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.

A little goes a long way

Pennywort in the lane

Pennywort in the lane

This isn’t a blog about finishing my 12 weeks in Ballymaloe Cookery School.  It’s still a little raw for that. And it isn’t a blog about re-integrating myself back into my job, my home, my family and my friends.  As it’s just too soon.

Progress

Progress

It’s a blog about Spring, and learning and practicing.  It was still in the middle of Winter when I left for Cork, so it is so nice to be walking around looking at all of the Spring flowers in the daylight.

Some primroses

Some primroses

I have crystallised them , and will keep them for cakes later in the season.

The "bar Stool" job

The “bar Stool” job

It was great to go into the tunnel and see the broad beans my father in law planted a few weeks ago.  I love the first broad beans, with nothing but a little salt and olive oil crushed on some bread.

Broadbeans starting to flower

Broadbeans starting to flower

So this evening I took a kilo of blackcurrants out of the freezer and made a little taste of summer, a syrup so full of vitamin C and can nearly see all the colds and snots leaving the house in disgust.

My cauldron of blackcurrant goodness

My cauldron of blackcurrant goodness

The process is a little messy, but not as sticky as jam making.  I got 6 750ml bottles out of the blackcurrants, all ready to go to their new homes.

Blackcurrant Cordial ready for shipment.

Blackcurrant Cordial ready for shipment.

Let me know if you want a bottle?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conefrey’s Pharmacy- a history- Guest Blog- A Legacy

Conefrey

My friend Tom, works in the family business, Conefrey’s Pharmacy in Dublin, and below is his lovely blog on family, and work, and community, and how important it is to have a balance.

Caillin, my late father, started Conefrey’s Pharmacy on Pearse Street in 1955. Across the road in no 70, his younger brother Joseph ‘Joe’ opened a hardware shop. Joe and my Father were the two youngest of their family of 14: 7 boys and 7 girls.

When they first arrived in the big smoke, they shared digs in Vavasour Square near Lansdowne Road.  Over time, their nephews chose Dublin for college, and much to their mothers delight, they stayed with Caillin and Joe.

When the brothers purchased their homes, they bought houses two doors away from each other. It always seemed that where my Dad was, Joe wasn’t too far away and vice-versa. We grew up as constant fixtures in Joe’s house, and if we weren’t there, Joe’s children were at our kitchen table.

Joe’s hardware shop was legendary. To this day, people still talk about it, and remember Joe fondly. He seemed to stock everything and my memories are of wooden cabinets and counters. If he didn’t have what you were looking for, he could get it for you. The shop was a real treasure trove, and was a real hub of the community.

Conefrey History

Joe had regulars in his shop, who would drop in and stay a while, and, they were all characters. Joe’s friend Freddie always stuck in my mind. He used to sit in the back of the shop all day and do crosswords. In his later years he grew a goatee beard after Joe had retired and I remember telling Joe about it. He said it sounded like he was turning into the Count of Monte Cristo.

Poor Freddie went into a care home about eight years ago and shortly after, he passed away. I attended his funeral in place of Joe. There were 10 people at it: 6 from the home, 3 who were old neighbours of Freddie’s and me. It really saddened me. I had never attended such a small funeral before.

Joe hung up his hardware boots in 1999 and sold his shop. Over the next few years the building changed hands, and identity.  It started as a Gallery, then an office for web developers, now it is home to a nursing agency.

Conefrey

To us, it will always be my Uncles- We still call it ‘Joes’ when we talk about it.  Joe often called into the pharmacy after he moved down the country and I was amazed how many people remembered him and asked after him. He would often ask after people from the area. Joe passed away last year on March 24th after a short illness, but he will never be forgotten.

Growing up, Pearse Street was our lives and with Joe’s connection with the hardware shop only strengthened it. It is our community and our home.  Like Joe and my Father, I would like to think I have made a difference working there, by enshrining the sense of community spirit that was so important to them. They were gentlemen, and wonderful role models. They left a great legacy behind. Hopefully in time, I can leave my own.

Chickpea & Olive Salad with Lemon Dressing- Guest Blog

The wonderful blogger Evin O’Keeffe is guest blogging on Jen’s Kitchen this week, here is her vibrant recipe for Chickpea and Olive Salad.

