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,
Morans on the Weir
(091) 796 113
Ok. Stop everything that you are doing right now and get your butts to Moran’s on the Weir if you have never been.
That is all.
Alright … I might manage to eek out a few more words then. How many restaurants have several tables reserved by 11:30am on a bank holiday Monday? Anthony Bourdain taught us something to live by a few years ago, when he penned one of our favourite foodoirs Kitchen Confidential, where he advises customers to never order fish at a restaurant on a Monday because it won’t be fresh.
I have broken that rule only once; It was on a Monday a few months back. I regret my decision greatly and have sworn never to sway again. Unless of course I am eating at Morans on the Weir, where the fish are always fresh … hell, sometimes even still alive!
We have eaten here countless times, and more frequently in the last few months due to a massive surge of friends coming to visit us from abroad. This is one of our favourite places to hide-out, away from the hustle and bustle of Galway city. Morans on the Weir is very much a step back in time, and I for one hope it stays planted firmly right where it is.
If it ain’t broke … don’t fix it.
Dating back more than 300 years, Moran’s of the Weir is now run by Catherine Moran – the 7th generation of the Moran family to get stuck in and manage this iconic restaurant-by-the-sea.
Her brother Michael, holds the crown for both the International and World Oyster Opening Championships, taking the phrase fastest gun in the west to a whole new level. His father has held both of these titles too. In addition to being talented and this place exceeding all our (high) expectations when it comes to the customer service and food offered – this is one of the hardest working hands-on family in the restaurant business in Ireland today.
I want them to get an award for this alone!
Bold splashes of colour painted on doors, windows, walls and stairs greet you as you meander through all the nooks and crannies in the restaurant. Guinness pours perfectly – as it should – and it is the best place to hide out alone, just the two of you, or reserve a massive table for you and your friends, in the back room, and stay all night.
You might arrive hungry, but after dining on their exquisite (mostly) fish menu, you will be well sated when you leave.
You will be spoiled for choice with the menu options they offer and will not be able to choose one over the other. We have eaten ALL THEIR menu options. You can’t go wrong. Bring friends and share all the platters.
But make sure you do go … and especially try to get there during the summer months when you can sit outside on their benches right on the Weir. Or traipse over there early in September when the native Galway Oysters are plump and perfect. I have yet to meet a person who’s face does not light up when I ask them if they have ever eaten at Moran’s of the Weir.
Hell, even Seamus Heaney penned a poem about eating oysters at Morans and it is (handwritten) hanging on their wall!
Here’s the first (of five) stanza from the poem :
by Seamus Heaney
Our shells clacked on the plates.
My tongue was a filling estuary,
My palate hung with starlight:
As I tasted the salty Pleiades
Orion dipped his foot into the water.
If you can wrangle a few more lines from this poem and leave it in the comments section below you will be entered into a drawing to win one of two €50 gift certificates we have to offer our readers, to enjoy a bit of grub at Moran’s on the Weir. Remember, as with ALL giveaways on our blog, you must be a bona-fide regular reader-commenter of the blog and be signed up to receive our updates via email right here.
The lucky winner will be chosen at random on Thursday July 4th in the evening.
If you win, PLEASE invite me to join you for dinner!
Those are all the WiseWords I have for today.
AND (finally) the winners ARE :
Ladies – please contact me with your home postal address so I can pop these in the post to you.
Thanks and congrats to you!
Before we get started into the nuts and bolts of my latest life crises … we should take a moment to reflect on the past 400 blog posts.
Yes folks .. I have (now) written 401 blog posts.
Wayhay! Where the heck does the time go?!
… ‘What will you do next?’ …
’tis the most asked question I get these days.
I am struggling to come up with a real bonafide answer, so have thrown together a few random suggestions for y’all to ponder on and if you have time, why not offer me up a few suggestions – because I’m plum out of ideas myself.
A friend of ours back in Cincinnati, Ohio helped us clean up our act and designed a brand spanking new logo for us. We were looking or something that was a bit girlie (for me) and a bit manly (for the chef) and this is what our good friend Tommy Sheehan of TommyInk came up with.
What do y’all think?
I got a lot of
‘it reminds me of Jack Daniels‘
‘it looks kinda like the Coca-Cola‘ logo.
Both of those guys marry quite well together and are doing alright … so we are sticking with it.
Because Tommy is a true artist, and a gentleman to boot, he threw in a few fun designs to give us something to think about depending on what we decide to ‘do next’.
I am loving some of his ideas ….
