Tagged with "The Sunday Times Column Archives - Wise Words"
Aug 21 2013

Kids college bound?

Posted by     8 Comments    in Kitchen


Don’t panic.

I know. You are getting ready to send your kid out the door and off to college in a week or two, and it has just dawned on you that they know absolutely nothing about living on their own.

Your years of caring for them, and your parenting efforts, have been minimised into the space of about 30 minutes (or less) and you are becoming increasingly aware of all the stuff that little Johnny or Mary are not able to do for themselves. No point in blaming yourself (or your spouse) for all your grievous errors. Best to just pack them off to college – throw them in at the deep end – let them sink or swim, like.

They’ll be grand.


Here’s the thing. I have just completed a four year undergraduate degree at NUIG. Granted, as a mature student, I had my wits about me, for the most part. One of the things I kept close tabs on whilst on campus, was how the younger students behaved. I figured I would be able to tweak my own parenting skills by watching the, sometimes scary, state of incoming first years.

You know the kids I am talking about. The girls all fake-tanned and Ugged up, worrying more about how they look, than on which classes they should take and the lads that are positively excited about not having to take a shower more than once a week (on Sunday nights because Mammy says he has too). These same kids, standing in long lines at the canteen waiting to pay (with your heard earned money) for a plate of greasy chips, will be up in the sick bay by mid-October looking for the fastest flu-shot or antibiotic going because they (who never missed a day of school in their life) are dying. Really dying. They have never been so sick.

Now, they might be just hungover, especially if they are like most normal students breaking away from the clutches of home for the first time, but the harsher reality is that they are probably at the start of a nutritional deficiency that is only going to get worse unless you give them a few last minute culinary tips. That plate of chips (for lunch or supper) will not sustain or nourish them for 4 years – but they are cheap and tasty, so the kids will keep eating them.


Back to school Blues 2

It is not too late to give them a quick lesson in the kitchen.

Why not start with the basics. Lets look at one of my favourite cupboard items – a bag of jumbo oats, costing around €2.75 per kg at the local grocery store. I reckon a savvy student can get at least 8 portions out of this bag and adding in a few other raw ingredients they will be loaded and ready to take on their day classes and evening study sessions.

I know … they won’t eat porridge, right? Well, if you explain that learning how to use Oats (a hugely versatile and affordable product) will give them more drinking money, then I am sure that will get their attention. And don’t hate me for reminding you that students are spending your hard earned money on beer and booze. It is what most of them do. It is our job to make sure they have a somewhat healthful diet … so all that alcohol does not wreck their stomachs.

Toasty Oaty Breakfast

80 g jumbo oats (toast in a non-stick pan for a few minutes until they turn light brown in colour)

240 ml water

Pinch of salt

1 tsp brown sugar

1/2 tsp butter

1 tbsp fruit preserve

1 tsp vanilla essence (optional)

50 g almonds/hazelnuts (optional)

60 ml milk (full fat)

How to make it

Bring water to a boil. Add in a pinch of salt (this will sweeten the breakfast oats). Stir in the oats when the water comes to a rolling boil and reduce heat to medium. Keep stirring for 7 minutes or until the water has evaporated. Place oats in a bowl then add sugar, fruit preserve, butter and vanilla. Mix with a spoon. Add nuts and a splash of milk if desired.

Now that they know how to make a well balanced, hot, nutritious and delicious meal to start and keep their engines running, they will be more likely to drag their butts out of bed and get to class. Encourage nag them constantly about the importance of class attendance and participation.

For their first year, there is room to skip one or two classes. By second year they need to bring their A game and show up for every lecture. Third year is a confusing year for those that go abroad on Erasmus because they have no rules, in class or from the home front, so just bury your head a hope for the best.

FINAL YEAR is the most important. Up until last year (2012/2013) students were allowed to pull their final degree grades from second and final year results, enabling many to have a higher mark than expected, if they worked hard throughout their college careers.

This is no longer possible.Now, all final results for their overall degree comes solely from their final year exam results. If your student has worked hard, attended and participated in classes, and handed in their assignments on time, then their lecturers might have some say in helping them squeeze an extra mark or two in their favour if their results are not so favourable.

So what can you do to help?

