Wise Kitchen

Sep 23 2014

Driving an eCar….money…money….money….

Posted by     4 Comments    in Kitchen

Wow .. where to start. This journey we are on with the Electric Car from Renault Ireland and GIY Ireland has taken several twists and turns over the course of the summer.

Local gardener goes for a spin

Local farmer/vegetable grower, Oisín Kenny, from Claregalway, stopped by to check out the eCar.

The first thing worth mentioning is … it is still summer here in Galway. Although the air has cooled a wee bit, and the leaves are starting to turn and tumble, the sun is shining, the kids are not wearing coats to school and there is beer n’ BBQing happening in the backyard every evening.

Himself has never experienced anything like it and has been wearing shorts since April. He said it ‘feels like an American summer’. He still refuses to swim alongside us in the sea though … that would be admitting he has now, finally after 6 long years of fighting it, acclimated to his new home.

GIY Nation Jack gardening lesson Dad 2

Jack has started to follow in his father’s footsteps .. showing the most interest, of all the kids, for the gardening projects.

A few weeks ago, while I was wrapping up my Thesis for college, he was banished from the house two weekends in a row. I had to get my work finished, so he planned a few excursions with the kids and decided to do a little driving experiment to go along with it.

I asked him to document the details because he took the eCar on one excursion and the diesel guzzler van on another outing.

eCar at Claregalway Castle - July 2014

Enjoy the unedited version of my husbands detailing of his little jaunts through the Irish countryside on a quest.  Best if you read it with a half Alabama/half Galway accent. And read it slowly … because that is the way he talks … real slow …. like ….

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It ain’t about the money…Well, actually, it is.

by Ron Wise

A few weeks ago I started my journey from Galway to Claremorris with a two-fold purpose. The first, was to do a little experiment with the eCar v’s the family ICE vehicle (Internal Combustion Engine) otherwise known as the 3 litre diesel van that sucks the life out of my wallet every time I turn the key in the ignition (which I ran on the same trip the week later).

The second purpose was to find our gander, Pippin, a lady friend. Pippin has become an integral part of our flock management system here at Chez Wise, and lends his watchdog services to ward of stray dogs and greedy foxes, and he also, alongside Pearl the terrier, keeps a watchful eye over all the babies that hatch over the course of the summer.

See short 6 second video here.

The trip from our home in Galway to Claremorris was about 60km so I had to plan accordingly, as we don’t have a fast charge capability with the Renault Fluence. A few phone calls later, we had received the OK from the lovely folks at the McWilliam Hotel to allow me to park the car and charge-for-free in their parking lot, while I spent the day at the Claremorris Country Fair with the four kids, and without my wife … because she was still writing her damn thesis.

Although we had a wonderful experience at the fair, and the kids were well behaved, we did not find a mate for Pippin.

Pippin the Gander ...photo bomb expert

Pippin the Gander …photo bomb expert

We made our way back to the hotel, loaded up all our purchases of the day and did a quick headcount because Móna gets mad if I misplace a kid …. and we headed home. The cost of the trip, there are back with the eCar was €2.00 – as we charged at home before we left Galway and the McWilliam Hotel, as with all public chargers are all still free.

Under the hood

No oil .. so no extra maintenance costs …clean engine ..

The following week, still determined to find a mate for my gander, we headed back that same way in the Diesel van. The same trip to Claremorris and back cost just under €15.00

You can see why I love the eCar. It is about the money, well more like the savings.

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My very pretty niece, Keira, who comes to visit us every summer all the way from Switzerland. She is quite the gardener.

 

Having to figure out a way to encourage all the kids to become more involved in the gardening projects this year was a challenge we were ready for. There is a lot of finger-pointing going on and ‘it’s her turn’ etc. but the unexpected side effect of it all, is they have now started to fight over who gets to harvest and eat the goods. The cucumbers are chopped in salads, we have a few late strawberries popping out this week thanks to the Indian summer we are experiencing, and the most recent project assigned to us by the folks at GIY Ireland is to plant a winter crop of spuds for Christmas day.

Rumour has it they will not grow to produce ‘Spuds for Santa’ as the kids have nicknamed it, but all we can do is wait and see.

Tomato harvest August 2014

For now, and especially with regard to driving the eCar for a few months …… we are really  enjoying the ride  ….