How easy would this be … maybe we will sell our eggs. Gawd knows we have a boat load of them and Dr. Doolittle, aka the Chef, is getting ready to hatch a few goslings so I need to come up with a way to keep the eggs moving!
Or how about we get into product development and do a bit of Sausage making? You have no idea how good these sausages are. No promise of lovely and lean here. Just real chicken meat and real real duck fat – which makes them exceptionally delicious.
Perhaps we will brew some beer?
OR bottle and sell some of my Rhubarb Cordial?
I’d even save a few for you, my loyal readers.
This gorgeous and bespoke Moleskin notebook would be on my Christmas wish list, on my anniversary wish list, my birthday wish list, my valentines day wish list … you get the picture. I’d be wishing for this.
So you see … we have lots of options; and we are doing a lot of thinking. Working for The Sunday Times keeps us busy so whatever we do take on, it will be secondary to that.
I have a lot of ‘giveaways’ slotted for the summer. Just the other day I got an email wondering if our readers would like a new tea kettle or toaster? Once we get the blog post released from the drafts folder I will alert you to this one. Aren’t they gorgeous!
On a side note … regarding the giveaway posts. I have received a few emails from disgruntled readers who hate ‘giveaway’ blog posts. I am truly sorry to hear this. Ron and I get A LOT of crap to review here at Chez Wise and most of it is so bad it never makes it on to the blog. Occasionally we get a book that is a real gem or experience a sleep over that leaves a lasting impression. So when we get these treats we like to offer them to our readers. We could keep them for ourselves, but we choose to share them with you. It is our way of saying THANKS for all your support. I am not sure if I ever told you this, but almost 70% of our blog readers have bought our book (the hard copy) and another 35% have bought the ebook.
If you want to work with us promoting your book or hotel or food product, then feel free to contact us right here.
But it will cost you. A girls gotta eat!
Ok – so in order to answer the question I posed at the start of this blog post of mine …
What will I do next? ……… now that my college career has come to a close and I will graduate (with honours) in the Autumn ……
My answer is this …
Haven’t I already done enough?
Ok … maybe not exactly nothing … we will be selling Texas Chili to the masses at The Galway Garden Festival at Claregalway Castle (in our neighbourhood) on July 6th and 7th 2013 from 11am – 6pm daily.
Stop by for a bite!
Those are all the WiseWords I have for today,
Quick update : the winner of the book Apron Strings by Nessa Robins is Lorna Sixsmith of Write-on-Track blog!
Congrats Lorna – the book is on its way to you at Garrendenny Lane!
Apron Strings by Nessa Robins
New Island Press. May 2013
You might begin to think that the Irish cook book market is becoming a little over-saturated with ‘blog to book’ deals if you scoured through all the Irish Food Bloggers that have managed to land book deals. I’d love to say I agree with you but every one of them are churning out beautiful, personal gems, and not one of them has the same look or feel to it.
Bespoke … is how they appear.
A glimpse inside the personal lives of Irish food writers and I can’t get enough of it.
If this makes me sound nosey – it’s because I am.
A few months ago, Nessa sent me a personal email inviting the Chef and I to come to her book launch in her hometown of Moate, County Meath. At the time, I was gearing up for my exam finals at NUIG (which I passed with honours!) and I did not think we would be able to make it, but as it turned out, we were able to steal away for the evening; and I am so happy that we did.
I asked Nessa if I could interview her for our Wise Words blog because I think she is an amazing strong, funny, down-to-earth woman who’s company I love to be in.
In other words … she’s great craic!
How Nessa managed to find the time to write and photograph this gorgeous book whilst parenting 4 gorgeous and busy children, taking care of her father (who passed away shortly after she submitted her manuscript,) keep her floors clean and chickens fed at the same time, is a credit to her life-management skills which are evident throughout the book.
Tips and tricks to save you time and money filter effortlessly through the chapters in her strong yet soft voice, making you want to keep reading to reveal the delicious recipes she sustains her family with.
Her training as a nurse pours on to the pages too, in the gentlest way, with sections titled ‘In the family way’ or (my favourite) ‘Home Nurse’.
Anyway – enough about the details of her book. We have one author-signed copy up for grabs and I will post it anywhere in the world, so leave me a comment in the box below if you would like to be in with a chance to win, fellow food blogger, Nessa Robin’s first book, Apron Strings.
Nessa drove over to have a spot of lunch with me last week and the hours few by us so fast. We have so much in common – I was sad she had to race back home to fetch her kids from school (as did I!) and can’t wait to get together with her during the summer months.
