Jen's Kitchen offers a fresh approach to home cooking with exciting recipes and blog posts that emphasise hands-on cookery using local and organic produce.

Tasting Menu at The Tannery

We love attending the West Waterford Festival of Food.  And for quite a few years we have been able to attend the guest chef night at The Tannery.  This year, as Nigel was away with work we did not get to this which was awfully disappointing, but it did mean we got to go to the night featuring the Tasting Menu with Paul Flynn on the Saturday night.

We were joined by Nigel’s brother and his lovely wife, Pam, who are both really into food too, so it made for a wonderful evening of chat and food.  The atmosphere upstairs in the Tannery lends itself to social interaction, the light and décor reflects the bubbly personalities of the staff and the owners.

Our first course of salami and house pickle started the show off with a taste bud bang.  Perfectly sliced and balanced, the pickle brought a sharpness that was both intense but not overpowering of the salami.

This was followed by Knockalara sheeps cheese, chicken wing and beetroot.  I passed on the walnuts, as I am not a fan.  This was just gorgeous.  The cheese was lovely and soft, and the chicken wing sweet and balanced with the beetroot.

Knockalara Sheeps Cheese , chicken wing and beetroot

Knockalara Sheeps Cheese , chicken wing and beetroot

Meanwhile of course, Nigel had persuaded his brother to partake in the local brew, while Pam and myself had the most beautiful white wine, the name of which I did not record, to my distress.

Kevin trying the Copper Coast Ale from the Dungarvan Brewing Company

Kevin trying the Copper Coast Ale from the Dungarvan Brewing Company

There was a perfect length of time between courses, not too long that we were wondering when it would arrive, and not too short that we felt we were being rushed.

I am a big fan of pasta, especially ravioli, the the Ham Hock and Rabbit Ravioli did not disappoint. The Garlic broth was so delicate, the texture of the turnip adding to the rounded flavours.

Ravioli of Ham Hock and Rabbit

Ravioli of Ham Hock and Rabbit

Next up was the fish course,

Monkfish Chop

Monkfish Chop

I had never had monkfish chop before, and for me it was more cooked than I would normally have had monkfish, but the bisque was such an amazing flavour that it married very well with the chop.

The short Rib of beef was so soft and flavourful that it made me want much more.  Although my eyes would definitely have been bigger than my tummy, and my lucky husband receive d a little extra from my plate.  Our eldest always says that Paul Flynn makes the best mashed potato on the planet, and I cannot disagree.  The parsley was also an addition to the flavour that completed the taste.

Shortib of Beef

Short rib of Beef

For dessert, my favourite course as you know, was a  blood orange pannacotta with  rhubarb, rose and pistachio.  The textures in this dish were what set it apart.

Blood Orange Pannacotta

Blood Orange Pannacotta

A lovely addition to the tasting menu was the Waterford Cheese plate, I would have loved to take a party bag of these cheeses and biscuits home, the Waterford Brie was especially worthy of a mention.  Unfortunately we dived into this course and the result is no picture.  I do hope that Paul puts the cracker recipes into a future book.

Petit Fours with tea and coffee finished the meal.  We fought over the salted ones.  Fought too hard actually, Nigel had to get another few to keep the piece.

Petit Fours

Petit Fours

Máire and Paul Flynn always entertain and introduce us to flavours that are bold and unique.  We loved our experience and were only sorry that we had not been there the night before also.  Next year, next year…..

My First Visit to the Copper Hen

My brother in law and his wife love The Copper Hen in Fenor.  For no particular reason Nigel and myself had never visited. So they made a reservation for last Saturday night.

The Copper Hen, Fenor, Co Waterford

The Copper Hen, Fenor, Co Waterford

The waitress that met us on arrival was truly a beacon of light! I meant to ask her name, but never got around to it, she was so lovely and upbeat, very knowledgeable about the menu, and was not a bit hesitant about her recommendations when asked.

