I’ve had a sneaking fondness for the Crawford Art Gallery Café ever since I spent a Saturday working there while on the Ballymaloe Cookery Course and have returned several times since. The Husband and I were on a rare Saturday trip to Cork at the weekend, made all the hungrier for lunch by some cheese nibbling at our local Killavullen Farmers’ Market, courtesy of Gudrun at Fermoy Natural Cheese. Despite the crowds in the café, we got a table quickly, which was just as well as I had already spotted lamb’s liver on the menu.
If you’re heading to the 2009 Irish Blog Awards in Cork, it’s well worth your while turning up a little bit earlier for the Ladies’ Tea Party, hosted by Sabrina Dent from 4pm at the Cork Airport Hotel. There are only thirty places available at this pre-event event for the lady bloggers of Ireland so, if you’re interested, find out more and register at http://www.sabrinadent.com/2009/01/31/ladies-tea-party-and-knitting-circle-2009/ sooner rather than later. Refreshments will be provided by Curious Wines, iFoods.tv and Pinosa Cake.
Despite its title, this is not the kind of book that you’ll pick up if you’re really wanting to learn how to cook. Cooking Lessons could as easily be titled Life Lessons, the kind of things that you learn as you experience – in journalist Daisy Garnett’s case – a few years spent working in New York, a series of disastrous boyfriends and thinking time sailing across the Atlantic en route to resuming life back in England.
In Cork today and during my inevitable trip to Ó Conaill’s chocolate shop on French Church Street – I used to go for a dark cardamom all the time, now I’ve moved on to a ginger oil-infused dark chocolate, all the better to fend off the winter chill – I noticed that they have just started stocking Cate McCarthy’s giant cookies. The Cookie Jar is the name of her company and the trademark jars recently arrived on Ó Conaill’s counter, packed with American-style cookies made from real ingredients. I met Cate last year at the Terra Madre Farmers’ Market in Waterford and sampled quite a few of her delicious wares.Well worth a quick visit when you need your caffeine – or hot chocolate – fix accompanied by something sweet to munch on.Ó Conaill Chocolate, 16b French Church Street, Cork. 021 4373407The Cookie Jar, Graigue, Poulmucka, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary. 052 35448 www.thecookiejar.ie
I’ve always loved old cast-iron kitchen ranges. My Grandad would always put the porridge on overnight in the warming oven of the old, age-darkened Aga at Oldcastletown. By morning it would be cooked creamy, although with such a thick skin that I couldn’t stomach it. As a child I was a very picky eater. The Aga – it ran on solid fuel – also made the best toast. Grandad would supervise the making of this treat on a cold winter’s evening as we came in hungry from school. There were two methods: the first was simply to place a thickly sliced piece of bread from the local shop directly onto the base of the hot oven where it turned brown in a matter of minutes. And then there were the evenings when we were allowed to get out the ancient toasting forks, open the front of the firebox and toast on the flame. Those were the times that Grandad’s work- and age-toughened hands came into their own, holding the bread close enough so it toasted properly. Our softer little paws – and faces! – weren’t quite up to enduring the heat.
Watch out for The True Cost of Cheap Food on Channel 4 tonight at 8pm as Observer food critic Jay Rayner looks into the realities of cheap pre-prepared supermarket food. With sales of organic food dropping and an ever-increasing rise in the purchase of supermarket value ranges, Rayner asks if supermarkets have a responsibility to feed their customers properly. Judging by the profits made by Tesco alone in the last year (£1.8bn in the UK), it doesn’t look like they’re going to want to do anything that might eat into their shareholders gravy train. Surely pre-made food – be it from the cheapest or the most expensive supermarket ranges – can’t be as good for you as something made from scratch at home? Wonder do they actually look at that side of things. Should be worth a look – I’ll be downloading it from 4oD tomorrow.
Last night the Husband and I headed along to the first 2009 get together of the North Cork Organic Group, no doubt tempted by the fact that the group was concentrating on seasonal food for the meeting! The newsletter, kindly dropped in by my Rockmills Neighbour, asked for recipes and, if possible samples, of dishes using root vegetables. Inspired by the proud parsnips that I had picked up last week at the Mahon Point Farmers’ Market, I decided to use them in a sweet recipe. If you can bake carrots into a cake then why not make muffins out of their sweeter sister?