Now on to the interview …
Tell me about your book. How did you come up with the story?
When I was writing the proposal for Apron Strings I wanted it to seem like a natural progression from the blog. It was the personal aspect of sharing family stories which gave me my voice in blogging, so I wanted to expand on some of these stories in the book. I find it easier to write from the heart, so no matter what the recipe I could normally link it to some personal story or other.
How did you become interested in food writing?
I had been teaching children’s cookery classes and while I was pregnant with Millie, and due to illness, I found myself unable to continue with my work. I still wanted to maintain my connection with food. For my classes I would type out hand-outs which included the recipes and some nutritional info etc. The blog let me continue this, without actually conducting the weekly classes. As the months went by I realised how much I enjoyed this form of writing.
What kind of research did you do for this book?
Most of my recipes and stories are drawn from my own experiences. I have a great love for old cookbooks as most not only share a recipe but often take give the reader a detailed tutorial. Some of my old cookbooks were my mothers and grandmothers, but in recent years I have sought some out in auctions. My Dad passed away just five weeks after I submitted my manuscript. He was a wonderful help to me as I searched for ideas for recipes and introductions. I actually conducted interviews with him all about his own childhood memories. I then used some of what we chatted about in the book. Thankfully I recorded these and they mean so much to me now.
What’s a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?
Since I work from home, and to make the most of a working day, I must ensure that the children are completely sorted. Therefore most of my writing occurs on my husband’s days off. I stick to around a 9-6pm sort of day, with a few breaks dispersed throughout the day. On the days that I have a deadline and my husband is working, I generally get up quite early and write while the rest of the house is asleep.
I have a workstation set up in the spare room where my computer, reference books and many piles of notes are located. While I was writing the book I would have a daily and a weekly target for writing, recipe testing and the photography. I rarely met them but found them essential for keeping me on track.
What is the hardest part about writing Nessa?
A blank computer screen before all the words have come together in my head. Once I ‘m a few lines into my day’s writing I normally feel much better about the entire process.
What’s the best thing about being an author?
I suppose the sense of accomplishment and worth. In the past every so often I would receive an email or message from someone who has enjoyed a blog post, but I’m honestly over-whelmed by the amount of positive feedback I’ve already received from the book. I also love that forever more my own book will be on my bookshelf to share with my children and family.
What are you working on now?
I’m still busy with my columns and naturally the blog. Even though I’m not working on anything definite, at the moment, I’m continuously jotting down ideas for new recipes and stories.
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Be true to yourself and write from the heart.
Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?
As cookbooks stand there are many that I cherish but I especially love any of Hugh Fearnley- Whittingstall. I also love Nigella’s books, due to the personal introductions before each recipe.
My favourite Irish author is Roisin Meaney. She’s a wonderful story teller and her books are full of interesting characters.
If money were no object, and you could have any one piece of cooking equipment, what would it be?
Most certainly an Aga.
What’s the best meal you’ve ever had and where?
As a family we rarely go out for meals, as often I can find it more hassle than it is worth. In the past couple of years I have eaten some great meals out and of course at home, however one meals stands out above the rest and that would be one that my husband and I enjoyed in Ballymaloe House two years ago. The setting was beautiful and the meal, which was simply presented, tasted sensationally. Every single element of it was in season. I must also mention that this meal was the first that my husband and I had enjoyed out alone in seven years. Would that have something to do with it?
What are your favorite memoirs by food writers, chefs, or anyone else, for that matter?
I’m totally fascinated by memoirs. I expect it comes from having an inquisitive side and finding out about how others live. I must say, and not just because you are interviewing me, that I really enjoyed The Chef & I. I found it very touching.
A couple of years ago I read Julia Child’s My Life in France. She was a lady who had such a great drive and an amazing passion for food. The story of her food journey is heart-felt and inspiring.
My husband Ron ‘never eats the same meal twice’. As a chef he believes that if you want to be knowledgeable about food, you need to experience it yourself. Do you agree with this statement?
I certainly would, however while cooking for the children familiarity is often most welcomed and less waste is guaranteed. Many of our family meals are long standing favourites, but I would often introduce different ingredients and flavours thus encouraging a more varied palate. Agreeing with Ron’s statement, whenever I’m dining out I will always order something that I wouldn’t necessarily make at home and try not to order the same dish twice.