That’s all for this week,

WiseMóna

Aug 30 2014

Blackberry Bourbon Old Fashioned

Posted by     8 Comments    in Kitchen

 

Blackberry Sunrise 2014

My day starts so calmly. The most beautiful sunrises can be experienced in Ireland as soon as Autumn’s first blush occurs. A life-long early bird, I usually stumble out of bed somewhere between half five and six o’clock every morning and assuming there has not been a deluge of rain throughout the night and carried over till dawn … this image above is typical of what greets me daily at that hour. We are noted in these parts for having beautiful sunsets … you have surely heard the song, no?  Well, I think it is high time someone wrote a song about our sunrises too.

Blackberry bush 2

Blackberries have been ripening in our back fields since the last week in July. We have picked and packaged them lovingly in the freezer and have a few more weeks of preserving ahead of us. We will be making chutneys, jams, jellies and lots and lots of pie filling. I think it’s time for a bigger freezer!

Blackberry Cong

We have had an excellent summer. Sure, I was bogged down for several weeks finishing up my thesis for college, but the last few weeks, before the kids went back to school were just bliss. We spent a lot of time traipsing about meeting old and new friends for fun frolics about the countryside and even squeezed in a spot of fishing with family.

Blackberry Beets 2014

Now that the weather has turned, and Autumn is well and truly here to stay, all the colours around me seem richer and filled with flavour. The markets and grocery stores are still heaving and groaning with a bounty of fruit so time to get out and load your shopping basket with it all while it’s still in season. See the next issue of Nuacht Chlair for a gorgeous recipe for a late summer Clafoutis.

Blackberry Clafoutis 2014

Now that you have your ducks in a row and your basket is brimming with berries … I think it is time for a little reward. Earlier today, I shared a photo of a Blackberry Bourbon Old Fashioned .. and was bombarded with emails and notifications requesting the recipe. Here’s the thing guys and dolls, especially when it comes to drinks … if you taste it and like it, its perfect. Keep that in mind when you foray into the world of lovely libations.

Blackberry Bourbon Old Fashioned

Makes one drink (but who likes to drink alone?)

Ingredients

2 oz of Bourbon

2 tsp brown sugar or honey (honey dissolves quicker)

1 Tbsp Blackberries, more if you like the fruit

2 dashes of bitters (I love Rhubarb bitters)

2 slices of orange, saving the rest of the orange for juice

Lots of ice

Method

First, macerate the blackberries in the brown sugar. Dump them into a glass and add the slice of orange and muddle it all together. Drop in a few dashes of the bitters, add your Bourbon and stir. Squeeze the remaining orange juice and stir. Taste and adjust sweetness or citrus as desired.

Fill the glass with ice. All the way to the top. Stir and then drink. Use a spoon to eat all the blackberry bits once you get to the bottom of the glass and always, always, always eat the orange slice. It’s chock full of Vitamin C after all.

One small note to make here. This can be made with Irish Whiskey too and it tastes equally delicious but quite different.

And in a few weeks, I’ll be making the exact same drink only with boiling hot water, to ward of any colds or hint of flu that might be threatening and goes hand in hand with the change in the seasons.

Ok … enjoy every bit. If, like me, you have just surveyed back-to-school chaos, you deserve it. And on a parting note … one more photo to help you settle in to your weekend slumber …. just watch the sunset right outside our door.

Blackberry evening sunset Autumn 2014

 

That’s all for now guys and dolls …

WiseMóna

 

Aug 26 2014

Blog Awards

Posted by     7 Comments    in Kitchen

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I’ve had a little time on my hands these last few days and have put pen to paper – with the help of three terrific Irish Food Bloggers – to give you a little insight as to what kind of work is out there for food bloggers in Ireland today. I know it is a .pdf and this might not be suitable for a lot of you on your mobiles … but it is pages and pages long – a very interesting Q&A with the three bloggers I interviewed. Maybe table it for later … with a glasheen of wine or a lovely craft beer?

Totally worth your time if you are a blogger or especially if you want to hire a blogger to do a bit of writing for you.

The kids are back to school this week on Thursday. I will cherish the silence in my house and I will think of you all, fondly of course, as I resume life as a stay-at-home Mum eating bon bons and drinking excessive amounts of Nespresso.

I’ll be back to blogging on a more regular schedule too I reckon … so brace yourself.

Ok – clicky down below the image for a bit of a read … and feel free to leave lovely comments in the box when you have finished digesting it all. All the nasty comments will be printed out and sent off to be laid to rest on the men’s room floor in the local pub – where they belong.

That’s all I got for now,

WiseMóna

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Click link below for a read …oh and if it brings you to another screen where you have to click the .pdf again…just click it!

Go figure..pain in the ass, I know.

Bloggers and Awards 

Jul 31 2014

Can you cook weeds?

