Wild, Slow & Very Fucking Tasty

Posted on: 25 November 2011 No comments

Usually when I go to a bed at a festival, my last few moments spent before slumber, involve looking for any one of the following: my whiskey, my mates or my penis. A few hours later I will awake in the back of a van, whereupon, I will instantly go off and try to find my whiskey, my mates or my penis. The pattern emerged quite some time ago and has altered very little since. Imagine my joy, when I attended a festival last weekend and managed somehow not to cause enough brain damage, to lead me to the aforementioned loss of all faculties and sanity. Not only did I hit the hay while it was still dark out,  I didn’t even get blotto drunk.

Of course, my good behaviour was down to the fact that I wasn’t attending your usual mad fuckpit in a field. I was down in Brook Lodge for The Wild & Slow Festival – a fantastic weekender that celebrated wild Irish foods at their very best. There was a 2 day market where stallholders were flogging anything wild that could have been picked, hunted, fished or foraged. I came home with bags of Wild Damson Cordial, Sloe-berry Jam,  Seaweed, Dried Elderflower, Hazelnuts. I snacked on roasted wild chestnuts, barbecued venison baps and wild mushroom soup. Regrettably, I did not have enough stomach space to suck on the rabbit legs that were going round. They were coated in oats and Parmesan breadcrumbs, then deep fried – a steal at only €1.50 a pop.

There were a shitload of very well attended workshops taking place that were all about teaching everyone where to go looking for wild foods and what to do with them.  When you’ve got the likes of Ed Hick, Derry Clarke & Darina Allen rolling all that out, you know you’re in good hands.

But the highlight for me was the outstanding meal we enjoyed on Saturday night.  A five course deluxe where there were a minimum of 2 wild Irish ingredients on each plate.  It was prepared, cooked and served perfectly and washed down with a geansaí load of vino.  Brook Lodge’s Headchef Tim Daly and his crew were behind it all. Please observe:

A Potted Wild Rabbit, Wild Rose Hip, Wild Elderberry Jelly, Brioche
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Our own Macreddin Smoked Wild Salmon, Wild Dillisk Foam
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Wild Damson, Pink Peppercorn, Yoghurt Sorbet
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A Wild Leaf Salad, Wild Woodcock, Pomegranate Dressing
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Slow Cooked Wild Venison, Puff Pastry, Wild Garlic Mash,
Balsamic Jus
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The Macreddin Wild Desert Plate with Wild Elderberry Orange Pudding,
Wild Blackberry Panna Cotta, Chocolate Marquis, Wild Hazelnut Tuile

We need to be looking more at wild food in Ireland, for both in and out of restaurants. It’s local. It’s fresh. It’s seasonal. And it’s free. I don’t buy the counter argument of “but it takes time to get all those things.” Well we are time rich here at the moment. There are thousands of people in the country dying to work. Show them how they can bring all these foods to the table and maybe they too can sell them. Or even just eat them and save themselves a few quid?  And if NOMA can be voted as the best restaurant in the world with a massive abundance of super fresh wild foods on their menu, surely we need to start examining whether we can blend some of that same magic here?

Massive show of respect for everybody who put The Wild & Slow Festival together. Massive show of respect for those who continuously use and serve these wild ingredients like Enda McEvoy over in Aniar Restaurant and Evan Doyle in Brook Lodge.

For any of the 150 odd who enjoyed the meal with me on Saturday, you may recall that there was a pasty looking lad pushing pre-dinner cocktails on everyone like a crackwhore at a schoolyard. That was me. The cocktail in question was The Elderberry Gin Fizz and they were made especially nice by the wild violet flower garnish that went onto all of them.  Mary (I did not get her surname unfortunately) the foraging manager of Brook Lodge made that possible by spending absolutely ages picking through all the stems and leaves to delicately separate all the flowers. An exceptionally nice thing to do for me and indicates the level of passion that is so wonderfully predominant there.

THE ELDERBERRY GIN FIZZ

Elderberry.Gin.

Here’s how we managed to serve 150 of them in 45 minutes.

INGREDIENTS:

A week prior to the festival, the Brook Lodge crew placed 2 tablespoons of dried elderberries into 9 bottles of Cork Dry Gin.  They then placed a teaspoon of whole cloves for every 70 cl of Elderberry cordial they made. So when I got down there on the Saturday, I strained the gin to remove the berries and strained the cordial to remove the cloves.

I then set about mixing the cocktails shaker by shaker by placing in a scoop of ice, 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice and equal amounts of gin to cordial. Once I shaked, I batched everything into a catering bucket. This took a while but it was worth it, as the flavours had a chance to mingle.

Right before serving, with the lid on, I gave the bucket a great big shake again and started pouring out  the mix into jugs. As each guest approached us, we’d fill a Slim Jim with ice, lash out the gin mix to 3/4 of the glass, top it up with sparkling water and then garnish with the wild flowers.

The equal ratio of house made berry flavoured spirit to berry cordial is something that I’ve found ridiculously easy to roll out and equally pleasing to the punter. All it needs is decent booze, produce and a little sour to cut through it. I would love to see other bars do the same, especially with Irish brands and fruit.  Don’t be shy if you reckon you could be interested, I’d love to share more details.

Stuffed Poblanos With Cherry Tomato & Ancho Salsa

Posted on: 18 November 2011 No comments

INCOMING REALITY ALERT! THOSE OF YOU WHO CAN’T BE ARSED DEALING WITH MORE DEPRESSING FACTS RIGHT ABOUT NOW, PLEASE GO BACK TO WHATEVER YOU WERE DOING THREE SECONDS AGO:

There are certain things that I have been reading about lately, which for me, have gone beyond being plain theories and have become undeniable truths.  In no particular order, they would be:

- X Factor and all of it’s clones are killing music. Not because the songs they all sing are shit, which they mostly are, but because they are now making every fuckdonkey idiot believe that they are destined to be overnight, boil in the bag, instant megastars.