Nessa – thank you so much for taking the time to come to Galway for the interview. I had so much fun chatting with you and can’t wait for a picnic with the kids and husbands during the summer. Móna x
Y’all can buy Nessa’s book right here … or here … and if you want your name in the hat for a free copy then please leave a comment below please. I cannot begin to tell you how important it is to support women like Nessa who take ‘Working in the Arts’ very seriously and her book is a true celebration of Irish recipes from the heart of her family home – the kitchen. Also, if you would like to read another review of her book you can have a peek at Georgina Campbell’s review right here.
This should go without saying but all these gorgeous photos are styled and shot by Nessa or her husband Diarmuid.
What a team!
Those are all the Wise Words I have for today.
(I am so delighted to be free from the clutches of academia and back to blogging, reading and writing for fun!)
Clyde Court Hotel,
Wednesday, June 12th 2003.
She who made me a Mama … who we call Rory Belle ………
You handed her to me with care, she ………. but the size of a sugar bag.
Her teeny tinny little self, just squeaked occasionally, when something was to be had.
Snuggling in to me real close, she took to her Daddy too,
I never thought I could love so much … her, …. and even you.
I think of you so often, and am thankful for this child I call my own.
I hope the years have been kind to you, and far from yours, you have not roamed.
She has your fiesty nature, and even the same glint lights up her eyes,
and sometimes I catch streaks of red hair, and close my eyes with happy sighs.
She’s Mama’s little helper, but don’t let this photo fool you so,
because, like me, she’ll instruct you see – and make sure the BOSS everyone does know!
Her cheeks turn rosy red when colder weather comes around,
and no matter what the climate is, she’s never far from her hoodies … always laying on the ground!
Because we fed her early,
only four months old and she was eating well,
her appetite for lovely food,
will continue to grow as well.
And as I scoured through my files,
looking for photos to share with you,
you’ll notice that in many of them,
she’s never alone … there’s always two.
She loves her little bubby,
she is never far from his side,
and many times I have to separate them,
and the two of them I’ll chide.
Her other love is animals,
especially her puppy Pearl.
I cannot ever imagine her without
animals in her world.
And of course it always warms my heart,
so see the crazy messages she leaves for me.
Sometimes they are on the chalkboard,
for all the world to see.
But the thing I love about this girl,
and have done from the start,
is that you gave her willingly to Ron and I,
a huge piece of your own heart.
(and in our case … two large pieces!)
So know this lovely lady,
that your girl is safe and well.
Know that every day of these past ten years,
with love our hearts do swell.
Happy TENTH Birthday to our gorgeous funny bold brassy belligerent beautiful bossy baby girl – Rory Belle.
We have been parenting for ten years … isn’t that an accomplishment in itself!
Adoption (or fostering) is not for everyone; I get that. But if you have room in your heart and home for kids, then the funniest ones might just end up on your doorstep looking for a place to call their home. Be open to the wonderful way of building a family that is adoption (or fostering).
On a side note, we are parents of 4 kids but the HSE does not allow us to share photos of the other two. It’s a right bummer and I struggle with that particular rule – but it is a child protection law so we respect their wishes as it is in the best interest of the kids. Now you just have to use your imagination and picture two gorgeous red-headed and fair skinned freckled girlies that are as cute as buttons, growing like weeds and blissfully happy to be part of our wonderful weird Wise family here in Galway.
Those are all the Wise Words I have for today – off to help the Chef make a cracker of a birthday cake for our baby girl – Rory Belle.
In a few weeks …. our children will all be home for eight long lazy weeks of summer.
By the third day of this deliciously long summer holiday, I will have pulled out most of my (already short) hair and will be wondering, come August, why the teachers won’t take them back a week earlier than expected .
We have the world of respect for teachers here in this house. Mostly because they help shape the minds of our offspring whilst we work or study, but also because they have our children under their watchful eye for several hours a day – five days a week. We do not, for one second, worry about our children when they are at school.
We do, however, worry about the teachers; Our four alone would drive any teacher crazy.
Before school wraps up this year we will be making a gorgeous Rhubarb tea cake to share with the teachers at our children’s school.
You should give it a whirl too.
It’s just that good.
First, before the recipe … I have a small recipe for how to roast your Rhubarb. Use the roasted fruit for cakes and cheesecakes and the leftover syrup becomes the best base for one of my favourite summer cocktails or it is also excellent when poured liberally over pancakes.
Roasted Rhubarb Cordial
Cordials or syrups are an excellent way to preserve summer fruits and can make for a thoughtful house warming gift, or a welcome surprise in a student’s care package when the time comes. If you do not have a square of cheesecloth (or muslin) then best to invest in a piece as it comes in quite handy when dabbling in drinks and cordials in the kitchen. I am a dab hand at dabbling in drinks. It is what I do best.
