Monday, January 16, 2012

This blog has now retired. It has run its course and it is time to start something new. Come and visit the new Blog Bia Sásta - you can also follow us on facebook - just search for Bia Sásta. Hope you will enjoy our articles

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Carton House Braised Shoulder of Lamb

Recently I made the long way to the Food Festival in Kilkenny to join a food producer tour - which was cancelled (I didn't know). I wasn't much interested in anything else, so I took the time to walk the streets of Kilkenny (and giving it some strong thought of organising a food producer tour myself - watch this space). On my way, I saw a lovely bookshop (I can never resist to pop into one) and after some browsing found the cookbook of Carton House. Never been to Carton House but after reading this book, it is on my to-do-list for 2012.

Anyway, I can never leave a lonely cookbook behind, so I adopted it nicely and last Saturday I actually tried one of the recipes which I thought looked just amazing: Caraway Braised Shoulder of Lamb - Ok, I have to stop here a bit, I didn't find any caraway seeds in the area of Blarney and Blackpool, so I basically I made braised shoulder of lamb.

The 2 best butchers in Cork are O'Flynns in Marborough Street and Bresnans in the English Market - my first stop is always O'Flynns. I called them up at the start of the week and ordered the meat with the request to debone the beauty. Picked it up on Thursday and it was as I wanted it - Thank you Mr O'Flynn.

Came home and marinated the meat in some spices (cumin, coriander, ginger, cloves and olive oil) - recipe states to marinate it for 4 hours - I am a slowcook - so it stayed in overnight. Next day I put the meat into a baking tin and poured in hot chicken stock halfway up and cooked in a a low oven for 4.5 hours (covered). Took it out and put it on a plate - layered another plate on top and put a nice weight on it. The next day, it was cut in even portions and pan-fried in olive oil and butter. The smell was amazing and the meat was tender and falling apart (no one wondered about the missing caraway). I served it with steamed baby potatoes and green beans. As I love sauce, I made a mustardy gravy that went well with the spuds and the meat - no mint needed :-) ( the original recipe calls for aubergine puree and mint emulsion).

For the wine I went to Curious Wines (Turner's Cross, Cork) and asked Matt and Julian (former of Bubble Brothers) what they thought would go nicely with the dish (I was thinking of a Bordeaux and Matt agreed - phew). We decided in the end on Chateau Bauduc 2008 Clos des Quinze. There is nothing better than professional advice of people who have actually tasted the wine - not like your supermarket clerk (yeah, dat is grand).

Aged in oak it has a lovely acidity with spicy fruit. It held up nicely to the meat and the cheese after.

My next attempt from this book will be Stuffed Filet of Pork (as much as I follow recipes LOL)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fenn's Quay: Chef du Jour

Fenn's Quay is one of my favourite lunch places in Cork City with a very talented chef. The menu changes regularly and goes with the seasons and Kate is a big supporter of local producers.

Kate had the fabulous idea of inviting amateur cooks to her kitchen - and the first Chef Du Jour took place last night. I was very honoured being asked by Kate to be one of the judges on the first night. My fellow judges were Billy Lyons and Evin O'Keeffe. Chef of the night was Paul Callaghan, a foodie from Co. Clare. We learned that Paul is a plasterer by trade but believe me, you wouldn't have guessed from the menu.

The night was designed as a set menu, with a cocktail at arrival and a bottle of wine during the meal. The menu was a four-course meal solely created by Paul.

We started the evening off with an amouse bouche of stuffed cherry tomatoes with Ardsallagh Goats cheese, basil pesto and a sea salt cracker. The balance between the goats cheese and the pesto was just perfect and a pretty plate of food to set the mood for the following courses.

The starter was a plate of mussels cooked with bacon and Stonewell Cider. I am not the biggest fan of mussels (I like them baked rather than cooked) but the fragrant sauce made well up for it. He used cream for the sauce which divided the judges (I love cream sauces). The cider could have been a bit more present and I thought the bacon took a bit away from the delicate flavour of the sauce.

The main course was Rosscarbery pork belly with potato & horseradish puree, braised red cabbage with the mulled red wine jus. The crowning of this dish was the crackling. It was superb - as crackling should be. It was cut in small strips and placed on top of the meat. the meat itself was a bit too fatty for me but the meat underneath was juicy. The puree was more of a mash and a bit lumpy but that didn't take away from the perfect balance of potato and horseradish. The red cabbage was finely shredded (I never have the patience of being so precise) and he braised it just enough so that the texture and colour was still perfect. Red cabbage for me is always a Christmas thing and therefore would have liked more spice in it (I cook mine with redcurrant jelly and cinnamon) but his version showed the best of the cabbage. The red wine jus wasn't strained but the flavour was rich and went so well with the mash.

But the highlight was the trio of desserts - what a revelation. Professional chefs can take a page out of Paul's book. Desserts are really Paul's strong point and he deserved the full 5-Star rating for the white chocolate cheese cake alone. The crumbly base was buttery without being soaked in it. The filling was so smooth and creamy and well balanced with the cheese and the white chocolate - I was green with envy. No lumps, no cracking of the top - the best cheese cake I have eaten in a long time if not ever. The mixed berry crumble came in a little ramekin dish (mine was square which looked extremely pretty) wasn't too sweet or sour - a perfect autumn/winter dish. The crumble had toasted flaked almonds in it which gave the crumble a lovely texture. A dollop of dark chocolate on the bottom of the dish was a nice surprise. The tower of meringue was constructed by small strips of meringue. If you ever made meringue yourself, you know how hard it is to make biggish pieces - but these small pieces were soft and chewy - just as I like my meringue. It was topped with strawberries and vanilla cream. This plate of desserts left everyone smiling.

