may not know this, but when I first moved to Ireland I lived in Waterford. Actually, up until last June I lived in Waterford. It’s Ireland’s oldest city and has a crazy, awesome history that includes (but is not limited to) vikings, war, disease, the British, boats and, of course, blaa.

When most non-Irish think of Waterford (if they’ve heard of it at all), Waterford Crystal generally comes to mind. If you’re Irish and don’t live in Waterford, you might remember the TV3 series The Estate (which only really represented a small portion of Waterford’s population).

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Having lived there, given birth there, made friends there and attended events there, my opinion of Waterford as a city is that it’s… awesome. Coming back for a visit actually makes me emotional. For someone moving to Ireland from abroad, Waterford offers so much – as a city and a county. There’s a thriving arts scene, amazing food and scenery and the people are nothing short of wonderful.

Waterford also hosts Ireland’s largest annual Christmas festival, aptly named Winterval. This year, the festival started on the 21st of November and will continue on until December 23rd (read my post on last year’s event here). It brings thousands of visitors to the city each year to indulge in some Santa-visiting, ice-skating and hot-chocolate-drinking.

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The chef’s homemade creme de cassis at La Boheme

I don’t know about you, visitors, but when I first moved to Waterford I had absolutely no idea where (or what) to eat. There is very little online information about Waterford’s wonderful food destinations, so here is a list of my favourite haunts. During Winterval there are plenty of kiosks selling all kinds of festive foods, but if you’re looking for something specific this list might help. Happy Winterval-ing (and eating!).

Coffee & Snacks

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Portico Coffee: These guys can really sling espresso and I was so happy when they opened their little café opposite the City Square Shopping Centre.

Location: 1 Peter Street, Waterford City

Arch Coffee: Having just opened, Arch Coffee is giving Portico a run for their money – they know their stuff and make a mean flat white.

Location: George’s Street, Waterford City (opposite Guiney’s)

Arch Cafe

Arch Cafe

Aoife’s Café: Gorgeous little spot located in the historic 33 The Mall building.

Location: 33 The Mall, Waterford City (close to Waterford Crystal)

The Park Lodge Café: The only café located within The People’s Park – a haven for mothers of young children or those with an affinity for cake.

Location: Newtown Road, The People’s Park, Waterford City 

Read more

A Love Letter to Kilkenny

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Hey, Kilkenny. I thought I had you all figured out.

I’ve been visiting your namesake city for years. Two of my sisters-in-law live there. I’ve spent New Year’s Eve at Langtons and had a birthday lunch, once, at Campagne.

When my family visited last year, you were a highlight of their trip. They loved the cobbled streets and old world charm in the city. They found unique gifts to bring home to friends and loved ones. We had a nice lunch at Kyteler’s Inn.

While Patrick and I lived in Wateford, you bridged the gap between there and home, here in Tipperary. When we reached the city we knew we were at the halfway mark. We knew we could pick up a few things if we had to, or stop to nurse our fussy baby (so… thanks for being there for us).

The Bula Bus, in the back of Billy Byrnes pub

The Bula Bus, in the back of Billy Byrnes pub

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Kilkenny Street Food at The Bula Bus, in the back of Billy Byrnes pub

Kilkenny Street Food at The Bula Bus, in the back of Billy Byrnes pub

But it turns out I didn’t know you at all. Not until this past weekend and the Savour Kilkenny Festival of Food. Not until the Night of 1000 Feasts, an event that brought together the entire county in an effort to raise funds for the Town of Food project in Thomastown. You did good, there, Kilkenny. Over 2000 feasts were registered that night, showing the rest of us how you take care of your own. I am so excited to see how the Town of Food Centre progresses and how much was raised over the course of the weekend. I feel like I’m a part of it now. I’ve met you all and experienced your amazing hospitality, so I really want this goal to be achieved.

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I ate a delectable three-course meal at Zuni last Sunday night for my part of the feast. It was sublime, Kilkenny. I hadn’t eaten there before and was so impressed by the stellar service and confident food, expertly crafted by Chef Maria Raftery. My main was a fillet of local short-horn beef. Kilkenny, every bite melted in my mouth. The accompanying béarnaise was subtle and didn’t overpower the meat. I don’t order beef very often, but this dish had me wowed.

