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Posts tagged ‘Irish Food’

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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Summer Berry Cobbler

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When I lived in Toronto, I did my best to have a balanced diet. Patrick and I would grocery shop every Saturday or Sunday and sometimes I’d be able to make it down to the farmer’s market for produce. I worked in very busy restaurant kitchens until just before I got pregnant, and then, with the same restaurant company, moved to the marketing team so I wouldn’t have to lift 20kg bags of flour every day. The move also meant a lot more food writing, an opportunity to learn and grow and much  less snacking during my workday. It was a great experience.

I admit, the constant taste, season, taste, season aspect of being a professional cook had me a bit blobby around the edges. So much cream, butter and, my personal favourite, poutine (the last restaurant where I worked has a duck confit poutine pizza on the menu – so, so wrong and yet, so right). And then, coming home from a long work day, Patrick and I would often opt for a dinner of takeout Thai, pizza, or, on our better days, we’d walk to the Korean restaurant down the road for their amazing kimchi jiggae (I’m telling you, Torontonians, Makkal Chon is the best Korean restaurant in the city).

Makkal Chon, Scarborough, Toronto

Makkal Chon, Scarborough, Toronto

Having moved to Ireland, our diet has gotten exponentially better. A big part of this is the fact that there is no poutine in Waterford (yet… gimme a few years!). Another reason is that I haven’t really met anyone or made any friends, which means eating out is not something we often do. I don’t mind, I know I’ll meet people eventually, and for now the quiet time is nice since in less than two months I’ll be busy with a newborn baby.

The third, and my favourite, reason our diet has gotten better is because it’s IRELAND. We have access to such delicious fruit, vegetables, dairy and meat here. My father-in-law has a deep-freeze full of lamb joints that I am always encouraged to help myself to. When we’re in Tipperary on the weekends, we are frequently gifted with fresh eggs (both chicken and duck). Patrick and I love trying the different artisanal food products – the jams, jellies, compotes, sauces, baked goods and cheeses, all pesticide and preservative-free – that are abundant here.

Even though I’m baking a lot more, it’s not having too much of an adverse affect on our diet. Since I’m not “working” I have plenty of time to grow some of our own food, maintain a sourdough starter and make healthy dinners every night. Patrick often gets a good workout on the farm most weekends and we go walking regularly on nice evenings. So while we may be indulging a bit more than we’re used to, we’re also using better ingredients. It’s a nice balance.

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I wanted to make blueberry grunt last night, but that can wait for my mom to arrive, who will hopefully be sourcing some Nova Scotian wild blueberries for me (fingers crossed!). I had some blueberries and strawberries lying around and decided, instead, to make a cobbler for dessert. A grunt is similar to a cobbler, but the dumplings usually get steamed instead of baked.

This cobbler is a great summer dessert. I sprinkle slivered almonds over the top before baking for a little added crunch and flavour. Cobbler is great on its own, but with a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream (or Haagen Daas, whatever you have) it reaches dessert perfection. Serve it warm for complete satisfaction.

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Summer Berry Cobbler

Ingredients:

2 pints fresh blueberries

1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and halved

1/4 cup orange juice

3/4 cup icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cups plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp sea salt

3 Tbsp sugar or honey

1/2 cup cold butter, cubed

3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup slivered almonds

sugar, for sprinkling

milk, for brushing

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees (190 degrees Celsius, no fan).
  • In a baking dish, arrange the berries so they’re evenly spread out.
  • In a small bowl, mix the icing sugar, orange juice and vanilla. Drizzle over the berries and lightly toss to coat in the glaze.
  • In another bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Rub or cut in the butter until the mixture is coarse and crumbly, with the butter well incorporated.
  • At this point, if you’re using honey instead of sugar, mix it in with the milk. Add the milk to the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. If the mixture is looking too dry, add a bit more milk to reach the right consistency. It should look wet and sticky but still hold it’s shape, like scone dough.
  • Drop the batter by wooden spoonfuls onto the berry mixture. You can choose to spread the batter to cover the berries entirely, or maintain the shape of scones, leaving some room for the berries to bubble up while baking (I always do this because I find it easier to portion once baked).
  • Brush the tops of the scones with a bit of milk, then sprinkle a bit of sugar on top (brown or white, your choice). Sprinkle the almonds over the tops of the scones.
  • Bake for 30-45 minutes, checking after 30. The scones should be golden brown and crunchy on top and the berries should still be whole with a nice, bubbly sauce.