We decided to all have something different to get a true feel for the menu.  I started with the brie, which came with a lovely mixed leaf salad, but my brother in law hit the jackpot with his mussels.  They were perfectly cooked in a lushishly smooth cream sauce.  I could have eaten them all night.

The Mussels Special

The Mussels Special

The whole ambience of the restaurant was inviting, the chairs were particularly comfortable and even though the room was full, we were able to chat and laugh comfortably without feeling we were intruding on other diners pleasure.

I had the sole special for main course, it came, as I had hoped, on the bone, and flaked off quite easily.  For my taste there was a little too much sauce which slightly dulled the flavour for me.  The winning main course at our table, however, was the madras curry.  Piquant spices, carefully crafted together made for a mouth wateringly good combination that shown serious chef skills.

We were so full that dessert was not an option. I would love to have tried one or two, but will have to leave it for next time.  We were not at any stage rushed, even though on booking they had advised they needed the table for 8. It was a very pleasant evening, the company was excellent, and it was lovely to support a local restaurant.

 

 

A well deserved dinner- Harrys of Inishowen

Ever since the beautiful @italianfoodie set foot there a number of years ago, both Nigel and myself have been looking for an excuse to head North to visit Harrys Bar & Restaurant.  While doing my UCC Food writing course, John McKenna said I HAD to visit it too.  Surely it was a sign?

Harrys, Made in Inishowen

Harrys, Made in Inishowen

Local food from local people is their mantra, and they truly live it.  We could have spent hours talking to Donal about his growing methods, what he grows, where he grows it. But we really had to order.

Another difficult choice.

I started with the wild garlic risotto and the red mullet. The delicate combination of flavours and aromas were bordering on nirvana.

Wild Garlic Risotto, with Red Mullet

Wild Garlic Risotto, with Red Mullet

For my main course I went with the steak, Donal explained the hanging process to us, and both Jordan and myself almost wept with the taste.  The men went for the fish, and there was complete silence at the table for a while as we took in the culinary mastery.  Simple yet elegant, full of flavour yet soft in its approach, the caressing of the core ingredients with evident love.

Rump Steak, with herbed Bearnaise.

Rump Steak, with herbed Bearnaise.

Dessert is always a given in our family, but I really struggled both with choice, and my capacity.  But it would have been rude not to.  The Black Cherry Cheesecake was both light and tasty, and finished off the meal perfectly.

What made the meal such a success was the people, Donal and the other staff were so exceptionally friendly, the restaurant was busy yet we felt like the only guests.  My son is hoping to do work experience in the veggie gardens as he was so enthused after meeting Donal.  I think I’ll “have” to bring him up.

As we were in Derry running in the Legenderry Orienteering  event, we also had an opportunity to visit the food festival. Once again Donal was there in the marquee, selling his wares.

Donal busy prepping

Donal busy prepping

This time we went for the bangers and creamy mash.  The littlest Pim expressed a wish to bring a bottle of the onion gravy home.  High praise indeed.

Outdoor bred bangers, creamy mash, and onion gravy

Outdoor bred bangers, creamy mash, and onion gravy

Legenderry Day 1

We arrived in Letterkenny late Friday night after a 5 hour drive from Waterford.  The first thing that strikes you about Letterkenny are the amazing roundabout art.

photo1

 

Although the picture is not very good, it’s dramatic effect is still evident.  This artwork is The Workers monument made from stainless steel and stone. The monument was created in 2001 by Maurice Harron, a local sculptor. The monument commemorates a generation of men who worked on building the original bridge and train track at the Dry Arch. The piece of stone in the monument, which the workers are lifting, is a piece saved from the original bridge.

The next one is the Polestar,

Roundabout on the way into Letterkenny

Roundabout on the way into Letterkenny

The site of the Polestar, on the Port Bridge Roundabout, has had an historic past where trade and goods were landed by boat and transported to the surrounding areas by rail and road. The sculpture is made of 104 timber poles and rises to a height of 12 metres. Its shape refers to the outline of a boat, as well as having a locomotive (train track) theme, to commemorate the fact that both forms of transportation played a major part in the town’s development in the past.

