Just spent what I like to think are the last few days of summer in West Cork but of course in reality it’s most definitely Autumn no matter how hard I try to kid myself. My ‘last hurrah’ before I throw myself into the Autumn term co-incided with the Taste of West Cork festival, an extraordinary fortnight of random events dreamed up by a small committee of super charged individuals who are determined to celebrate and highlight what is unique about West Cork and lengthen the tourist season for as many people as possible in the greater area.
I’ve watched this festival develop gradually over the past 6 years, ebbing and flowing but this year there were 188 events taking place in 32 towns and villages and on eight islands, an inspired mix of themed dinners, cookery demonstrations, storytelling, foraging, cocktail making, Ilen River cruises with afternoon tea….You could roam with the buffalo on Johnny Lynch’s Farm near Macroom and taste the tender mozzarella, good enough to rival anything coming out of Italy. Learn how to smoke fish in Ummera or Union Hall smokehouse who scooped the top awards at the West Cork Artisan Food Awards. I learned how to save seeds with the seed saving hero Madeline McKeever of Brown Envelope Seeds.
Over 400 people turned up to St Patrick’s National School in Skibbereen to hear Mary Clear, the dynamic founder of the Incredible Edible project in Todmorden. I went along to visit and met Alan Foley and Brian Granaghan, the people behind the schools impressive and award winning garden.
There’s a Geodome, willow tunnel, amphitheatre, wormery, composting area, insect hotel, raised beds….
John Desmond of Island Cottage gave a demonstration of how to make a classic chocolate mousse on the pier on Heir Island.
The artisan food producers flung open their doors and travelled to share their stories and their produce with their many fans. There were cycles and walks on the wild side, golf events, kayaking and sailing all connected to food and the beautiful seafood of West Cork.
In the midst of it all the prestigious West Cork Artisan Food Awards winners included Gubbeen Farmhouse and Woodcock Smokery were joint overall winner of the Awards. Union Hall Smoked Fish took the top award, West Cork Pies were also award winners, Newcomer Award was West Cork Eggs, Mella’s Fudge, O’ Neill’s Allihies Sea Salt, Claire’s Hummus, Thornhill Organics, Tess and the Glebers at Glebe Gardens, John and Sarah Devoy, Rosscarbery….see www.atasteofwestcork.com for the full list.
Susan Holland and Ian Parr late of the Custom House in West Cork came back from France to cook a dinner at the Boat House at Inish Beg – a ‘sell out’ of course and a nostalgic trip down memory lane for their many fans. Glebe Café hosted Danni Barry from EIPIC in Belfast, loved the meal she cooked as a celebration of the food from Glebe Gardens and superb beef from Walsh’s butcher shop in Skibbereen.
Visitors flocked into the West Cork area. Many events were totally sold out, over 400 people turned up to a tour of the West Cork Distillery in Skibbereen. ‘An Afternoon of Michael Collins’ included a demonstration of griddle baking over the open fire. Visits to farms – Glen Ilen and Devoys organic farm, fermentation and pickling workshops, beekeeping including an inspirational workshop at Gurranes with Trevor Dannann, a certified natural beekeeper at the age of 16 and owner of 12 hives.
Numerous cookery demonstrations and several food forums including attendees described as ‘life changing’. Our Farms, Our Food, Our Future organized by Majella O’ Neill. Among the speakers were Professor Ted Dinan of UCC who spoke about the connection between our gut flora and the brain.
Dr Don Huber award winning international scientist and Professor Emeritus of Plant Pathology at Purdue University, Indiana, USA, leading GM expert in the world who shared his research into the effects of glyphosate and GM on public health, all presentations were recorded and will be available.
So many brilliant events to choose from, impossible to get to more than 2 or 3 into a day. Every town from Clonakilty to Bantry, Rosscarbery to Sherkin Island, Castletownshend to Bandon and everywhere in between was ‘rocking’.
Skibbereen is on a roll, one can feel the energy and optimism. There was something happening in every parish, every pub, restaurant, café, farm and dairy. West Cork was bursting with pride and justifiably celebrating what is unique and magical about this extraordinary part of Ireland. There are food fairs, festivals and carnivals all over the country nowadays so it’s really tough to have a USP to attract an almost jaded public but the Taste of West Cork is certainly a model worth looking at. Congrats to each and everyone involved.
