Feel-Good-Drinking With Irish Made Cocktails

Posted on: 27 January 2012 No comments

Our nation is somewhat economically banjaxed at the moment and any body with half a brain knows that we cannot rely on members of the Dáil to help repair things. One particular group of individuals who go under the name of Hireland, are actively trying to find employers who can afford to bring on just one new staff member. No matter how you view this project, it’s a good thing. An initiative such as that should certainly be applauded and similar measures ought to be taken on elsewhere by anyone thinks they can help.  But there is very little that a seasoned degenerate such as my dear self could ever hope to offer his country. I can’t speak Irish. I hate 99.9% of all politicians. I don’t ever vote for any of our wannabe boil in the bag celebrities when they’re entered into talent contests and reality shows. And I don’t even drink tea.

Should there ever be a state sponsored academic master’s course in: Having The Absolute Craic and Not Giving A Bollix About Anything, then there’d be no better buachaill – I could teach that shit no bother. Having said all that, in all my years of becoming a Professor of Craicology, I have managed to learn a thing or two about the auld gargoyle.  I have even managed somehow to pick up some handy info on how to mix drinks with as much Irish in them as possible. In fact, in true neurotic form, I have become somewhat obsessed with my search for using Irish ingredients to imbibe with and I have already built up quite a catalog.

In even further neurotic form, I have convinced myself that I can show others how  positively delightful Irish made cocktails truly are and how easy they can be rolled out, either at home or within various sectors of the service industry. We are well into a food awakening here in Ireland. Our citizens no longer just want to eat to live, more and more of us are realizing that food can bring tremendous pleasure. Simultaneously, we are also realizing the health benefits of eating proper grub and not Findus Fucking Pancakes. And on a different end of the scale, Irish people are starting to feel more confident about the quality of what we can produce within the food and drink sector, which is in fact, one of the very few growth industries we actually have here.

Food exports are kicking ass and more locals are starting to think locally when it comes to what they eat and drink with. Irish made craft beers are rocking in every bar they’re sold in. I reckon something similar can be done with cocktails and that’s why I set up the facebook page: Irish Made Cocktails. It will serve as a general board of communication and info for cocktails that are made with Irish spirits & liqueurs or produce.  I also hope to use it as a platform to dispel certain myths about cocktails, such as: they do not need to cost that much, they do not need little umbrellas on them, they do not require “flairing “, ie poseur wankbag bartenders who spend more time showing off than putting money in the till, etc, etc….

So basically, since last summer I’ve mixed a shitload of Irish juices, fruits, vegetables and herbs with a shitload of different types of drinks. I’ve also spent a lot of time messing around with homegrown spirits like Jameson, Cork Dry Gin and Bunratty Mead.  If I can get the right support, I reckon I can write up a seasonal menu and programme of a good sized list of Irish made cocktails.  I see no reason on Earth, why every Irish restaurant, bar, club, venue, theatre, festival and hotel should not be able to mix at least 3 Irish made cocktails.  I see no reason on Earth, why we shouldn’t be known internationally as a nation who can create and embrace their own cocktail culture – fuck knows we’ve embraced every other bit of gargoyle.

Irish made cocktails can take on all shapes, sizes and flavours.  My bar manager in The Sugar Club came up with this exceptionally simple but perfectly pimped out Cork Dry Gin & Tonic by adding a sugar syrup that was made with locally  grown thyme + lemongrass.

CDG.1

These badboys here are jellyshots. They were made with Jameson Whiskey, Crabapples from Kildare and Lavender from Wicklow.

Jelly.1

You can lash out a very simple dessert cocktail such as The Irish Mocha Martini – a modern take on the Irish Coffee.  Or you can go slightly mad and use a hand smoking device and smoke some whiskey. This is what I did with one the other day, click here.  This was Jameson whiskey that I infused back in November with wild hawthorn berries and jelly, I realize that’s not something that a lot of people are gonna do but it’s just to show yez how mad you can go if you want. Anyhoo, I smoked with it that smoker with some applewood chips and mixed 1 shot of it with 1 shot of freshly squeezed orange juice, 1 shot of Wexford Honey syrup and a few dashes of orange bitters to create this hunk of Paddy Love here:

SMOKED JAMESON & WILD HAWTHORN

Smoked.Jameson

It ticks all the right flavour boxes – sweet, sour, heat from the spirit and then an extra vibe that comes from the applewood smoke. We’ll be lashing them out at The Sugar Club this weekend at €7.50 a pop.

When you drink Bailey’s, you’re supporting Irish dairy farmers. When you drink Jameson, you’re supporting Irish grain farmers.  When you drink a mojito made with mint grown in Ireland, you’re supporting a local herb grower.  The more we support local trade, the better off our economy can become. Extending our spending power to include Irish made cocktails is something that could benefit a lot of people.  Best of all, knowing all of this while consuming an Irish made cocktail will give you a smug feel-good-glow. What’s not to like about that?