Spring is around the corner. I can feel it. Or maybe I’m just hoping it is. Either way, one of my favourite ways to feel like it isn’t winter is to cook with fresh lemon and herbs. This salad is a quick, healthy, and nourishing meal that is a regular in my lunch rotation. It is meat-free so a nice option for Friday meals in Lent or an unconventional side salad for a larger meal.

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Chickpea & Olive Salad with Lemon Dressing

2 cups cooked chickpeas (it’s ok to use canned, but drain/rinse first)

2 teaspoons parsley, chopped

1/4 cup pitted green olives, rinsed and drained

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons chopped scallions

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Add the chickpeas, parsley, olives, and scallions to a medium bowl and stir the ingredients together.

2. In a separate dish, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, and black pepper. Pour it over the dressing over the chickpea mixture. Refrigerate the salad for at least 20 minutes or until it is time to dine. This salad can be made ahead of time and refrigerated in an air-tight container for up to 24 hours or served right away for a quick and healthy salad.

3. Serve the salad with spare sprigs of parsley as garnish. It goes well with grilled vegetables, such as eggplant, or alongside grilled breads and tapenade spreads. I give it another squirt of fresh lemon just before serving.

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Evin
EvinOK.com

LOTS of cake. And I mean Lots

Yesterday was my birthday, and my very talented partner this week, Eva Kelly, made me the most spectacular cake.

The very talented Eva Kelly and her cake

The very talented Eva Kelly and her cake

And I kind of forgive her.  Kind of.  Birthday’s aren’t my thing.  However who could refuse chocolate cake?

I had made poached salmon with hollandaise sauce as part of my meal in the kitchen, and all it was missing was a teeny glass of vino, and an afternoon sipping in the sun.

Poached Salmon with pommes mousselline

Poached Salmon with pommes mousselline

Demo flew past as usual, and then 8 of us headed into the #Beerv’sWine night in Latitude 51, to help and support BOTH camps.

Team Wine- pinning my colours early

Team Wine- pinning my colours early

When we had gone into the previous IW&FS launch in Jacque’s, we had been introduced to Elbow Lane, a nano brewery and smoke house on Oliver Plunket Street.  One of our group, Erin, is very interested in craft beers, and as we were early we went in for a few starter plates and a taste of the beer (I, not to be a traitor to the cause, only had a glass of wine).

We had pigs in blankets, some chorizo type pesto on sourdough, and also had a taste of the brisket.

Little did we know that Caroline, author and Beer Ambassador (!)  from was in there doing her prep, and meeting her gorgeous sister, so we had a great chat, and Trina had the most gorgeous looking prawns.

Trina's Prawns

Trina’s Prawns

I had a quick cup of tea, very cute presentation.

 

Tea time on my birthday

Tea time on my birthday

And then this appeared….

A nice touch

A nice touch

Which was a lovely touch.  And although it could be considered a bribe, I have to say the mousse was rich, and velvety and just the right size.  I think it says something when a non beer drinker like myself would definitely go back there.

We headed to L’Atitude 51 to prepare for the taste-off.  There was a very good turnout, and soon we were pouring beer and wine to pair with the food Beverly had tested Caroline and Colm to pair food with.  Although Caroline is married to @8DegreesBrewing, she made a good and balanced argument for supporting local, tasty, and tested craft beers.

Caroline giving it socks

Caroline giving it socks

Whereas wine, is all imported.  Colm pulled out a few tricks by ringing 2 wine makers, and they were very interesting, and good to talk to the group about their respective sparkling rose (@WistonSparkling) and a gorgeous port (Taylor’s).

Mary, Kaelin and myself

Mary, Kaelin and myself

Soon all the glasses were finished, and we headed home.  And although it was a draw, in my heart I know there’ll be a next time…. and we’ll touch the trophy then!

 

 

A little piece of tranquilty

As we hurtle to the finish line at a rate of knots, we were invited, en masse to Ballymaloe House today, for a tour, a chat, and a cup of tea.

We had started the day with a wonderful sushi demonstration (who KNEW there were so many types and variations)

Sushi

Sushi

We then had our usual, and last Wednesday lunch in the Garden Cafe. After which Darina brought us foraging around the cookery school gardens.