Gluten Free Cooking
Can you imagine really delicious breads, cakes, pastries…
As anyone who is coeliac, or who cooks for someone who has gluten intolerance, will testify it can be challenging to produce really delicious, balanced meals. Finally, help is to hand – on Saturday October 8th this intensive half day course is ideal for those on a gluten-free diet who face the dilemma of longing to taste ‘real’ food. You’ll learn about a whole range of tasty and easy-to-prepare dishes including gluten-free sweet and savoury pastry, crackling salmon with coriander pesto and gluten free raspberry muffins. Suddenly, cooking for coeliacs will become a pleasure not a chore. Advice on alternative ingredients and lots of baking tips will help take the mystery out of successful gluten-free cooking.
Is there anything more comforting than the perfect Sunday roast? The very words conjure up evocative images of family and friends gathered together around the kitchen or dining-room table with delicious aromas of roasties and gravy permeating the house. Every good cook takes pride in being able to produce a delicious roast dinner with all the trimmings, and it’s no mean feat!
On Friday 14th October, we will show you how to choose and turn the best cuts of beef, lamb, chicken and pork into the most impressive roast dishes; plus whip up gravies and sauces bursting with flavour; and hone your carving skills as well.
After the cooking session, we will all sit down together to enjoy the Sunday roasts with all the trimmings. www.cookingisfun.ie
The Taste Magazine
Food lovers who want to keep on top of the Irish food scene check out The Taste which has won best digital food magazine at the Gourmand Awards 2016 and best online magazine at the Irish bloggers association awards 2016. www.thetaste.ie
Danni Barry’s Beetroot Baked in Salt and Rye with Goat’s Curd and Toasted Seeds
Danni cooked a deliciously simple meal at Glebe Gardens during the Taste of West Cork Food Festival
2 large red beetroot
2 large golden beetroot
200g Leggygowan Farm goat’s curd
For the salt and rye crust
300g strong flour
200g rye flour
200g coarse sea salt
6 juniper berries
1 orange zest
200-250ml cold water
For the beetroot and raspberry dressing
120ml Broighter Gold rapeseed oil
30ml raspberry vinegar
50g red beetroot trim
For the toasted seeds
60g sunflower seeds
50g brown linseeds/flaxseed
Heat the oven to 200˚C.
For the salt dough, crush the juniper seeds and add to the flours, salt and orange zest. Make a hole in the middle and add the water in three stages, mixing until a dough forms. Wrap in cling film and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes.
Wash the beetroots and dry them thoroughly. Roll out the dough and wrap around each beetroot individually, place on a baking tray and put straight into the hot oven. (It is important not to leave the dough wrapped beetroots sitting for too long before baking, as the salt will start to draw out moisture from the beetroot and the dough will breakdown.)
After eight minutes, turn down the oven to 180˚C and continue to cook for 40 minutes.
When ready, crack open the crust and peel the beetroots while still warm. Cut into five-inch discs and place 50g of the excess in a saucepan with the raspberry vinegar.
Warm gently for ten minutes and pass through a sieve. Mix with the rapeseed oil while warm to make the dressing.
Toast the seeds on a tray in the oven and season.
To assemble the plate, layer the beetroots and goats curd, and dress generously.
Wilt some rainbow chard in a hot pan with a little oil and dress with the raspberry vinegar. Place on top of the beetroots, then spoon over the toasted seeds.
Danni Barry from EIPIC Restaurant in Belfast
No Knead Bread
Susan has been making this bread, created by Jim Lahey from Sullivan St Bakery in New York, successfully for many years
The bread must be made the day before you need it.
430g of strong bread flour
345mls of water, Susan use’s spring water as tap water often has additives that inhibit the rise.
1/4 teaspoon of dried yeast
1 1/4 teaspoon of salt
extra flour or bran or semolina for dusting table top.
In a large mixing bowl add and mix all dry ingredients.
Add water and incorporate by hand or a wooden spoon or spatula for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Once it forms a ball cover the bowl with cling film and let the dough rise at room temperature (warmish) for 12 to 15 hours.
The very slow rise gives the bread its sour dough aspect, i.e., large holes, and it’s the slow rise that makes it not necessary to knead.
Remove the dough from the bowl and fold once or twice. This should be done with a scraper on the work surface as the dough is very wet. Shape into a ball. Leave the dough to rest about 30 minutes.
Next preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6.
Place an oven proof pot with lid in the oven to preheat. Susan uses a Le Creuset cast iron or Pyrex with lid (pot should have a capacity of 7 litres.)
Susan explains the reason for baking in a cast iron pot with lid, is that the covered pot traps humidity and forms the crust.
Once the dough has doubled in size (about 30 minutes) remove the pot from the oven and place dough in the pot seam side up. Cover with the lid and bake 30 minutes. Then remove the lid and bake 15 to 30 minutes uncovered until the loaf is nicely brown.