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I partied til the wee hours of the morning. Dearest Kilkenny, you should know that I have a one-year-old and don’t really party anymore. I mostly just want a glass of wine and my bed. You drew me out, though, with a slew of my in-laws and pints of deliciously smooth O’Hara Stout (not a Kilkenny beer but close enough, coming from Carlow). I visited Brewery Corner and had loud, slightly inebriated chats with the patrons.

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I didn’t have a hangover the next day. Kilkenny, you have a plethora of fabulous bed and breakfasts in your county and I stayed in a good one that night. Fanad House B&B has very clean rooms, comfortable beds, and this may sound strange, but I’ve never stayed in a place with such excellent air temperature control. I slept like a rock and woke up refreshed; ready for my full Irish, skillfully prepared by the owner.

The next day we ventured out of the city.

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Coffee and chats at Goatsbridge Trout Farm with the magnificent Mag & Ger Kirwan. How they’ve turned the family trout-raising business into something ecologically and financially viable is an inspiration to any aspiring entrepreneur. What’s more, their openness, inherent kindness and boundless energy is just so encouraging in an industry that is often less-than-kind. I’ll be back with my family to buy some of their smoked trout and show Maeve the fishies.

Kilkenny, you have so many talented artists and artisans in your midst.

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We drove to visit the studios of Karen Morgan and Jerpoint Glass. I spent too much money. Such unique porcelain pieces are handcrafted by Karen. The lines are irregular and the colours are clean and natural – a food stylist’s dream. Aside from their beautiful glass creations, Jerpoint Studios have a gallery devoted to Kilkenny arts + crafts. Two must-visit locations if you, like me, are in love with dishes and linens and have a few gifts to buy for Christmas.

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We stopped by Knockdrinna Cheese to visit with the lovely Helen and hear her story. Kilkenny, you have a pretty stellar terroir. All that lush, green grass eventually turns into fantastic meats and cheeses. Helen’s Knockdrinna Meadow sheepsmilk cheese is addictively mellow. Perfect at room temperature with a slice of apple and a bit of chutney.

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Kilkenny, I didn’t realize Thomastown is so beautiful. I didn’t know it had so many fabulous food destinations. We had lunch at Sol Bistro and it didn’t disappoint. My Lavistown sausages were the perfect lunch for someone who was still consuming stout mere hours beforehand. My husband’s sizzling prawn salad was bursting with bright flavour, yet was stodgy enough to satisfy a 6’2 Irishman (how did they manage that?).

Your Thomastown residents are really inspiring, Kilkenny. They’re proud of their well-earned accolade “Town of Food”. The Town of Food Centre is going to be a hotbed of community involvement including school gardening sessions, a chef training program and a free-for-all prep kitchen for new food business owners to prepare their farmer’s market goods in a licensed environment. It’s going to enrich the lives of each member of the community.

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And speaking of enriching lives, Kilkenny, I had no idea how beautiful and friendly Zwartbles sheep are until I visited Suzanna’s farm outside Thomastown. Most sheep shy away the minute they see you coming – Suzanna’s sheep bounded gleefully toward us. They were more like puppies. It was wonderful, and if you were a fly on the wall at that moment you would have seen half a dozen (adult) Irish bloggers acting like a bunch of giggling schoolkids. Lives enriched.

I need to thank Dee Sewell, Mag Kirwan and all of the folk we came to visit for organizing and executing such an amazing blog trip. Honestly, Kilkenny, I’ll never underestimate you again, but only because these guys worked so hard to get me and the other bloggers down for a visit.

Who were the other bloggers? They were a diverse crowd and all wonderful in their own way: Where Wishes Come From, The Art of Exploring, Foodborn and Bred, Cork Billy, Greenside Up, My Busy Farm Life. It was great meeting and getting into mischief with them.

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Apple, Toffee & Flor de Sal Hand Pies

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This recipe comes from two different places.

While backpacking through the Northern half of Portugal last March we had to make a decision between visiting Coimbra and Aveiro. Both are in the same general area (about 20 minutes apart), both are small & culturally rich university towns and both have their own unique appeal.