Their first essay (1500 words) will be due in or around halloween. This will be the week that they experience a massive amount of stress.

Tell them to break it down into a game of numbers just like this :

Essay title

Introduction ………………. 200 words

Make the statement of what you are going to discuss making sure you have answered the question.

Paragraph 1 ………………. 350 words

Paragraph 2 ……………… 350 words

Paragraph 3 ……………… 350 words

Conclusion ……………….. 200 words

Wrap it up re-affirming that you have answered the question.

Total 1450 words .. they give a 10% leeway on the word count.

This may seem trivial now, but they will thank you for this advice when the time comes.

Whatever happens, tell them not to panic and just to get it in on time. Once you go down the road of asking for extensions on assignments (especially in first year) … it never ends well.

Now, back to the cooking lesson.

Back to school Blues 4

Part of an essential piece of kitchen kit is a non-stick pan and rubber spatula. If they hand wash the pan and only use the silicone spatula or a wooden spoon, the teflon will stay in great shape for their four years of college.

Still using the jumbo oats, why not teach them how to make a savoury (vegetarian) dish that they can soup up with a bit of meat or fish when the craving hits and the budget allows.

Back to school Blues 5

(Veggie) Toasty Oats

80 g jumbo oats

1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp butter

100 g frozen peas

100 g fresh tomatoes, chopped

1 cube (chicken) veggie stock

240 ml boiling water

1 tsp black pepper

50 g parmesan cheese (optional)

Back to school Blues 6

How to make it

Dissolve the (chicken) stock cube in the 240 ml water and set aside.

Sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil and butter for 7 minutes on medium heat.

Add black pepper then stir in the uncooked oat into the onions and garlic.

Turn the heat up and continue to cook until the oats turn brown.

Pour the veggie or (chicken) stock liquid into the pan and allow to simmer (medium heat) for 5 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated.

Remove from heat and pour into a bowl.

Add frozen peas and stir well into the oats.

Add chopped tomatoes and grate a little parmesan cheese on top to finish.

Back to school Blues 7

Teaching the younger generation about eating a balanced diet is sadly coupled with teaching them about budgeting their money for their meals and entertainment. These young students have massive amounts of stress to wade through during their first year and sadly, nutrition is rarely at the forefront of their daily chat at Starbucks. The canteen offerings are quite costly and, for the most part, serve massive amounts of overly processed foods. Thankfully, most on-campus medical clinics are still free for students but I think it is always better to take preventative measures when it comes to staying healthy and fired up for all the learning they have to do. There will be a few more back to school recipes in The Sunday Times this week (August 25th).

Make a batch of these cranberry oatmeal squares (below) for your teenager to snack on while they are studying. They will thank you later in life by constantly asking you to bake a batch for them.

Oatmeal Cranberry Squares

If your student is coming to Galway to study, then you might be looking for a place to stay when you come to visit them. You might even wonder where to have a bite or two when you are here.

This is my cheat sheet for y’all :

A nice place to stay : Corrib Townhouse

A nice place to eat : Kai Cafe

Another nice place to eat : The Malt House or The Kings Head pub

Irish music fix : The Crane Bar

College is hard. Really bloody hard. Keep open lines of communication with your teen even if you are exhausted from raising them. Every year students take their own lives because they cannot handle the pressure – that college is. From the minute they enter into the world of academia, they are faced with the reality of failing. It is a fear that is laid on thick and follows you to the finish line. For many it can be frightfully debilitating. Be there for your child. All they way.

Those are all the WiseWords I have for today.


PS – thanks for ALL the emails and FB messages about the Blog Awards Ireland 2013. As you know, I won three categories and overall best blogger last year (2012) but have decided not to participate this year, in order to give others a chance to share in the limelight. Although I am sad to not be part of the mix this year, I will be judging … so starting tightening up your P’s and Q’s. I will be watching and reading years worth of blog posts over the next few months. If you are interested in becoming a judge, and you should if you like to read blogs, or are indeed a blogger yourself, then please sign up on the Blog Awards 2013 website.

Aug 8 2013

Five years later ….

Posted by     23 Comments    in The Snug



Five years ago today we moved back home to Ireland after having spent fifteen years in the US and one year in Switzerland.

Family Dec. 2006 Kiss-1

Even though we were enjoying all the sunshine in Switzerland …

Swin Swan Jack

and all the snow . . .

