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 like to test the theory ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ from time to time .. especially as ‘the old dog’ aka my handsome Chef, knows
everything quite a bit about cooking and baking. A few weeks ago I noticed a few images flitting about on Facebook and I clicked my way back through the myriad of friends that had been ‘liking’ the images to a very cool landing page of LizzieMay’s Cakes, Cookies and Cupcakes.
There was a few images on her page that made me think of my dear friend Paula over at VanillaBeanBaker blog . And I thought ‘bummer . . another highly skilled cookie decorator that – probably – lives on the other side of the world’.
Except this highly skilled cookie decorator lives right here in Galway and only a stones throw from us really. I sent her a message tout sweet (ha ha) and asked her if she could come out to the house and give us a lesson on ‘how to decorate cookies’.
Gail Porter, owner of LizzieMay’s Cakes, Cupcakes and Cookies got back to me straight away and was only too delighted to oblige.
At the very tender age of 30, Gail decided to take advantage of being made redundant at her ‘proper job’ with Nortel and followed her passion for food. She enrolled in a twelve week course at Ballymaloe but had no interest in working with sugar or making cakes. I think that is the cool thing about food; whether you like it or not, when you are good at something it weaves its way in to your world and you sometimes end up going down a road you had not planned to travel. After she graduated from her course (and needing to find a way to pay for her education loan) she launched her new business and called it LizzieMay’s after both her Grannies.
Gail arrived out to our house with her, eh, guns loaded and icing whipped and sorted in small little cling film pouches. This made clean up a snap later and I would encourage all of you to do the same should you attempt to decorate a few cookies any time soon.
Explaining as she worked, that the secret to becoming a pro at icing cookies, is first patience, followed by fabulous icing, followed by a steady hand. We had a few (duck) egg whites left sitting at room temperature and whipped up a small batch of royal icing (90 g egg whites/480 g icing sugar) and stood to attention waiting for her tutelage.
The peanut gallery looked on with eagerness. For future reference, this is an excellent way to keep the kids entertained for a while and keeps the kitchen that wee bit cleaner too!
When you want to learn ‘how to’ do something new, it is first best to admit that you know nothing and start fresh.
When icing cookies, start by piping a border using a heavy consistency of icing. By the time you have ten cookies iced, the border icing has set up enough for you to start filling in the rest of the cookie with the flood icing.
Once you have that part done, place the cookies in a fan oven on (almost) zero heat for twenty minutes. This hardens up the royal icing greatly and you can carry on and finish your cookies with a bit more bling.
While Gail worked away on her cookies, teaching and talking away, we gave an icing bag to the Chef to see if he could match her skill.
His cheerleading squad looked on with interest and were delighted that he did not screw it up!
When you remove the cookies from the oven you will have a fabulous hard icing with a beautiful matte finish on your cookie. The No. 1 icing tip is best for piping the border and writing.
But be forewarned folks. This.Takes.Time, and an incredible amount of patience, skill and creativity.
And it gets messy. Learning how to decorate cookies means you are working with sugar and food colouring, meaning you end up having a sweet sticky colourful mess on your hands for the afternoon.
And you know … someone has to clean it all up …
As we were mixing and matching colours I was getting a little confused over which ones were border/piping icing and which ones were flooded – because once wrapped up in little cling film packages it was hard to tell the consistency of the icing. Of course, and because I am so slow to catch on, the answer is easy … the little ones are the border icing (which you use less of) and the bigger ones are the flood icing, which you use lots more of.
A steady hand and the ability to not laugh or sneeze while working is vital .. because one false move can screw up a cookie. In Gail’s line of business you can’t just throw one out if you mess it up half way through the process. She likes to use a damp paintbrush to clean up her messes – but we did not see her put that into action once!
Supporting local business’s is something we strive to do more and more of each day.
Discovering a new local business woman making and baking her product from scratch only reinforces our way of thinking, buying and eating.
