Category: Return to Ireland

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Choice in the country

Nenagh's Country Choice In the Irish Times Magazine last Saturday there was a feature on Country Choice‘s Peter Ward. Prestigious American foodie magazine Saveur is about to publish an edition extolling the virtues of Ireland’s artisanal food industry. One of the people mentioned in their “detailed who’s who of artisanal food in Ireland” is Peter, who has brought Saveur editor Colman Andrews to Nenagh several times over the last few years. Coleman celebrated the St Patrick’s weekend by coming to Ireland to cook with Peter and his wife, Mary, at a Slow Food Seasonal Irish Spring Produce meal in Country Choice and he has now marked Ireland as a destination for “gastrotourists”. All I’ll say is that they’re in for a lot of disappointment if they go anywhere off the trail as marked out by Georgina Campbell and the McKennas‘ good food guides.

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An old favourite: McDonnell’s Good Food cookbooks and Sausage Plait

An exercise in nostalgia One of the big advantages of being settled back in Dublin, with book shelves once again, is having all my old cookbooks to pore over and rediscover. Although I did manage to build up a fair collection in New Zealand, it couldn’t really compare to my beloved older stacks of books by Nigel Slater, Darina Allen, Tamasin Day-Lewis, Nigella Lawson and my ancient copies of the Paula Daly-written McDonnell’s Cook Books. The first and second books in this series, bought from saving up the tokens on Stork Margarine packets, were two of the first cookbooks owned by my mother.

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Irish mussels: Mussels with Garlic and Tomatoes

Mussels with Garlic and Tomatoes Although the huge green-lipped New Zealand monsters nearly put me off mussels for life – too big and way too chewy! – last week I tried cooking Irish mussels for the first time. Coming home from work one evening I nipped in to a local shop called Donnybrook Fair to pick up some essential supper supplies. Walking past the seafood counter down the back, a big sack of navy-shelled mussels caught my eye, along with the price – €2.99 a kilo. Instantly, all thoughts of cheese on toast went out the window as I got a kilo of the mussels, picking up a length of crusty French bread and a bottle of sauvignon blanc en route to the checkout.

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An Irish weekend away: Terryglass, Co Tipperary

Our Limekiln cottage at Tir na Fiuise After making Nic‘s Buttermilk Pancakes twice in the last ten days, I just have to sing their praises here. They take minutes to put together, don’t involve getting out the weighing scales (just use the cup measurements), are easy to cook, and – if you’re on a weekend away – the dry ingredients sit happily together in a zip-locked baggie until you choose to combine them with the buttermilk, butter and egg. Most importantly, they turn out delectable, light, fluffy, American-style thick pancakes without having to resort to a mix. We ate them this morning with oodles of fragrant organic maple syrup from Nenagh’s wonderful Country Choice deli, grilled rashers of bacon and, in my case, a little extra butter to further lubricate the sweet/savoury combination taste combination.

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Murphy’s Ice Cream and a new Irish blogger

Murphy's Ice Cream Listening to Winter Food the other day I heard an interview with Sean and Kieran Murphy of Murphy’s Ice Cream in Dingle. They take presenter Clodagh McKenna through the making of their fabulous ice cream, telling her about local milk, flavourings and types of ice cream (Mango and Chilli – is that exported outside the Kingdom?!), taking her into a freezer room piled high with their produce – brioscaí (Cookies and cream), caramal (Honeycomb), bó bhán (Irish cream liqueur), fanaile (French vanilla) – and treating her, much to Clodagh’s delight, to sú craobh or Raspberry Sorbet. And don’t forget their seacláid – “chocolate, always chocolate’, as Kieran says several time during the interview. No secrets where his heart lies, especially if you check out his blog at Ice Cream Ireland and his decadent recipe for Hot Chocolate.

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Irish Food: Slow & Traditional by John and Sally McKenna & Irish Food: Fast & Modern by Paul Flynn and Sally McKenna ***

irishfood_slow_cook.jpgAlthough these wee cookbooks are small – just 64 pages – they are beautifully formed. The Irish Food books are from the same stable that produces the Bridgestone Top 100 guides to restaurants and places to stay, as well as the Irish Food Guide – Sally and John McKenna’s Estragon Press – they are well worth investing in, and at €3 apiece, they won’t break the bank.

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An afternoon stop: Avoca Handweavers, Kilmacanogue

Saturday night dinner for friends staying over meant a late night, a not-so-hurried rise on Sunday morning and a similarly delayed breakfast. We badly needed to blow the cobwebs away so we drove down to Brittas Bay for a long walk in the surprisingly warm sunshine (and a brief snooze on the beach!). When we arrived back in the car about 3pm, lunchless, the Boyfriend and I were hungry as hunters. Driving back to Dublin we took the opportunity to turn off the N11 into the branch of Avoca Handweavers in Kilmacanogue. Although initially rather daunted by the long line of lunch-ing and afternoon tea-ing visitors, we were distracted by a blackboard full of intriguing choices. By the time we had decided on dishes, we were almost at the top of the queue and gazing at the generously stocked salad display. More decisions had to be made.

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In New Zealand, pumpkins. In Ireland, squash. Roasted Butternut Squash with Chickpeas and Cumin

Roasted Butternut Squash with Chickpeas and Cumin - and lots of coriander! After mourning the lack of good pumpkin in Ireland, I’ve discovered an alternative option – squash! Now, there’s a terminology question here. What is the difference between squash and pumpkins? I think it was Stephanie Alexander’s Cook’s Companion that made the point that all squash in Australia (and New Zealand) are called pumpkins. My own understanding of the difference between the two is that a pumpkin is a rounded vegetable, like that used by Cinderella to get to the prince’s ball, while a squash can often be a different shape. That’s no hard and fast rule, however!