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.

Back to School

This post will be about my kids, who are so positive and wonderfully energetic in all they do. Jordan, the youngest started secondary school yesterday in first year, and Robert is going into 4th Year, both in Newtown School Waterford.

Robert and Jordan

Robert and Jordan

Jordan was delighted to show off her kilt to her Fav Auntie Pam!

Jordan and Pam

Jordan and Pam

And all this after completing the last Kilmacthomas Trail run on Monday night.

Jordan's Mud run back through the river

Jordan’s Mud run back through the river

Robert is just back from his QYP trip to Bolivia and Peru. A little tired but full of stories of different cultures and countries!

Robert messing about in the Pacific

Robert messing about in the Pacific

 

Family Weekend- The prodigal son returns

I was waiting for this past weekend for what seems like a lifetime.

In fact it was really only 5 weeks.  My eldest was returning from his time in Bolivia and Peru.  Nigel brought him back on the last leg from the UK and he arrived back early Saturday morning.  Although a little jet lagged, he is in great form.  I was VERY glad to have him home.

Not a great picture, but you get the jist!

Not a great picture, but you get the jist!

So we had decided to have a family party to celebrate his return, his belated 16th birthday, and Jordan’s 12th birthday.  It was a great weekend for it, we started in Kevin and Pam’s house Saturday for pizza night.  Pam’s Uncle and Aunt from Canada are staying too, and were delighted with all the commotion!

 

Pizza Night

Pizza Night

Then we went orienteering in Kennedy Park Sunday morning, it was the official opening of the permanent Orienteering course, and the prize giving for last seasons league, Jordan winning the Light Green.  As an aside, I’d a DREADFUL run, hoping I can improve before the Vets!

047 054 Then last night the dinner party.  I didn’t do starters (too many kids not wanting to wait for dessert), so had very slow cooked beef cheek and venison in oodles of red wine, served with creamy mashed potato, carrots and peas. Liisa very kindly made the aubergine dish, and Sue brought a fresh salad.

059 062 065Dessert included the cake:

A meringue surround, filled with a vanilla sponge base, and a milk chocolate and white chocolate mousse layer, topped with strawberries.

Pam made the most amazing apple and plum crumble, and Jordan had made her cookie dough brownies.

Sugar coma ensued!!

Meringue Cake

Meringue Cake

The candles

The candles

073

Balance v’s Conflict

This is another of the short pieces I wrote for my Masters in Food Writing.  At some stage I would like to re visit the topic.

Balance v’s Conflict

I have a horse, Missy, who is without doubt, the love of my life.  There is no need to worry about my children’s or husband’s feelings on this, they are well aware.  I like to ride hard and fast, over fences and through fields.  Because of this attraction to speed, and that fact that I believe I am “good” in the saddle, some years ago I asked my husband to bring me skiing.  We were heading to upstate New York in February and as a Valentines Gift he got me a half days lesson with the kids.  He had been skiing many times as his parents took school skiing trips to which he tagged along.

The ski school was beautiful, and the young instructor seemed competent.  And I’m sure he was, competent that is, he definitely WAS young.  But here’s the nub.  I discovered my balance is appalling.  Truly.  Mind blowingly. Appalling.  My lack of balance on these two insignificant sticks far outweighed my need to rattle down the snowy mountain like the coyote after the roadrunner. At 34 I had reached a road to Damascus moment.  I have no sense of balance.

And yet I still to this day strive to achieve balance in my life, and never more so than in my own, and my family’s diet.  But as beings is it not more important to complete the actual process of eating? Be it alone of in company? In silence or not?

“It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it… and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied… and it is all one.”―M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating.

MFK Fisher goes into great detail about this, in the most eloquent of voices, and is a beacon shining on the side of holistic eating.

As a culture is it more beneficial to the whole microbiom that we are eating then stressed about the cooking and ingredients?  That the whole composite experience of the preparation and eating, and the analysis of well being not just be measured on the nutritional value alone?

