Get Yer Berry Buzz On! NOW!!!

Posted on: 20 September 2011 1 comment

This is just a wee mid week update to let yez know all about a wild berry expedition I went on the other day.  Late afternoon Monday to be precise, a couple of miles from Bray – Ed Hick led the way.

You know when you go to a Chinese or Indian takeaway and they serve your grub in those clear plastic boxes? Well you can buy them in euro-shops and I used them to store all the berries we went on the hunt for. 90 minutes of labour later and I filled 15 of those boxes – with a nice range of totally wild and totally FREE berries.

B1

This was my entire haul, I tried to make it look like one of those Garda drugs confiscation things you see on Crimeline. “The patrol car caught up with the youths on the Naas Dual Carriageway and confiscated over €200, 000 of illegal substances.” Except all that’s laid out is a kilo of hash, a bag of yokes and a load of glucose to cut their shit coke with.

B2

First up is the elderberries. This is 5 takeaway boxes worth. You just pick them by the sprig, one clump at a time. There is fucking shitloads everywhere folks, like ALL OVER the shop. They taste kinda like a blackcurrant at first but then you get that distinct taste that comes with elderflower – hardly surprising considering they are the same plant. I’ll be making a syrup out of most of these to throw into  Elderberry Royales and other alcoholic delights.  They’ll also be going into a pear tart.

b3

Blackberries – again, everywhere. Surprisingly only half seemed to be ripe and ready to rock, which is cool I suppose, coz I intend to go back for more.  They’re going into a bottle of clear rum.

B4

Rosehips – these fuckers left me with a couple of cuts. Plenty of sharp thorns on their branches. Bring garden gloves if you wanna give this picking malarkey a go. I wanted to include these in a multiple berry jam that Ed made last year and said was amazing. But my dearly beloved plans to use them for medicinal purposes. Apparently they have some great healing properties, I wouldn’t know anything about that kinda shite. But herself does.

B5

Hawthorn berries – all over the hedges that surround fields.  They need to be cooked down and mixed with sugar. My initial taste is telling me they could go well muddled with gin. But I could well be mistaken. Maybe a blended whiskey.

B7

Rowan berries – you don’t even have to go to Wicklow to get these bad boys. They’re all over the canal and most parks. There are even two trees growing right outside the Crumlin Fire Brigade.  We picked these right off the main road. They will be headed for the jam pots.

b8

Sloe berries – these were the most difficult to find and to pick. But fuck me it’s totally worth it. Sloe gin is one of the nicest drinks I’ve ever tasted, even just neat on it’s own. I have no idea why it is not more readily available or commercialized.

So anyhoop, these berries can be found all over the country.  It’s great craic picking them. It’s a nice vibe if you can get a gang out with you. And they cost fuck all.

This was my first time picking all these and once I knew what I was doing and looking for – it became so easy. Think back to the first time you went picking mushies and you turn round to your mates going, “I don’t see any? Just fucking grass lads!!??” Until you had that eureka moment and you find your first one and realize that they are in fact everywhere. That’s what it was like for me with the berries.

There are no secret locations either. Many of these trees were planted to keep cattle from wandering out of their fields and have been there for yonks. And that’s why as soon as you hit the countryside, you just can’t stop seeing berries. Of course, to a pleasure seeking hedonist like my dear self – it does mean that picking hysteria can kick in quite easily and all of a sudden you feel like an out of place crack whore on the hunt for a fix. So give yourself a time frame to operate in, we said we’d have to be back for dinner. 90 minutes was grand in the end, but I could have definitely done more.



Bambi On A Stick

Posted on: 16 September 2011 3 comments

When it comes to cooking,  there are two universal nuggets of advice that you can give to anyone, for pretty much any situation.