Snow babies

we could not settle there. We missed our friends and family back in the US … way too much.

Lobster Bake 2006-1

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.

Bread Pudding

Thankfully we had all the kids and their cousins – now living much closer to each other – to keep us grounded.

Grannys Babies

And we were also living much closer to Granny with her wooden spoon – so she kept us all in line.

America table Rondos


We had to stop pining for America and make another move . . but were absolutely scared to death that it would be ‘another wrong decision’.

Jack crying

There were tears … lots of them.

Postcard perfect-1

But ‘home’ was calling.

Looking for Duck Eggs!-1

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).

Beans pink

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 …

Mum goose

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,







Jul 31 2013

Pulled Pork Party in Galway

Posted by     9 Comments    in Kitchen




 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,


Jul 16 2013

Blitz Puff Pastry {Recipe}

Posted by     18 Comments    in Kitchen


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?


Recipe book


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.

Puff Pastry Ball

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.

Rolling pastry - thick


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.


Squaring it off

Keep your hands cool and floured. Work fast and do not over knead the dough.


Thick pastry

Once it is the correct shape and seems fairly pliable it is time to start folding.


Fold it in once ..

Fold one third of the pastry inwards ….


Fold it in again (twice)


fold the other piece inwards.


Fold it over

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.

Leave to chill for 30 minutes 

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.

Fold it again - 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?

Leave to chill

The final three-folded piece has an amazing smoothness. Soft as a peach.

Peach Pie

So we made a peach pie.

And the recipe for this will be in the Sunday Times later in July or early in August.

Peach Pie Slice

“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,


Jun 28 2013

{When in Galway} Morans on the Weir

Posted by     38 Comments    in Reviews

Morans on the Weir

Kilcolgan, Galway

(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!


Winners Morans on the WEir

Jun 24 2013

What comes next …

Posted by     60 Comments    in Kitchen

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?!

Screen Shot 2013-06-24 at 14.00.30


… ‘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.

WiseWords Logo Black:white


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 ….


WiseWords eggs


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!

WiseWords - Sausages


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.

WiseWords Beer

Perhaps we will brew some beer?

OR bottle and sell some of my Rhubarb Cordial?

Tea Towels - Aprons Personally I’d like to have a few of these made up and I could sell them online …

I’d even save a few for you, my loyal readers.

WiseWords Moleskin

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.

Wise Words rnd 2-01

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.

Screen Shot 2013-05-14 at 19.06.05

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,


May 28 2013

Rhubarb Tea Cake for Teachers

Posted by     35 Comments    in Kitchen

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.

Rhubarb growing 1

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.

Rhubarb cordial 1

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. 

Rhubarb cocktails

 Ok – now that you know how to make the roasted Rhubarb … you can move on to this recipe and make the cake!

Rhubarb roasted 1

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!


Rhubarb Tea Cake


  • 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


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.


Rhubarb slice 1

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!


Mar 26 2013

OXO Good Grips {Kitchen gadgets and more}

Posted by     56 Comments    in Reviews


Turn away now of you do not want the goodies OXO Good Grips has up for grabs.

This is a sponsored post.

I do love OXO kitchen gadgets.

And they love me. See evidence of that in previous blog post.

 A few weeks ago, due to a persistent back pain I have been tortured with … my doctor told me I shall never again ‘hoover’ … (that’s vacuuming for all y’all back in the US of A).

Imagine receiving a diagnosis like that!

I complained mildly about this on Twitter and a few days later I received a few helpful products in the post from our friends at OXO Good Grips UK.

Now, all I needed was the motivation to start Spring cleaning … and seeing as Spring seems like it will never arrive … I had to enlist a few helpers.


It is safe to say that the folks at OXO know what they are doing because they have developed a line of stuff that kids (and husbands!) like to use around the house, be it kitchen gadgets or clean up kit.

Although I have been given a reprieve from hoovering … I can still manage to hobble about with the dustpan and broom – but thankfully now I have to ‘wait my turn’ because so many of my wee helpers would rather play with the new toys.

Dinners could be eaten off the floor around here these days.



The lovely folks at OXO Good Grips UK have given us a goody bag of spring cleaning kitchen kit with a value of £50 (almost €60) to offer to one of our readers.

