ArchiveJune 12, 2010

Keeping it Local in Lismore

All Slow Food events have an educational element as well as a hedonistic one. So when we gathered in Lismore recently we started our evening at Michael McGrath butchers shop on Main Street. We were all anxious to learn from this man whose skills have come down through four generations of the family – his father, grandfather and great grandfather were butchers. Michael and his wife Mary are one of only a handful of Irish butchers who still finish animals on their own farm, have their own abattoir and consequently are in charge of the process from beginning to end. The skill of butchery is not merely cutting up meat; it starts by being able to judge good pasture and then being able to judge a fine animal in the field. Good meat is not just about the breed and the feed, although both are crucially important. The slaughtering process must be stress free and humane and then there’s the skill of hanging, butchering and the ability to use every scrap – waste can so easily be the difference between profit and loss. Michael kills only Aberdeen Angus and Hereford Cross heifers from about 15 months to 24 months. He, like me, likes a nice bit of fat for juiciness and flavour and favours grass-fed animals with rich yellow fat rather than the white fat of predominantly grain fed cattle. Although the demand for cheaper cuts and offal is growing again, particularly among chefs, he doesn’t expect that there will be a queue for several weeks for pickled tongue like there was in the past. Michael, a traditional butcher, was taught the trade by his father and grandfather and has resisted the trend to toss his meat in sweet and sour sauce, he just sells excellent meat and people are prepared to travel for it. The Slow Food Feast was held at O’Brien Chop is Lismore. An old fashioned pub cum grocery shop now minimally converted into a charming bar and restaurant with a beguiling secret garden behind. Slow Food is all about supporting local. While we were sipping our Rhubarb Bellinis, two local producers also joined us and told us about their product. The Dungarvan Brewing Company is a family affair, they are passionate about real ale and beer, Cormac O’Dwyer is the head brewer who makes Helvick Gold, a blond ale, Copper Coast, a red ale and Black Rock, an Irish stout. It’s a relatively new venture and up to recently the beers could just be bought locally but they have big plans and now supply some pubs in Cork and Dublin. Julian Keane from nearby Cappoquin dropped in some of her Crinaghtaun Apple Juice freshly made from apples grown in their family orchards Local cheese makers, Agnes and Wolfgang Schliebitz originally from Germany told us how they make their ewes milk Knockalara Cheeses. Some cheese is coated with black pepper or garden herbs. Ewe’s milk is even easier to digest than goat’s milk and all vitamins and minerals are almost double those in cow’s milk and it’s lower in cholesterol. They also preserve Ewe’s milk cheese in extra virgin olive oil and they have a mature rind washed cheese, aged for ten months called Mature Knockalara.

Justin Green and his head chef Eddie Baguio had planned a delicious menu for the Slow Food feast. We started with a rhubarb bellini and nibbled some delicious freshly spiced nuts. We then had a salad of Knockalara Ewe’s Milk Cheese with asparagus Toasted Hazelnuts and Fresh Mint Leaves

Justin managed to get just one wild salmon from the Blackwater River close by and he managed to do a ‘loaves and fishes job’ so each and every one of us got a taste of the new seasons salmon with some buttery hollandaise.

For main course we had roast butterflied leg of Michael McGrath’s Spring lamb with salsa verde, new potatoes and spring garden greens. For pudding Jenny Green chose new seasons rhubarb with meringue and cream, then as an extra treat, we finished our meal with a fresh mint tisane.

The asparagus, rocket, baby salad leaves and rhubarb were grown by Justin’s father Jeremy in the walled garden at Ballyvolane House.

It’s so wonderful to find a restaurant that serves local food proudly not only for a special Slow Food event but on an ongoing basis. To hear more about upcoming Slow Food events go to



Rhubarb Bellini & Rhubarb Lemon Fizz

The base for both of these is a Rhubarb purée

Rhubarb Purée

(Makes 1 litre)

1 kg local Irish rhubarb

300g sugar

zest of ½ orange

juice of ½ orange

Cook all the above ingredients till rhubarb is soft and tender. Blend this into a purée

Sugar Syrup

1 kg (2¼lb) sugar

1 litre (1¾ pints) water

slices of half a lemon

6 cloves

Boil all ingredients until sugar has dissolved, remove lemon slices and cloves.

Add 300m (10fl oz (½ pint) l of Sugar syrup to rhubarb purée and store in a jug.




For the Bellini;

pour into a glass some of the purée / sugar syrup mixture then top up with a nice dry Prosecco and stir. The amount of purée will depend upon your own taste.For the Fizz;

pour into a glass some of the purée sugar syrup mixture, add a dash of lemon juice, ice cubes and top up with sparkling water. “Muddle” and serve.A Salad of Knockalara Ewe Milk Cheese with Asparagus, Toasted Hazelnuts and Fresh Mint Leaves

500g local Irish asparagus

300g Knockalara Ewe’s milk cheese

100g. Unsalted peeled hazelnuts

3 tbs olive oil

Bake the asparagus with the hazelnuts and olive oil for 15 minutes at 200ËšC and then allow to cool.

Mint Salad

200gr. Baby Spinach leaves

200g Rocket leaves

100g Mint leaves

Simple Vinaigrette

3 tbs. olive oil

juice of 1 lemon

salt & freshly ground pepper


Toss all the above leaves in the Simple vinaigrette, mix with the cooled asparagus & hazelnuts and top with crumbled Knockalara cheese.

