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Posts from the ‘Gardening’ Category

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!

 

Upside-Down Strawberry Rhubarb Cake

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I’m back home. In Ireland, I mean. It’s funny, I call Cape Breton “home” and Ireland “home”, but when I talk about Cape Breton being home it’s meant to be past tense. As in, it used to be home and will always and forever more be referred to as home. But, as wonderful as Cape Breton was, and Vancouver, and Victoria, it is so, so good to be back in Tipperary.

In my own house.

With my little family.

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Babies at pasture here in Tipperary

And it’s summer. My garden is growing. There are baby animals everywhere (and thanks to my cat, baby animal corpses everywhere, but we won’t go there right now) and, even though it’s often grey and rainy, it’s sometimes warm and sunny. Already much better than last summer, which was mostly cold, windy and rainy.

I’ve been home a little less than a month and I’m already super busy. Making plans, going to playdates, taking little day trips here and there, visiting, baking. The bit I’m most excited about is the plan-making, but I’m not ready to say anything more about it at the moment – just stay tuned!

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Home in Cape Breton

Also, once again, this little blog has been long-listed for two Littlewood’s Ireland Blog Awards, which is really, really lovely! I’m also up for a Huawei Snapy Instagram Award! If you feel so inclined, you can check out my entry (and possibly give it a vote) here.

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So yes; I’m super busy. But don’t worry, I always have my two darling children to keep my ego in check. Whether it’s by peeing on the floor (daily) or simply staying up all night long, my kids continually remind me who’s truly in charge of my life (or I guess you could say: what’s truly important in life). I wouldn’t have it any other way, really.

When I came home, my garden was so overgrown with weeds it looked more like a jungle. It took four solid evenings of weed-pulling and seed planting, but my hard work is paying off. Napa Cabbage (for autumn kimchi making!), sprouting broccoli, cauliflower, squash, pumpkin, courgette – you name it, it’s been planted and is currently sprouting. I was late getting a few things planted, but the growing season is longer here than it is in Canada so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a good harvest.

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Two things that were ready when I got home were our strawberries and rhubarb. I’ve never grown strawberries before, but this year Maeve asked if she could plant them. Our old farmhouse is surrounded by very old, black cauldrons (I think they were used for laundry or something back in the day) so we found the biggest one and planted the strawberries there. We left tiny seedlings and came home to a huge, vine-laden bunch of plants just dripping with beautiful berries.

This is a great summer cake to make with whatever fresh fruit or berries you have on hand. I made it with our gorgeous strawberries (of course) and fresh rhubarb, but it would be great with blueberries (with some maple syrup and lemon), peaches, plums or cherries. The cake base is a super-moist hot milk cake recipe that I use all the time – it never, ever fails me.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

Ingredients:

For the cake:

1 cup/250g granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup/250g AP/plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup/125ml scalded milk

3 Tbsp butter (melted into the hot milk)

For the topping:

1 punnet strawberries – hulled and cut in half

3-4 stalks rhubarb, chopped

1/2 cup/125g brown sugar

1/4 cup/60g butter

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350∘F (190∘C, no fan). Grease a round springform pan and place the pan on a lined cookie sheet (in case it leaks) set aside.
  • In a small saucepan, combine the butter and brown sugar for the topping. Bring to a boil and remove from heat.Pour the mixture into the bottom of the pan and arrange the strawberries and rhubarb over the top. Set the pan aside again and make the cake batter.
  • To make the cake: whisk the eggs, vanilla and sugar until pale yellow in colour and nearly doubled in volume (this is known as the ribbon stage – the mixture should drip off the whisk in ribbons).
  • Add the flour, baking powder and salt to the mixture and stir until just combined. Add the hot milk all at once and, again, stir until just combined and there aren’t any lumps in the batter.
  • Gently pour the cake batter over the strawberries and rhubarb in the springform pan.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes (if you have an extra-hot oven start checking your cake at 25 minutes). A skewer inserted in the centre of the cake should come out clean.
  • When the cake is ready, allow to set in the pan for 15-20 minutes, then run a knife around the edges and gently remove from the pan. Flip the cake onto a plate and gently lift the bottom of the springform pan. Voila! You should have a perfect upside-down cake.