Posted by     2 Comments    in Kitchen

Weeds. They are the most annoying thing, even for gardening experts. Even those with the greenest of thumbs will curse the blasted weeds that – at this time of the year – rule the ridges of the garden or allotment.

Last night I got an email from someone asking questions about the Electric Car we are test driving for Renault Ireland in conjunction with GIY Nation.

Mary from Athlone was asking exactly how much ‘gardening’ has to be accomplished for the 3 month duration of this little competition we are participating in. Mary mentioned I was very fortunate to have a husband who is not only green-thumbed but also very capable of turning all he sows n’ grows into something lovely for supper.

I do like to be reminded on a regular basis how lucky I am, and occasionally I feel like I should remind himself of just how lucky he is. You see – I have a confession to make. I am an absolute nightmare to live with these days.

In the throes of wrapping up a 15,000 word thesis I find myself waging a war with procrastination (hence the excess blogging). I have resorted to extreme measures here guys and dolls – I am sewing. Like, buttons on shorts, darning socks, holes in t-shirts that should be tossed but there are ‘my favourite shirt maaaawwwwmmmm’ … hows that for avoidance?

It is like the last five years of learning how to write and then learning how to be a journalist all comes down to this last bit of writing …. and I’m as blocked as a port-let at the races.

Today, he just got home from work and is, bless his lovely cotton socks that have been bleached white and darned perfectly, going to take the kids to the park to fly their kites … far far away from me and my laptop.

In an effort to show my appreciation of his willingness to give me a few hours of quite ‘writing’ time … I pottered about the kitchen this morning and made a late lunch for everyone.

Nettles 1

This might seem strange that I am even mentioning it .. but truth be told, I’ve done very little cooking these past few months as I have been buried alive in books and newspapers and writing assignments ….

Jack, aged 9: “Mom, can you even cook?” and a slight look of worry overcoming his always hungry little face.

Lulu: “Are you cooking weeds?”

The thing is …. I’m a shocking bad gardener. I do excel in weeding and lawn mowing skills though. But when it comes to green thumbing it .. well, all I usually have to do with the plant or seed in question is ‘get involved’ and it will surely meet its untimely demise.

So now that we have a few GIY projects on the hop, I am finding that I have to work closely with the kids and having a gardner advising us … is no bloody fun. He is also certain I will kill his vegetables.

Today I decided to cook my weeds for our lunch. Just to show that even if I do unavoidably kill all our growing projects….I can still feed the kids a nourishing lunch.

Nettles 2

Nettles are so easy to cook. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil with a teaspoon of salt. Dump nettles into the pot and turn the stove off. Leave for ten minutes. Strain into a colander and remove the largest pieces of the (now softened) stems.

Chop the nettles roughly then add butter, salt and black pepper.

Nettles 3

Now, while this is lovely on its own just like this … I suggest if you are trying to get your kiddos to ingest it, best to add it to the mashed potatoes. They will eat it, they will love it and they will all be back looking for more.

Nettles 4

When I was plating up our lunch earlier today I had trouble making everything look good on the plate and I am a firm believe that if it looks like you made an effort then the complaints from the peanut gallery will be less … so I had slow cooked Pork, which was brown and slathered in a green marinade (horseradish leaves, leek stems, garlic, parsley, nettles) which had turned a dirty looking black green …

Pears cabbage

The cabbage, pears and onions I had cooked earlier too, as a side dish, looks gorgeous when you start off the cooking process, but the reason it is so good (just sautéed onions, cabbage and slices of pears in a little olive oil, salt and pepper) is that once it starts to sizzle on the pan you turn the heat down, cover it and let it cook down to nothing … it even caramelises a bit.

Pears Cabbage slices

But then it goes from looking lovely (like the above) to turning, you guessed it, brown.

So, I had a lot of brown on the plate and was sure, due to the lack of salad on the plate, that the Chefs discerning eye(brow) would be raised .. happy and all as he might be that I had made the effort to cook for him.

So I worked a little harder …

Nettles 5

It reminded me of a couple of blog posts (or maybe Tweets) I had seen a few months back from another busy Mum (Sineád over at Bumbles of Rice). She called them #Barefaced dinners and it shed light on what she served her family for supper every night for a few weeks.

I know from personal experience impression that (as a food blogger) many readers presume us to be eating gourmet food every night. So she uploaded her week of evening meals in photos and encouraged her readers and fans on Facebook and Twitter to join in the fun. At the time I was unable to join in the fun because of a shoddy internet connection … but I have since followed up and read the blog posts.