If anyone would like to contribute any ideas, recipes or photos to Irish Made Cocktails – you can like the page and leave something there or hit me up with an email to oisin@thesugarclub.com

Desmond O’Connor’s Mushroom & Artichoke Strudel

Posted on: 19 January 2012 No comments

If it’s got anything at all to do with Burlesque or Cabaret, there is a strong possibility that The Lord KXB is going to want to check it out. His mates and family call him Karl, but to everybody else in Ireland, he is the Grand Puba, the Mac Daddy and Maharishi of Irish Burlesque. As producer of The Burlesque & Cabaret Social Club, Karl has consistently put together a huge amount of wicked shows that celebrate all that is best in the art forms that come under that umbrella.

I have had the distinct pleasure of working with the man himself  down on Leeson Street for the last couple of years and this weekend we celebrate a new departure – The Burlesque & Cabaret Social Club is moving it’s monthly residency from Fridays to Saturdays! This will allow more time for performers to gather up their costumes and gizmos and more time for the punters to max out their glam. This may not sound like much, but any regular will tell you that this will be of tremendous help! One does not attend in one’s hipster flannel shirt and Topman jeans….

To help launch the new residency Karl has enlisted the help of a heavy hitter from London town to host the first show of 2012 this Saturday night. His name is Desmond O’Connor and he’s a dark and twisted ukulele playing funny man, par excellence.  And while he may be no stranger to our shores, I thought it would be nice to for you all to get know him a little better by way of one of my special wee slightly fucked up interviews. We discussed all that was truly important in life – food & frolics.  It turns out that auld Dessie is quite the gourmand and a vegetarian one at that. His recipe is a beautiful culmination of wild mushrooms and artichokes bound together with home made strudel. Nice!

Des.1

- What have you been up to for the last 6 months and what have you got planned for the next 6?

The last six months have been crazy. Working with Scott Mills and the Radio One crew up in Edinburgh, as well as producing six other shows and appearing in the three of them. They say the Irish are an industrious nation, so I guess I have my ancestors to thank for the fact I’m a workaholic; I can probably thank them for a few other bad habits as well. The next six months are relaxing by comparison; I open a new musical, Toxic Bankers, at the start of March then I start work on Radio Four: The Musical, and amidst all of that is my biggest production of 2012…I’m going to be a dad!

-  Who in your professional opinion, has done the best tassel based performance you have ever seen?

The competition is, ahem, stiff, but there are a few favourites who never fail to titillate with their twirling talents. Fancy Chance spins a mean tassel and Belfast’s Leyla Rose is a force to be reckoned with, but my all time favourite has to the buxom and beautiful Cherry Shakewell…the name says it all!

-  Should Boylesque be an Olympic sport?

I thought it was already…a fine collection of shining rings, all shapes and sizes, that unite the world in love.

-  What’s your favourite cocktail?

The temptation to lapse into innuendo is almost irresistible, but I shall be honest and say that an espresso Martini gets my vote every time; caffeine and booze in equal,  over-zealous measures. What’s not to love?

-  Your earliest food memory is….

Being rushed into hospital because my stomach stopped working when I was a little tot. I gave the girl from the exorcist a run for her money with my projectile vomiting. I also remember being taken to a slaughter-house as a child by my well-meaning father. I’d bullied him into doing it because I was quite a morbid little soul. It ended up prompting my life-long commitment to being a vegetarian. My mother was delighted.

- What’s your all time favourite hangover meal?

I find that the only thing that ever really cures a hangover is more booze, so I always aim to maintain a stable level of insobriety. I am, though, something of a gastronome as well (which I used to think referred to a midget Jamie Oliver lookalike) so I’ve provided a recipe that combines fine, vegetarian dining with the copious consumption of my famously favourite tipple.

- Are you doing any whacky food diets now that we’re into the guilty  post Christmas purge? Have you done any before?

It’s a little known fact that I was nearly twice the size I am today whilst a drunken lazy student, but I found the Fatkins diet, combined with a strenuous ‘nightclubbing’ regime that often lasted from Friday night until Monday morning worked wonders for burning off the extra pounds (and euros).

- What’s the one food or dish that would make you instantly puke?

I’m a genuine and adventurous lover of food and I hate waste more than anything else so I think you’d be hard pushed to come up with anything that had an instantly emetic effect on my cast iron constitution.
- When you’re not on the road what do you like to cook at home?

This is where I share the deep, dark secret that I love to cook steak for my beautiful, pregnant girlfriend, Zoie. As an ethical vegetarian with a secret meat fetish, I was thrilled when the doctor said that her blood count was a little low and that she could do with getting some meat inside her; needless to say, I rushed her home and immediately set to work on following the doctor’s orders.

