The world is your Oyster and Galway is its home
An oyster connoisseur for many years, I have plenty of reasons to hold a special grá for the native Galway oyster; the most important being that it is growing in my own back yard. Oyster culture is one of the most environmentally friendly types of farming I have ever encountered. Needing neither food nor medication and touting a low (and sometimes negative) carbon footprint, these natural element feeders get everything they need from the unpolluted Irish waters.
The fisher man’s task is to manage the density of the stock (by periodically sorting and grading) and help influence the shell shape. These flashy fish can filter more than eleven liters of water per hour. They live for eighteen months to three years on a steady diet of phytoplankton and salty water. Once cracked open and the fleshy meat is bared, it is the essence of the ocean that you taste.
And taste we did. The folks from Hotel Meyrick phoned me a few days ago to tell me Kelly’s Oysters had a few natives, first of the season, left wating for us. I could not find the keys of the car fast enough to pick up this delicious package.
The native Galway Oyster, frequently sought after by the Queen of England, are a flatter and smaller oyster than the ones you find in the local seafood markets (Giggas) and have been going through a bit of a rough patch over the last few years.
During the nineteen thirties and forties, their were more than two hundred boats out dredging annually. In the eighties, with new bi-laws, the number of boats was reduced to one hundred. In the mid-nineties there was severe flooding in the area and when the flood waters were drained though the oyster beds. This wiped out the entire native oyster population.
Many of the local families would have drawn a significant source of their annual income from dredging the waters during the months of October through December. The hardship felt at Christmas was profound.
Known for the clouds around these parts, one has to always hope that each of them might offer a silver lining. In this case, the clouds have parted, and a glimmer of hope is streaming through. The Galway oysters are finally making a comeback. Dredging over the last few years has shown a small but steady growth in quantities of native oysters harvested and the local fishermen are ever hopeful that the industry will recover.
(these are last years tickets … rest assured I will send you this years ones if you win!)
The 59th Galway Oyster festival runs from September 26th – 29th 2013 this year and the selection and quality of oysters brings connoisseurs from around the globe, many of them traveling with their own Oyster knives. If you have already seen a few of the adds floating around town in the local papers or on Facebook and wondered ‘ should I go to the Oyster festival this year’ then I think it is high time you put your money where you mouth is and join in the festivities. OR – you can leave me a comment right here and tell me whether you would like attend the festivities on opening night (Friday 27th September at 7pm) or the more family friendly event – the Sunday ‘Feast-off’ cooking competition! We got tickets up for grabs! As usual, you must be a loyal reader of our blog – you can subscribe (for free) right here.
If you like your oysters fresh and raw from the sea then I suggest you keep it simple and either serve them up with a few slices of lemon and a drop of tabasco sauce or you can whip up one of my favourite vinaigrettes (Mignonette) to enhance the essence of the oyster!
4 teaspoons Aspall cider vinegar
3 teaspoons finely chopped shallots
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper (coarse)
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
2 teaspoons parsley (chopped finely)
Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Drizzle over oysters before eating.
If you are entertaining and want to impress your dinner guests then you need to try the fried oysters. They work great as an appetiser to pass around for nibbles and also excellent as a lunch time snack. Warning. They are addictive.
Spicy Fried Oysters
1 dozen oysters
120 ml/1/2 cup Franks red hot sauce (found at Centra near Galway Airport or Musgraves)
360 g/3 cups of plain flour
Remove oysters from their shell and soak them in the hot sauce for at least one hour.
Dredge oysters in flour and leave to air-dry on a wire rack for at least a 1/2 hour. This allows the flour to dry off and will produce a crispier coating.
Deep fry the oysters for three minutes and serve immediately with Wise Cocktail Sauce.
Wise Cocktail sauce
240 ml /1 cup mayonnaise
180 ml/3/4 cup BBQ sauce
30 g/1/4 cup horseradish
A pinch of salt
2 tablespoons parsley (chopped finely)
Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Store in airtight container in the fridge for up to one week.
We find that Oysters are best served with Guinness (duh) but on occasion they go exceptionally well with a gorgeous bottle of white wine like Johann Strauss, Kremstal, Gruner Veltliner, (2009) available at Cases Wine Warehouse for €15.99.
Thanks for reading along and looking forward to seeing a lot of you at the Galway Oyster Festival this year!
and the winner is!!
Crazy for cupcakes?
It seems we are ….
How do you know if your cupcake is really all that good? Cupcake businesses are popping up all over the country and the days of making ‘buns’ at home with Mammy are long gone. Words like ‘muffins’ and ‘cupcakes’ have stolen into the Irish vernacular and bake sales (for churches and schools) have become a place of competitive challenge with Mums vying to see whose cupcakes sell the fastest.
A few months ago, one of our friends dropped us off a box full of cupcakes from Goodness Cakes. I thought it was rather bold of her, as she knows that the Chef does NOT buy baked goods, ever.
She is a risk taker. She knows him well.