Or is life too short, that we should just eat for pleasure and not spend our time consumed by “what” we are eating.  However the word “pleasure” should not be overly emphasised, as it would be foolish to view every meal as fuel.  There have been numerous articles written on this subject, some for eating purely for fuel, some just about the sensory enjoyment.

For me it is a constant flux of choices from which I strive to conjure balance;

Variety in the diet- but- cost, seasonality

Ethical Eating- but- cost, availability

Cost of ingredients v’s Quality that I can afford

Work/ Life Balance

Nutritional Value v’s Taste

Creativity in the dishes v’s time

At this stage I’ve come to the conclusion that possibly we just have to do our best.  Let each day come as it is.  But eat each meal like it may be our last, as surely this distinguishes us from animals, that we can savour each mouthful using all our senses.  Mind you, my mare can smell an apple from a mile away, don’t tell me she doesn’t appreciate her food!

 

 

Fantasy Band…. c/o Today FM

I was listening to Paul McLoone this morning who was sitting in for Ray D’Arcy this morning, he was asking people to text in their “fantasy” band.

This got me thinking.

Obviously being a massive Prince fan, I would have to put him on lead guitar.  With Paul McCartney on bass.

Lead singer for me would have to be Freddie Mercury.

But who on drums?? John Bonham possibly, but maybe for a modern twist..Phil Collins is the one for me.  Maybe because of the Cadbury’s ad..

And what would they sing????

Food Memory

Today I have decided to post my Food Memory piece that I wrote for my UCC course.  It has been written with a little artistic licence, but not much.  Family is very important to me, and both my Gran’s really influenced me in their relationship with food.

 

Food Memory

Tuesday for me, growing up, was always associated with semolina.

Due to family circumstances my grandmother raised me pretty much from when I was 5.  I use to finish primary school and walk down from Killiney to Dun Laoghaire every day to where she was one of the cooks/ housekeeper in a Children’s home.

I always knew what was for dessert on a Tuesday, any other day it could be anything from apple pudding to yogurt.  But on a Tuesday it was semolina with tinned peaches.

But in my memory it is all grey.  The stainless steel countertops in the kitchen, the lino floor, the playground outside, the hair of my gran and her work colleagues.  All grey except for the peaches, glistening in their false full sweetness, almost teasing me with their bright attitude as they lay in bowls in the pantry, like princesses waiting to debutante.

On each and every Tuesday from before I can remember, once I stepped through the backdoor into the kitchen, I was put in an apron.  From when I was around 5, I was placed on a stool at the 8 ring gas cooker.  My task to watch the milk as it was heated on the gas.  From when I was old enough to handle a wooden spoon with enough dexterity to please my gran I was put stirring the cavernous pots of creamy starch that would become the sweet treat at the end of the day

I am sure, looking back, that the kitchen must have been quite noisy as the three women worked away on the remainder of the meal, but I was oblivious.  As I struggle to remember these surroundings that were SO familiar for so very long, I can only hear the gentle roar of the gas, and the noise of the boys kicking their football around outside.

I am quite sure I was never left alone to look after such large pans of milk, but after so many years of watching I knew the signs of boiling; small bubbles around the edge.  Successfully relaying that message to my gran meant I had a whole half peach in my semolina that night.  Then the sandy mountain of semolina was stirred in continuously with wooden spoons as long as my arm.  Even now I am unsure of how many portions of semolina we use to make.  We cooked three pots of it, each of which took 2 women to lift off the stove.

The day I was allowed stir the pudding was another milestone for me, I skipped around the yard with a smile that would have softened the hardest of hearts, I had been waiting for this Tuesday for what felt like an eternity.  That night my gran was distant in our conversation.  I had crossed a line of maturity, perhaps she was lamenting my childhood passing too, spent with her while she was working. Two peaches was my rite of passage.

I stirred those pots for over ten years, every Tuesday.  I have no idea how many decades those women were stirring those pots before I arrived.  I know my mother did it before me.

For a period in my life I hated semolina.  It invoked memories of greyness and frugality that I wanted to escape.  It meant hard work and sore fingers, not just from the stirring, but from the folding sheets and making beds that was also par for the course.  And the finality of my day.  Sitting on the back step of the pantry eating my semolina out of an enamel bowl, with either the one, or two peach halves on top.