We will think of her now when we have a special occasion looming but are strapped for time and still want something real and delicious.
We are going to continue to buy local and support local business’s because we like to – and NEED to – know where our food is coming from. We like to see where it starts and how much work has to be done to the raw ingredients before they end up ready to go on our plate or cupcake stand.
Maybe you are wondering what to buy your Mum for Mother’s day next weekend? (March 10th here in Ireland and UK).
Gail can whip up a dozen cookies with a few days notice and can ship them to you!
Or maybe you want to get something for a client for a special Paddy’s Day party or for an Easter celebration?
Or maybe you will break down and give it a whirl yourself and even let the kids try their hand at decorating a few cookies.
No matter what you decide … there will come a time when you want to buy someone a beautiful gift from Galway and in our opinion this is one of the best places to start – so make a note of Gail’s contact details.
When you are popping in and out to our website (and we are ever so glad that you do) please note we have added a new tab called ‘When in Galway’ and this will make it easier to find all local business’s that we blog about. There are only a few on there right now but that will change over the next few months once I am finished with college …………..
and have a bit more time to tell you about all the Galway Food heroes we have in this tiny fabulous city by the sea.
Those are all the WiseWords I have for today,
Tel : +353 (0) 91564041
Sitting at the bottom of Eyre square, Hotel Meyrick has graced us with her stately presence since 1852. Her doors flung open wide inviting guests to eat, sleep and play, in (what we consider) one of Galway’s most welcoming hotels.
Originally constructed with Galway’s train station, Hotel Meyrick is built using Ashlar Limestone, exactly the same as the Galway Cathedral. Statuesque and filled with more than a century of stories, it is one of Galway’s gorgeous gems.
A quiet spot in town to study, where the wifi and tea flows freely, is not always easy to find. Although the library on campus at NUIG and in town offer quiet places of respite for students, sometimes it is the white noise and clatter of forks and spoons that aid in my choices of where to spend a few hours writing, reading or dreaming.
Taking a small step back in time and treating your Mum to brunch or afternoon tea at Hotel Meyrick would be considered a lovely gift for Mother’s Day (March 10th 2013 in Ireland).
But the greatest gift of all would be a few nights stay here in Galway over the Easter break (March 29th-30th 2013) and that is what Hotel Meyrick has (most) generously given us to share with our readers!
Two nights bed & breakfast plus dinner in their award wining Oyster Grill on one of those evenings. All this … for Easter weekend which falls on the same weekend as the second annual Galway Food Food festival.
So jump in … enter the giveaway and start planning your Easter break in Galway!
When in Galway – if you are looking for a place to eat supper on the second night of your stay I would put this place on your list for dinner and go here for brunch on Sunday. I would also make sure you stop in here to and donate a few shillings to their cause because they are doing tremendous work here in Galway helping people in need and are dependant on private donations to keep food in their bellies of those that are hungry.
All you have to do is leave a comment here on the blog letting us know why you want to come to Galway?
The winner will be chosen at random on my birthday (Saturday 23rd February) so you will have PLENTY of time to plan your Easter break. I can’t wait to see who wins this one and hope it is someone I know!! My last class (of four long years of college) is March 27th … so I expect to be in a deliriously happy mood that particular weekend!
Special thanks to Hotel Meyrick for this excellent giveaway! Pop over to their Facebook page to keep up to date on all their special deals – especially during the food festival and race week in Galway. Special thanks also to my blogging buddy Anne Marie Carroll of Warm, Snug & Fat food blog for the food festival photos and of her gorgeous children.
Those are all the WiseWords I have for today,
And the WINNER is …….
This is where I am at.
As you can see, I am studying for my exams. Studying so hard I have decided to listen to an audio book rendition of Virginia Woolf”s Mrs Dalloway because I might go blind if I read it again. I have hit the wall of ‘college burnout’ and can now totally understand ‘why’ people drop out.
College.is.hard. and for me, seemingly never-ending.
