A winter warmer? It’s just got to be Sloe Gin. The first time I tasted it was in 2002 when the then Boyfriend and I were staying with the IT Specialist near Cambridge and an unlabeled bottle was produced late at night. I savoured every last drop and remembered enough the next day to ask our friend for his grandfather’s recipe. As I remember, it was along the lines of “half fill a bottle with sloes, add sugar and gin. Shake every day and then strain through a gorse.” A gorse? I hear you ask. Well, Chinese whispers meant that there was something lost in translation between the English grandfather and the Irish girl demanding the recipe. I thought he must have some kind of “traditional” knowledge and quietly determined to use a sieve myself. It was only months later that we discovered that he had meant gauze rather than an actual branch of a gorse bush. So much for traditional knowledge.
Category: Storecupboard Specials
Any trip to Kanturk is a good excuse to call into McCarthy’s Butchers and see what new treat Jack McCarthy has dreamed up for his many meat-loving customers. I can’t resist the air-dried Sliabh Luachra Beef scattered over big bowls of salad leaves with shavings of parmesan and the North Cork Pancetta makes a great savoury blanket when wrapped around fish or even chunks of haloumi cheese before baking.
I started growing my own vegetables when I was about 11. After a long winter hording my pocket money, poring over seed catalogues and haunting the seed display in our local hardware shop, I bribed my younger brother to help me dig a few beds in the overgrown back garden. An early adopter of raised beds, my growing spaces were enclosed with random pieces of wood that we filched from around the house when our mother’s back was turned.
When we had the Mallow Farmers’ Market taking place outside Urru last summer, I never missed the chance to pick up a pack of Old Millbank Smokehouse hot smoked trout from Geraldine Bass. Saturday mornings in work were always busy so I had to watch for a gap between customers to make a dive out of the shop before all the good stuff was gone. Geraldine would also have her smoked salmon and, for a real treat, some very fine smoked salmon pâté but I always made a beeline for the trout, a much underrated ingredient and one that I’d pick any day over smoked salmon.
I have loved Pancake Tuesday ever since I was a child, standing on a chair so I could reach the cooker to make stacks and stacks of pancakes. It sometimes took a long time before the family was satiated! Since those crêpe-making days, the thinner the better, I’ve become a fan of fluffy American pancakes and I’ve yet to decide which way the pancake batter is going to go this evening. Maybe both – I’ve always loved two course pancake suppers and Ricotta and Spinach Pancake Bake is my default savoury option.
With such fantastic air-dried beef, there’s little need to gild the lily.
Craft butcher Jack McCarthy is a passionate man. Make a visit to his shop in the middle of the main street in Kanturk and be prepared to learn all about his wide range of award-winning meat products. On a quick visit to the town to meet up with the Editor earlier today, I called in to pick up some of my favourite North Cork pancetta. We were only in the door two minutes when Jack had us as a willing audience to taste his intensely savoury air-dried beef. Sliced thinly like Italian Bresaola, it melts in the mouth with a silky texture similar to the finest smoked salmon, leaving a lingering flavour of the spices used in the cure. This innovative craft butcher is like a shark, never standing still – for Jack there’s always something to learn or try, a new product to work on, an old one to improve.
It’s moving week so there’s not much cooking and baking going on, apart from me making loaves of brown bread to try and use up some of the six – yes, count them, SIX! (and that’s not mentioning the few that are down at the cottage, ahem…) – bags of flour that I have sitting on my shelves. The flat that we are moving into in Dublin is much smaller and doesn’t have a freezer so for a while there was a mad race to finish up all the frozen foodstuffs at our current place. Then we made a quick trip to DID Electrical so we now have a new under-counter freezer and the pressure is off. It still leaves me scratching my head at some of the things that I have in there though. Who knows why I froze a brioche loaf or what kinds of curry are in all those little plastic containers that I use for lunches? Certainly not the person who should have been labelling them!