We thank fully this morning woke to more good weather, after breakfast we headed off to our first race, a middle distance, in Binevenagh, just North of Limavaddy.  The bus ride to the start brought us thankfully up a steep incline, with me hoping that it meant the run would be mostly downhill.

 

View from the start

 

The run was through two types of mixed forest, and was the most enjoyable one I’ve done in a while, although I was slow downhill and through the low forest I felt I “spiked” my controls.

Course 3 mapAll the family had a good run, although Nigel fell heavily on his knee.  Here’s hoping this doesn’t affect his 3 races tomorrow.

Jords studying her map

Jords studying her map

View from the road after we finished.

View from the road after we finished.

Tonight we are eating in Inishowen, Harry’s Bar & Restaurant, can’t wait!

 

 

Legenderry Weekend

Jords on the run

Jords on the run

We are heading up to Derry this evening to partake in a weekend of orienteering. There are 4 races over the 3 days, so we should have the legs well and truly run off us!
https://oentries.com/multi/events/41-legenderry-3-day/details
They are still taking a small amount of entries on the day if anyone is interested.

I’ve never been to Derry so while I was on my writing course last week I asked the esteemed John McKenna for recommendations.
Of course you can also find more here;
http://www.guides.ie/megabites/browns-restaurant-derry-and-browns-town-review-and-soundbite
We have booked into Harry’s in Inishowen as we have heard SO much about it, mainly from the always enthusiastic @italianfoodie. So that is going to be a real treat.

The other recommendation we hope to indulge in is Pyke’n'Pommes foodcart, perfect nosh I hope after running. You can find them here on facebook.

Reports and deliciously mouth watering pictures to follow…..

The Jerusalem Artichoke

Chatting with Denis Cotter the other day about vegetables, we were looking at a book The Garden Going On Without Us, Lorna Crozier - (1985) which was nominated for a Governor General’s Award. Full of cute short poems about veggies, of which we only managed to read one or two.

Jerusalem Artichokes

Jerusalem Artichokes

He challenged me to write a similar, 4 line poem about one of the more obtuse vegetables, or which I am not the biggest fan.

And here it is;

Jerusalem Artichoke

“Ode to Pimmy”

Although knarled and twisted like the old gardeners hands that tend your roots

You sit patiently in the sodden ground

Not wishing to shine in the sun like your cousins

Content to rest, the earthbound apple.

 

However it would be remit of me not to add my recipe for soup using this earthy veg, as soup, we decided was probably it’s best use.

My soup has been inspired by the River Cottage everyday recipe for Jerusalem Artichoke and nettle gratin, Odd I know, but I like the combination of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s ingredients.

1 tbsp sunflower oil

2 brown onions, finely diced

1 small clove of garlic, peeled and minced

2 (man’s fist sized) Jerusalem Artichokes peeled and cut into 2cm cubes

1 teaspoon dried thyme

200 ml double cream

350 ml vegetable stock

50 g fresh nettle tops

50 g porridge oats

to Finish:

flaked almonds, lightly brown from being tossed in a hot, dry pan

Heat the oil in a deep saucepan over a medium heat, stirring, until they start to colour, add the garlic, Jerusalem artichoke and thyme.  Stir again to 5 minutes.  Add to this the stock.  Leave to simmer, partially covered for 25 minutes, until the Jerusalem Artichokes, prodded with a knife, seem soft.

At this stage add the rest of the soup ingredients and stir until combined and just about to boil again.

Ladle into mugs of bowls, and sprinkle with the almonds.

 

 

Final Day- Ballymaloe Cookery School

Spring Garden

Spring Garden

We finished our three days in the Ballymaloe Cookery School. The setting is so idyllic, and as some of the class said, it was easy to be creative in such a wonderful environment.

Hellboras flowers displayed in the reception

Hellboras flowers displayed in the reception

We were lucky to have both Darina Allen and Rory O’Connell talking about their books. All of the lecturers have such different stories about the journeys they took when writing, almost akin to the different stories you hear of children being born.

