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Posts tagged ‘Kilkenny’

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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Making Our Wild Atlantic Way

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

So we recently took a road trip around Ireland. Let me set the scene for you all:

Four middle-aged Canadians, one young(ish) couple and a crazy two year old started off here at the farm in Tipperary. Early the prior day, we realized we were supposed to collect the last Canadian couple from the airport THAT MORNING and not the following morning as we had previously thought. We had less than two hours before they were due to land when we made the realization, and luckily we’re only 1.5 hours from Dublin airport (Tipp is just so darn central!), so it was a very unplanned but ultimately successful trip to the airport and back with said Canadians.

The next day, we loaded up into two cars and headed to Belfast (via Dublin airport to get a larger rental car for the Canadians). Belfast is about as far from Tipperary as Cape Breton is from Halifax (in Canada). That is to say, four hours. Luckily, the kid slept after Dublin airport (YOOK AT DEE AIYOPWANES MUMMY!) and awoke just as we were entering Belfast.

Maeve & Grandpa on the Belfast City Tour

Maeve & Grandpa on the Belfast City Tour

Maeve & Nana at The Crown Pub

Maeve & Nana at The Crown Pub

After lunch at the Crown Pub (when you’re visiting for the first time, you gotta!) the group split into two – one group did the city bus tour with the kid while the others visited the Titanic Museum. We were only staying one night, so tough decisions had to be made. We got to see a lot of Belfast in a very short amount of time and we had a beautiful day for it.

Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim

Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim

My Dad on the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

My Dad on the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

The next day we got up bright and early and did the Causeway Coastal Route to the Giant’s Causeway. This is one of Pat’s and my favourite drives in all of Ireland. I know it’s technically not the Wild Atlantic Way, but it’s beautiful – running through quaint seaside villages with both mountain scenery and stunning ocean views. Of course we took the Canadians to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge before reaching the causeway.

After a quick lunch stop in Portrush we made our way to Sligo.

Strandhill, Co. Sligo

Strandhill, Co. Sligo

Shell's Cafe, Strandhill

Shell’s Cafe, Strandhill

Yup. All. The. Way. To. Sligo. In one afternoon. You see, the Canadians only had ten days and this was the best way to cram everything in.

So we made it to Sligo and spent the night at the Clarion (great hotel – it’s in a really old building that I heard was possibly once an insane asylum!). After letting Maeve swim in the bathtub for awhile, we met Pat’s brother and his wife for dinner. The next day, we had brunch at Shell’s Cafe in Strandhill. It’s a quirky little seaside cafe that serves delicious food. Strandhill is just outside Sligo, on the coast.

After Strandhill we made our way to Lisdoonvarna, Clare. Yes, you read that right. All. The. Way. To. Clare.We were tapped for time! I don’t think my Dad has forgiven me for vetoing his idea to drive through Connemara on the way – it just would have taken way too long.

Burren Smokehouse

Burren Smokehouse

The fish platter at The Burren Smokehouse Pub

The fish platter at The Burren Smokehouse Pub

So we got to Lisdoonvarna (through The Burren! It was beautiful!) and the first thing I wanted to do was eat. We found the Burren Smokehouse, which is famous for it’s delicious smoked salmon. The smokehouse also runs a small pub down the way, so we went there for lunch. I had a hot-smoked baked salmon fillet with spinach, potato and mustard cream sauce. Just lovely. This is actually the best smoked salmon I have ever had (and I have a brother who smokes his own salmon – sorry Matt!).

Maeve and I found a playground (EHGROUND MUMMY? ME GO EHGROUND?) while the others blew a tire on their way to the Cliffs of Moher. At least it was a nice day. I hear it was the fastest tire change anyone had ever seen. They made it to the Cliffs and back, and we all piled back into the car and made our way to Listowel in County Kerry.

Yup.

All. The. Way. To. Listowel.

From Sligo.

I will probably never do a roadtrip like this with a toddler ever again. We went through a lot of chocolate to keep her happy. And the Frozen soundtrack on repeat.

Once we got to Listowel, though, it was smoother sailing. We stayed with Pat’s Auntie Bridget who has a beautiful farm house in the middle of the countryside. She fed us and gave us comfortable lodgings, and we all had a good night’s sleep.

Overlooking the Conor Pass, Co. Kerry

Overlooking the Conor Pass, Co. Kerry

The next day we went to Dingle. We went by the Conor Pass. I didn’t know what to expect, but I’ve heard enough folk snicker about it being a scary road so I was a teensy bit prepared (way more than the Canadians in the car behind us, anyway). When the road started getting higher into the mountains I thought, “Yeah, ok, I can handle this.”

Then the road got a bit smaller. By a bit, I mean from two lanes to one. With no guard rail. On the edge of a rocky cliff. WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU MEET SOMEONE COMING IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION?