Food is huge part of our WiseWorld here in Galway. We grow it, raise it, chase it, kill it, cook it and eat it and then we do it all over again. While I do have a chef-in-residence to do the cooking, the flood of photos in my Instagram feed is what sustains us … and I am the one that takes the time to arrange it on the plate…and trust me … I spend very little time arranging.

OK – back to the sewing Thesis writing … and I’m sure I’ll be back soon again as I still have 15 more days to procrastinate!

WiseMóna

PS – in an effort to be truly #barefaced here … Ron decided against the park and kite flying plan because he did not want to fight any #raceweek traffic, so he stayed at home all afternoon with the kids and I have been banging my head against the wall trying to get a bit of peace and quiet around here. Best laid plans and all that ….

Jul 4 2014

‘SOMM’ at Galway Film Fleadh. Oenophiles take note – two tickets up for grabs!

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I am not even going to try to hide the fact that this is a press release down below.

If you are wondering which movie you should go see during the Galway Film Fleadh .. this one is right up your alley if you are working in the service industry or just happen to enjoy your wine. Read all about it … then as long as you abide by the rules down below you can enter a drawing to win TWO TICKETS to see the movie AND thanks to our good friend Peter Boland at Cases Wine Warehouse over on the Tuam Road in Galway, you also will get to drink the wines. Perfect way to spend a Wednesday evening methinks!

I know … I know … I know …. another giveaway … Galway peeps … we love ya …

Galway Film Fleadh

‘Somm Night': Wine tasting with Master Sommeliers at Galway Film Fleadh

 

The 26th Galway Film Fleadh, in association with wine merchants Cases Wine Warehouse, are delighted to present an innovative sensory screening of Somm, a unique documentary which takes the viewer on a humorous, emotional and illuminating look into a mysterious world—the Court of Master Sommeliers and the massively intimidating Master Sommelier Exam. This will be the first festival screening of Somm in Ireland.

SOMM_Brian_McClintic

On Wednesday 9th July at 8pm, ticket-holders will sample wines as they are discussed on the screen, in the Veranda Lounge of the Radisson Blu Hotel. The screening will be preceded by a brief introduction to the wines from Peter Boland of Cases. Somm has won multiple film festival awards and all the wines set for tasting are top-end examples of their style so the night should prove a thrilling experience for wine lovers and film buffs alike.

SOMM_Dustin_Wilson 1

Somm is the story of four friends attempting to conquer an exam with a failure rate of 90% – the prestigious Master Sommelier Exam. This is a test that can cover literally anything to do with the entire world of wine and that’s only the beginning of the challenge! In over fifty years, fewer than two hundred people have ever earned the title of Master and the ones who succeed have risked their personal lives, their wellbeing, and often their sanity to achieve this feat. Known for its secrecy, access to the Court Of Master Sommeliers has always been strictly regulated and cameras have never been allowed anywhere near the exam until now.

Tickets are €30 including wines. Spaces are limited so early booking is recommended. Further information and ticket booking is available at www.galwayfilmfleadh.com.

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AND – the very (very) generous Peter Boland from Cases Wine Warehouse has just given me TWO TICKETS to offer our readers for this event next Wednesday, July 9th, 2014.

Throw your name in the hat by leaving a comment below … the usual rules apply:

1.    You must be a registered reader of our blog – signup here for that and

2.    Tell me why you want to come see this movie

3.   AND also tell me … where is Cases Wine Warehouse?

I will pick the winner at random on Sunday evening (July 6th) … and that will give you enough time to get your ducks in a row.

Thats it for now folks … may the 4th be with you … sorry … could not resist …’tis the 4th of July after all!

WiseMóna

Jun 24 2014

Bog butter

Posted by     8 Comments    in Kitchen

Bog Butter

Dunmore residents give us the dish on an old delicacy

by Móna Wise

15 June 2014

(Originally published in the Connacht Tribune on Thursday 19th June 2014)

Dunmore Demesne golf club looked fabulous in all its summer glory as I wheeled my way through the Galway countryside last weekend.

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Larry McGuire and Anne Reddington, owners of Galway Goat Farm based just outside Dunmore, had made a recent discovery of Bog Butter and curiosity got the better of me. It was easy tempt me to make the hour long journey out from Galway city to see it, and even taste it.

Butter, it seems, is quite a common thing to find in the bogs of Ireland. Over 274 instances of bog butter has been recorded between 1817 to 1997, and several more since then. A recent find in 2011 of over 45 kg of bog butter found in Tullamore, County Offaly, thought to be 5,000 years old.