No songs or dances on this one … just finish the sentence please in the comments below ….. ” I want to win the Spring cleaning Kitchen Kit from OXO Good Grips because ….. “

and you will be in with a chance to win. You can double your chances by liking their Facebook page too!




On a side note … we have four kids and all four of them have daily chores and are expected to help out around the house on a daily basis. Sweeping, mopping, laundry, mucking out hen coops etc.

You name it … they can do it. Please do not send me an email complaining that I am over exposing my children by using their images on the blog and using them as little slaves to help out around the house.

They are well fed and quite happy to live here and hope to have their own blog someday to get their own back.

Ok – get cracking on the comments folks. I will pick the winner myself on Easter Sunday.

… ” I want to win the Spring cleaning Kitchen Kit from OXO Good Grips because ….. “

Those are all the WiseWords I have for today,







Mar 22 2013

{When in Galway} Galway Hooker Beer

Posted by     6 Comments    in Reviews


Galway Hooker Bottle, Irish Food, Galway Hooker Beer,

When we moved home to Galway almost five years ago  …. we could not find a beer that we loved. When in Rome – right?

Ah….. no.

Yes – there was Guinness and plenty of it. The best pints we have ever had – especially if you go here when you are in Galway. (I insist you go here when you are in Galway).

But sometimes, on a Friday night, a girl just wants a cold beer from the fridge. We were not finding, and definitely not falling in love with, anything …. but gawd knows we were trying.

All that water and not a drop to drink. I know … Beer snobs. Call us what we are.

We were conditioned to drinking, and pined for, good old fashioned American brews like Samuel Adams or Boont Amber Ale or any of the hefty selections from Rogue beers. Aside from the schwag American beers (Coors Lite/miller/Bud lite etc) nabbing a US microbrew beer came at a painful price; We grew thirsty.


Irish Food, Galway Hooker Beer,


Then one day … Peter came to the rescue. Try this beer sez he. You will pine for Sam Adams no more.

Sceptical …. we tried ONE bottle. Then we went back to his shop for a whole case.

Guys and dolls …. this Galway Hooker beer … is ‘da bomb’.

Summer … might be just around the corner.

Are you all stocked up?

You can buy it in a load of locations all over the island now … but especially by the case … right here.


Irish Food, Galway Hooker Beer,

AND … if that is not enough to convince you … this is an Irish business … two Irish lads, first cousins, who are incredibly skilled at their craft of beer making and customer service.

They deserve your business … and their beer is damn good.

The kids are on a two week Easter break … starting today — I might not come up for air for a while … so pop in and say hello if you are in the neighbourhood next weekend for the Galway Food Festival.

Those are all the WiseWords I have for today,




Mar 13 2013

{What is} Irish Food

Posted by     42 Comments    in The Snug

Oh. What a can of worms we open when we pose this question whether here at home in Ireland or abroad.

Are there too many chefs in the kitchen to allow our national food identity to develop into what could be a wonderful Food Island culture? And before you get too excited .. we are just talking about Irish Food here … not Irish cuisine …. that is a whole other can of worms.

Every menu we peruse these days we are confronted with global influences sneaking on to our plates. Coconut milk replaced with rich Irish cream or olive oil on the table for dipping your bread in instead of a knob of Kerrygold.

Three years ago I attended a food bloggers workshop hosted by Bord Bia at their HQ in Dublin. They were asking Irish Food Bloggers to work on our SEO and food photo ‘tagging’ to help improve the over all image of Irish food to the world. A fair request one might say, because lets face it, the image the world has of Irish food is still all cabbage and Guinness. With the exception of one of my fellow food bloggers Zack Gallagher  and a couple of American lassies (who are living/working/blogging/eating in Ireland and really know their SEO) the image of Irish food (on Google) is controlled online by Bord Bia, and a few other large corporations. I can’t say this excites me ..

When we asked the kids last night what they would like to have for dinner on Paddy’s Day (March 17th every year and it is this Sunday) we were bombarded with requests. We tried to reject several of their requests because they were not ‘Irish’, or at least what we feel ‘Irish food’ should be.