- There is no way in hell that a highly industrialized global population of 7 billion people cannot be fucking up the climate.  Those who just say it’s Mother Nature in her flowers are only spoofing themselves at this point.

- If we keep on eating the amount of meat that we are currently getting through, we will completely fuck up ourselves and the planet we live on.  Not only are all the burgers and wings turning us into lardasses but cow’s farts are damaging the ozone layer faster than all of the world’s cars. We are using more and more woodland and forest areas to raise more and more  cattle in and to grow the grain to feed them all.

It’s bad enough that we have now ensured that our grandchildren will be burdened with massive national debts, we shouldn’t leave them with even more problems.  We have to start eating less meat, end of story. The question is, how do we go about doing it and what are the alternatives?

We reckoned we could kick off a little dialogue about this topic at our next For Food’s Sake event on Thursday Nov. 24th in The Sugar Club.  That’s why we have given the night the title of: MEAT….are we eating too much? Hit the invite here for full details of who we’ve got on the panel. We will also have some wicked free food to hand out and sell courtesy of some great local food producers. And in the spirit of the evening’s theme, a vegetarian cook off between the twins Dave and Steve Flynn from The Happy Pear Market and Restaurant & Market in Greystones. Nothing like a bit pf sibling rivalry for added drama and tension.

Bearing all this veggieness in mind, I thought I’d concoct a meat free recipe this week.  Bit of a Cali-Mex vibe. The feta chills it all down.

POBLANOS STUFFED WITH RICE AND CHERRY & ANCHO SALSA

Pob.1

INGREDIENTS:

1 teacup of cooked jasmine rice

2 poblano peppers (these are Mexican peppers, like bell peppers)

20 cherry tomatoes

1 dried ancho chilli (a Mexican chilli that has a different type of flavour, but similar in heat to normal chili)

half a red onion

3 cloves of roasted garlic (put a little oil, on a whole bulb and stick it in the oven for half an hour or so while you’re making something else)

a fistful of coriander

Vegetable stock cube

1 teaspoon of sugar

the juice of half a lime

200 g of feta cheese

1 small tub of sour cream

50ml of sparkling water

METHOD:

- Soak the ancho chilli in some water for half an hour. Boil up your stock cube in about 750 ml of water. Reduce to a simmer and place the poblanos in there to poach for about 5 minutes and set them aside. This softens them up a bit. Don’t throw out the stock.

- Peel the onion half and poach that in the stock for a couple of minutes, this takes away some of that mad sharpness. Remove, let it cool and then dice finely and don’t throw out the stock.

- Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and remove all the seeds.  Then stick half the tomatoes in a liquidizer with the garlic, ancho, coriander, sugar, 3 tablespoons of the stock and lime juice. The reason why I put the stock in,  is because I need it be very wet to coat the rice and also gives a little saltiness.

- Mix the remaining cherry tomatoes in with the liquidized ingredients. Split the poblano peppers in half lengthways, discard the seeds. Mix the rice with the salsa and place that onto the peppers.

Pob.2

- Whisk the feta, sour cream and sparkling water. You will have a shitload of it, way more than you need for this recipe but you can use it for other thangs like on salads or on top of grilled chicken.

- Drizzle the feta mix all over the filling on the poblanos and stick them under the grill for a few minutes til the feta goes a golden colour.  Serve with a jug of margarita if you can.

Pob.3

Debriefing and Cocktails at Brook Lodge

Posted on: 15 November 2011 No comments

A midweek quickie folks. Just a wee note to let yez all know that  I will be down at The Wild & Slow Festival at Brook Lodge and Macreddin village this weekend. Incorporating everything from independent traders selling their wild cuisine  to classes on how to harvest and preserve mushrooms, berries and fish, it really looks like the perfect opportunity to gorge yourself on great treats and learn how to make them for yourself.

There will be:

- A large market in the village where people from all over the shop have been stockpiling all things wild to be sold as jams, preserves, cordials, smoked fish and meats, dried herbs, berries, the list goes on…

- A furred game tasting workshop conducted by Derry Clarke of l’Ecrivain.

- A jam and preserve workshop given by Darina Allen of Ballymaloe Cookery School.

- A venison smoking and curing workshop rolled out by Ed Hick.

Check this link out here for a full list of events. It covers loads of other areas like fish and wild herbs. I have been asked to go down meself and do a quick demo on how you can mix wild Irish ingredients into cocktails. There’s a big wild banquet taking place on the Saturday and right before we are served,  I will be dishing out about 120 Elderberry Gin Fizzes as freebies to everyone. I have been serving these in The Sugar Club of late and they’ve rocked til they could rock no more, in other words I aint got any left. More next autumn! Thankfully Evan Doyle from Brooklodge has the largest wild food stash in the country and can hook me up.

The plan is that while these are sipped and everyone kicks back, I will share a few pointers I’ve picked up recently on how to make Wild Blackberry Daiquiris,  Crab-apple and Ginger Whiskey Highballs and if I have time, Rhubarb and Elderflower Bellinis.

Wild.Cocktail.bellini

I really feel that embracing wild foods should be essential for anybody who has any kind of interest in the culinary arts, especially if they’re professionals. We have a massive abundance of wild produce that we can bring to what we eat and drink in Ireland. This will be the perfect weekend to learn more all about it. There are still places available if you want to join us. And besides, I always like to have as big a crew as possible to roll with.

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