Not having a sweet tooth at all, I felt I could give a very unbiased report on how they tasted and fair out in a ‘value for money’ sense. The Chef, my partner in crime, who has a ridiculous sweet tooth and bakes for a living, felt he could give as professional a judgement as any, on the quality of the cupcakes, being that he loves cupcakes; Correction .. he loves a good cupcake.
Before we got too invested in our afternoon of cake eating, we briefly outlined what was important to us when eating and (hopefully) enjoying an afternoon indulgence of cupcakes from Goodness Cakes, in the Liosban business park just a few miles from the heart of the city.
Bite-ability: What is the cake to frosting ratio? If you can’t take a complete bite – then something is a little off with the sizing.
Frosting: Flavour, type, texture. How well is the frosting suited to the cake? Does it compliment the cake? Is there enough or too much?
Cake: We look for moistness here, followed by flavour and texture. If the whole thing collapses after you take a bite … then there is something wrong.
Presentation: Does the cupcake look inviting? Are the colours right for the flavour? i.e. Pink frosting on a blueberry cupcake would just be wrong.
Ease of access: Does the wrapper peel off easily? Does the cake fall apart when you take the wrapper off? How many napkins are needed when eating the cupcake – or do you need a fork?
Cupcake-ness: Does this remind you of a cupcake or has it pushed things too far? A proper cupcake should just be a smaller version of a full sized cake. Similar to a thumbnail picture – smaller in size but still able to tell the whole story.
Cupcakes, notably an American culinary creation, was given its first mention in print as far back as the late 1700’s when Amelia Simmons wrote a recipe for ‘a cake batter to be baked in small cups’. Our British neighbours call them Fairy cakes and tend to go easy on the toppings, and we here in Ireland just call them ‘Buns’.
Cupcake making and baking has rocketed around our island and we think it is time to start highlighting those who are doing an exceptional job in this specialised area of the culinary arts.
I’ll bet, if you live in Galway, that you have seen this gorgeous logo flitting about town.
I’ll even bet you have drooled over their Facebook page.
Goodness Cakes has fast become known around town as the place to go for the ultimate cupcake experience.
Jennie Brown, cheekily known as ‘the cupcake lady’ around here, is the hardest working (female) baker I have ever met. Trekking out her door to get to work by 4am most mornings, we wake up to a barrage of her Tweets and Facebook updates showing the world what she (single handedly) has been baking while we are all still slumbering.
Her cakes are moist and flavour filled and her icing is spot on. It is very difficult to get a cupcake balanced on both texture and flavour; We would know .. himself being a baker of course.
We were hard pressed to find anything to complain about with the assortment we sampled and have, since then, sampled many more. To our delight, the level of consistency Jennie bakes into her cupcakes is evident every time. Start with quality ingredients and the result will always be delicious.
Mon to Sat, 9am to 6pm
Closed Sundays and bank holiday Mondays.
From their website …
…. ” Café Rua was opened by Ann McMahon in New Antrim Street, Castlebar over ten years ago with the aim of producing uncomplicated food using seasonal and local ingredients. The business that Ann started is now run by her children Aran and Colleen, and the aim remains the same.
We now have two branches of Café Rua, both in Castlebar. The original Café is still to be found on new Antrim street, and we opened a second branch called Rua on Spencer Street in August of 2008. This latter branch has two levels and features our delicatessen where it’s possible to buy many of the local ingredients that we’ve been using in our café over the last decade ….”
Everyone has their favourite place to eat. Be it a dive that serves the best breakfast ever; a greasy spoon that sates you after a night of beer drinking, or your favourite hideaway on holidays where only the locals eat. Finding that gem of an eatery is like finding gold. You are tempted not to tell a soul about it … incase it gets too busy, and you will no longer be able to get a table for your own dining pleasure.
Rua in Castlebar is just like that. Busy as all get out.
Brace yourself for a barrage of bold colours as you enter the deli on Spencer street, and take a minute to absorb your surroundings.
The first thing you will notice is the ‘in your face’ promotion of local products. And when I mean in your face, I mean … it is everywhere.
Mayo has some amazing producers and it seems that they all like to congregate right here in the deli heaven that is Rua.
We stopped in for a late lunch a few weeks ago, right after a visit to The Country Life Museum (if you have never been – make it your business to visit this gorgeous museum (for free might I add)), and we were not one bit surprised that we would have to wait to get a table. Our name on the waiting list, we headed off back down the town and around the Mall (large beautiful green space at the end of Spencer street near Café Rua). Our appetite was well whetted by the time we returned, because we saw several families picknicking with bags from Rua deli in the park.
Clearly, they were locals who know the drill.
Rua is always busy. Best to get it while it’s hot!
Upon being seated, the kids were given a bucket of crayons and a whimsical sketch, of Café Rua, to express their artistic selves. This is always a good sign. It means they know kids. They know that children are usually hungry and start looking for food immediately, but, have the attention spans of a flea so can be distracted, while the food prep is underway, with a large bucket of crayons.
Happy kids = happy parents.