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A Happy Belated Canada Day (Among Other Things)

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Hi all!

Time here in Cape Breton is flying. As I re-read my last post I can’t believe the difference a week makes.

It’s been hot. Hellishly, devilishly hot. Low-mid 30’s every day with high humidity. My dad and I have been spending a lot of time swimming in the river and Maeve has been living in the bathtub and kiddie pool – the heat has been a lot for that little Irish lass to take. She’s uncomfortable and hot going to sleep and wakes up in the night, suddenly freezing! Needless to say I’ve had a few restless nights (and ungodly early mornings).

Maeve's been enjoying her time with my family and friends.

Maeve’s been enjoying her time with my family and friends.

Early mornings are my new thing, it would seem, because I’ve taken a part time job at a local business in town (about a 20 minute drive from my parents’ house). Yes, folks, I’m back in the kitchen and loving it – even in this incredible heat. I’ve been taking care of their baking and desserts and getting up very early in the morning to do so.

I’ve always cherished those quiet early hours in restaurant kitchens – before the other cooks arrive, before the hectic lunch service – and I’m loving being the first one in this kitchen three days a week. It’s been a great job for easing me back in the industry (for when I get back to Ireland) and, also, I’m cooking my favourite kinds of food here – homey, delicious breads and desserts using lots of local fruits and berries. Low-fuss and humble, just like us Cape Bretoners (right?!).

Wild Strawberries devoured by little hands.

Wild Strawberries devoured by little hands.

I’ve been working my way through a lot of my favourite home-foods but haven’t really gotten around everywhere – especially not with my camera. So those posts will have to wait. But I have been eating lots of delicious BBQ dishes with my mom and dad, and tonight we had my father’s famous fried haddock. I could eat 100 lbs of it in one sitting.

On Canada Day Maeve and I were invited onto my employer’s float for the annual parade in Baddeck. I really think this was the best way for Maeve to experience the parade – I mean, she didn’t get freaked out by all the strange, noisy floats slowing going down the street; instead she got to ride shotgun in a pickup truck and wave to all the smiling people on the side of the road (if you’ve ever met my baby, you’ll know she loves waving to strangers). After the parade we enjoyed a BBQ with family.

My dad's weird sense of humour. He's missing an antler...

My dad’s weird sense of humour. He’s missing an antler…

That said, I miss my husband. I left him in Ireland and he’s not going to be here until August. It really hits home how much he does to help with the baby when he’s not here, so we’re counting down the days til he arrives. I think he’s secretly enjoying his lie-ins and uninterrupted soccer matches, personally (do I sound bitter? I don’t mean to.).

Bunchberry blossoms replaced by berries within a week.

Bunchberry blossoms replaced by berries within a week.

Wild strawberries - much smaller and sweeter than cultivated!

Wild strawberries – much smaller and sweeter than cultivated!

Rhubarb ready for baking.

Rhubarb ready for baking.

Our garden continues to grow, our chipmunks are growing fatter and I’m keeping an eye on all the wild berries that will soon be ready for the picking (the strawberries and bunchberries are nearly there – the blueberries, blackberries and raspberries will be coming up in late July-early August).

Our little friend wants to escape the black flies as much as the humans...

Our little friend wants to escape the black flies as much as the humans…

I promise to post a recipe soon. This is supposed to be a food blog, after all. In the meantime, please enjoy these pictures taken around my backyard. Yeah, there’s a pond.

The backyard. Great fishin' spot!

The backyard. Great fishin’ spot!

The trail from the pond to the house.

The trail from the pond to the house.

Loving Cape Breton.

Loving Cape Breton.

Cheers! And Happy Belated Canada Day!

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