One of the many colourful canal boats in Aveiro

One of the many colourful canal boats in Aveiro

What made us decide on Aveiro (besides its proximity to several gorgeous beaches and a Venetian-like canal system snaking its way through the town) was its interesting culinary traditions. There have been salt flats there for hundreds of years and the salt is some of the finest I’ve tasted (especially sprinkled over blistered padron peppers – I’m salivating just thinking about it).

The egg yolk filling from ovos moles is used in other pastries, too - like this little gem

The egg yolk filling from ovos moles is used in other pastries, too – like this little gem

They also specialize in a weird little pastry known as ovos moles. Made into the shape of seashells, the outer shell of the pastry is made from a manna-like wafer, similar to what you’d receive at mass for communion. Not much taste to it, and depending on where you buy, it can be a bit stale and chewy.

I’m not making it sound very nice, am I?! Maybe I’ll do better with the filling.

The filling is made from egg yolk, but not in the way you might expect. It’s not a custard. You make a simple syrup and mix it with rice flour before beating in the egg yolks. The end result is kind of like a sweet deviled egg. Strangely delicious.

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Before we left Aveiro I stocked up on flor de sal. Months later, I still have a cupboard-full (go me!). I save it for special occasions. It’s better as a garnish than a seasoning (though you can get big bags of rock salt, as well, to use in your grinder for every-day seasoning).

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We’re well into October now and the gorgeous weather we were enjoying here in Ireland has left. Now we’re having day after day of rain and high winds. Aside from reminiscing about our lovely, sunshiney holiday in Portugal, it’s definitely a time for hearty desserts and, as we have such beautiful apples here in Ireland and so many right now, why not combine a sweet apple pastry with a luxuriant sprinkling of flor de sal? The combination is good for the soul.

Besides turning (ahem)… 30… this week, I will also be attending The Night of 1000 Feasts (hashtag #1000Feasts) at the Savour Kilkenny Food Festival, taking place Sunday the 26th. It’s a fantastic event for a great cause – to raise funds for the Town of Food project in Thomastown to build a new food training and enterprise centre. There will be plenty more happening over the weekend so keep in touch with me via Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. If you want to host a feast of your own on the night, the info you need should be on this photo:

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I’ll be in excellent company with some other fabulous Irish bloggers – Foodborn and Bred, Cork Billy, My Busy Farm Life, Greenside Up, The Art of Exploring and Where Wishes Come From, among others, so give them a follow as well to see what we’re up to.

In the meantime, enjoy these sweet, salty and tart apple hand pies. They’ll make the bad weather seem not-so-bad.

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Apple, Toffee & Flor de Sal Hand Pies

Ingredients:

For the pastry:

2 cups AP (Cream) Flour

1 cup cold, cubed butter

scant 1/2 cup ice water

pinch of sea salt

For the toffee sauce/apple filling:

1 cup white sugar

scant 1/2 cup water

1/2 cup cream

1/4 cup cold, cubed butter

2 large bramley apples, peeled and sliced

1 Tbsp AP flour

1 egg

Flor de Sal/Fleur de Sel/Irish Atlantic Sea Salt/Maldon Salt, for garnish

Directions:

  • Make the pastry: cut or rub the cold, cubed butter into the flour & salt until the mixture is well-incorporated and looking crumbly. Gradually add the ice water and mix with your hand until a ball forms (you might not need the entire 1/2 cup of water).
  • On a floured surface, knead the dough a few times just until everything comes together. Divide the dough into 8 equal portions and chill for 30 minutes.
  • Make the toffee sauce: in a medium saucepan, add the sugar and water. Place over med-high heat and leave it. Don’t you dare stir it! When it starts to bubble, wait until the colour begins to change, then every now and then you can swirl the contents of the saucepan, but still, don’t stir. Seriously.
  • When the caramel turns a deep copper colour (and starts to smell like a caramel), take it off the heat. Add the cream and immediately put it back on the heat. It will bubble up for a few seconds. Don’t be scared. Now you can stir. Stir until the caramel & cream are incorporated. Then beat in the cold butter piece by piece.
  • Set the toffee sauce aside to cool.
  • I should mention that you can actually just buy some toffee sauce and skip that last step. It’s easier, but cheating.
  • Peel and slice your apples.
  • When the dough is chilled and the toffee sauce has cooled, preheat your oven to 425 degrees (210 degrees Celsius). Mix the apples, toffee sauce, and Tbsp of flour together in a bowl. Beat the egg slightly in another bowl (for brushing).
  • Roll out two portions of pastry at a time. Scoop two heaping Tbsp of apple filling onto one rolled out pastry. Brush the edges with egg and top with the other round. Crimp the edges, poke a few breather holes on top, egg wash the top and sprinkle on some sea salt.
  • Continue until all the pastry has been used (this should make four hand pies).
  • Bake the hand pies for around 30 minutes, or until the filling is bubbly and the tops are golden brown.