What you will need
2 bunches of Rhubarb
200 g caster sugar
150 ml water
125 ml orange juice
2 vanilla beans, split
3 cardamom pods, bruised (or Star Anise would work fine too)
How to prepare it
Pre-heat the oven to 160ºC. Cut the rhubarb at an angle -about 6 cm in length. Place on a roasting pan and sprinkle with caster sugar. Add the water, orange juice, vanilla beans and cardamom pods. Roast in pre-heated oven, turning once, for 20 minutes or until rhubarb is tender but still holds its shape. (Although, it does not matter if it loses its shape). Remove from heat. Transfer the cooked Rhubarb to a bowl and pour the syrup into a pot and cook over a medium heat until the syrup thickens. Drizzle over the roasted rhubarb and place in the fridge to cool completely. For best infused taste, leave in the fridge overnight. Remove from fridge and strain through a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth. (If your syrup has set up a little thick then you can heat it for a minute before pouring into strainer).
The cordial can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to two months and is delicious poured over a stack of buttermilk pancakes or a piece of French toast and also works excellently in summertime cocktails. The left over roasted rhubarb can also be stored in an airtight container for two weeks and we love to use this as a topping for baked Rhubarb cheesecake too. (email me for the recipe at monaANDron@Sunday-Times.ie ).
A quick rhubarb whisky cocktail can be whipped up in a minute. Crush some ice and pack tightly into a medium sized glass. Mix the juice of one orange, half a lemon, 2 oz of whiskey, 2 oz of rhubarb cordial and a spring of mint and a dash of bitters in a glass. Pour over crushed ice and garnish with a slice of orange.
Ok – now that you know how to make the roasted Rhubarb … you can move on to this recipe and make the cake!
This is what the roasted Rhubarb looks like …. but the recipe calls for it to be baked into the cake so it looses some of its hot-pinkness when baked.
Don’t we all … heh heh!
- For the fruit
- 60 ml lemon or orange juice (2 lemons)
- 120 g light brown sugar
- 40 g cornstarch
- 3 Tbsp water
- 450 g Strawberries, hulled and cut in quarters
- 450 g Blueberries
- 450 g Rhubarb, roasted
- For the streusel topping
- 90 g flour
- 120 g light brown sugar
- 150 g whole almonds, crushed
- For the cake batter
- 275 g butter
- 360 g flour (we like to use Spelt)
- 150 g light brown sugar
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 large eggs
- 360 ml buttermilk
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Scrapings of a whole vanilla bean pod
- Preheat the oven to 175º/350F. Brush a 9 x 12 x 3-inch baking pan with butter, and set aside. Make the fruit sauce: Combine the lemon juice and sugar in a medium saucepan and heat until the sugar has dissolved. Add the blueberries; cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat until it begins to bubble. In a small bowl, mix the cornflour with 3 Tbsp cold water and then pour into the blueberries, mixing with a spoon until it is well incorporated. You will notice the liquid has thickening after a few minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in the strawberries, already quartered; let cool. Use the spears of roasted rhubarb too – but leave them aside until it is almost time to put the cake in the oven.
- Make the crumb topping: Combine 90g sugar and 90g flour in a medium bowl. Melt 30g butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Drizzle the butter over the flour mixture; using your hands, mix until crumbly. Add in the crushed almonds and set aside.
- Make the cake batter: Whisk together the remaining flour and sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Grate the chilled butter into the flour mixture and rub together with your fingertips until it resembles coarse meal. In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla essence and vanilla pod scrapings. Pour the wet mixture into the flour mixture; stir to combine.
- Spread half the cake batter evenly into the prepared pan. Top with all the fruit mixture, including the roasted rhubarb too. Top with the remaining fruit sauce. If there is too much liquid, save some for pouring over the cake later after it has baked. Sprinkle with the crumb topping.
- Bake for 1 hour at 175ºC until the cake is golden brown and springs back when touched in the center. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature, cut into squares.
Ok … a smooth enough re-emerging of sorts back in to Blogtopia. I have just finished up four years of college and one of the hardest years of my life … Thanks for all the well wishes and flowers and presents etc. I am back on my feet, taking long strides again, kicking ass and taking names.
On a side note, and because many of you have been asking me, my next blog post is going to be titled ‘What comes next’ …. so stay tuned.
That’s all folks … back on the bandwagon!
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
You can't find the Chef here.
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