The thing is ….. when a girl is burnt out….one can tend to drag the whole family down so I have to do my best to keep my head above water.
I should try harder to stay calm and just make make some tea to have with these delicious muffins that I baked.
Yes. Do not adjust your screens or volume control …
I did in fact bake them but I got the chef to decorate them.
That is why they look so tasty.
If you are getting ready to ice some Christmas cookies or a gingerbread house then watch this video first …. then go over and follow the tutorials on this blog and then send me some photos to share of what you are baking and decorating this Christmas (on Twitter or on Facebook or right here on the blog).
Note – I have not shared what mine look like . . but if want to turn this into the ‘worst’ decorating job ever then I am so there.
A copy of our book (or maybe two copies if y’all are fabulous like) goes to the winner which the Chef will choose by December 15th.
(on a side note – Kenny’s is still shipping our book for free worldwide so if you want to send a fabulous present to your loved ones abroad – please keep us in mind).
This recipe is an easy one and the mascarpone cream cheese frosting is sinful. As in, one might eat it by the spoonful it tastes so good.
- For the muffins:
- 250g self-raising flour
- 1 tsp baking/bread soda
- 140g cherries (from a tin)
- 100g white chocolate chips
- 100g dark chocolate chips
- 100g raw cane sugar
- 3 eggs
- 150ml vanilla yogurt
- 100g butter, melted
- For the frosting:
- 250g Mascarpone cheese
- 60g powdered/icing sugar
- 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
- Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC. Line your muffin tin with some muffin cases.
- Sift the flour, and baking soda into a bowl, then stir in the chocolate and sugar. Add the beaten eggs, yogurt and then the butter and mix until it has formed a good batter-like consistency. Add in the juice from the tinned cherries if you wanted added sweetness. Then add in the cherries (cut in half) at the last minute.
- It doesn’t matter if the mixture looks a bit lumpy. Over mixing might make your muffins a bit tough. On a side note we made ours with Spelt wheat flour and they were pretty kick ass.
- Fill the muffin cases and bake for 20-25 mins until risen and golden brown. Transfer to a rack to cool. If you eat them warm, the chocolate is all melty and messy. And, I’m told, delicious.
- While they are cooling, mix the mascarpone cheese, sugar and vanilla together using an electric mixer until it fluffs up nicely. Add colour if so desired and ice away!
Yesterday, I gave a lecture ‘on blogging’ to first year students at NUIG. This was one of the best experiences I have had thus far since starting my blog in 2007. I gave a one-hour presentation and had a Q&A session afterwards and I brought these muffins in for all the students.
So. College is hard. Damn hard.
The decision as to whether I should carry on to do an MA or take a year off is impossibly hard because it affects more than just me. It affects the kids, the husband and of course, my Mum. And we all know that she is ‘the boss’ so we have to keep her happy.
I hate having to make decisions like this … but all the paperwork and applications have to be submitted in December / January … so a girl has to put her thinking cap on and make a decision.
What would you do?
Those are all the WiseWords I have for today,
Soup ….. or Chowder.
Call it what you will.
We steer clear of the thin and lacklustre ‘veg’ soup and favour bigger bolder flavours with a bit of body.
- 125 g smoked streaky rashers of bacon
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 260 g corn, frozen
- A half head of cauliflower, broken into florets
- 240 ml chicken/veg stock
- 500 ml skimmed milk
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 2 ears of fresh corn, uncooked
- Sauté bacon until cooked then add the onion and cook until it softens but do not let it brown.
- Season with salt and pepper then add the cauliflower and frozen corn.
- Add the chicken stock, cover with lid and allow to simmer for 15 minutes.
- Test the cauliflower to see if it is cooked (if not, allow a few more minutes) and then add the milk and more white pepper if needed.
- Bring to the boil slowly. Scrape fresh corn off the cob and add in at the last minute right before serving, reserving a decent spoonful for the top.
Ladled into a bowl steaming hot coupled with spice from the white pepper, this is delicious.
