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Comfrey Cottage Chervil & Chive Vichyssoise

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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

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Comfrey Cottage Chervil & Chive Vichyssoise

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

  • 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).
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Crossogue Preserves Brandied Mincemeat Oat Squares

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Happy Holidays everyone!

I’m sitting on my new (reclining) couch, still in PJ’s and bathrobe at 10pm (yeah… didn’t bother getting dressed today), my two-year-old is softly singing “Let It Go” in bed along with her new Elsa doll (who also sings – who got her that?!). I love these few days after Christmas and before New Years – there’s nothing to do. Literally!

I don’t have cakes to bake for anyone.

I don’t have any articles to write.

I don’t have a physical job to go to.

With the copious amount of food and snacks in the house, I don’t feel compelled to cook dinner.

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Basically, I can put my feet up for a little while and just relax. Even Maeve seems to be extra chilled out these days, making things like going to bed and getting up in the morning much easier on all of us (8:30am wake-ups are A-OK in my books!).

Of course, this will only last a few days. By New Years Eve I’ll be cooking another massive spread and it will be all hustle and bustle again. But until then I’ll just recline on my new couch, stick my 9-month pregnant belly out and enjoy some quality relaxation time.

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I wanted to share a new recipe with you today – and yes, it’s holiday related – even though Christmas has come and gone. But I’m sure I’m not the only one with lots of leftover mincemeat from making too few pies this year!

Come December in Ireland, mince pies are everywhere. In every bakery, every grocery store, every small shop. They just take over. If you enjoy mince pies, this is a good thing. I’ve never been a fan. Not until I tried Crossogue Preserves‘ Brandied Mincemeat.

Not only is it delicious, it’s made locally in small batches. To me, that’s just quality assurance. Small batches? That means it’s hard to mess up. And I have never had a jam, marmalade or mincemeat from Crossogue Preserves that hasn’t tasted just perfect.

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If you’re ever looking for Crossogue Preserves headquarters, GOOD LUCK. They make their preserves in Ballycahill, Tipperary – a few minutes’ drive outside of Thurles, but still very, very hard to find if you don’t know the area extremely well. And I don’t. I’m still learning. But I got there eventually, and the 5 kilo bucket of mincemeat was so, so worth the struggle.

Because these mincemeat squares are pretty divine. And addictive. And did I mention they’re a great alternative to your average mince pie?

I basically used my old fashioned date square recipe and swapped Crossogue’s Brandied Mincemeat for my usual date filling, making an already easy recipe even easier. 

So even though the season for mince pie is basically over, why don’t we take these few easygoing days between Christmas and New Years to enjoy some crumbly, buttery, brown-sugary squares with a hot cup of tea (or if you’re not pregnant like me, some boozy eggnog!).

Go on. Enjoy your life. Have an extra-boozy drink with me in mind (just a few more days til I can indulge, hopefully!).

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Crossogue Preserves Brandied Mincemeat Oat Squares

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups rolled oats

1 1/2 cups plain flour

1 cup cold butter, cubed

1 cup light brown sugar

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 cups Crossogue (or homemade) Brandied Mincemeat

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 350° (180°C, no fan) and line a rectangular baking dish with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • In a bowl, mix the oats, flour, brown sugar, salt and baking soda. Add the cubed butter and rub into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.
  • Take half the mixture and press it firmly into the bottom of the lined baking dish. Evenly spread the mincemeat over and then sprinkle the remaining half of the flour mixture on top (keep the topping crumbly).
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes. The top won’t look overly browned, but it will be done.
  • Allow to cool completely (I left mine to cool overnight) before gently removing from the baking dish and cutting into squares.
  • Makes 12-16 squares depending on the size baking dish you use. Keep them in an airtight container for up to a week (but they won’t last that long).

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