The kids menu is the best priced (for quality) menu we have seen in Ireland. I know that is a bold statement .. and if you have other kid’s menus to share that are of equal quality and affordability then please, by all means, send me a link. We are starting to see a lot of restaurant menus show the provenance of their food, and get excited to see all the local suppliers mentioned, but how many kids menu’s have you seen like this?
When I complimented the owner (Aran McMahon) on the kids menu, his cheeky smiling self stated ‘its important to keep the bosses happy’ … I am sure that the Mum’s of Castlebar, and the surround, visit Café Rua frequently to nourish themselves and their kids.
Once the kid’s food arrived, there was no chat from our four. They inhaled the beautiful fare that was presented to them and went right back to colouring quietly (on the promise that there would be cake…hey, don’t judge us) leaving us to enjoy our Mayo Mezze platters. The best of the best sitting on a plate in front of us for lunch, swished down with a bottle of their home made lemonade. Heaven, is what it was.
Afterwards … and because we had promised … we let the kids pick and choose from the Rua cake selections.
It did not take them long to decide … warm gooey chocolate brownie up first
followed by a sublime slice of orange cream cake … the Chef is going to make one this weekend … it was that good.
After bellies were filled, plates cleared and colouring contest winners announced, we trundled downstairs to the carry-out section of Café Rua to purchase a few delicious goodies to take home for tea. Their home made chicken paté is so good, we have hidden it in the fridge so the kids won’t find it.
When I scoured through my photos of Rua last night I was delighted to get this warm n’ fuzzy feeling of calm and contentedness recalling our experience there.
It is pure chaos at lunchtime. You have to fight to get a seat – but the tables turn quickly – or you can take it all to go and enjoy the fine weather if the sun is shining.
They even sell wine … lots of fabulous wine.
Aran at Cafe Rua has given us a gift certificate for two Mayo Mezze platters; This is more than a substantial lunch for two. I will pick the winner (from the comments) next Thursday and pop it in the post to you wherever you are in Ireland.
Usual rules apply .. you must be subscribed to our WiseWords blog and leave a comment on this blog post below telling us which town (and county) Café Rua is located in.
If you are a local food producer in Mayo, the Chef & I are joining in the fun next week at Recipe for Success at Hotel Westport on the morning of Fri. 6th September 2013 at Hotel Westport. I will be tweeting, so if you can’t make it be sure to follow me .. @WiseMona and keep track of the banter that will be going on that day. The hashtag is : #Recipes4SuccessMayo
AND the winner is .. Congrats Shirin!! Enjoy Rua. I will email you to get your postal address.
This is the week the children go back to school after a long family-fun filled summer holiday. Eight long weeks ..fishing, swim lessons, sea side scampering …followed by lazy evenings lounging on their trampoline. They have it made in the shade…
As we ramp up for their first day back to school, on Thursday, we set aside a small bit of time to make and bake a few of their favourite treats … easing them back into their routine of early mornings.
If you have ever read any of my blog posts you will know that there is something wrong … there is no such thing as easing them back into early mornings … it will be total and utter chaos. Lunchbox lids will fly, I will be roaring and shouting like a lunatic and the kids will resist, with all their might, dragging their pre-teen butts out of bed. But … we still want them to get off to a happy start on their first day back to school … so we will play nice.
This recipe, I can now make with my eyes closed. I use rhubarb in the spring, strawberries in the summer and my favourite, now, blackberries for autumn.
- 250 ml sour cream
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 160 g coconut oil (or butter)
- 100 g raw cane sugar
- 300 g honey
- Zest of one orange (reserve juice for frosting)
- 3 eggs
- 400 g blackberries (washed and left to drain)
- 1 Tbsp cornflour/cornstarch
- 380 g self raising flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- Using your stand mixer, mix the coconut oil, the sugar and the honey together. Add in the eggs, one at a time. In a separate bowl, mix the bread soda with the sour cream and leave it to do its thing for a few minutes. Once you see it start to bubble, set it aside for a minute or two. Add the eggs to the sugar mixture, still mixing slowly. Add the orange zest and then the sour cream.
- Remove the mixture from the stand mixer and add flour to the batter, making sure you get all the flour well incorporated into the mix.
- Toss the blackberries in a bowl with the cornflour then add them into the cake batter using a large spoon taking care not to bruise the fruit too much.
- Line two greased 5″ x 8″ pans, or a few smaller ones, if you are planning on sharing with your friends and family, with baking/parchment paper. Pour the cake batter evenly into the cake pans and place in the pre-heated oven (175ºC) for 45 minutes. The cakes will rise up nicely. Do not open the door to have a look at them – as they might flop. Once the time has passed – remove from the oven and leave to cool for ten minutes in the cake pan, then transfer to a wire rack. Best eaten same day but works deliciously well as a sharing cake for the office the next day too. I highly recommend the frosting below too .. and garnish with a few blackberries.