Rory O'Connell's Book, Master It.

Rory O’Connell’s Book, Master It.

My Creative Journey, starting with Michael Pollan

FoodWritingI am attending a Module of the UCC School of English in Food Writing. It started this morning and already I feel so immersed in the creative jumble of juices that I want now to write forever. Not recipes, but will include them every now and then, but actual writing about food.
I have been reluctant when people have asked me, why are you writing a blog?, to answer truthfully. Surely the reason that I want to share an experience with others isn’t enough?
Turns out it is enough. Write, bring people with you, build characters, build yourself.
One of the articles we discussed this morning was
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/02/magazine/02cooking-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
I have read it during my lunch, and on this World book day if you read just one thing, albeit it’s not in a book, read this.

Dressing up time

Sage UKI had invited myself and Nigel to London for their Gala Dinner in February.  Unfortunately it clashed with our eldest son’s mocks which meant only one of us could go.  My better half suggested I went as I would be in the UK later that week for a course anyway.

First Western to London

First Western to London

I arrived in London by train to Piccadilly.  I have to say that the rail system in the UK is really excellent.  I was even able to charge my phone.

The hotel I was staying in was the Jumeirah Carlton Tower Hotel in Knightsbridge.  I arrived by tube and emerged beside Harvey Nichols.  What a start.  I felt awfully scruffy passing by the most impressive of labels on the way to the hotel.

Giorgio

Giorgio

Dior

Dior

The hotel reception was quite busy, but a warm towel served with an orchid is always guaranteed to make you feel better! My room was on the 17th floor overlooking Cadogan Gardens.  The room was very nice but the view was stunning.  I had wanted to get to the hotel to settle in before the conference started downstairs, so had not had lunch.  Room service sandwich was going to be  £19. So I went to the Harrod’s foodhall (massive fan) and picked up a warm roast beef sandwich for £6.

A Room with a View

A Room with a View

The Sage conference started with some nibbles, which were lovely.  There were any amount of staff on hand in the hotel to serve tea/coffee.  It was lovely to meet the always smiling Karina from Sage at that stage.  Although everybody was arriving at the same time for registration, both Karina and Elaine (Sage UK) were very welcoming and calm!

I sat with the other Business Partners from Ireland, and we listened to a number of presentations from Brendan Flattery, Steve Atwell, Michele Gettins and David Pattinson.  All were good speakers and relayed their message effectively. A goodie bag with a memory stick which had all the presentations on it was included.  This is a great idea as there are only so many notes you can take.

The Guest Speaker was Mark Gallagher.  Although the talk was quite long, he was very entertaining.  I, myself, am not a huge Formula 1 fan, but his insight into how their market has changed over the years was fascinating, and he made good business sense that I felt most people in the room could relate to.  The most interesting part of his talk though was the last 10 minutes or so.  Who knew Pit stops could be so riveting, we were only dying to see the video clip of the pit stop that took 1.92 secs!

Onwards to the gala dinner, it is traditionally a secret venue until the day but Steve had mentioned at the start of his talk that we would be mixing with the rich and famous, so I had it in my head it would be Madame Tussauds, and I was right.

Getting ready to leave.

Getting ready to leave.

We arrived by bus and were ushered onto the “Taxi” ride, bringing you through a tableau of London’s History.

The Taxi "Ride"

The Taxi “Ride”

Then off to one of the floors to sample some canapés and prosecco. The Canapés were exceptionally good, my personal favourite was the carpaccio of beef.

Salmon canapes

Salmon canapes

We had great fun in this room getting our photo with all the “celebs”.

088 090And even pics of “just” us.

 

The room was set up beautifully downstairs (note to self- less heel next time).

Our dining room

Our dining room

The awards were held before the meal, and the applause was loud and racous for all.  Many congratulations for those who were nominated (US!) and those that won (not us- next year!).

Then the most important part of the evening.  Food.