1. WHENEVER YOU CAN, SHOVE A LEMON UP IT’S GICKHOLE.

2. IF IN DOUBT, WRAP IT IN BACON.

This week’s recipe doesn’t involve the auld citrus and sheriff’s badge maneuver, but it’s all about the bacon smothering. Why does covering something always work so well? Because it adds – smokiness, additional flavour and saltiness. It also locks in moisture and other flavours and of course, looks cool. As can be seen from these badboy prawns made last year.

Prawns.3

Veg can be pimped out with a little bit of bacon wrap buzz – ie, shallots, asparagus, corn. The sweetness of fruit is joyously balanced with bacon – nectarines, apricots, dates, etc. And all poultry and most fish can benefit greatly from some sizzling bacon action.

Of course there have been a billion and one burgers that have been slobbered in a rasher or two. Red meat and bacon go down easier than a Baggot st brasser. But when I saw a photo that Ed Hick put up the other day, I have only had venison on my mind ever since.

Venison.Carcass

A noble ending for Bambi

Game time folks! Get thine manky little paws on some deer meat. Dark, rich, intensely tasty bambi flesh.  Venison can really be enhanced with a little sweetness. My recipe here has a date syrup dressing that I used before on halloumi but it’s a wicked marinade for the venison.

MARINATED VENISON BITES WRAPPED IN BACON

Venison.Bacon

INGREDIENTS:

4 tablespoons of date syrup

2 ablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar

1 loin of  Wild Irish Venison – most butchers will have them soon, if they don’t already

12 smoked slices of thin bacon

METHOD:

Whisk the date syrup, olive oil and vinegar together with a pinch or two of salt. This will work as a marinade and dressing.

Cut the venison into bite size chunks. Place them in a bowl and drop about 3/4 of the marinade in. Spread it all round the meat, then cover it and stick it in a fridge overnight.

Heat your oven/barbecue/griddle pan up to a medium heat.

Take out the venison and start wrapping them in the bacon. Hold each one together with a cocktail stick.

Cook them on out on whatever aparatus you’re using.  When they’re crispy and charred, they’re good to go, but you can check the venison with one first before you serve.  Venison is at it’s best when it’s rare in the centre.

Right before you serve, drizzle whatever is left of the marinade on top of them.

Lorraine Dowling’s Damson Gin

Posted on: 9 September 2011 No comments

Holy fuckballs. The Picnic this year was outSTANDing!  There is a dirty, deep black hole in Stradbally right now – that would be the massive arse that I tore out of it.  Great craic/crack altogether.

Musical highlights for me were:

The Chemical Bros – proper festival gargantuan tunes. Too many acts are put on the main stage and think they can pull it off. Wrong! Epic stages need epic acts.

Dave Clarke – never get bored with him, even after seeing him a hundred times.

Paul Kalkbrenner – who woulda thunk that the same country that gave us Hitler could produce someone so deadly?

Edible Highlights for me were:

Rathmullan House crab linguini – has anyone ever eaten better pasta at a festival? So good.

That Portuguese lad who was doing the pig on the spit. His roasted pork and apple sauce was amazing. There was another outlet from England that were doing the same, they were nowhere near as good. They were spit roasting theirs in closed ovens with smaller cuts of meat. The Portuguese lad had the whole pig on a charcoal barbie and it was really well seasoned – swine heaven.

The wild Irish mushrooms that the lads from Harry’s of Inishowen cooked up in the Theatre of Food. Not only did they show everyone how and where to pick them but they cooked them too. Butter fried local girolles – delish!

Theatre.1

Of course it was the Theatre of Food where I was stationed on Saturday for my Booking The Cooks event. It was everything that I had hoped it would be – complete and utter food related lunacy.

To begin with, the two contestants in The Burger Cook Off – Michelle Doherty from Phantom FM and the comedian Danny Dowling were both given an opportunity to share some of their innermost secrets by playing a wee game I came up with called: TRUTH or FOOD DARE. Each of the contestants were given suitably awkward questions like, “have you ever NOT made it to the bathroom on time and had an accident?” If they didn’t want to answer the question they had to eat something from my surprise food box.  It contained things like stinking durian fruit, dried krill and crispy tinned clams.  Pretty fucking rotten – but neither Michelle nor Danny or even the audience had any problems eating them.  At one point I offered about 8 cocktails to any punters who would eat the clams. They were gone in seconds.