Blackberries are in season. Get out … start picking them (they are free after all) and most importantly, preserve the last delicious drop of summer. We freeze them in little sandwich bags. Perfect for quick tea cakes and pies in the depths of winter. I also like to make hot toddies with them. That recipe will come in a few weeks.
Thanks for reading along as always .. I am as stressed as a bag of cats this week with a lot of big changes happening here on the home front … and I am in major need of a few virtual hugs … anyone?
Those are all the WiseWords I have for today,
Wise (or maybe not so much this week) Móna
I know. You are getting ready to send your kid out the door and off to college in a week or two, and it has just dawned on you that they know absolutely nothing about living on their own.
Your years of caring for them, and your parenting efforts, have been minimised into the space of about 30 minutes (or less) and you are becoming increasingly aware of all the stuff that little Johnny or Mary are not able to do for themselves. No point in blaming yourself (or your spouse) for all your grievous errors. Best to just pack them off to college – throw them in at the deep end – let them sink or swim, like.
They’ll be grand.
OR MAYBE THEY WILL NOT!
Here’s the thing. I have just completed a four year undergraduate degree at NUIG. Granted, as a mature student, I had my wits about me, for the most part. One of the things I kept close tabs on whilst on campus, was how the younger students behaved. I figured I would be able to tweak my own parenting skills by watching the, sometimes scary, state of incoming first years.
You know the kids I am talking about. The girls all fake-tanned and Ugged up, worrying more about how they look, than on which classes they should take and the lads that are positively excited about not having to take a shower more than once a week (on Sunday nights because Mammy says he has too). These same kids, standing in long lines at the canteen waiting to pay (with your heard earned money) for a plate of greasy chips, will be up in the sick bay by mid-October looking for the fastest flu-shot or antibiotic going because they (who never missed a day of school in their life) are dying. Really dying. They have never been so sick.
Now, they might be just hungover, especially if they are like most normal students breaking away from the clutches of home for the first time, but the harsher reality is that they are probably at the start of a nutritional deficiency that is only going to get worse unless you give them a few last minute culinary tips. That plate of chips (for lunch or supper) will not sustain or nourish them for 4 years – but they are cheap and tasty, so the kids will keep eating them.
It is not too late to give them a quick lesson in the kitchen.
Why not start with the basics. Lets look at one of my favourite cupboard items – a bag of jumbo oats, costing around €2.75 per kg at the local grocery store. I reckon a savvy student can get at least 8 portions out of this bag and adding in a few other raw ingredients they will be loaded and ready to take on their day classes and evening study sessions.
I know … they won’t eat porridge, right? Well, if you explain that learning how to use Oats (a hugely versatile and affordable product) will give them more drinking money, then I am sure that will get their attention. And don’t hate me for reminding you that students are spending your hard earned money on beer and booze. It is what most of them do. It is our job to make sure they have a somewhat healthful diet … so all that alcohol does not wreck their stomachs.
Toasty Oaty Breakfast
80 g jumbo oats (toast in a non-stick pan for a few minutes until they turn light brown in colour)
240 ml water
Pinch of salt
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp butter
1 tbsp fruit preserve
1 tsp vanilla essence (optional)
50 g almonds/hazelnuts (optional)
60 ml milk (full fat)
How to make it
Bring water to a boil. Add in a pinch of salt (this will sweeten the breakfast oats). Stir in the oats when the water comes to a rolling boil and reduce heat to medium. Keep stirring for 7 minutes or until the water has evaporated. Place oats in a bowl then add sugar, fruit preserve, butter and vanilla. Mix with a spoon. Add nuts and a splash of milk if desired.
Now that they know how to make a well balanced, hot, nutritious and delicious meal to start and keep their engines running, they will be more likely to drag their butts out of bed and get to class. Encourage
nag them constantly about the importance of class attendance and participation.
For their first year, there is room to skip one or two classes. By second year they need to bring their A game and show up for every lecture. Third year is a confusing year for those that go abroad on Erasmus because they have no rules, in class or from the home front, so just bury your head a hope for the best.
FINAL YEAR is the most important. Up until last year (2012/2013) students were allowed to pull their final degree grades from second and final year results, enabling many to have a higher mark than expected, if they worked hard throughout their college careers.
This is no longer possible.Now, all final results for their overall degree comes solely from their final year exam results. If your student has worked hard, attended and participated in classes, and handed in their assignments on time, then their lecturers might have some say in helping them squeeze an extra mark or two in their favour if their results are not so favourable.
So what can you do to help?
Their first essay (1500 words) will be due in or around halloween. This will be the week that they experience a massive amount of stress.
Tell them to break it down into a game of numbers just like this :
Introduction ………………. 200 words
Make the statement of what you are going to discuss making sure you have answered the question.
Paragraph 1 ………………. 350 words
Paragraph 2 ……………… 350 words
Paragraph 3 ……………… 350 words
Conclusion ……………….. 200 words
Wrap it up re-affirming that you have answered the question.
Total 1450 words .. they give a 10% leeway on the word count.
This may seem trivial now, but they will thank you for this advice when the time comes.