We started with a goats cheese salad, I was starving and wolfed it down, there was a nice chutney also, plum I imagine.  It would have been nice to see a menu, if only to congratulate the food producers on their products.

Goats cheese salad

Goats cheese salad

Next on the menu was the beef main course.  A lovely lady on the table was vegetarian and we “think” it was aubergine, but in the darkly lit room it was kind of difficult to see.

Beef Main

 

The beef was very tender but some comments from our table was that it was a little fatty.  Mine was lovely although too big a portion.  The kale was beautifully cooked and went very well with the beef, which I think must have been featherblade. Credit to Karina for the photo, mine was FAR too dark.

Chocolate Fondant Dessert

Chocolate Fondant Dessert

Finally a chocolate fondant appeared, which for me made it a perfect ending.  No picture would do it justice, as by this stage the room was just too dark.  Huge credit to the caterers, as I’m quite sure they had to assemble a kitchen somewhere for this event, and perfect fondant for that many people is no mean feat. I was unsure if I was getting dessert though, as at one stage a plate was put in front of me, and as I politely waited for the rest of the table to be served, it was whipped away to another table! Thankfully, it was replaced.

The band were excellent, the lead singer obviously loved himself and put on a great show.  We danced for hours before this Cinderella got a taxi home.

The hotel turn down service meant I was met with soft music and a warm bed to which I gratefully rested my weary head….

 

Lots of Bang for your Buck.

I was invited to a business lunch recently in Bang Restaurant in Dublin.  I had heard about Bang, but had never had the opportunity to try it out.

Bang Restuarant

Bang Restaurant

Their philosophy,

“exceptional quality food at reasonable prices, in relaxed and informal surroundings”

is clearly positioned on the front page of their website, and is a lot to live up to.

It turned out to be very true.  The quality of the food was indeed excellent, produced in a manner that let the ingredients speak for themselves.

The Menu

The Menu

I started with the Wild Game terrine, although the use of a wooden serving platter is quite common place these days, in this case it suited the tone of the dish perfectly.

Wild Game Terrine

Wild Game Terrine

The cranberry relish was lovely and tart, and even though I would have enjoyed a second piece of sourdough bread, I may then have not been able to fit in dessert.

Smoked Salmon Starter

Smoked Salmon Starter

I had a willing accomplice beside me quite happy to let me both photograph and sample his starter of smoked salmon.  His presentation was also very focused on the main ingredient of the dish.

The gents in our group moved onto the slow cooked Hereford beef.  This dish really was a treat for the senses as you could smell the indulgence before it even entered the room.

Slow Cooked Hereford Beef

Slow Cooked Hereford Beef

I was, however, very happy with my choice of the pheasant.  I would not normally favour having two courses of game, but pheasant is a personal favourite of mine so it was an easy option for me.

Pheasant Main Course

Pheasant Main Course

The photo certainly does not do it justice, the dish promoted earthiness and a combination of flavours that enhanced the sweetness of the perfectly cooked, moist pheasant with the luxury of the mashed potato.

Although I was predominantly concerned with the food, a fellow diner relayed the excellent choice of wine on offer,(you owe me one for all the teasing James).  The staff were very accommodating to my request for a juice instead of wine, and were always at my elbow should I require a refill.

It had been suggested to me via a request on Twitter, to have the chocolate mousse for dessert, this was as decadent as described, and a lovely finish to my meal.

Chocolate Mousse.

Chocolate Mousse.

Gavin once again let me sample his carrot cake, and if I was to have one criticism of the meal, it would be that the carrot cake itself did not live up to the standards of the carrot accompaniments on the plate.  Those sweet carrot pieces were worthy of Heston.

Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake

The chef should be commended for producing such a menu at a time when seasonal ingredients are not as abundant as one might think.  The balance of the menu was excellent, and noone was left wanting.  Thank you.

A big thank you to Sage Ireland and more especially Karina, for inviting me to attend.  It was a lovely way to spend an otherwise very dank and dreary Winter afternoon.