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Lately…

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Hi All!

I’ve got a lot to say before I head to Canada on Thursday. Here’s a bit of a (random) round-up of what’s been going on in my world these past few weeks:

Silage Cookin’:

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‘Tis the season! The farm is buzzing with activity as we race against the weather to get all the silage cut and gathered. Of course, this means we depend on our neighbours, friends and family for help. Having plenty of good eats on hand is a must to show our appreciation of everyone’s hard work.

I spent the majority of last week baking and cooking; keeping the kitchen stocked for when the workers could pop in for a cup of tea. Working in the hot weather is just the worst, but it’s the best time to do silage, unfortunately!

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Wexford Food Festival: 

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A few Sundays ago Pat, Maeve and I headed to Wexford town to check out their yearly food festival. I had never been to Wexford so I was excited to see the town and check out the Artisan Food Market (which featured lots of local artisan products as well as a selection from Wales). I loved the curry samples on offer and Pat enjoyed a pulled pork bap.

I wandered around Greenacres before lunch. What a great shop! They have an amazing selection of European wines, local cheeses and fine foods. They also stock an excellent array of kitchen supplies. I’ll be back to stock my kitchen as we renovate the farm house in Tipp.

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For lunch, we went to a lovely Italian restaurant called La Dolce Vita. The owner is really outgoing and makes a great bowl of pasta (and the bread… the bread!). I ordered a bowl of bucatini amatriciana and it was perfect. Al dente noodles, fresh tomato sauce with just the right amount of heat from the chilies.

Ballymaloe Litfest:

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The weekend before Wexford, my friend Grace (who works as a television food stylist and was visiting from Toronto), Maeve and I went to Ballymaloe Litfest. It was even better than last year, if that’s possible.

The farmer’s market in The Big Shed had a great variety of food producers (including some of my favourites – Highbank Orchards, Ballyhoura Mushrooms and Rocket Man to name a few), there was a cookbook shop set up in another of the sheds and the usual workshops and discussion groups were well put-together.

Rene Redzepi, Sami Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi were just a few of the fantastic chefs involved in this annual festival. I met Yotam and we bonded over our napping children – neither of whom slept well the night before. He’s a lovely man.

Larder:

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This is a new shop on The Quay in Waterford specializing in local artisanal products. They also serve coffee and offer daily, fresh baked goods. The spelt brown bread is addictive and the owner, Patrick, is the kind of inspirational businessman you want to support and see succeed. I’d love to see more of these vacant shops on The Quay revitalized the way Patrick’s done to Larder – it’s trendy and well stocked, with seating out on the sidewalk to sit and enjoy your cuppa on nice days.

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Cupcake Heaven:

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Another great Waterford business. I was in Kaffeine (on the pedestrian shopping street) to get a latte before catching the bus and the girl behind the counter gave me one of their cupcakes to try. The cupcakes are made by a group called Cupcake Heaven and they are, hands down, the best in Waterford. They always have samples in the coffee shop so go in for a taste! My favourites are the coffee and chocolate.

Top 50 Restaurants in Canada:

Auberge du Pommier, Toronto

Auberge du Pommier, Toronto

On May 22nd, the 3rd annual Top 50 Restaurants in Canada list was launched by Vacay.ca. I chaired the Top 50 again for the second year and had such a great experience. We had fabulous judges, including some of Canada’s most iconic chefs, and everyone seemed happy to be involved.