Whatever happens, tell them not to panic and just to get it in on time. Once you go down the road of asking for extensions on assignments (especially in first year) … it never ends well.
Now, back to the cooking lesson.
Part of an essential piece of kitchen kit is a non-stick pan and rubber spatula. If they hand wash the pan and only use the silicone spatula or a wooden spoon, the teflon will stay in great shape for their four years of college.
Still using the jumbo oats, why not teach them how to make a savoury (vegetarian) dish that they can soup up with a bit of meat or fish when the craving hits and the budget allows.
(Veggie) Toasty Oats
80 g jumbo oats
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
100 g frozen peas
100 g fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 cube (chicken) veggie stock
240 ml boiling water
1 tsp black pepper
50 g parmesan cheese (optional)
How to make it
Dissolve the (chicken) stock cube in the 240 ml water and set aside.
Sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil and butter for 7 minutes on medium heat.
Add black pepper then stir in the uncooked oat into the onions and garlic.
Turn the heat up and continue to cook until the oats turn brown.
Pour the veggie or (chicken) stock liquid into the pan and allow to simmer (medium heat) for 5 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated.
Remove from heat and pour into a bowl.
Add frozen peas and stir well into the oats.
Add chopped tomatoes and grate a little parmesan cheese on top to finish.
Teaching the younger generation about eating a balanced diet is sadly coupled with teaching them about budgeting their money for their meals and entertainment. These young students have massive amounts of stress to wade through during their first year and sadly, nutrition is rarely at the forefront of their daily chat at Starbucks. The canteen offerings are quite costly and, for the most part, serve massive amounts of overly processed foods. Thankfully, most on-campus medical clinics are still free for students but I think it is always better to take preventative measures when it comes to staying healthy and fired up for all the learning they have to do. There will be a few more back to school recipes in The Sunday Times this week (August 25th).
Make a batch of these cranberry oatmeal squares (below) for your teenager to snack on while they are studying. They will thank you later in life by constantly asking you to bake a batch for them.
If your student is coming to Galway to study, then you might be looking for a place to stay when you come to visit them. You might even wonder where to have a bite or two when you are here.
This is my cheat sheet for y’all :
A nice place to stay : Corrib Townhouse
A nice place to eat : Kai Cafe
Irish music fix : The Crane Bar
College is hard. Really bloody hard. Keep open lines of communication with your teen even if you are exhausted from raising them. Every year students take their own lives because they cannot handle the pressure – that college is. From the minute they enter into the world of academia, they are faced with the reality of failing. It is a fear that is laid on thick and follows you to the finish line. For many it can be frightfully debilitating. Be there for your child. All they way.
Those are all the WiseWords I have for today.
PS – thanks for ALL the emails and FB messages about the Blog Awards Ireland 2013. As you know, I won three categories and overall best blogger last year (2012) but have decided not to participate this year, in order to give others a chance to share in the limelight. Although I am sad to not be part of the mix this year, I will be judging … so starting tightening up your P’s and Q’s. I will be watching and reading years worth of blog posts over the next few months. If you are interested in becoming a judge, and you should if you like to read blogs, or are indeed a blogger yourself, then please sign up on the Blog Awards 2013 website.
I know there is always the possibility that I might bore you to tears with my ramblings.
I realise your times is precious, and I swear, because my time is precious too, that when I sit down to write, I first make a pledge to both of us that I will not be wasting anyone’s time with my WiseWords.
I want you to start your Christmas/holiday shopping now – as in today.
If I can’t convince you to do a bit of shopping for the festive season then perhaps you have been invited to a wedding and you are plagued wondering what to get the bride and groom?
Look.no.further. This is the gift that keeps on giving.
A few months ago, the chef and I paid a visit to the incredibly beautiful farm and home of Suzanna Crampton.
But not just any old sheep – they are Zwartbles.
For months I had been conversing over morning coffee and tweets with Suzannah as we are both naturally early risers. I would take my daily walk while she would tend to her sheep. Her mornings have a breath of calm and meditativeness about them; I felt like I really knew her and asked if we could pop in for a cup of tea next time we were in her neighbourhood. She graciously opened her heart and home to us.
See, it was these big brown eyes and soft brown wooly beasts that hooked me.
It was love at first sight. I wanted to take them all home with me but the Chef said no. Not until we get a bit more land. Then I can have my own.
In the meantime … we just had to make do with a stroll around Suzanna’s beautiful home and farm.
I know this might seem strange, as we are not in the business of selling toilet seats, but the Chef thinks y’all should know this is the most comfortable toilet seat he has ever sat on. Every home should have one.
Back to the tour of the farm …
A gorgeous home where cats sleep on Aga’s and …
Dogs watch your every move just incase you make off with one of their charges ……. as if I would!
A place where trees grow in the perfectly trained way that they should ….
And where feeding time is full of fun and flourish as the ladies natter and chatter with their mouths full.
A place where twists and turns take you down paths that might lead to nowhere new ……
or to a place where you make a new friend . . .