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Bloom in the Park 2013

Enjoying the beautiful day in Phoenix Park

Enjoying the beautiful day in Phoenix Park

I mentioned our Bank Holiday weekend was a bit full in my last post and the annual garden festival, Bloom in the Park, held in Dublin’s Phoenix Park, was a definite highlight.

In the weeks leading up to Bloom I saw a lot about it on Twitter. Irish writers, chefs and foodies whom I follow and respect were expressing their excitement, talking about which artisan food producers would be featuring their products this year, which cheese would come out on top in the annual Irish Cheese Awards and, of course, the gorgeous show gardens that would be on display.

Me? I like all of the above. They’re kind of my thing. I figured Bloom was something I didn’t want to miss out on.

Luckily, Patrick got offered two free tickets from his work. We were sorted!

Then, I saw on Twitter that GIY (Grow It Yourself International) were recruiting volunteers, so I signed up. GIY is a movement that I think a lot of. I use their website and growing calendar as my main gardening resource in Ireland and have been looking forward to joining the Waterford group (there are GIY groups all over Ireland).

Also, let’s face it, I’m at home all day carrying around a big belly. No kitchen would hire me in this state, nor would any marketing department, knowing I’d be going on maternity leave in two short months. I’ve been getting a little bit shack-happy and wanted to meet some like-minded people. I was delighted when they contacted me and arranged to come in on Monday to help out.

I had such a great time with GIY! They had raised beds set up with pre-grown veggies that were strategically placed around their tent. There were also different stations – one for kids, one for growing seedlings, one for composting (you get the idea). With this set up it was so easy to engage passers-by because they all stopped to admire the vegetable gardens. I loved chatting with gardeners – amateur and professional – from all over Ireland; exchanging tips and learning more about what grows well here and what doesn’t.

The GIY folk were such lovely people and I really appreciate them letting me hang around for the day!

Award Winning Show Garden

Award Winning Show Garden

Another show stopper.

Another show stopper.

In between volunteering, Patrick and I wandered through the (very crowded) show garden area, browsed through the many gardening kiosks, had a few bites to eat and did some shopping at the Artisan Food Market.

Adare Farm pig-on-a-spit

Adare Farm pig-on-a-spit

Spit Roasted Pork with Apple Sauce

Spit Roasted Pork with Apple Sauce

Patrick managed to find Charcuterie!

Patrick managed to find Charcuterie!

We had some lovely spit-roasted Adare Farm pork with apple sauce and roasted potatoes. We also brought home (aside from a few plants) some Inch House black and white pudding, some Cooleeney Farm Cheese (both from Tipperary! We’re so proud.) and an intense chimichurri marinade from Tully B’s.

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Nasturtium, Tarragon & Flat Leaf Parsley for the garden

Nasturtium, Tarragon & Flat Leaf Parsley for the garden

Tim Hortons in Dublin? A Canuck's dream come true (except it's not as good as in Canada, unfortunately).

Tim Hortons in Dublin? A Canuck’s dream come true (except it’s not as good as in Canada, unfortunately).

Aside from minor hiccups which included but were not limited to: getting lost in Phoenix Park (it’s 707 hectares, one of the largest enclosed parks in any European city), trying to find a parking spot and being slightly disappointed by the prepared food offerings, Patrick and I had an amazing day at Bloom in the Park. It was warm and sunny, there were great people everywhere and the whole thing had a lovely family-friendly, egalitarian feel to it. Bring on next year.

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