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A few weeks ago, when taking a walk down in the bog, Anne’s brother, Michael, happened upon this small wheel of butter and phoned his brother-in-law Larry, straight away. Larry, being familiar with all things dairy, due to the fact that he milks his goats daily, raced down the bog after them to check it out.

“They were gone ahead of me so I tore off in the van down the road after them. I had heard of other people finding butter in the bog, but was curious myself to see this. It looks like it had been wrapped in some kind of leaves, maybe cabbage, and there was lots of moss and maybe a bit of straw wrapped around it too.”

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The tradition of burying butter in the bog dates back centuries with their even being a poem by London poet, William Moffet, written (in 1755) to describe how much a part of every day life this was:

 

“But let his faith be good or bad,

He in his house great plenty had,

Of burnt oat-bread, and butter found,

With Garlic mixt, in boggy ground,

So strong, a dog, with help of wind,

By scenting out, with ease might find;

And this they count the bravest meat,

That hungry mortals e’er did eat.”

 

The reference to garlic comes from the fact that a lot of the butter might have been wrapped in wild garlic, it certainly grows a plenty in this part of the world, but this particular stash had a very mild scent and certainly no trace of garlic essence to be found.

 

“Gurteen, the area where we are now” said Larry, was predominantly poor land years ago, with not much around here except a massive oak forest. The area was hard hit by the famine, and due to there being so much bog land around here, there would have been very poor grazing land for cattle around here, so it is hard to tell why the butter ended up being stored right out here in the middle of the bog.”

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After Larry unearthed the butter, weighing more than a kilo, it was surprising to see how intact the butter still was. The texture crumbled easily enough like a dry waxy cheese, and although quite odourless, it had a mildly rancid flavour, something that can only be described best as ‘really old waxy unsalted cheese’.

 

While some forms of bog butter found are meat based made from tallow, it seems more plausible that this one is dairy based as the colour still leans more towards yellow.

Jack Wise. Age 9. Claregalway

Larry and Anne have a call in to the curator of the Galway Museum in the hopes that they might come out and have a look at it and help them identify a timeline for their find.

 

In days gone by butter was considered a luxury item, and it is really no different today as it is one of those items that carries an ever fluctuating price. In the past, because it was always deemed valuable, that reason alone made it worth hiding. As none of the butter found in recent times in Irish bogs have been known to have salt in them, the best conclusion we can come to is that this was buried, wrapped in leaves, moss and grass, in the bog as the only way of preserving it, pre-refrigeration days.

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The mystery as to why it was buried so far removed from any form of dwellings even ancient ruins, remains a mystery we hope the curator of the Galway museum can answer.

Rori Wise, Age 11. Claregalway.

One thing is certain though, preserving a fabulous food-find right here in Galway is vital to us finding and revealing a lot more of the gastronomic details of our ancestors daily diet.

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Who needs a fridge for butter with the bog nearby?

Our cultural landscape

There are many theories behind the burying of butter. A common tactic in war was destroying the enemies foodstuffs, ensuring a famine, so butter might have been buried for reasons of security and defence, so this find might indicate a sudden attack or flight of the people who stored it.

Another theory is just a practical farming one, in that the cattle were released to graze in greener pastures during the warmer months and the butter was made and stored nearby.

Why the bog?

Peat bogs provide a cold and wet environment with virtually no oxygen circulating in its muddy depths.

The build up of plant materials over thousands of years creates highly acidic conditions making it perfect to preserve many items including food and even bodies. Whilst we have butter in our bogs, many other countries have buried and re-discovered other food products such as eggs in China, ghee (clarified butter) in India, cheese in Italy and even milk in Norway.

Interesting details

A piece of bog butter found in Rosmoylan, County Roscommon, was discovered in wooden barrel with a selection of plants like ‘sedge’, ‘wheat grass’ and ‘hypnum’ a type of moss. All three of these types of plan materials were commonly used by people to stuff their mattresses for bedding, with the Latin word ‘hypnos’ even translating to the mean ‘sleep’. It is lovely to think of the Irish milking maids of days gone by wrapping up their wheels of butter and laying them down in the bogs for a nice long sleep in the bog.

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Thanks for reading – if you are in or around Galway this week, then keep an eye out for this weeks Connacht Tribune on Thursday 26th, 2014. I have a two-page spread on fun activities ALL FOR FREE ….. a cut out and stick on the fridge piece to help keep the kids occupied (and not break the bank) this summer!

WiseMóna

May 23 2014

Dare to dream

Posted by     10 Comments    in Kitchen

A couple of things popped up on my radar this week worth sharing.