Oh yeah … and there is bacon in it too.
This is one of our favourite soups ever and I would love to know if you would ever make this or eat it?
Call it a ‘social experiment’ if you will.
Humour me please xx
** Please note that while this might seem that I might have actually made this soup myself, be under no illusion that I did. My willing husband, the chef, made it for me. He is ever so willing. **
Hi there and hello from gorgeous sunny Kilkenny.
We are here this weekend participating in the Savour Kilkenny Food Festival and wow – what a city!
If you scroll down below all the photos you will find a link to all the recipes we showcased today at our Thanksgiving Feast celebration. Enjoy every bite!
Our MC and the Chef’s lovely assistant for today was the lovely and talented Clare Ann O’Keefe. I can’t wait for this chick to come to Galway.
The best part of my day today was the people. This should come as no surprise to you. Sitting front and centre in the audience and lined up out the door to eat the Chef’s Thanksgiving creations we had Lorna, Dee, Catherine, Imen, Suzannah, Julie, Lisa and probably a host of other friends I have forgotten (sorry). And incase you think it was all girls .. there were dashing husbands present too, my own included.
Looking out into the crowd of people who were hungry for the food and fun we brought to the Chef’s table today made me so proud to be participating in Savour Kilkenny.
This was our first time visiting the beautiful city of Kilkenny and when I asked the Chef this evening what he thought of the city he gave me the most wonderful answer.
He said ‘its just like Galway really. Great good, a beautiful walking city with incredibly friendly people’.
First timers to this event, we are honoured to have been invited and included in so many of the festivites and hope if you have time over the next two days (seeing as it is a bank holiday weekend!) you will take a little road trip to Kilkenny and join in the fabulous food festivities! Bring your appetite!
On a side note … a super super super shout out to a few places that you need to check out when you visit this beautiful medieval city. . . . The Left Bank Bar/Pub is one of the nicest bars I have ever been in. The food, the service, the decor, the bathrooms, and the very attentive management team. Go there. Eat and drink lots.
And the madam behind the MD Media company. Miriam Donohue runs this business but what you do not realise is that it is really just one big happy family-run business. We met the whole family. They are all gorgeous and incredibly hard working. If you need a bit of help with PR for an upcoming event I cannot imagine that they would not be the right folks for the job.
Ok – that is it for this evening ..
Where, oh where, did the time go?
We moved back home to Galway 4 years ago. After having spent 15 years in America (Cincinnati, Ohio) then one very educational year in Zurich, Switzerland, we touched down on Irish soil on August 2008 with little or no expectations; all we knew is that it would be raining.
We trundled back into the town of Galway and made ourselves quite at home. The first year was absolute hell. The Chef kept pining for, and not finding, every kind of American ingredient a chef could think of. He kept comparing the price of this in euros to the price of that in dollars. After one or two ‘come to Jesus meetings’ with him he finally got with the program and realised we were not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy.
Baking bliss followed with his job at Mortons of Salthill where he got his daily baking groove on after having had an almost two year career break.
I asked him a few weeks ago if he missed his old life still and how does he feel about living in Galway now.
And true to fashion, him being a Chef and all, his answer will not surprise.
‘Bacon. I miss bacon. Oh and our friends too. I really miss our friends.’
I had planned on writing about the hardship of moving from the US to Switzerland to Ireland all with two wains under the age of 4 (at the time) but who needs to read that drivel when we (apparently) have a crises on our hands.
I remained calm and then flew out the door with my wallet determined to fix this issue, feeling confident that we have enough rashers of bacon in Ireland to beat the band, so surely ONE of them will sate him, right?
(NB: Expert bloggers state that 200 words per blog post is the PERFECT amount of words otherwise you run the risk of loosing the readers interest. I am already at 325 so feel free to tune out and let the pictures tell the story from here on…be in Sun-daze-haze if you will).