In the past, all the wool from the Zwartbles, a rich chocolate brown un-dyeable wool, was gathered and spun into knitting yarn.
Now, and thanks to the machinery at Cushendale Woolen Mills (one of Ireland’s few remaining woollen mills) the wool is spun into beautiful (heirloom) woollen blankets; made from the finest of Irish wool.
Move over Hudson Bay …
The cooler weather is coming and I know that these blankets will be keeping us warm for years to come.
Now, more than ever, we need to support local businesses. We need to buy Irish.
And we especially need to support this wonderful fabulous enterprising creative sheep-herding woman.
A limited amount of blankets were made this year – don’t dally too long on deciding.
Those are all the WiseWords I have for today,
Five years ago today we moved back home to Ireland after having spent fifteen years in the US and one year in Switzerland.
Even though we were enjoying all the sunshine in Switzerland …
and all the snow . . .
we could not settle there. We missed our friends and family back in the US … way too much.
We missed our customers and our beautiful little restaurant.
and no matter how hard we tried .. our food never tasted the same … there was no love in our kitchen.
Thankfully we had all the kids and their cousins – now living much closer to each other – to keep us grounded.
And we were also living much closer to Granny with her wooden spoon – so she kept us all in line.
We had to stop pining for America and make another move . . but were absolutely scared to death that it would be ‘another wrong decision’.
There were tears … lots of them.
But ‘home’ was calling.
Wellies were purchased … and we no longer needed to pack a suitcase to go visit Granny – a half mile down the road.
Christmas brought a big surprise to our home that first year … with Santa dropping ‘Pearl the puppy’ on our doorstep.
It was a sign that the Chef, who was not delirious about all the rain and the very dark winters and the fact that no one seemed to be ailing from sun deficiency, might actually want to put down roots and stay a while.
Big decisions were made and the next four years is a total blur. For serious.
Five years on .. the family has grown and now we have 12 cute cousins in the family and I am sure there will be more!
Although we do not get to see all our friends and family back in the US as much as we like to, many of them have come to visit and many more are planning a return trip.
Some of us have developed (possibly unhealthy) obsessions with raising our own fowl.
Others have chosen to embrace this seemingly all-year-round growing climate and can’t get enough of the Blackcurrant flavoured hot Whisky in the Autumn. (’tis the shit, I tell you).
And the rest of us are still planting magic beans in the ground hoping something massive and fabulous will jump up and give us a bit of direction so we can carry on doing what we love.
Which is this …
Spending time with our family … at the table. Breaking bread together, sharing a bit of lettuce with a hungry goose.
Life is too damn short. Make the most of it y’all.
And if you are considering a big move … hit me up for a bit of free advice.
There is no place like home Dorothy. No.Place.Like.home.
Those are all the WiseWords I have for today,
Logo designed by Ray McDonnell at www.LinkAssociates.ie
It’s not often that we can all get together and have dinner. Many of our food industry friends work nights and weekends. Many of us have kids, big or small, making it hard to bring them, or break away from them.
Sometimes we make plans to meet and eat, and have to change the date several times before we can all actually just find one day, in the middle of the summer that works for everyone, ven the pregnant lady that was a week past due.
And boy when it happens … it is always worth the wait.
The Big Green Egg said to stir up almost religious levels of devotion among owners was fired up at 9:00pm the night before, for the larger pieces of Pork (shoulder and collar) and the slow and steady watching of cool coals began. Maintaining a temperature that needs to hold at 200 celsius all night long, and for most of the next day, is not for the faint of heart. One would need to be up checking and replenishing the lump charcoal every two hours, and by the time the Pork is ready for pulling and eating, you might be ready for bed.
Unless of course you are a chef and BBQ’ing is in your blood. Luckily for me … this is right up our alley.
And when I say our, I do of course mean my husbands alley. I slept soundly thank you very much.
If you have decided that you are ready to get serious about Bar-be-cue, and want to learn how to cook a beautiful shoulder of pork to make pulled pork sandwiches for your end of summer BBQ … then I would start doing your research right here. We have not found a better source on the internet for technique and recipes AND he is sassy as all get out too. Gotta love a guy who writes with attitude.
Once you are up and running and have pulled off a few decent parties with your pulled pork, then you should buy this book because it is one of the best BBQ’ books ever.
I have book envy every time I pick it up, or even walk by it in the kitchen. It leers at me from across the room sneering ‘you will never write a book as excellent as me‘ …..
It does! I hear it! Daily. MAYBE it is the bright orange coat it wears, or maybe it is the fantastic block print used.
It has me vexed. Buy the book. You will love it too.
Tying up the pork, after rubbing it down with your spice rub, is important; It is not, however, essential. We tied up one piece and left two untied and none of them fell apart but were all cooked to perfection.
For the spice rub we use a mixture of old bay seasoning, chilli powder, cumin, cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, salt, pepper, and what ever else we find laying around on the day.