Steamed Wild Atlantic Salmon, Sauce Hollandaise.

900g wild salmon fillet (Ask your fishmonger to skin and cut your fish into 6 equal pieces)

½ onion

2 stalks of celery

1 chopped leek

2 spring onions

4 Bay leaves

8 whole peppercorns

1 litre water

salt & pepper to taste

Boil all the above ingredients (except the salmon) together for 1 hour. Then add the salmon pieces and poach for 10 minutes, then remove and drain.

Hollandaise Sauce

3 egg yolks

1 dessertspoon of cold water

150g diced butter

1 ½ tsp. lemon juice

salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Bring a pan of water to the boil and place a stainless steel bowl over the water. Into the bowl put the egg yolks, add the water and whisk. Add the butter, piece by piece, whisking continuously until the mixture thickens. Season to taste.

Serve the warm fillets of salmon with the hollandaise.

O’Brien’s Chop House Roast Marinated Leg of Lamb, Salsa verde, Boiled New Potatoes with Creamed Spring Greens

Lamb & Marinade

1 ½ kg boned leg of lamb

50g thyme leaves

50g rosemary – chopped

50g parsley – chopped

1 bulb of garlic – peeled and chopped

200ml olive oil

Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Blend all the herbs, garlic, olive oil and seasoning then spread generously over the lamb, securely wrap with cling film and allow to marinade overnight in the fridge.

To cook the lamb;

Remove from marinade and cook in a very hot oven, 250ËšC for 30 minutes (for Medium rare) or longer if preferred.

Boiled Potatoes

1 kg new season Irish potatoes

100g butter

50g finely chopped mint

salt & pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes in boiling water until tender then just before serving toss the potatoes in a pan with the melted butter, mint and seasoning.

Creamed Garden Greens

1 York Cabbage

500g Baby Spinach leaves


Chop cabbage into small strips and blanch with the spinach in boiling water for 2 minutes.

O’Brien’s Chop House Cream sauce

300 ml. cream

½ diced onion

2 sprigs rosemary leaves finely chopped

100 ml white wine

100 ml chicken stock

Reduce the white wine in a saucepan with the rosemary and onion by half to 50ml. Add the cream and reduce again to about 85ml. Add the chicken stock and reduce for around 10 minutes. Taste and add a little salt and pepper if necessary.

To serve, toss the blanched greens in a pan with the reduced cream sauce for a couple of minutes, season and serve.

Ballyvolane House Walled-Garden Rhubarb Mess

500g rhubarb

zest of ½ orange

juice of ½ orange

150gr sugar

6 scoops vanilla ice-cream

200g homemade meringue

150 ml. cream, whipped

Method for Rhubarb

Cook all the ingredients until the rhubarb is soft and tender. It should have started to break up a little.

Scoop out 6 portions of vanilla ice-cream and return the scoops to the freezer to harden. Crumble the meringue into the whipped cream with ¾ of the cooked rhubarb and mix. Remove the deep-frozen ice-cream scoops from the freezer and break into pieces and stir into the above mixture. Portion this mixture onto your serving plates and pour over the remainder of the cooked rhubarb.

Fool Proof Food

Ballyvolane House Spiced Nuts

800g mixed nuts (peanuts, pistachio nuts, macadamia, cashew nuts, almonds)
3 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons garlic (2 cloves)
2 teaspoons olive oil

Bake in oven at 160 degrees for 20 minutes or until brown









Clare Food Scene

Lots of excitement on the food front in Co Clare. Ballyvaughan Farmers Market has launched their new cook book compiled from recipes using produce from the market. The recent Burren Slow Food Festival highlighted the wealth of local produce – Burren lamb, smoked salmon…where can I get beef from those beautiful cattle I saw grazing in the buttercup filled fields around Lisdoonvarna – why aren’t we capitalising more on region specific foods? I loved staying at Sheedy’s family run hotel over looking the spa. Wild Honey

is another option and you get to enjoy chef and owner Aidan McGrath’s creative classics using lots of local produce, look our for the ham hock terrine with celeriac remoulade and crab royale with seared scallops. Phone: +353 65 7074300 email:…The Crescent Farmers Market

in Limerick is going from strength to strength after their recent re-launch; there are a wonderful range of stalls with delicious fresh local and organic produce. I picked up some really good loaves of organic spelt bread from Coolfin Organic Bakery contact Jonas 0872045593. Market every Wednesday, Contact market manager Gar Granville 0868069605.Mani –Bläuel

olive oil have now notched up five awards this year after recently winning a Gold Award at the Expo and Competition ‘Monocultivaroliveoil’ organised by Frantoi Celleti Cultivar in Milan and a DIPLOMA DI GRAN MENZIONE in Parma at the 4th International Olive Oil Competition ‘ARMONIA’ – ALMA Trophy – the first time a Greek oil was among the winners at this competition. Available in Ballymaloe Cookery School shop and Midleton Farmers Market.


O’Brien Chop House 058 53810

Ballyvolane House 025 36349

Knockalara Farmhouse Cheese 024 96326

Michael McGrath Butchers Lismore 058 54350

Dungarvan Brewing Company 058 24000

Crinaghtaun Apple Juice 058 54258


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