The first was the details of an informal chat I had with someone at our local (Galway) enterprise office. They are tossing about the idea of building a shared kitchen facility for small producers. So I have a couple of questions for you and hope you will take a minute or two to respond as this feedback can really help drive this project.

You can copy/paste these questions and leave your answers in the comment section below or you can email the answers to me directly at MonaZWise@gmail.com.

1. Would you be interested in having access to a HSE approved, energy efficient, commercial kitchen on an hourly basis?

2. How much would you be willing to pay, per hour, for the use of such a facility (all inclusive electric, gas, etc.)

3.  How many hours per week would you need to use a facility like this in order to get your product prepped, cooked, packaged?

If you are a small producer and need a space like this (or if you know anyone that is in this boat) please take a minute to answer these three questions and I’ll add you to the list of those interested in this exciting idea. I know we would love to have access to a commerical kitchen from time to time and it can be the way to get a product idea out of the concept phase and into the production phase. So ..what are you waiting for?

And on that note…..and this pertains to Irish readers only … did you see the latest Food lovers competition launched on RTÉ?

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 Wowza….this one, seems to be open to just about anyone, novices to professional chefs alike, and it is one of those opportunities, if in the food biz, you’d have a hard time letting it slip by without due consideration.

Even if you are not working in the industry, but might have a knack with recipe and a desire to develop a product…this is your chance to take that dream of seeing your product on the shelves of your local supermarket!

Ideas are smoking hot here at Chez Wise …. and, as long as we are eligible, I’m pretty sure we will be throwing our names in the hat with a tasty and tempting treat produced right here in Galway with mostly all Irish ingredients.

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You can download the application form right here!

Apr 18 2014

Creative Cheese Works {Giveaway}

Posted by     22 Comments    in Kitchen


You are not going to believe me when I tell you that ‘Cheese making’ is incredibly easy.

cheese kit

A little milk boiled to the right temperature is the key ingredient and that is pretty much all you need. Well, that and a bit of vinegar (or rennet once you get serious about this) and away you go; The world of cheesemaking is yours.

Another item crossed of the bucket list so-to-speak, because I know many of you daydream about making your own cheese all the time. I’ve made my own butter – that was just as easy. I even made flavoured butters. One with Nettles, and even a bacon butter. Yep – a piece of cake.

A couple of months ago we received a message via Facebook  from Yvonne Hollidge at Creative Cheese Works asking if we would like to try a cheese making kit. Kit? Are ya kidding me? We do not need a kit!

But I had a look at her website and I really liked what I saw. I’ll be the first to admit I love nice packaging and this kit comes in a dark hunter green corrugated cardboard box. Everything was wrapped and presented beautifully and this would make an excellent gift for Father’s day, I’m sure and for anyone who might just love cheese.

Yvonne is doing her best to educate people as to how easy this cheesemaking really is. She is on the road doing demonstrations around the country at festivals etc. and also in schools. She is passionate about teaching, and wants to encourage everyone to try their hand. So much so that she has give us a free kit to offer one of our readers.

You really want this … you need to prove it to yourself that you can make cheese – for once and for all.

Once you get your kit you can whip up a batch of soft cheese in a few hours.

This kit uses full fat milk and makes up to 10 batches.

The first time we used the kit we made a delicious black pepper crusted soft cheese which the kids inhaled in seconds.

Homemade cheese

Since we are officially on the cheesemaking bandwagon – we have made several different soft cheese’s and are now graduating onto the blue cheese – more of a challege but really looking forward to trying this.

The one thing we are loving is the shelf life – if you can keep it hidden from the kids that is. The cheese is mild and will ripen and strengthen in firmness and flavour if you leave it (wrapped in greasproof paper) in the fridge for a week or two. When you tuck into it after a few weeks maturing … it is begging for a glass of wine, a few olives stuffed with anchovies and a long weekend lying ahead of you. It’s that kinda distracting cheese.

Now – if you are ready to get your cheese making hat on, I suggest you leave a comment down below (we will ship worldwide) and let me know why you have finally taken the plunge and are ready to make your own cheese!

Herbed cream cheese en croúte 3

Maybe you want to make this gorgeous (baked) Rhubarb Cheesecake and you just know it will tase better if you use your own creamy cheese?

Rhubarb Cheesecake slice and whole

 

Or maybe, you are ready to finally learn how to make n’ bake a kick ass macaroni and cheese dish but know that there is no point in even attempting this unless you have all the right ingredients … such as homemeade cheese?

Rasher Mac' n' cheese 1 small

I’ll pick a winner on April 26th, 2014 ….