We only use a dry rub, and make sure that the meat has come to room temperature before placing it on the grill, where the flame has died down and there are only silver coals glowing, no flames.
Having a trusty assistant to help
because she did not want to go to bed is always nice.
We use this guys guidelines for pulled pork every time. If it ain’t broke – then don’t fix it.
We figure about 250 g of pork per person and it takes 1.5 hours (at 200 celsius – low n’ slow) per 450 g of meat.
You need to purchase an internal thermometer if you do not already have one. You also need to figure out how to throw a party the next day if you have to get up every two hours in the middle of the night to feed your fire.
Timing is important. Ours finished up about one hour sooner than our guests arrived so we had to wrap it in foil and hold it in a water bath in the oven with the hopes it would not dry out.
We did not eat straight away, as a few of our guests ran late (understandably so – they were serving record breaking numbers at sunday brunch at their restaurant!) … the chef was sweating it.
We decided to have a drink and relax …
My brother is here visiting for a week, and knowing we are whisky fans, he brought us a delicious bottle to share with our friends.
My cocktail making skills were not needed on this occasion, although I did make a few fresh cherry manhattans for myself and one of my BFF’s (who baked her heart out and brought all the desserts for the party) as the men all chose to drink it straight up with a few cubes of ice. Worth looking for if you like your American whiskies.
While we were waiting, another one of our pals from this excellent cafe in Castlebar, cooked for us; A rare treat, I assure you. He came boldly into our kitchen carrying a massive tub of Cuinneog Sour Cream (you know the buttermilk people?) This new product is not yet on the market and I have to tell you that there is nothing like it. Not anywhere in the world, and we have traveled far and wide, have we come across such a buttery sour cream. Forget the spuds, which we did have it on and boy were they fabulous, this cream needs to be on scones. Goodbye clotted cream.
Of course, and because I am the hostess with the mostess, we made sure to have several other libations on hand for our guest to quench their thirst. Peter Boland, from Cases Wine Warehouse, toted along several excellent wines in the hopes that he would get some honest feedback on which types of wine might be best suited to BBQ’d meats.
His re-cap and list of suggestions is right here and most certainly worth your time if you are planning on hosting a BBQ before summer fizzles out. On a side note, the stellar find of the evening was a beer we sampled, given to us a few weeks ago by our friends from OldFarm Pork. It is called Bo Bristle (we tried the Amber Ale) and it is from County Offaly. Check out their website here and if you are coming to visit me … bring me some, as it is still not available in the West and I am thirsty for more!
By the time everyone had arrived … we were all more than ready for supper. The kids had their picnic blanket set up outside and at the last minute had to relocate to the bike shed due to a deluge of a downpour that had been threatening all day. Not to worry … haven’t we had a lovely stretch of three weeks with all that sunshine. We needed the rain.
Ok – back to the pork … which had been holding in the oven for two hours longer than it needed to be.
It pulled apart perfectly.
It was served on buttery baps that the chef had made the day before, a spicy kimchi coleslaw, loaded baked potato skins, an heirloom tomato salad and a few other dishes I neglected to take photos of, but I assure you .. were as beautiful as they sound.
Desserts were made lovingly by our friend Anne Marie and there is no doubt in my mind that this woman should open her own bakery. She seems happiest when she is watching people gorge themselves on her gorgeous creations.
They actually looked too good to eat.
By the end of the evening … everyone drove back to their respective homes all happy and well fed. They got a lesson in pork-pulling and we had a wonderful afternoon sampling all their beautiful side dishes, desserts, wines and beers.
Making time …and it is not easy, to gather together with friends and family, is so important. It is easy to become overwhelmed with all that goes into the planning and production of a good party and I can’t recommend the pot-luck style party enough to you. As the host, you cook the meat and advise the guests on items to bring to share. In this case, advice was not needed and there was, at one point, a worry that the side dishes would all outshine the pork … but hey … wouldn’t that make for a great party too?
On that note … go forth and plan your end of summer bar-be-cue.
Do the reading and research required and figure out your schedule on how to keep the coals burning through the night and still be able to catch 40 winks.
On a side note, and if you already are the king of your BBQ world, which book or website do you turn to for your BBQ advice? I’d love to know.
Those are all the WiseWords I have for today,
Summer is hectic isn’t it?
I mean this year in particular, because we are blessed with all this sunshine, so it’s off to the beach with a picnic at the drop of a hat.
We are secretly afraid it might take another 25 years for summer to come back to our island; We are soaking it all up (with factor 50 +++ of course).
Before I delve too deeply into what is on my mind I need to ask you for a huge favour.
Can you please have a look at this project and pledge towards it? It will cost you nothing if the project does not get off the ground, but if it does, I can promise you a hugely entertaining read because this lady knows how to engage an audience with her words.
I would not ask, normally, but this lassie is so much braver than I. She is one of those risk takers. The kind that believes in a project and makes it happen. The kind of woman I don’t have the balls to be half the time. I need hers to work out so I can be braver. Go on. Please. For me.