Hot Langoustine Roll heaven

Hot Langoustine Roll heaven

Murphy's Ice Cream!

Murphy’s Ice Cream!

It was an amazing drive, though, and one I’ll take visitors on again. We made it to Dingle in one piece and had an awesome seafood lunch at Danno’s Pub (hot langoustine roll, anyone?) followed by a *very large* ice cream from Murphy’s (their Irish Sea Salt ice cream is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me, and I’m not exaggerating).

Innisfallen Island, Killarney, Co. Kerry

Innisfallen Island, Killarney, Co. Kerry

We relaxed back in Listowel and stayed another night, driving to Killarney the following morning for a little tour of the lakes. Our boat dude took us over to Innisfallen Island where we disembarked and wandered through the ruins of a 7th century monastery before surprising a large herd of deer – the island’s only current inhabitants. Maeve and I threw some stones in the lake before we headed back to Ross Castle and back to the car.

Deer on Innisfallen Island

Deer on Innisfallen Island

From there, we had some lunch and went home. Yup. Back. To. Tipperary.

I told you we were pressed for time!

Truthfully, we could have stayed longer. There’s so much to do and see. But Pat and I were really looking forward to our camping weekend at Electric Picnic, and we had to be home by Friday. The Canadians just left the other day, spending their remaining time in and around Tipperary and Kilkenny (because why wouldn’t you? Everyone loves Kilkenny.).

So, that was our trip, sorta kinda going around the Wild Atlantic Way. Do not attempt to do this kind of roadtrip with a toddler, that is my best piece of advice (or, at least, have a running list of playground locations for each pit-stop).

Pouding Chômeur

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Ah, springtime on an Irish farm. Idyllic, no? The best time of year, right?

Well, sort of. It’s calving season. Which is both wonderful and CRAZY BUSY all at once. Add to that: one weekly newspaper column, event planning, my day job, one 30th birthday weekend in Mayo, one husband gone to Boston for a week, one very busy (and often hangry) toddler and a seemingly endless stream of minor illnesses, you can see where the last month went for me.

Things are finally starting to calm. My garden is growing. My head is clearer. I can do this life thing.

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Waiting for the Paddy’s Day Parade

Paddy's Day breakkie with the cousins

Paddy’s Day breakkie with the cousins

A few weeks ago we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in Templemore, Tipperary. In classic style there was a parade (which is generally more like a vintage tractor show around these parts) and lots of excited children. This year we actually knew some of the kids in the parade, so it was nice to see familiar faces and shout out to them.

Delphi Resort

Delphi Resort

Connemara, County Mayo

Connemara, County Mayo

The following weekend, I made the trek up to Delphi Resort in County Mayo. The resort is found near Ireland’s only fjord, in the heart of Connemara. It’s pretty bare-bones as it’s meant to be a family-friendly, cost effective adventure resort but I really liked the suite I shared with four other ladies – it was warm, the beds were comfortable, the shower was great and the views are spectacular.

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We took advantage of the lack of television and cellular service and tried our hand at ziplining. I’ve ziplined before so I knew I wouldn’t die, but heights aren’t really my favourite thing. Still, we all had a laugh and my sister-in-law had a great birthday weekend.

After our weekend at Delphi I was treated to a visit from a couple of dear friends from Canada. I met my friend Genevieve over ten years ago when we were both in the music program at Acadia University. She and her husband Scott have been good friends with Patrick and I since we all lived in South Korea, then Toronto. It was so great to see them.

Chicken with Harissa & Lemon Bulgur Salad at Cafe Sol in Kilkenny

Chicken with Harissa & Lemon Bulgur Salad at Cafe Sol in Kilkenny

I took them to visit the White Gypsy Brewery in Templemore where brewer-extraordinaire Cuilan showed us around and gave them some samples. Then we went to Kilkenny for a look-around and lunch at the gorgeous Café Sol (I’m still dreaming about the warm bulgur salad with harissa & lemon – yum).

As great as it was to see my friends, I was also extremely excited to see that they had brought me a gift from home – pure, unadulterated Nova Scotian Maple Syrup. Ireland has lots of wonderful ingredients available to me, but maple syrup is just not one of those things. It often tastes watered down, or like it’s been cut with regular table syrup.

Anyway, when I saw that Gen and Scott had brought me maple syrup I could only think of one thing:

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POUDING CHÔMEUR

This is my all-time favourite dessert. It’s basically a French Canadian maple syrup baked pudding. And it’s… everything you could ever want. It’s moreish. Gooey, warm maple syrup caramel soaked into a light, spongy cake. You can add a bit of crème anglaise or lightly whipped cream over the top, but it’s hardly necessary. This pudding is simple perfection at its best.