Me auld pal Clint Velour was on hand to play the piano and sing some food related songs. He was brilliant and had to accompany Danny Dowling as he sang along to “Food Glorious Food“, this was Danny’s booby prize for losing to Michelle in the burger cook off. Thankfully for Danny, his career in comedy is going swimmingly and he has no need to branch out to singing.  We just had enough time to blindfold 3 punters and do a blind taste test and belt out a great version of “Batterburger“.

I would like to thank Clint, Michelle and Danny for their input with the gig, it was so much craic. I would also like to thank the very, very good people in VSC Events who staged the whole Theatre of Food and for having me involved. I do hope that I didn’t lower the tone too much and nobody was overly offended. At least not to the extent that they’re gonna sue me.

Anyhoop, after the gig we went backstage to sink a shitload of gargoyle.  This was by far my favourite time of the whole weekend and was the best backstage craic I’ve ever that didn’t involve any crystal meth and conjoined albino midgets. To rock things on, the lads from Dungarvan Brewing Company were distributing free samples of their wicked beers. Then Ed Hick came out with a bottle of some seriously strong fraughan based alco concoction. We then moved on to the elderflower champagne and Damson Gin that Danny’s wife Lorraine made. Two hours of drinking guaranteed Irish beers, spirits and bubbly – the perfect way to kick off my first night of Picnic madness!

Damsons are a type of plum that the Romans brought with them from Damascus. They grow wildly all over Ireland + UK and if you lash them in a big jar with some gin and sugar, you are left with a superbly tasty drink.  They are in season right now, so go out and pick some! I can safely say that Lorraine’s Damson Gin is ze bollocks of ze dog. She was very kind enough to have shared her recipe with me. It needs time and a little bit of effort, but it so worth it.

Damson.1

LORRAINE DOWLING’S DAMSON GIN

INGREDIENTS:

Makes 700ml (1¼ pints)
Damsons – 450g (1 lb), stalks removed (you can also use Bullace plums)
Sugar – 60g (2 oz)
Gin – 70cl (1¼ pints) or Vodka

1 gallon Demijohn (sealable big glass jar) is ideal for 2.8l  (5 pints, 4 bottles) Bottles for final bottling. The original gin bottles are ideal.
Nylon coffee filter or muslin cloth.

METHOD:
Wash the damsons in cold water & freeze for 48hrs. Freezing serves two purposes. It causes the skins of the fruit to split removing the need to prick the fruit & it makes it far simpler to put the fruit into a demijohn. Add damsons, gin & sugar to a sealable bottle.

Shake bottle daily for the first two weeks, and then every week for the remaining period.
Keep for a minimum of 3 months. This should produce a deeply coloured rich & fruity liquor. For a richer slightly sharper taste leave for 4 months. The extra month will allow the flavour of the damson stones to further influence the final result. After 3 or 4 months, strain the liquor through the coffee filter or muslin cloth to remove any damson residue. Re-bottle and store in a cool dry place until required.
Don’t discard the used fruit! Served with cream or ice-cream it makes an luxurious desert perfectly suited to those who enjoy the drink. A word of caution, the used fruit is equal in strength to the damson gin!

I always tend to go a bit lighter on the sugar with the damsons as they are not as bitter as the sloes. A vanilla pod can be added as well
You can always add sugar syrup later. I’ve made it too syrupy in the past and it’s a pain to fix it.

I think once you get a taste for Damson Liquer it’s impossible not to go seeking out those elusive little buggers every year.

I would make it with both vodka and gin. Either one is perfect with elderflowerflower cordial/champagne with loads of ice.

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