Now. Down to the crux of the matter.
We are kid-central here at the moment. My brother has dropped off his off-spring for three weeks. The rules are lax and the lovin is easy.
At the market this morning I caught the two wee fellas (my young fella – Jack age 8 – and my nephew – Raemonn age (almost) 6) holding hands whilst waiting for hot doughnuts.
Then it dawned on me. They have grown up so bloody fast – and are now looking out for each other.
This time next year, there will be no need for hand holding.
They got their doughnuts, shared the napkins and meandered through the market.
They did not ask or beg for anything. No one needed to go to the toilet. They all waited patiently while we chatted with our friends …
We had to stop along the way to pick up something for supper…
But due to sharp knives and slick fishmongers that only took 36 seconds of slicing and slivering.
And when we told them all it was time to head back to the van to go home to make lunch …
Like little ducks – they lined up and headed back to the van. No one grumbled. They were content.
And that’s when it hit me ….
We are all done with the babies and toddlers.
That phase – that we seem to have been smothered in for ten years now … has finally passed.
Life is zooming by at breakneck speed.
I hope you are making time to stop and smell the roses. I know I am.
On a side note, and because I can’t be seen to rest on my laurels too much ya know … I am über excited about a project we are working on with the folks over at Galway.com
I stumbled across their site last summer and remember saying to one of my friends ‘when I grow up I want to work for these guys’.
Imagine my SQUEAL of delight when they emailed me a few weeks ago, right after I finished my exams, (coincidence? I think it was fate!) and asked if I could do a bit of work for them.
Almost not able to sleep at night here with the excitement on this one so stay tuned – in the meantime have a mooch around on their YouTube channel.
Ciao for now guys n’ dolls. We are entering into Race Week here in Galway so if you are headed West to the City of the Tribes be sure to hit us up for a cup of coffee/tea or a pint!
This week … I learned how to make (blitz) Puff Pastry from scratch.
He is always giving out that I buy the crap in a box.
But lets face it – I have been busy guys.
I have not had time to mix and roll and fold and chill.
I have not had time to wait in between each thirty minute spell . . the stuff outta the box is fine, I said. It’ll do.
What’s a busy Mum to do?
The lesson was for me … but I think I should share it with you.
Because, truth be told, it ain’t that hard to do.
Our weekly feature in The Sunday Times this Sunday (21st July) will feature three excellent recipes using puff pastry. If you have a wee bit of free time, why not try to whip up a batch at home?
What you will need
450 g plain flour
450 g cold butter
7 g salt
300 ml ice water
The mixing of those ingredients will deliver you a beautifully soft ball of puff pastry dough.
WiseTip: Freeze the butter then grate it into the flour. Use ice cubes (even though they are slated for your Gin & Tonic) to chill the water. It really does make a noticeable difference.
Then the rest is all down to rolling, folding and chilling. Something we are all trying to do a bit more of these days, what with the Irish heatwave we are experiencing.
Roll out the dough onto a cool (marble slab if you have it) surface. Roll it thickly, and try to keep it in the shape of a rectangle.
Keep your hands cool and floured. Work fast and do not over knead the dough.
Once it is the correct shape and seems fairly pliable it is time to start folding.
Fold one third of the pastry inwards ….
fold the other piece inwards.
Once you do that, fold it ‘bottom end up to top’ making a two-fold piece of pastry. But hold on – and fold it again because you need a four-fold.
It is also recommended that you roll each fold as you go.
Once you have your four-fold piece of pastry ready to go, it is time to set the timer (for 30 minutes) and set about distracting yourself from the task at hand. I find this is always a good time to reflect on the pile of laundry that sits washed, dried and carelessly strewn in the downstairs (unoccupied) bedroom.
OR you might succumb to an ice-cold drink that you found laying shamelessly on its side in the fridge. Either way, stay alert because you have to repeat that four-fold process two more times, rolling and folding and chilling
and three more ciders in order to get the pastry ready for its final three-fold.
And even after you get to the final three-fold you then have to chill the pastry for an hour. Now, I know that cider was involved, and the days are nice and long, but can we just check our watches here and wonder how many hours of this day did we actually devote to making puff pastry?
The final three-folded piece has an amazing smoothness. Soft as a peach.
So we made a peach pie.
And the recipe for this will be in the Sunday Times later in July or early in August.
“T’is all fun and games around here these days folks. My four children (and four of their cousins) are eating, sleeping, swimming and dreaming all over the place. The noise levels are ferocious and fabulous.
I hope you are having a delicious summer where ever you are.
Those are all the WiseWords I have for today,
I am a native Galway girl that seems to be drawn to professions that rhyme with 'err'. Writer, Mother, Restauranteur, Wedding Planner, Dishwasher, Grass cutter, Cocktail maker. I suppose you could say I am a well rounded entrepreneur.
You can find me here
About the Chef
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You might as well just come visit.
He prefers face to face communication.
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SHE WRITES, HE COOKS, THE KIDS MAKE A HUGE MESS