Comments in the box below. Tell me your cheese woes.

That’s all for now folks,

WiseMóna

 

and the winner is….Peggy Falbo! Congrats to you now send me on your details and I will get that cheese making kit out to you in the post.

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Apr 16 2014

Achill Mountain Lamb

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Achill Lambs 3

A few weeks ago I got an email from an old friend of mine. She put me in touch with Helen Calvey of the Calvey Family Farm on Achill Island, who is helping out on the marketing and social media end of things for the family business whilst she is on maternity leave.

I’ll be the first to admit it – there is no rhyme or reason to figuring out what motivates me to write a blog post. Ordinally, and most writers would agree, one would love to have the luxury of waiting for the inspiration to waft in willingly – then I could drop everything and allow the words to spill endlessly onto the keyboard; Sadly that almost never happens.

But when it does … it’s a great feeling. For me sometimes all it takes is a Tweet from a Mum suffering from #babybrain. As a mum of four – you have my total attention and empathy; Rock on Mama – this too shall pass.

 

Achill Lambs 2

 

I was immedialtey interested in having a chat with Helen because she bounced across the social media pages and landed in-person at our front door to drop off a small sample of their lamb so we could taste for ourselves. The proof is in the pudding as they say and and the taste has lingered with me since.

Incase you are wondering – we did very little cooking to the gorgeous piece of meat they shared with us. The rack was small and butchered beautifully into two (3-bone) chops. A quick season and sear on both sides to brown them for less than 5 minutes, a spoonful of mustard topped with fresh breadcrumbs and finished in a very hot oven for 12 minutes.

There was fingerlicking at the table. I am not ashamed.

Lamb delivery box

So, nosey me, I set about drafting a few questions for Helen to see if I could get a bit more information on what makes Achill Lamb so different to other Irish Lamb. Here’s what Helen Calvey had to say:

Helen, how are you involved with this whole operation?
My parents own the business so it is fair to say I help out when required. I am concentrating on Achill Mountain Lamb at the moment as we are undergoing a process of expansion. I guess I have been roped in as I have skills from my MBA which complement those of my siblings and father. (It is also handy that I am on maternity leave from my “real” job!).
 
There has been a tremendous amount of interest in our unique artisan product of late so I have assisted with social media, press releases and photo calls as well as taking some shots myself (she took the ones of the lambs and her Dad).

   When it looks good raw .. you know you are in for a treat.

How is business? Fifty years is a long time to stay afloat – what’s your secret?

The key thing is my father’s passion for what he does. When he started in 1962 there were 23 other butchers/abattoirs on the island. Today he is the only licenced abattoir within a radius of 30 miles.  Back in the 60s he saw an opportunity to sell his Achill Lamb to the growing number of tourists on the island and butchered and handcrafted it so it would fit in the boot of their car. Today we see the grandchildren of the original customers returning for their own carcase so that they can savour the true taste and flavour of Achill.
 
Our farm is central to all other family business.
 
From this trade my parents opened a Restaurant in the 1960s which specialises in Achill Lamb. I guess rearing a family of 10 children was also a motivating factor to remain in business and be a successful businessman. Through the years he believed in his product and perfected it. He constantly re-invested, continually upgrading and complying with tougher and more stringent  EU regulations.
 
His flock is also central to the success of Achill Mountain Lamb. It is a pure Mayo Blackface Breed. It has been our tradition for many generations and we have never crossed it with any other breed. This type of sheep and lamb thrive on the unique Achill terrain.

Lamb Instagram

How does the taste differ from sea-spray lamb to say, a piece of lamb from the mid-lands?
We can thank Mother Nature for this. Achill is blessed with purity in its water, air and mountain. The prevailing wind on the Island  has travelled thousands of kilometers across the Atlantic and with it, it brings the sea mist and salt which is deposited on the mountains and sandy banks of Achill. This salt runs through the veins of each sheep and lamb. To produce a unique quality lamb product the flock must be treated with respect. The environment will influence this. Our Achill Lamb roam freely on the wild atlantic way and are just a short distance from our Abattoir. If a lamb is bred well and treated well on Achill, mother nature will take care of the rest.
 
Achill Mountain Lamb is raised solely on a natural diet of Mothers milk together with wild herbs, heathers, grasses, mosses and lichens. We breed our lambs to give high quality lean carcases, healthy pinky red in colour, firm deep texture, with light skim of yellowish fat ensuring a unique specific delicate succulent flavour when cooked.
 
Farm fresh and free from any additives,colourants or preservatives.