Des.2

DESMOND O’CONNOR’S WILD MUSHROOM & ARTICHOKE STRUDEL WITH CHEAP WHITE WINE SAUCE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 425g/11oz unsalted butter
  • 500g/1lb 2oz wild mushrooms, such as ceps or girolles, sliced thickly. psilocybe semilanceata may be used at the chef’s own risk
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, picked from their stems
  • 250g/9oz artichoke hearts in olive oil, quartered
  • 1 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 large sheets filo pastry

Cheap Shite White Wine Sauce

  • 25g (1oz) butter
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 1tbsp fresh thyme
  • 300ml (10fl oz) white wine*
  • 250ml (9fl oz) fresh double cream
  • 1tbsp Dijon mustard
  • Squeeze of lemon juice

*For a wine to achieve the Cheap Shite White Wine seal of approval it must cost less than five euros and have alcohol by volume of 13% or more.

METHOD:

·         Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Grease a baking tray with melted butter.

·         Open the wine and don’t, whatever you do, let it breath.

·         Heat the oil in a heavy-based frying pan and gently fry the onion for five minutes, or until softened. Remove the onion and place into a large bowl.

·         Melt 150g/5oz of the butter in the frying pan until foaming. Then add the mushrooms, garlic and thyme leaves and cook for five minutes, or until the mushrooms have softened.

·         Take a hefty glug from the wine to ensure that the quality is sufficiently low and the alcohol sufficiently high for it to achieve the desired effect.

·         Remove from the heat and add the mushrooms to the onion. Add the artichoke hearts and pine nuts to the bowl, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix until well combined. Allow to cool and then drain the mixture through a sieve.

·         To assemble the strudel, melt the remaining butter and place into a small bowl. Lay out two sheets of filo pastry, overlapping at the thin end, to cover the greased baking tray. Brush the pastry with some of the melted butter.

·         Cover the pastry with a further two layers and brush with melted butter.

·         Add a final layer of pastry, but only brush the edges of the pastry with melted butter. Place the mushroom mixture onto the unbuttered pastry and roll up to form a parcel, tucking the sides in.

·         Brush well with more melted butter and bake for 25 minutes, or until crisp and golden-brown.

·         Ensure that there is not too much wine in the wine by imbibing at least another glass and a half before getting to work on the sauce.

·         Melt the butter in a pan and gently fry the shallots and thyme for a few mins or until the onion is soft but not coloured.

·         Add the wine, bring to the boil and boil rapidly for 10 mins or until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the cream and mustard and warm through thoroughly.

·         Add a squeeze of lemon juice and some black pepper. Strain into a jug and serve.

·         Pour over the strudel, down your throat and, since you’re probably pissed by now, all over the table and the laps of your friends and family.

Come check out Desmond O’Connor and a geansaí load of other lushes and rides down at The Sugar Club from 8pm – this Saturday.

The Reggie Watts Cheese Toastie

Posted on: 13 January 2012 No comments

Taking in a Reggie Watts show, is a live experience, like no other. To begin with, there’s his beatboxing, of which he is an undeniable master of. Then there are the singing skills, where his diverse musical backgrounds allow him to flip from one style to the next with a magical ease. And of course, you also have to remember that he’s a wild and brilliant comic with a completely unique, stream of consciousness improv style. No two shows are ever the same. No show is ever without its many, many surprises.

This one of a kind approach to live entertainment has earned him legions of fans the world over. Conan O’Brien is one and he had this to say of him, “he may be the only person in the business with hair more shocking than mine.” Not only has he been a regular guest on his TV show but Reggie has also performed on every gig of the recent live comedy tour Conan staged around the US. Since then, there has been a dizzying array of work for him that’s taken in Comedy Central programmes, tours in Canada and Europe and a new 10 part show on The Independent Film Channel.

So what does the tee totalling workaholic musical comedian do in the few bits of downtime he allows himself? Well to start off with, he loves to indulge in some of the food that his mother French mother made for him as a child like pates, terrines and gruyere packed onion soup. But his own killer dish, is the humble cheese toastie. As you would expect from Mr. Watts, this is not your average run of the mill pub sarnie. Like everything else he does, he takes it to a whole new level.

THE REGGIE WATTS CHEESE TOASTIE

Reggie.w

INGREDIENTS, MAKES 2:

4 Slices of multi grain brown bread

4 sandwich sized slices of mature cheddar cheese

1 chicken fillet

3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

5 – 6 fresh tarragon leaves

1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon of finely chopped chives

White pepper and sea salt to season

METHOD:

Mix 2 tablespoons of the olive oil with the lemon juice and a little salt and pepper in a cup. Tear the tarragon leaves roughly and combine them with the oil. Smear this all over the chicken and allow it to marinade for at least an hour.

Cook the chicken on a dry griddle pan, until there is a nice char on it and the centre is done. Let it rest for 15 minutes so that the juices go back into the meat.

Heat a flat frying pan with the remaining olive oil at a medium level. Place the inside of each slice of bread, with a slice of cheese and sprinkle on a little of the chive and some seasoning. Then cut the chicken as thinly as you can and place it on top of the cheese. Make your sandwiches and slide them onto the pan. Cook each side until it’s golden brown.

I would greatly advise you to check out Reggie Watts on Saturday January 21st in Whelan’s. It should be an outstanding gig.

This piece is also available in today’s issue of The Ticket in The Irish Times.

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