But now looking back, I remember and appreciate the sense of routine that my gran had created for us.  The inevitability that no matter what had happened during the day, be it helping one of the smallies off a wall or peeling a mountain of potatoes, we always had the time to share a bowl of semolina. We never ate any other pudding together. I remember her discussing how she both loved and hated the peaches.  That it was wrong to use something out of a tin that seemed never to go off. But that it was supposedly modern.  And that for my sake it was best to move with the times.

I think my gran would have got on well with the American Food Writer Jane Grigson who dislikes the lack of taste that occurs due to the modern methods of food processing. “When one thinks of the civilization implied in the development of peaches from the wild fruit, or of apricots, grapes, pears, plums, when one thinks of those millions of gardeners from ancient China right across Asia and the Middle East to Rome then across the Alps north to France, Holland and England of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, how can we so crassly, so brutishly, reduce the exquisite results of their labour to cans full of syrup and cardboard-wrapped blocks of ice?”

 

 

Perfect Summer Dinner with Cono Sur Wine

My goal when cooking, like Cono Sur, is to make incredible and inspiring meals.  Although I am not sourcing my ingredients in South America, we are very lucky to live on the family farm where my father in-law grows all our own vegetables.  So the first thing I do when starting the dinner preparation is dig and pick the veg.  We are very lucky here in the south east to have a mostly temperate climate which means our growing season is long and fruitful.  Like Cono Sur, our commitment when growing our produce is to think green.  Our horses provide manure, and our waste goes to feed the chickens and deer also living with us on the farm.

 

Fresh Vegetables from the garden

Fresh Vegetables from the garden

Next marinade the butterflied lamb in an enormous amount of garlic and herbs.  I get my lamb from our local supplier direct, it’s Comeragh Lamb, which I think gives a full flavour that stands up to the strong marinade well.

 

Butterflied leg of lamb after two days in the marinade

Butterflied leg of lamb after two days in the marinade

Bake the freshly dug and washed spuds,  adding the lamb to the hot oven for about an hour, adding a dash of olive oil.

Scrub and slice the beetroot into a oven dish lined with tinfoil, add a head of peeled garlic and lots of olive oil, salt & pepper.  Wrap the parcel up tight and place in the oven alongside the potatoes and lamb.  This also needs about an hour, add a splash of balsamic vinegar half way through cooking

Leave both to rest while preparing the salads.

Chill the Cono Sur Sauvignon wine to the perfect temperature.

Slice the lamb, drizzle with the fresh pesto.  Add the fluffy baked potato, the beans, beetroot and serve with the tomato and lettuce salads.

The Perfect Summer Dinner

The Perfect Summer Dinner

The Bunmahon Show

We always enjoy this little country show, unfortunately, year on year it’s getting smaller and smaller. This year there was no bread or cake classes for me to enter, so I was left with a Tea Brack class. Tea brack is really unique to Ireland, and there are differing opinions on the amount of fruit used. My version also has cocoa, to give it depth of flavour.

Tea Brack with Cocoa

 

150g soft brown sugar

300 ml strong hot tea

400g dried fruit (I recommend combination of dried fruit)

50 ml orange liqueur (or brandy) or use extra tea.

150g wholemeal flour

75g white flour

2 tbsp cocoa powder, sifted

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 large egg

 

the day before

Add the sugar to the hot tea and stir until dissolved.  Add the fruit and alcohol and leave to soak for about 24 hours

Fruit, tea and sugar soaking

Fruit, tea and sugar soaking

when ready to bake

Preheat oven to 170 C

Line a large loaf tin with parchment paper

Add the flours, sifted cocoa, baking powder and the beaten egg to the fruit mixture, and mix well.
Pour this mixture into the prepared tin.

Bake for about 1 hour, test before this time with a skewer, it should come out clean.
Allow to cool in the tin for about 15 minutes.

The table of Entries

The table of Entries

I was delighted to come second!!!  My loganberry jam also came second, but I think the jostaberry jam might have been too different.