Yes, it’s terribly sweet. But it’s also made with maple syrup. so it’s not sickeningly sweet.The Quebecois, apparently, came up with this recipe during the Great Depression, hence the name – pouding chômeur, or, poor man’s pudding.

It would hardly be a poor man’s pudding now, with the price of quality maple syrup being what it is, but the name still sounds nice.

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Pouding Chômeur

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs, room temperature

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups plain (or AP) flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp sea salt

1 1/3 cup whole milk

For the sauce:

1 cup heavy (whipping) cream

1 cup really good quality maple syrup (that’s important)

1 tsp vanilla

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (180 degrees Celsius, no fan). Grease a medium-sized casserole dish (or rectangular cake pan) with butter. Set aside.
  • Cream the brown sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and mix. Add the eggs one by one, mixing after each addition.
  • In another bowl, mix the dry ingredients. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the milk to the sugar/egg mixture (dry, milk, dry, milk, dry). If you’re using a stand mixer, whip on high for 20 seconds once all the ingredients have been added. This aerates the batter and brings everything together. If you don’t have a stand mixer, just make sure everything is whipped up nicely with a whisk.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared/greased dish.
  • Make the sauce: using a heavy bottomed saucepan, bring the maple syrup to a boil and reduce by 1/3. Add the vanilla and cream and return to the heat. Allow the mixture to reduce and thicken slightly (cook for about 3 minutes; the mixture should lightly coat the back of a spoon).
  • When the sauce is ready, carefully pour it all over the batter. I say carefully because a) the mixture will be very hot and b) if you don’t pour it evenly it’ll just make a bunch of holes in the batter.
  • Transfer the pudding to the preheated oven. Bake for about 40 minutes – when it’s finished, the cake will be on top and the sauce will be on the bottom. The top will be springy to the touch and golden brown.
  • Serve warm with lightly whipped cream or crème anglaise. Or hey, just eat it straight out of the pan with a spoon like I do.

Bon appétit!

Zwartbles Ireland

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County Kilkenny is a magical place.

I say this with the risk of being disowned by my own county, Tipperary. We’re right next door, you see, and are; therefore, rivals in most areas of life. Actually, just hurling. But it’s an intense rivalry, taken very seriously by most. So you see, I don’t want anyone to think I support Kilkenny when it comes to hurling. But I do think Kilkenny is one of the most beautiful counties in Ireland and its namesake city is one of my favourite places to eat, shop and get into mischief (see my Love Letter to Kilkenny for more gushing).

Did you know Circle of Friends was filmed in Kilkenny? Inistioge, near Thomastown, to be exact. The lush, green landscape is what I always had in my mind when I was younger and dreamed of visiting Ireland (who knew I’d be living here just a few years later!).

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I had never heard of Zwartbles sheep before moving to Ireland, but soon after I arrived I started following Farmer Suzanna on Twitter and became quite enamored by the look of them. Suzanna farms Zwartbles and Clun sheep; both rare and interesting breeds. The Cluns look other-worldly with their slight figures and pixie faces. The Zwartbles are large (as far as sheep go) and striking with dark bodies and white faces.

I got the chance to visit Suzanna’s farm, located outside Thomastown, Kilkenny, with a group of bloggers a few weeks ago. We had been invited to Kilkenny for the Savour Kilkenny Festival of Food and a trip to Suzanna’s farm was a last-minute treat. It was actually extremely last minute – it was dark outside by the time we left! We had a fabulous time wandering around her farm, eating her home-grown grapes, petting her flock (Zwartbles are very friendly sheep!) and picking her pears and apples to take home.

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Suzanna treats her animals like family. One thing you immediately understand upon visiting is how happy her animals are; how well-loved and cared for. We were gifted with some Zwartbles lamb and a recipe for lamb stew as we left. I made the stew a day or two later and was surprised (pleasantly) with the flavour of the lamb. It wasn’t overpowering – it was mellow and sweet, and went so very well with the apples and pears from her orchard. Irish terroir at its best.

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Aside from using her sheep for lamb, Suzanna also uses Zwartbles wool to make rugs, yarn and blankets. She sells them on her website: Zwartbles Ireland.

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I honestly can’t get over how friendly these sheep are. The sheep I’ve previously come across have always run away from me. These sheep not only ran to us, they frolicked. They kicked up their hooves and hopped, skipped and jumped over to greet us (well, mostly Suzanna, but we were in the vicinity!). They are beyond cute. Kilkenny is a little bit more awesome by having them.

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Oh, I almost forgot to add: Suzanna also employs a cat shepherd on her farm. Seriously. A cat who shepherds the sheep. He’s very badass (and soooooooo cute!). You can follow his adventures on Twitter.

*I was a guest of Green and Vibrant on this trip to visit Suzanna and her Zwartbles, but I was not asked to write this post or given any incentive to do so. I just really enjoyed my visit and wanted to share it with you all.

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