Darina showing us the Allium Bar

Darina showing us the leeks

Here she is showing us Allium ampeloprasum babingtonii, (took me AGES to find this genus).  The history of which is very interesting.  As a Charles Darwin fan, I was delighted to discover that this member of the leek family is named after Charles Cardale Babington, a contemporary of Darwin.  And it is hypothesized that the origins of this relatively frost hardy vegetable lies with the monks. I’m not entirely sure WHY this leek was named after Charles (1808 – 1895). In 1840 he wrote about the differences between true leeks, Allium porrum, and Allium ampeloprasum in the Annals of Natural History, where he writes that on Guernsey he had seen Allium ampeloprasum reproducing from bulbils (like a topset) produced on the flower head.  And maybe he also specified this very local Allium species then.

and so onwards.  It was a walk of melancholy for me, however, as we took practically the same route that we did on our first day, albeit the weather was better today.

Sorrel starting to sprout

Sorrel starting to sprout

It signifies the beginning of the end.  Although like the sprouting herbs, I’m sure we are all waiting to sprout forth with all our new found knowledge.

We then travelled to Ballymaloe House, where we, en masse, split into groups and had a tour, and a cup of afternoon tea.

Afternoon Tea at Ballymaloe House

Afternoon Tea at Ballymaloe House

The history of the house, and the Norman castle beforehand was fascinating, and Hazel was very interesting, especially explaining about the different art pieces hanging in the different parts of the house.

And as I looked out at the daffodils from the Yeat’s Room, I felt a pang.  I’m going to miss this.

The view from the Yeat's Room

The view from the Yeat’s Room

 

 

 

 

The longest day

Oh wait, that’s not until June.  Anyway, its been pretty long!  I volunteered to help at a pop up/ slow food event at the cookery school this evening, and am just crawling into bed (and typing).

We had yesterday off to make a long weekend, which was great as I got to pop into the “real” job for a while, and also create my dessert for the St Patrick’s day competition.

Lime, white chocolate, and mango mousse

Lime, white chocolate, and mango mousse

I also made a “stout” cake, with Murphy’s this time round, as sure when in Rome and all that.  The decoration didn’t quite get finished, and it looked a little like I had blended a relation of Shreks, but it did taste good.

 

A rather luminous green iced stout cake

A rather luminous green iced stout cake

We laid the tables throughout the afternoon, after cooking in the kitchen this morning.  My corned beef went down a treat, and my Gran would have been proud.

 

Corned beef and cabbage

Corned beef and cabbage

I’m not sure if the vol au vents are really traditional, but they were delicious.

Apple and Sweet Geranium Vol au Vonts

Apple and Sweet Geranium Vol au Vents

The tables were all re-arranged, and looked really beautiful, especially with Pam’s little touches of shamrocks, and coloured water which the candles floated in.

 

The long table, looking out into the fields

The long table, looking out into the fields

Close up of the tables

Close up of the tables

It was especially great to share the day with Nigel and Jordan, I miss my family alot, and am grateful to my new friends I’ve made here who keep me sane (and in coffee).

Getting into the spirit

Getting into the spirit

Credit must go to the guys who worked through the weekend in the kitchen.  And the quality of the food delivered reminded me very much of a Michael Pollan”ism” from his excellent book “Food Rules”.

Eat foods made from ingredients that you can picture in their raw state or growing in nature.

Well, we certainly served food that ticked those boxes tonight, except maybe for my icing.  Maybe.

 

 

 

No Pressure

Canapes

Canapés

I had a party for family yesterday for my Dad’s 70th Birthday.  There were 20, including kids, and the pressure was definately on to deliver due to my new found cheffiness.

I wanted to try out so many new recipes, but limited myself to a couple of canapés, and a selection of salads and meats so that everyone could help themselves buffet style.

Close up of pud

Close up of pud

These were a definate favourite, mini yorkshire puddings with homemade horseradish sauce, and thinly sliced fillet of beef.

Smoked Salmon Spirals and Mini Yorkshire puds

Smoked Salmon Spirals and Mini Yorkshire puds

The spirals were delicious and very handy as they were make ahead.

 

A Selection

A Selection

I had two salads made myself, all of my sister in laws contributed to salads and dessert, as did my mum, which makes the whole experience a lot easier, and of course the family were all great sous chefs.

Hard Boiled Quail Eggs with celery salt and EV olive oil

Hard Boiled Quail Eggs with celery salt and EV olive oil

Hazelnuts, roasted toasted and ready to go

Hazelnuts, roasted toasted and ready to go

Although I myself am not nutty about nuts, I made this delicious salad filled with crunchiness and goodness.

Pate de Campagne

Pate de Campagne

This starter is really good with almost everything, and although is quite labour intensive at the start, I was able to make it a couple of weeks ago and freeze it, and then cooked it on the day.