 

Bleu in Tramore.. Guest Blog by Pamela Caldwell

Last Saturday evening Kevin and I decided last minute to treat ourselves to a nice meal out somewhere local in Waterford. Being spontaneous we hadn’t book anywhere and were surprised & delighted to find both the Copper Hen in Fenor and Emiliano’s in Waterford city were both booked out so we ambled into Tramore and I looked up Top Tramore restaurants on Trip Advisor and there was Bleu at the top of the list.

"Bleu" in Tramore

“Bleu” in Tramore

I had tried to book a few months previous when my sister was visiting but it was booked out so we walked in with fingers crossed and we felt very lucky to land the very last table for the evening, 2 high stools beside the bar. The first thing that hit me was the buzzy atmosphere and lovely ambience. The waiter was knowledgable and professional and he excitedly told us about their specials. We decided to go for their great value 3 courses for €25 per person and ordered a glass of red wine for me and a Heineken for Kev.

My starter, the salt and paper calamari was to die for, as was Kevin’s Goats cheese tart. We normally share each other’s meals when we eat out but the calamari was so delicious I wolfed it down before Kevin could have a taste ! I of course did taste his goats cheese and indeed it was divine !

For mains I went for the steak frites and Kevin had the pasta which were both also delicious.

For dessert I had my old favorite the Creme brûlée and Kevin had the pavlova with berries washed down with a double espresso ! It was bliss !

All in all it was a great evening and we feel very lucky to have such a lovely little restaurant right on our doorstep – I am sure we will be regulars and I look forward to our next visit.

I made the list!!!

I am absolutely delighted to have made the Long List for the Irish Blog Awards Ireland 2014.

My blog means alot to me, it’s really a very personal insight into my mind.  I never had a diary growing up, but this is my adult version.Not all my blogs are on food, or family, or horses.  I try to mix it up to reflect my true passions.

My last blog,

http://www.jenskitchen.ie/eventing-and-a-stumbling-block/

is definately one of most personal ones to date.  I think of myself as a very upbeat person, but this one was written during a low.

Eventing, and a stumbling block.

Today we went to Nuenna Farm for the Riding Club Horse Trials.  I had offered our services to mark a fence, as it is a thankless job that very few volunteer for, but we enjoy being part of the day.

I started the day with a run in Tramore, although it wasn’t one of my easier runs, hard on the legs and the mind, then home to fresh yoghurt with some of the fruit we picked yesterday.  So the day started well.

Yougrt with fresh loganberries, blueberries and gooseberries

Yoghurt with fresh loganberries, blueberries and gooseberries

 

Obviously we couldn’t go empty handed to spend the day with friends, so we brought a chocolate cake.  And even though I say so myself, it was really quite good.

Fresh loganberries, triple layer of buttermilk chocolate sponge and a whipped dark chocolate ganache.

The cake being decorated

The cake being decorated

The cut cake

The cut cake

The picture is a bit dark, but you get the gist.

When we got to the course we walked the cross country as so often we get too involved with marking or running around and it was nice to see all the fences all my friends would be discussing.

We spent a lovely couple of hours marking the fence, the sun was shining and all was good. The fence doesn’t look like much, and in fact there were two fences before it for the higher classes, to make it into a combination.

The fence

The fence

And I watch.  And wish it was me.

Why isn’t it me? Fear.  Stomach churning, palpitation fear.  The fear of what is something I constantly grapple with.

Falling off? I do this quite regularly, and, touch wood, tend to do everything so slowly that the fall inflects more damage to my pride than everything else.

Fear of failure? Not really this either, as I am not competitive, and have watched too many events to know that horses are great levellers.

Enough of the why. How do I help myself.  Being honest, I don’t know.  And also don’t know if I ever will get over the crippling fear.  Even writing about it is causing my heart to beat faster and I can feel my chest constricting.

Will I ever event, or compete again? Honestly, I don’t know. And it’s not the end of the world in the grand scheme of things.  Does it mean I don’t love my horses, no, I love Missy more than anything.  But sometimes it’s just makes me a little sad.