There are waaaaaaaay too many Irish bacon products on the market. Between the fat salty rashers or the thick cut smoked streaky … it took us weeks to work our way through them all. We opted for smoked streaky rashers because that is what he would always have eaten, and cooked with, in the US.
These Irish ones (above) were a bit too thick.
The Spanish ones sizzled and spat and curled in the pan and had a distinct smoked almost proscuitto-like taste to them.
The old reliables from Tesco where just that. Not too salty, not to fatty, not to controversial at all.
If you are aghast to discover that we (a) shop at Tesco and (b) eat bacon from an unknown source ………then here is another shocker.
Occasionally, we have been known to take the kids to McDonalds. Now.You.Know.
Aaaaaaaannnnndddd …. back to Bacon.
Fearing that I might never get him to stop pining for his bacon back home I took matters into my own hands and made him pick one. Pick a bacon that comes closest to the bacon he misses from back home and be done with the pining.
Spain won folks. Hands down.
So, if y’all are looking for an ‘American style bacon’ this Spanish one (Campofrío) is available at all the grocery stores now (even Centra and Supervalue etc.). Incidentally … and this is the kicker guys. The Spanish bacon is actually owned by Oscar Mayer …. so it seems ladies and gentlemen, we can now get ‘American’ bacon in Ireland. Happiness is……..Bacon.
So whaddya do when you have all that bacon laying around and all these gorgeous tomatoes?
So it seems that aside from having magic powers when it comes to curing a hangover, finding the right bacon can also keep a homesick Chef happy.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend,
Disclosure : We still support farmers markets despite a massive infection I still have from a spider bite last weekend, and we still – 95% of the time – only eat meat from a very local and reliable source. So no need to get your heckles up and start finger pointing now ….
Hello fellow food lovers. As promised here is a link to the recipes published in our weekly column with The Sunday Times.
I will be posting the longer and unedited version of the column contribution every Wednesday.So if you did not get a chance to buy the paper, or, if you do not live on the lovely small green island, then enjoy the read right here on the blog.
You can find the longer version of the original article right here:
Enjoy and let us know if there are anything recipes you would like to see each week and we will try to include them just for you!
I think that peoples perception of who we are could be tainted somewhat if they were just to look at the pictures and not read the words that accompany them. I try to always be on the level with y’all about what is going on in our lives – the good, the bad and the ugly.
Sometimes it is good, sometimes it is sad. We work hard at avoiding all things bad.
Right now – my lips are sealed and I can’t really ‘write’. I actually can’t trust myself to keep this secret from exploding …. so I am just going to feed you instead. Ok?
Blogtopia, of the food kind, is being flooded with recipes for interesting things to make and do with the intoxicatingly fresh and free ‘wild garlic’. I see a lot of recipes for pesto floating around and I know for a fact it tastes delicious.
But we wanted to do something a little different with our freely foraged food.
Something a little prettier ….
Because, lets face it, we do love everything ‘green’ around here.
So, and I know this will not come as a surprise to you, we decided to fall back on one of the most photographed items on the blog last year – which was salad.
Lovely luscious garden salad. And what better way to get more salad into those you love, than to entice them with something pretty to camouflage it with, right?
BUT, hold it right there readers, there is no sense in it looking good and green and gorgeous. It must taste fabulous too.
That is why we blanched it in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes. See, those that forage rarely tell you that wild garlic, while fragrant and fine in flavor, is a bit chewy too. You can use it fresh and raw, but I would blanch it. The green colour intensifies too.
Making a salad dressing like this is not brain surgery folks. The whole sugar/honey piece at the end is really a personal taste thing. We like it kind of sour – but that is because we make and use our own buttermilk.
Sometimes – things get messy in the kitchen and it does not always look so ‘organized’. Ah, well. We can’t have it all, right?
But it usually works out just fine in the end.
Give this a whirl this weekend. There is acres of wild garlic to be foraged at this time of year.
AND, if all local readers are looking for something interesting to do on Sunday then you should sign up to go to the
hosted by Galway SlowFood.