Susan slips the loaf onto a strip of parchment paper and put it into the pot on the paper. It makes it easier to handle.
Susan Holland’s Ceviche
This ceviche was one of the courses that Susan ‘cooked’ and served at Inish Beg during the Taste of West Cork Food Festival.
For a starter
100gs per person of VERY fresh lemon sole or brill, filleted and skinned and cut into thin strips.
Cover completely with fresh lime juice and leave in fridge for about 3 hours until the fish is “cooked”” i.e. opaque
Drain the fish, and assemble the plate.
Start with thin slices of avocado, then the fish, then very thin slices of celery for crunch, then strips of cucumber. Dress with good extra virgin olive oil and pinch of Maldon sea salt or equivalent.
Susan also likes to use fennel pollen when in season, in September. Or pink peppercorns or toasted sesame seeds.
Susan uses a mandolin for slicing the vegetables and a peeler for the cucumber.
Takashi Miyazaki’s Pan Fried Mackerel with Teriyaki Ginger Sauce
We greatly enjoyed Takashi’s simple Japanese cooking at the Riverside Café during the Taste of West Cork Food Festival.
30g brown sugar
50ml Kikkoman dark soy sauce
1 whole mackerel (fillet)
3g ginger (finely chopped)
50ml teriyaki sauce
1 pinch white sesame
Place mirin, sake, brown sugar and soy sauce into sauce pan and turn heat on until boiled.
Turn off the heat when the sauce boil and place sauce into container.
Heat the pan over medium high heat and pour oil on the pan.
Put mackerel fillet (skin side down) onto the pan and fry until skin gets crispy.
Flip mackerel over and turn heat down until cooked.
When mackerel cooked, pour teriyaki sauce over on mackerel and toss chopped ginger.
Cook as low heat until sauce gets thick.
Place mackerel on the plate and pour sauce over the mackerel, garnish with white sesame.
Takashi Miyazaki’s Miso soup
5g Irish sugar kelp (dried)
100g miso paste
50g silken tofu (diced)
20g Atlantic dillisk
5g fresh chives, chopped
Place water and sugar kelp into the pot and bring to a boil.
Turn heat down to low when it reaches a boil, take sugar kelp out from pot (sugar kelp stock)
Add miso into sugar kelp dashi stock and mix with whisk until miso dissolved.
Add tofu and dillisk.
Pour miso soup into soup bowl and sprinkle freshly chopped chives on top.
Takashi Miyazaki’s Japanese Steamed Rice
2 cups Japanese rice
2¼ cups water
1 pinch black sesame
How to wash Japanese rice properly — it needs three steps!!
Rinsing: Place rice in a bowl; pour water quickly into bowl until it covers the rice completely. To wash the rice, use one hand to mix the rice around with brisk, light movements. Pour out all the water. Repeat this rinsing 3 times.
Polishing: With fingers curled as though holding a ball, insert your hand into the rice and, using a constant rhythm and pace, rub the grains of rice around several times.
Final Rinsing: add plenty of fresh water; mix again lightly and quickly drain it off. Repeat steps 4-5 until the water runs nearly clear.
Drain rice into sieve and leave for 30 minutes. Place rice and water into a heavy pot.
Cover the pot with lid and set over a high heat. When the water starts to boil to blow, turn heat down to low and cook about 12 minutes.
Turn off the heat and leave the pot in warm place, leave 10 minutes.
Turn over the rice thoroughly with a flat rice paddle or wooden spoon. Put the lid back on and 8 minutes.
Place rice into rice bowl and sprinkle black sesame on the top.
John Desmond’s Classic Chocolate Mousse
125 g dark chocolate
125 g milk chocolate
50 g unsalted butter
5 eggs yolks
8 egg whites
50 g sugar
1 espresso cup of strong coffee
Cleaning of Copper bowl
5 g salt
10 ml red wine vinegar
Break up 125 g dark chocolate and 125 g milk chocolate, put into large bowl with 50 g of unsalted butter, place over a larger bowl of boiling water. Separate 8 eggs, keeping 5 yolks and 8 whites for the mousse.
If using a copper bowl, thoroughly clean it with salt and vinegar, rinse and dry. Put 8 egg whites into whatever you are using and whisk until stiff, add 50 g sugar, keep whisking until sugar has dissolved.
Add espresso coffee and 5 egg yolks to chocolate mixture, gentle whisk until incorporated, then add a quarter of the beaten egg white mixture, whisk thoroughly, gently fold in the remaining egg white mixture. Put into a flat bottom container and refrigerate overnight. It can also be put into individual bowls. It will keep refrigerated for a few days.