The Garden Slow Food Convivium in Dublin celebrated their tenth Anniversary with an Organic and Wild Food dinner at Brooke Lodge in Macreddin Village in Co Wicklow recently. It was a feast with beautiful, thoughtfully sourced ingredients simply cooked so that everyone at the big table – it seats 40 people – at the Strawberry Tree Restaurant were licking their lips.
Evan Doyle moved from Killarney in 1999 to open a hotel in the beautiful Wicklow hills. His ambition was to own the first organic restaurant and hotel in Ireland, no easy task when over eighty percent of organic produce sold in Ireland is still imported. He quickly set about creating links with local farmers and food producers to supply Brook Lodge with organic produce both fresh and wild. Meanwhile he experimented with smoking his own salmon and beef. In 1999 Evan discovered and bought a smoker from the lovely Innes Walker from Scotland who came over to give hands on lessons on how to get the best results from the smoker.
Both the Macreddin home smoked beef and salmon were part of the menu on Saturday night. The salmon was served with citrus poached pear and avocado jelly. The beef came with a grape tapenade and blue cheese.
Evan’s kitchen team are every bit as passionate about sourcing good produce as he is. Early in the day Evan, head chef Tim Daly, and sous chef James Kavanagh, went to pick wild garlic and lots of wild greens and leaves. One of Paul Crotty’s plump organic chickens was anointed with wild garlic, butter and roasted until the skin was crisp and golden. We almost fought over the last pieces. There were squabbles too over JJ Ahern’s duck from Born Free Farm near Carrigtwohill in Co Cork. That was not all we tasted by a long way.
Kerry Cattle are Ireland’s proud contribution to the World’s Heritage of rare breeds. Considered by many to be a dairy breed, I too, can vouch for the fact that they produce wonderful meat with rich yellow fat. Raymond Hilliard of Killarney – who has done such a valiant job to preserve the Kerry breed – introduced Evan to these beautiful black cattle years ago. Evan now works with several farmers to get a supply of this prized indigenous meat throughout the year. The succulent venison came from Michael Healy down the coast in Rathdrum. The piece de resistance was milk fed lamb. Slow Food member and pork butcher Ed Hicks sourced a week old pure bred Lleyn lamb. We had a small morsel each; the flavour was delicate and delicious. There was also some baked haddock served with wild sea spaghetti. Organic vegetables, roast beets and Swede turnips came from the local farms of Denis Healy, Alan Pierse and Mark Winterbotham In Kiltegan and Aughrim. But the most memorable flavours of an altogether memorable meal for the me was the salad of wild leaves picked that afternoon – penny worth, wild sorrel, tiny dandelion and primrose leaves, simply dressed with extra virgin olive oil from Evan’s olive groves in Basilicata in Southern Italy.
Where else in Ireland would you find such a beautiful salad, handpicked by the chefs themselves? Sadly it is much more usual for chefs nowadays to pick up the phone and ring a long order into a restaurant supplier whose lorries criss cross the country with food conveniently prepared and portioned. The salad leaves come flushed with gas and washed in a chlorine solution many times stronger than an average swimming pool.
The menu becomes more and more similar in restaurants around the country; chefs are losing their skills because with this kind of food they no longer need to be able to chop vegetables or fillet fish – it’s all done for them. Tartlets come baked, brandy snap baskets and gateau arrive ‘picture perfect’ but somehow they all taste the same. As one cynic remarked to me recently ‘If there was a strike there would scarcely be a bite of food in a restaurant in Ireland.’
Of course there are exceptions, chefs like Evan Doyle who go out of their way to source local or at least Irish food, they are to be applauded for refusing to take the easy option and offering their customers an altogether more interesting eating experience, supporting local farmers, fishermen and food producers who embody the Slow Food philosophy of good clean and fair. Tel: 0402 36444 www.brooklodge.com
1. Good: the food should taste delicious, be wholesome and nourishing and importantly be good for you.
2. Clean, the food should be prepared in a hygienic manner and should not damage the environment.
3. The farmer or food producer should be paid a fair price for his produce.
St Tola Goats Cheese Tartlets with Roast Beetroot and Balsamic Jelly
500g (18oz) St. Tola soft goats cheese.
50g (2oz) Glenish organic cream.
500g (18oz) fresh beetroot.
250g (9oz) Balsamic vinegar.
2/3 leaves gelatine
short crust pastry
4 x 10cm short crust pastry tartlets, baked blind
Mix the goat’s cheese and cream together in a mixing bowl. Season with a little salt and pepper. Seasoning will depend on how ripe your goat’s cheese is. Divide the mixture between the tartlets. Cover and leave to set in the fridge for about one hour. Meanwhile make the balsamic jelly, warm the rest of the vinegar up a little and 2/3 leaves of pre-soaked gelatine pour into a bowl. Leave to cool and set in the fridge.
Preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F, gas mark 4. Wash and the peel the beetroot. Cut into wedges, transfer to a roasting tin. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil, toss to coat evenly. Roast for 20 minutes approximately.
Add half of the Balsamic vinegar toss the beetroot and bake for a further 5 to 6 mins.
Put a tartlet on a plate, with some roast beetroot and a little balsamic jelly on top. Serve with a rocket salad.