Bouquet Garni

Bouquet Garni

And of course by the time I got to dessert, I had put my phone down somewhere so no pictures of the ice cream meringue cake, or the honeycomb ice cream that went down a treat.

Speaking of pressure… exams next week so I’m heading off to study.

 

 

 

 

Carry a Donor Card. It saves lives.

This may sound like an unusual title for a post, but it’s true, and personal.

4 years ago my husband gave my father in law one of his kidneys.  As my friends will attest to , it was a very stressful time.

Between living your life around dialysis sessions.  Trips to Beaumont, for testing, testing, and even more testing.

There was also the TV crew, filming the actual operation, in the hope of high lighting the importance of donation.  (Hands up who misses Dr Mark??) And lots of media coverage, which was the point of the filming exercise.

Alan, Sue and Nigel

Alan, Sue and Nigel

But 4 years later I can still attest to how life changing it is for the recipient.  Seriously life changing.

 

Obeo Bags- Clean and Concise Waste Management!

Obeo Bags

Out of the blue in late November I got an email asking me would I be interested in reviewing “Obeo” bags.  I had never heard of them so did a little research before saying yes.  We compost all our vegetable waste, and as we live on a farm where my Father in law grows all our own vegetables, we eat a lot of veg.

Each day I try to give two types of vegetables with dinner, which takes a bit of preparing, but there’s nothing like washing your own mud off a potato to see the goodness waiting inside.  Never mind the copious amounts of fruit, especially bananas that get consumed in this house.  So our compost “bin” (an old margarine tub), needs emptying frequently.

Garden waste Container aka an old container

Garden waste Container aka an old container

 

I replaced the tub with the first bag, and we all gathered around to see if it would fall over, as there was only a banana skin in it as we didn’t want to rush in with coffee grinds and eggs before we knew if it would stand up to the rigours of our kitchen.

 

2 months later and all the bags are gone.  Sob.  We put everything in them that they recommended (there’s a very easy to follow guide), and filled each one to the brim.  We actually emptied them and re-used them each about twice.  And even be the end of the second time they really were still perfect.

Fuss free waste disposal.  Rather Handsome too

Fuss free waste disposal. Rather Handsome too

For me the advantages were;

A) it’s neat, tidy and unobtrusive.

B) it’s easy to move if you need to, with no fear of it breaking

C) The easy close top makes sure that no nasty smells escape

D) The top reason for me is that the whole lot goes into the compost, and there is no ugly washing up, goodness knows we do enough of it in our lives.

They promise “fuss free food waste” and that’s certainly what they deliver.  From the discreet bag to the compost heap there is no fuss, no difficulty and no smell.

Losing my French Connection

This week is wine exam week so everyone is a little tense.  Including me, as for some reason, yesterday when my better half was testing me on wine regions, villages etc, I just COULDN’T get it right.  And I wouldn’t mind I’ve BEEN to some of them.  So due to that “little” issue ,the posts this week will be short, but sweet :)

Speaking of sweet, I made brioche dough tonight.  Yuminess in the fridge for tomorrow

Brioche dough ready for the fridge overnight

Brioche dough ready for the fridge overnight

We also made our puff pastry (“pâte feuilletée”) today, and with it I will make Gateau Pithivier tomorrow.  This use of puff pastry starts with a very French sounding “detrempe”, and now for the maths!! (Cause you know I LOVE MATHS!)

The number of layers in puff pastry is calculated with the equation:

l=(f + 1)^n

where l is the number of finished layers, f the number of folds, and n the number of times the dough has been folded. For example, folding twice (i.e. in three) for four times gives (2 + 1)^4 = 81 layers. Simples.  The great food writer Julia Child recommends 73 layers for regular pâte feuilletée and 729  layers for pâte feuilletée fine (in Volume II of her Mastering the Art of French Cooking textbook)

And to be fair this now sounds more complicated than it is.

Back to the gateau, which, is called gateau pithivier every day in France, except, as Darina told us, on January 6th, when it is known as the Galette des Rois (The Kings Cake).  This tradition is pre Christian, when a  man was chosen to be the “sacred king” for a year and then sacrificed to ensure a good harvest.  Thankfully the Christian interpretation isn’t quite so macabre for the consumer.

And unfortunately I have been unable to track down why there is a spiral decoration on the gateau.  More detective work is required I think.  I would appreciate any help!