Billy, Evin and myself then took our time to discuss the entire menu (as I said, for this plate of dessert we would have given him 5 stars) and we agreed on 3.5 stars. Well deserved and I think we haven't seen the last of Paul - at least I hope we do see more.

Tonight is the second night of the Chef du Jour and Jeni Pim from Co. Waterford will be taking over the reign in the kitchen. Make sure to book a table - it is such an enjoyable evening.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Cheesemaking - a calling??

I am attending a cheesemaking course in Fermoy at the moment - delivered by Teagasc in Moorepark. Eddie O'Neill (I worked with him at the first Grow-Bake-Cook award where he was one of the judges) is the lecturer and there is not much this man doesn't know about cheese, milk and the dairy business. The course goes over 3 days and it is very intense.

Today we learned all about milk types and composition, bacteria and microbiology and how to design your premises. In between we went to the kitchenette and learned how to make a Gouda type cheese. And that was just the first day. Intense indeed.

What makes the course so interesting is the discussions in between - 12 people are taking part in the course from all walks of life including 2 dairy farmers. And listening to them, I salute all farmers especially dairy farmers. It is one of the most regulated industries and it is crippling the farmer a lot. And then listening to the legal requirements of cheesemaking and selling, I take a bow to people who face this 'monster' of regulations and still go ahead to produce amazing cheeses - just for the love of it. I salute you all.

Anyway, I am still in love with cheese and can't wait to try my own hands on it but I have decided that my cheese emporium has to wait - I will simply just create cheese for my own pleasure (and that of friends of course - seeing great Christmas gifts coming up).

I will talk more about the course in the next few days - just wanted to show my appreciation for all those great cheesemakers out there.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Listowel Food Festival

The Kilkenny Food Festival just over - we are being treated with another one. This time in Kerry, Listowel to be precise. Starting today with the judging of the best emerging food product award - it is worth a visit. As I still have to work for a living (I know, it's a nuisance sometimes), I will have to skip the Kerry Food Hero Award this afternoon as well as the National Farmhouse Cheese Competition tomorrow morning. If you can make it tomorrow evening, you will be able to watch Catherine Fulvio cooking up a storm.

On Saturday morning you would be able to join a Wild Food Walk (and I think I will be joining). Meeting at 10:30 at the Listowel Town Park carpark, the walk is €10. Saturday Live Kitchen will have local chefs cooking live. Admission here is also €10..... but here I am waffling - check the program out yourself by clicking here Hope to see you there

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Foreign Guinness

The other day I came across bottled Guinness called 'Foreign Extra Stout' - never heard of it (I am not a lover of stout) but the name intrigued me so I took a bottle home. I always have a glass of Guinness on Arthur's Day and it still takes me ages to drink.

I was told that this stout was especially brewed for the African market in past years and that it was suppose to be a lot stronger than the 'normal' Guinness. I put the bottle in the fridge to reach a cooled but not ice cold temperature. Opened the bottle and poured a bit in a glass. Nipped a bit, drank a bit and left the rest. What was the taste like you ask??? Cold bitter coffee - and nope, I didn't like it at all.

Here is how Guinness describes the beer: 'Foreign Extra Stout is brewed with generous hops and roasted barley for a bittersweet balance & full-flavored, natural bite. Developed over 200 years ago for global export from Ireland, the addition of extra hops ensured this Stout would arrive to its destination in perfect condition. Today, Guinness Foreign Extra Stout is enjoyed by millions of people around the world. Pure beauty. Pure GUINNESS®.'

And this is what Wikipedia has to say about it: 7.5% ABV version sold in Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, Asia, and the United States. The basis is an unfermented but hopped Guinness wort extract shipped from Dublin, which is added to local ingredients and fermented locally. The strength can vary, for example, it is sold at 5% ABV in China, 6.5% ABV in Jamaica and East Africa, 6.8% in Malaysia, 7.5% in the United States, and 8% ABV in Singapore.[42][43] In Nigeria a proportion of sorghum is used. Foreign Extra Stout is blended with a small amount of intentionally soured beer.[44] It was previously known as West Indies Porter, then Extra Stout and finally Foreign Extra Stout.[13] It was first made available in the UK in 1990.[13]

You will have to make up your own mind about this beer - let me know what you think. You can get it in SuperValu at the moment.

Masterchef in Fenn's Quay

For the first time in Fenns Quay history they are opening up their kitchen to a few succesful cooks . They will get to work along side the Fenns Quay kitchen team whilst producing there own four course menu to the awaitning paying guest.
The guests will have a night of fine food, fun and tasting of fine wines and beers with guess the wine and rate your meal as well as meeting foodies and wine enthusiasts as well as the panel of judges !! Tables will be commuinal as so everyone gets to chat and have fun and enjoy the experience for food and wine total cost will be €50 per person

what do you have to do to enter ?
* the applicants must create a 4 course menu consisting of amuse bouche, starter, main and dessert .
* the menu per person should cost no more tan €22 per person
* a litte paragraph on why they should get this opertuinity .
* closing date for submissions is the thursday 3rd of November
* applicants must be over 17
* post your entries to No. 5 Fenns Quay, Restaurant, Sheares Street, Cork
or email to

The "Chef de Jour @ Fenns Quay" final will be held 22nd 23rd & 24th of November and on the final night the winner will be announced !!!

Good Luck :-)