They think, and I believe they are right, that Irish food is what they eat every day because they are living in Ireland. Be it bacon and cabbage with boiled and buttered spuds or chicken curry with coconut milk. If it is (mostly) produced and made here on the island … then to them, it is all Irish. Ya gotta love kids for keeping it simple.

So I picked out a few photos of whats been gracing the table here at Chez Wise recently and whilst the Chef and I try to keep it interesting … we never consider it to be very ‘Irish’.

What do you think?


Christmas 2012 … not very Irish. Gingerbread ice cream sandwiches .. Pumpkin muffins … Peppermint macarons and a Gingerbread house ….



Ok – all Irish here. Arctic Char fished right out of a tank at a local fish farm a few miles from our home in Galway.



Sushi … all fished right off the coast of Galway Bay … can’t get more Irish than that. Ok – the origin of the cucumbers and lettuce is unknown.



Carrot cake …. with cream cheese – Our own carrots from the poly tunnel and cream cheese frosting from Kilbeg Dairy (best ever Mascarpone cheese). Irish enough for me ….




Irish carrots, Irish butter and Irish honey … all local. all delicious.



Irish butter … Irish egg whites for the icing … no such thing as irish sugar or Irish food colouring so  I guess these are just wishful thinking … and incase you missed it – the decorating on these beauties was done by  a local food artist (Gail Porter) and I blogged about our recent rendezvous with her right here and now, if you are in Galway, you can buy her cookies right here! Go buy some for your family. They look as good as they taste and she can customise the be-jessus out of them for you.



Ah yes … Barley blinis with smoked Mackerel … the fish is Irish, so is the sour cream but the Barley flour is from the UK.



Bold beautiful Beetroot (and apple) soup … all Irish. Why are we not seeing this soup in Irish restaurants?



More Barley … with Irish broccoli, Irish carrots, Irish onions, Irish salad greens.



Ha ha .. so we know the rice and bean sprouts and chilli paste are not Irish … but the egg, chicken, spinach, broccoli and peas are!



Again … if I had my way with the setting of the Irish Food menu … this would be the national salad of Ireland. Not only does it look very inviting … it tastes fabulous all year round. All Irish.



Again .. with our fish supplies on the island we are blessed … and onions grow like weeds they are so easy to cultivate and care for.



Mostly air and egg whites … the kids call this white cake.



Irish scallops, Irish bacon … some kind of Asian sticky sauce with onions and sesame seeds.



Custardy egg quiche … all Irish except for the flour for the pastry. Can’t believe there is no Irish flour to be had.



Spuds and eggs. Otherwise known as a Spanish omelette … but really just a potato and egg supper.



A family favourite .. grow them almost all year round … twice baked sweet potatoes. With Irish onions, Irish bacon, Irish sour cream … Irish cheese.

Irish yum!



(French) Onion soup … not very French at all…



Our New Years Eve party snack … left over spuds (potato cakes) with left over ham …



Brisket … one of the most beautiful pieces of Irish beef … yet no one really asks for it at the butcher shop or knows how to cook it.



We can, quite easily, grow all of these onions. No basle .. virtually disease resistant. And they have huge cancer fighting qualities. Eat.more.onions.



Ok  … no question its Irish right … eh, no .. wrong actually. Not even brewed here (for now) and the ingredients are not all Irish either.


Kiss me I'm Irish

My whole point to this picture blog is this …

Irish food is everywhere. If your mantra is, like ours, to buy local, you will see that it is not impossible to make a good 65% (if not more) of your diet .. all Irish and all delicious.

Irish cuisine is in its infancy however. We do not have a long and rich gastronomic history like the French and we do not have the familial food fanfare that the Italians celebrate daily. We had a poor and strange affiliation with ‘thick milk‘ before the potato arrived and once we started to eat and depend on the auld spud .. well we know how that ended.

If we are ever to change the image of how the rest of the world perceives Irish food … we need to love it for what it is and make sure the generations to come are growing, cooking and eating real food … and not looking for a green McShake on Paddy’s Day.

Support your local community by buying and eating local (organic when possible) foods.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you all xx


PS – if you want your pretty Irish food photos to show up on Google you need to place the word “Irish” in the main title of the blog post. All I ask is that you please make sure it looks good!

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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Ron Wise About the Chef
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You might as well just come visit.
He prefers face to face communication.

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