As with any restaurant list, it’s hard to really “rate” a restaurant – I mean, at the end of the day, it’s a personal opinion. But I really believe this list is a great resource for anyone planning a foodie visit to almost any part of Canada and I’m proud it’s so democratically driven.

Botched Attempt at Father’s Day?

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So, since Mother’s Day is on two different days in Canada and in Ireland I figured it must be the same for Father’s Day. I must not have been reading the signs, but in Tipperary there were all kinds of “last minute” things on sale for Father’s Day. I assumed that must mean Father’s Day was last (last) Sunday. I got Pat a little present and a card from Maeve and made him his favourite breakfast, only to find out Father’s Day actually took place this past weekend. *facepalm* I’m blaming baby brain.

He still got a sleep in, a nice breakfast and a family hike out to the Devil’s Bit near Templemore (will post about that soon).

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Happy Father’s Day anyway, Pat. I’ll get it right next year. (Also: Maeve’s first taste of nutella!).

Crazy Full Moon at the Farm:

I took this shot the other night after a long day of hauling/cutting the silage:

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Cool, huh? Apparently we won’t see a moon like that again in our lifetime (at least, not on a Friday the 13th).

Ombre Obsession:

Last but not least, here’s my first attempt as an ombre cake:

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I’ll leave you with that.

Until next time! xx

Taste Porto

Bacalao for sale!

Bacalao for sale!

While in Portugal a few months ago we took part in a Taste Porto food tour.

If you look on Trip Advisor, this tour is very highly rated. If you love history AND food and wine, this is the perfect activity for you. Andre, the guide, will teach you how the city’s culinary scene has been shaped by its vibrant history over several courses in different establishments.

Bolhao Market

Bolhao Market

If you’re budget travelers like us, you might be wary spending €55 on one activity. What if it’s awful? We were concerned about the kind of value we’d be getting for €55.

We’re generally not big into guided tours; we like to explore on our own. But I have to admit, this tour is not only interesting but also good value for the money you pay. By the end of the day I was so full I could hardly walk (and a bit tipsy from all the wine we drank).

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We started at a café specializing in a pastry from a small town in northeast Portugal called Pasteis de Chaves (Chaves being the name of the town). Once it was explained to us, we tasted two types: the traditional pastry of minced, seasoned veal and a sweet version filled with molten dark chocolate. And my mind was blown. But this was just the beginning.

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We made our way to Porto’s open-air Bolhao Market (which is well worth a visit in itself) and tasted a sprightly white moscatel galego paired with spicy sardines and bread. The sardines were so good and went perfectly with the wine.

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Andre then took us, in a roundabout way so he could explain some of the city’s architecture, to a restaurant called Flor dos Congregados. This restaurant is found down a tiny alleyway and has rustic, traditional Portuguese decor. Very cozy. They specialize in a pork loin and cured ham sandwich which we gobbled down with a glass of Douro sparkling red (tasty!).

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Our next stop was for something sweet. I had no idea eclairs were a thing in Porto, but apparently they are! We went to the eclair shop Leitaria da Quinta do Paço where we indulged in both lemon and chocolate, with a massive side of whipped cream.

I was getting full at this point, but we had a good walk through the old part of the city to get to our next and final stop.

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Taberna do Largo is an upscale eatery, wine bar and fine food shop in the heart of Old Porto. This place specializes in the very best of Portuguese terroir – the loveliest vinhos verde and Alentejo wines, the ripest sheep’s and goat cheeses; the most perfectly cured charcuterie and briniest olives. We got to taste a little bit of everything and had a few more sips of wine before saying goodbye and heading to our hotel for an afternoon siesta.

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Andre is such a fabulous food guide. He is so passionate about his hometown and knows Porto’s food, chefs and restaurants inside and out. He even made dinner reservations for us that evening (talk about going above and beyond). If you’re interested in Portuguese cuisine you need to do this tour!

Pat and Andre

Pat and Andre

Jewish Quarter, Old Porto

Jewish Quarter, Old Porto

Tip* Don’t throw out the information sheet he gives you – there are several other great restaurants (not on the tour) listed on the back. Use this for lunches and dinners for the rest of your trip.

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