Artisan beer is one of the newest, and vastly developing industries within our agri-food sector. Which is a bit of a puzzle as to why it’s taken so long? We’re world-renowned drinkers of beer and our natural climate is very well suited to growing the raw ingredients, so where is the issue? To me it goes to the age old problem of our culinary heritage and intelligence. It’s taken until the last few years for us as a nation, to develop our indigenous food culture from everything-from-the-shelf-in-a-plastic-wrapper to a thriving artisan industry where people have started to accept that just cause everyone buys it, doesn’t mean it’s the best. As a consequence quite a number of small breweries have sprouted up that are now producing some really interesting beers,. So to celebrate this, the RDS in Dublin is hosting the Irish Craft brewers fair next weekend. (23rd to the 25th of September)
Boasting over 50 different beers from Ireland’s finest brewers and a number of artisan food producers providing tasty treats there will also be music and face painting for the kids (and adults who may have been sampling too much!)
In light of this I was given a few of the beers on offer to sample and review so here goes…
Belfast Blond by The College Green Brewery
This is light-bodied lager. Hoppy and fruity with Caramel flavour. Pretty good.
Sunburnt Red by Eight Degrees Brewing Company.
I personally never really got the jist of ruby ale; the Springsteen of beers – you either get it or you don’t! Coppery, bitter, creamy and just picked up by O’Brien’s Wines so must be good. Really great packaging.
Curim Gold Wheat Beer by the Carlow Brewing Company.
Particularly poor labelling, must be designed with the American Market in mind as they’re the only people in the world who think (to quote Dylan Moran) we are ‘twinkly eyed feckers, with a pig under one arm, saying “Ah I’ll paint your house, but I might just steal your ladder, whe whe whe”’. Labelling aside, quite pleasant, nutty golden tone with peach and honey flavours.
O’Hara’s Dry Hopped Ale also by the Carlow Brewing Company
Equally offensive labelling, very rich, lemon and lime flavours, nicely bitter. Not bad.
Copper Coast Red Ale by The Dungarvan Brewing Company
Ah now I get the jist of Red Ale, alkaline and soft. Deep red tone. Slightly bitter. Delicious.
More info at www.irishcraftbeerfestival.com
,in the meantime I have two weekend passes to give away so just leave a comment and you’re in the draw.
Yesterday, our neighbour Danny was very kind to give me a bag of the freshest Mackerel I have had in a long while. It immediately evoked memories of my childhood. The slightly bloodstained bag, the smell, not of fish, but of salt and iodine, and the rigid, glistening bodies with the shimmer and colour of petrol.
I remember it was a village-wide occurrence when the word got round that the mackerel “came in”. This was when the sprats would shoal around the shores and the mackerel, in search of an easy meal, would follow them. It meant that you could delve into the water and pull the fish out of the water with your bare hands. In fact I remember running down Coliemore road with my mum, wicker log basket in hand, to fish the whitebait straight from the water. We ate these little fish whole, after they were dredged in seasoned flour and shallow fried and sprinkled with chopped parsley and a dash of fresh lemon juice.
So back to the Mackerel, it’s a very oily fish. Much as Salmon and Tuna, must be served very fresh as the oil content in the flesh will turn. But the plus side of this means that it lends itself to a particular method of cooking that is one of my favourites, Hot Smoking.
Cold smoking is the method most of us are used to, where the smoke is cooled before it reaches the fish and the salts, sugars and smoke cure the fish. With hot smoking the fish is in the chamber where the wood dust is burnt, thus the fish is cooked with the heat but also flavoured with the smoke. You can also use this process to cook duck and chicken breast. You can buy them in most fishing shops or alternatively you can make one with these instructions
So the process takes only about 30 minutes and so what to do with the resultant fish. I ate one there and then, but what to do with the other eight? Well that’s the call of one of the easiest recipes in the world. And there’re a few cheats where you can substitute as few ingredients.Smoked Mackerel Pate
Four large hot-smoked mackerels, filleted. (You can use the shop brought ones. Also Burren smokehouse
and Frank Hederman
do amazing products)
50g of butter
2 tablespoons of cream
1 teaspoon of grated horseradish or 1 tablespoon of horseradish sauce
2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon of chopped tarragon
De-skin and de-bone the mackerel. Put it and the rest of the ingredients into a blender. Blend until desired consistency is produced (I prefer mine smooth, she prefers hers a bit grainy).