Ok – ’tis almost feeding time at the zoo here so I must run to the kitchen and help the chef with supper.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned!
PS – did you register interest in our book? If not – you can do so right here. Should be available for sale my May 19th!
Nettles get a bad rap around here. I am not sure why.
I know they have those hairy hypodermic needle-like bristles that emit a formic acid, which, on bare flesh, causes a sting that can last from a few minutes to 24 hours, (baking soda will neutralize the acid if you get stung), but I do not think that is a good enough reason to steer clear of them.
They are more than plentiful for eight or nine months of the year and they are free. They literally grow along the side of the road. March is the season when they start to surge and you will notice their glossy green heads everywhere you go around these parts. Although I could pick them off the side of the road there is no need. They favour the surrounds of the Chefs polytunnel, so I had one of the kids rescue me a batch before they left for school this morning.
When I got back from the school run I noticed a small enamel pot outside my front door with a note taped to it. The note read ‘On loan only. Please return when you are finished‘. Filled to the brim with rich yellow cream it was. I am guessing my friendly farmer meant I had to return the pot as soon as I was finished, but taking his message literally, I set about to return the cream to him in a more edible fashion.
If you still need a bit of convincing as to why you should be eating (or drinking) more nettles then take a peek at the nutritional value of nettles so you can make a more informed decision for yourself. And if it is the stingers that are keeping you away wear gloves and use a kitchen tongs and scissors.
I always soak mine in a bit of salted water incase there are any uninvited bugs hanging around.
With all that cream the best thing to do is come up with a way to preserve it. We only use real butter here at chez Wise. No schwag stuff. Receiving a few gallons of fresh dairy cream as a gift gave me the opportunity to make a few pounds of butter that we can keep in the freezer for a few months, or share with friends. If you have never made butter then you are in for a surprise. It is dead easy. Pour cream into the food mixer – using the paddle attachment – and turn it on high until the butter forms. Depending how much cream you have in there it might take ten minutes or longer. When we returned home to Ireland several years ago it took forever to convince the Chef that Kerrygold did NOT add yellow food coloring to their butter. He has still never come across cream with such color. Grass fed = happy cows = beautiful butter.
Once your butter has formed into what might look like very yellow cottage cheese curds, line up a strainer with cheese cloth and a bowl underneath. Pour it all into the cheesecloth strainer and save the buttermilk. This makes a thoughtful gift for a friend that loves to bake. It is very low-in-acid tasting but makes fabulous baked goods.
Now that you have butter all lined up and ready to go you can decide what you want to do with it. I like old fashioned salted country butter so I made one batch with salt – for me. I also made one batch with bacon because the kids love bacon butter on their baked potatoes. What is not to love. …. mmmm bacon. And the final batch was a combo of salt and stinging nettle.
I dropped the nettles into a pot of (already boiling) ham that is slowcooking for supper later. The nettles sting is stifled the minute it hits the water. As soon as it comes out, shred it with your chopping knife, stems and all.
After you have your nettles shredded and your bacon obliterated, then divide your butter into three separate portions and start mixing. I think doing this with your hands is just fine. A lot of butter making folks use the fancy paddles and ice cold water baths etc. but all of that takes time and is, in my opinion, not necessary at all.
The butter will take any form you like and freezes for months. No need to feel bad that you do not have a friendly farmer dropping (illegal) milk or cream on your doorstop. This works just fine with any old shop cream. I expect, were you to use double or heavy cream, your butter might in fact taste better than mine.
Go foraging with friends for nettles and use them in many different ways. Make warm milk with infused nettle and a bit of honey for a bed time drink, add nettles to your bowl of buttered mashed potatoes, to your soup, to your stews. Dried nettle leaves act as a natural anti-histamine and the fresh leaves have been known to relieve pain from arthritis. In the summer infuse a large bunch with freshly squeezed lemons and make a souped up lemonade for the kids.
Oh – and one more thing – they taste great!
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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.
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