(I’m actually getting hungry just reading Helen’s response)

 

Wine (Shiraz) Instagram

 

Do you sell the lambs whole or do all the butchering yourself?
We sell the product bespoke as per customer requirements. We can handcraft the whole carcase or leave it whole or halved depending on the customers preference.
 
If someone wants to buy a whole lamb – can you give me wholesale prices  – we know a lot of restaurant owners/chefs who are always on the look out for a nice bit of (whole or) butchered meat. 
This would depend on time of year. Really our season begins mid-July . The lambs we have now are trade lambs due to their size ( All 2013 lambs not quiet a year yet). These lambs are over 20kg.T rade lambs need to be above 15kg. For this reason prices may vary.
Minimum prices for a carcase would be 150 euro. Obviously wholesale prices would depend on volume etc. We would be delighted to engage with any chef/restaurant that was interested.
Hopefully you will be recommending us :)

Oh – this was not a difficult one to feature on the blog Helen. What an excellent product.

Are you using a courier service? How much is a typical shipment cost for the island of Ireland?
We use a courier for Achill Mountain Lamb. We include this in the price of the carcase. Once the season begins a carcase delivered should be approx 99.00 euro. This will arrive packaged and ready for your freezer. The whole carcase will fit easily into a common 3 door freezer. Lambs for the household market are usually lighter than trade ones and weigh approx 12-15kg.
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Achill Lambs 1

It’s not difficult to see why I was interested in sharing this with you all. There is so much more to the story than just a few ‘lambs for sale’. We live in a very ‘get-rich-quick’ kind of world and I think sometimes people need a little reminder that slow and steady wins the race. For quality of product and quality of life. Thanks to Helen Calvey for taking the time out of her busy schedule to have a chat with me.

It seems like Achill Island is a place we should all aim to visit this summer. With Failte Ireland’s recent launch of the Wild Atlantic Way (watch the video!) I see no reason to travel abroad this year . . . staycationing all the way for us.

Have you been to Achill Island recently?

WiseMóna

Mar 25 2014

I need to know … am I wrong?

Posted by     49 Comments    in Kids, Kitchen

Todays topic is always at the epicentre of every argument I have at home with the kids, of which there are four  – ages 8, 9, 10 and 12.

CHORES.

 

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 11.36.04

Up until recently (before they all entered the age of reasoning – which some say it is 8 years of age, and they are right!) the kids towed the line and did their daily chores, for the most part.

I am not talking hard core labour here, just chores that we consider ‘normal’ in most family households:

–   setting the table, clearing the dishes after breakfast and supper, then loading the dishwasher,

–  bringing down their dirty clothes hampers, folding and putting away their own laundry,

–  occasional sweeping of the floors

Now that the age of reckoning has arrived, we are hearing a lot of dramatic resistance to simple requests and the thing that concerns me the most is the statement they reiterate over and over again.

‘None of my friends at school have to do chores’.

None. Not even one. Nada. Nothing.

Now, I am not one of those Mother’s you can fool easily.

I am always up before breakfast so to speak … and I start my day off in a quiet reflective contemplative manner … enjoying the sunrise … like this morning …

 

Sunrise

Typically, I don’t believe a word out of their mouths if it starts off with ‘all my friends’ … because I don’t know their friends or their friends Mum’s and Dad’s all that well, so it’s just heresay as far as I am concerned.

But you know what … I kinda believe my kids. I am getting the impression, perhaps I had a moment of blind weakness this morning, that maybe there are a lot of parents out not doling out the chores to their kids?

The way I see it is as follows – if you have kids maybe you can slot yourself into one of the following three categories:

(A) you give the kids age appropriate chores (like I listed above)

(B) you never give the kids chores and you/your partner do them yourselves for a quiet life and because you feel that this is your job/responsibility as their parent

(C) Neither of the above because you pay for domestic help and no one has to do the bothersome household chores.

Readers … tweeters … peeps and pals …. I need to know – do you get the kids to help out with the chores around the house?

If you are unwilling to respond in the comment box below – will you send me an email at MonaZWise@GMail.com – thanks.

Ok – less than 6 days of classes left before I finish the MA in Journalism at NUIG.

Imagine. It only took me FIVE YEARS to get here!  Ok – technically I am not finished until I complete my work placements and write my 15,000 word Thesis – due in August … but I am no longer tied to a classroom effective April 4th.

I will have soooo much more time on my hands to do laundry and sweep the floor.

Keep the faith lads and ladies … the sun is still shining bright in Galway – FUN and frolicking will resume soon.

Móna

About Móna
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
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