And that’s it; I told you it was easy. Serve on freshly toasted bread.
There’s resurgence in peasant dishes. A full circle of where what would’ve not been eaten by aristocracy and graced the tables of the poor. A perfect example of this would be oysters, where before they would’ve been added to stews as a bulking agent (Beef and Oyster stew anyone?) have had they’re fortunes changed and now have dishes named after celebrity endorsements (Oysters Rockefeller).
One of my favourite dishes would be Cassoulet, which comprises of Lamb gigot chops, Toulouse sausages, and confit duck leg, all stewed in haricot beans in a tomato sauce. Delicious and actually was my exam piece in Ballymaloe. So, when on a recent stint back cooking for the Lebrocqueys, Anne asked me to cook Osso Buco, which are veal shanks in a light vegetable stew.
There is one massive problem with these types of dishes. As they are part of a culture and have been passed down the generations by generally word of mouth, there is no set ‘go to’ classic recipe for them. I frantically went through all my cookbooks and enlisted the help of the fantastic Lorraine aka @itallianfoodie on Twitter
(Who’s La Cucina
restaurant just got a fantastic review from Tom Doorley in the Irish Daily Mail and won Best Casual dining restaurant in the Irish Restaurant Awards).
Now before I get onto the recipe, just a quick note on Veal. It was tricky to get, particularly the shank cut in the certain way (You’ll see from the photos late) but I think there is still a lot of stigma attached to cooking with it. Let me just say that traditionally, yes the methods of farming and slaughtering veal calves was cruel. However conventional methods have modernised the process and the age of the calves is considerablely older than say for instance, spring lamb, where the market has driven unscrupulous producers to push the product out earlier in the year and hence the lambs are slaughtered a lot younger. For more on this stuff, check out Happy Meat
Ok so enough of that political stuff; let’s get down to the yummy stuff. Osso Buco Serves 5
- 1 kg of veal shank cut horizontally in 5cm wedges
- 3 carrots
- 3 onions
- 2 tomatoes
- 1 stick of celery
- Olive oil
- Glass of white wine
- 500ml of good beef/chicken stock
- Bouquet garni (Parsley stalk, bay leaf, and thyme tied together)
- 1 rind of a lemon, finely chopped
- Bunch of Basil
Pre-heat your oven to 160 degrees Celsius.
Heat some oil in a large heavy weight dish, big enough so you can fit all the veal shank flat in one layer. Next dust the shanks in seasoned flour, notice the way from the photo how they’re cut (I spent ages on the phone to the butcher, trying to describe ‘Flowers of meat’). Next brown off the shanks until you get a nice caramelisation-type crust.
. Remove the meat, and add the roughly chopped carrots, onions, and celery.
Cook them until soft and add the chopped tomatoes (remember this is a peasant dish, so a rough chop is fine). Next add the bouquet garni and then the white wine. Reduce the liquid until nearly dry, then add the meat back in on top of the veg. Add the stock in to nearly cover the meat.
Cover and put the dish into the oven for 2 and a half to 3 hours, or until the meat falls off the bone.
Next finely chop the basil and lemon rind together to make a gremolata. Serve the shanks on a bed of the vegetable stew, with the gremolata dressed over the bone marrow. Delicious
served with flat beans with pancetta
Nature’s annual events are great. They signal the passage of time. The change of the seasons. The movement from one month into the next. This is especially signified by events such as the mackerel shoaling on our shores, the growth of wild garlic, and my favourite, the bloom of the elderflower. This cream cloud can been seen dotted amongst the hedgerows and forests all around both the country and the city. It’s flowers are quite similar to the hawthorn, but you should be able to tell from the scent. It’s sweet and citrus, with (and please don’t let this put you off) an underlying odour of cat pee. Thankfully the latter doesn’t remain when you cook it. And the great thing about it is it’s free. But get them while you can, they’ll only be in bloom for another week or so and then they’re gone for another year
This is my favourite recipe to make with them, although you can use them to flavour pannacotta, deep fry whole, make sorbet, or produce a fantastic jelly.