Wild Garlic, Lemon Roasted Chicken
Serves 4 – 6
1 organic chicken 1 ½ kg approximately
250g (9oz) wild garlic butter
100g (3 12 oz) wild garlic
salt & pepper
Chop the wild garlic. Mix with the softened butter, add the juice of half a lemon. Take the organic chicken, legs facing away from you, and place your hand in between the skin and flesh of the bird. Work your hand through the bird gently, trying not to rip the skin. Put the butter and garlic into a piping bag and pipe the mix into the chicken under the skin. Slice the lemons and place some into the cavity of the chicken and the rest around the chicken. Season with salt and pepper.
Roast in a pre-heated oven around 180°C, 350°F, gas mark 4 for about an hour and a quarter to an hour and a half depending on the size of the chicken.
Yoghurt Marinated Wild Monkfish, Linguini, and Cherry Tomatoes
Serves 4 as a main course
640g monkfish (without bones and skin).
500ml yoghurt (natural).
10g fresh coriander leaves (roughly chopped).
20g fresh ginger (peeled, chopped or grated).
2 cloves of garlic (chopped).
3 lime’s zest and juice
sea salt (fine).
450g (1lb) fresh linguini pasta
8oz cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tablesp (approximately) sesame seed oil
Cut the monkfish into chunky pieces. Mix the yoghurt with the chopped coriander, ginger, chilli, garlic, and lime zest and lime juices. Put the pieces of monkfish into the yoghurt; make sure it is well covered. Leave in the marinate for at least 3 hours or maximum one day. Transfer the monkfish onto a tray. Sprinkle a little bit of sea salt over each piece and put them in the preheated oven 190°C, 375°F, gas mark 5 for around ten minutes. Cook the linguini in salted boiling water until ‘al dente’. Heat a pan, add some sesame oil and the halved cherry tomatoes, stir until the tomatoes begin to soften. Mash them with a wooden spoon. Cook the fresh linguini in lots of boiling salted water for 30 seconds to a minute drain well add to the tomato, season with salt and pepper and stir in piece of butter as well.
Serve the pasta on warm plates with the monkfish on top, drizzle sesame oil and a squeeze of lime juice over the pasta and enjoy!
Serves 6 – 8
150g (5oz) brown soda bread crumbs
110g (4oz) light brown sugar
25g (1oz) wholemeal flour
110g (4oz) butter
350g (12oz) coarse cut marmalade
3 free range organic eggs
1 teasp bicarbonate soda
1 teasp boiling water
1 x 900g (2lb) pudding bowl
Melt the butter with the marmalade in a saucepan over a gentle heat. Turn off the heat when melted. Mix the flour, breadcrumbs and sugar together and add to the marmalade and butter and mix together. Whisk eggs until fluffy and gently beat into the marmalade mixture.
Pour into a 2lb pudding bowl, cover tightly. Put into a saucepan of water and cover. Bring to the boil and simmer for 2 to 2 ½ hours. Turn the marmalade pudding out onto a hot plate and serve with softly whipped cream.
Fool Proof Food
Spaghetti with Wild Garlic and Herbs
Another delicious way to use all that lovely wild garlic that’s in season.
1 lb (450g) spaghetti or thin noodles
2-3 ozs (55-85g) butter or butter and olive oil
2 tablesp parsley, chopped
1 tablesp mint, chopped
2 tablesp wild garlic, chopped use both leaves and bulb
tablesp basil or lemon balm
2 large or 4 small crushed garlic leaves
2-4 ozs (55-110g) grated cheese preferably parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano)
Garnish: Wild garlic and chive flowers
Cook spaghetti in boiling salted water until al dente – approx. 20 minutes for shop pasta, 2-3 minutes for home made pasta. Mix all the herbs and mashed garlic with the melted butter. Sweat gently for 2 minutes not longer. Stir into the hot spaghetti and serve with grated cheese, preferably Parmesan, though we often use Irish Cheddar. Sprinkle wild garlic and chive flowers on top for extra excitement.
Tucked into a little corner at the end of Brighton Street in Dublin, Thomas’s of Fox Rock is a little gem of a shop, fresh vegetables and fruit are stacked up inside and outside. For 25 years Thomas Murphy has been looking after his customers through boom and recession. These are the sorts of local shops that we need to support during this downturn. (Personal service and good produce) 01 2894101 www.thomasoffoxrock.ie
Cork Free Choice Consumer Group Presents…
Make your own Breads with Andrew Whitley Author of ‘Bread Matters’
Learn about starting from scratch, old doughs, sour doughs, ciabattas, sweet breads…
Crawford Art Gallery Café, Thursday 26th March at 7.30pm
Entrance €6.00 including tea or coffee
East Cork Slow Food Events
Bread Matters – Andrew Whitley, author of Bread Matters will give a talk about how hidden additives and high-speed processing have changed our bread and how corporate domination has all but wiped out the neighbourhood craft baker. Ballymaloe Cookery School on Wednesday 25th March at 7:30pm €15 for Slow Food members and €20 for non-members. Telephone 021 4646785.
Guided Herb Walk – Medical herbalist Kelli O’Halloran will lead a walk through Glenbower Woods, pointing out along the way the wild herbs, plants and what to forage for in the springtime. Glenbower Woods, Killeagh, Sunday 5th April at 2.30pm €10 for members and €15 for non-members. Numbers are limited so booking essential, telephone 021 4646785.
International Grandmothers Day – Saturday 25th April 2009 – Grandmothers all around the world will gather their grandchildren around them to have fun and show them how to bake a cake, catch a fish, and sow a seed… Grandparents are the guardians of inherited wisdom – this is a perfect opportunity to pass forgotten skills on to our grandchildren. www.slowfoodireland.com