18 elderflower heads
1 star anise head
500g of sugar
1500ml of water
A sprig of mint
Gently heat the water in a pan with the sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Add the elderflower heads and star anise, stir and bring to the boil. Whilst this is happening, zest and juice the lemons and lime. Keep the water boiling for 5 minutes then turn off the heat. Add the lemon/lime juice and zest and the mint. Leave to steep for 24 hours, then sieve and bottle. It’s delicious diluted with just water or for grown ups with equal measurement of white rum, over ice, and topped up with soda water in a slim jim for that perfect summer drink.
Great article in the Irish Times today by Lauren Murphy
. Really really happy and a fantastically written piece.
I want to go to this dinner party please! What a lovely table layout...I'm stealing some ideas for some Dalkey Food Company events that I will be styling soon...
Charcuterie and Cheese Heaven...
Such a sweet setting...
Confit of figs and balsamic vinegar...yum!
Tummies rumbling?! Ours are...Spotted at Rue Magazine
I was around at one of our suppliers last week picking up some samples and we gave me a little pressie of a jar of LA Organics EV Olive Oil. Aesthetically, it has a massive impact, the design is primarily by Phillippe Starck. Now of us two in The Dalkey Food Company, Ellie would be the more visually creative of us, however in a previous life I did study Industrial Design in NCAD and Phillippe Starck would be to design as Escoffier or Adrià would be to food. His iconic designs and architecture are novel and exciting. Just take a look at his ‘Juicy Salif’ piece he designed for Alessi. It looks like it should be in a HG Wells novel.
Now normally if some producer has a fantastically designed product, it is usually there to make up for the fact that the product itself is mediocre at best (see the Alfa Romeo 8C). But LA Organics oil was the exception to the rule, it’s punchy grassy flavours blew our collective heads off. Like proper, new season, olive oil should taste like. Almost akin to wheatgrass mixed with pepper.
Unfortunately all our oil is nearly gone as we ravenously devoured a loaf of our sourdough bread, drenched in this wonderful ambrosia.
Pick it up if you see it in your local good food shop, you will not be disappointed.
I love gluttony based days, loosely disguised as spiritual holidays (ah Christmas). And Shrove Tuesday, or pancake Tuesday as it's sometimes known as, is no exception. Inevitably your first, and last, efforts are something to be left to the chef, but otherwise they're delicious and a great social event for everyone to join in. Here are a few quick tips to help you on your way.
- Always use the exact measurements when making your batter. It should be about the consistency of puring cream. The thicker your batter, the thicker your pancakes will be and vice versa.
- Let your batter rest before you use it. preferably overnight covered in the fridge, but a few hours should do the trick.
- Use a non-stick pan with just a drop of oil. Your pancake will soak up any more oil than is needed and give a greasy texture.
- Make sure your pan is hot before you add your batter, and when you do, work fast to get it round the pan as quickly as possible. If you have the heat on full whack, it should only be able 30 seconds a side.
- Flip it only once. Unless you are seriously trying to impress someone or you want to redecorate your ceiling, your pancake needs to be only flipped once and will toughen up if you do any more.
Being in our mid 30s, Ellie and I know we are too old for pancake eating competitions, but that won't stop us. Some of the flavours we'll be enjoying will be,
- The Classic- Lemon and Castor sugar
- Nutella and Banana
- Orange butter with Cointreau
- Wild Mushroom with creme fraiche
Enjoy, and remember, lent is 6 long weeks so eat up!
Lovely mention about The Dalkey Food Company in today's Irish Independent by Aoife from I Can Has Cook, one of the trailblazers of the irish blogosphere. You should check out her site too, it's in our "Blogs we like" bar to the side
The days are getting longer, the weather warmer (relatively). So it's time to start working on some fancy infused drinks to be ready in a month's time. And I'm not just talking about throwing a few packets of skittles into a two liter. I'm talking fresh, delicious, tasty drinks that would be a great base for a cocktail. I found this page
with some really nice vodka-based ideas that would go down a storm at a BBQ.
Pineapple and Chilli
Now I do realise I may have jinxed us by talking about BBQs when it's only feburary, but what the hell...