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.

Thank you very much

I am delighted to say that I have got through to the next round of the Cono Sur Food Bloggers Competition. Thank you to all who voted for me.  As you all know I am extremely passionate about cooking (and drinking wine).  I wish I could cook you all a meal to thank you… maybe someday when I open my cookery kitchen.

Thank youFor now be thankful I didn’t put of a picture of me with a ridiculously happy smile!

My weekend of Orienteering with the “Vets”

Due to my age, and not my ability or stunning good looks, I was once again representing my country at the Veteran Home Internationals.  The venue this year was the Forest of Dean.  My only experience of the Forest of Dean was the reference to it in the Harry Potter films.  Hermione had been there camping with her parents.

Forest of Dean, Mallard's Pike

Forest of Dean, Mallard’s Pike

The first day was the individual competition.  The parking was near the start and the finish, which is a good thing for me, as I’m never fond of a 2km hike to the start, mind you that does usually mean that it’s downhill from there.

Individual Race

Individual Race

I started slow, to make sure I knew what terrain was around me. I was happy with the first couple of controls and found them pretty much spot on, although I was very slow through the brashings and kept double and triple checking myself with both my map and my compass.

Number five involved a climb and a VERY steep descent so I made a number of checks to ensure I would not have to come back up.  The next issue was eight, I was in the right area but too high, a number of runners ran out from beneath my place so I dashed down and found it.

Number nine was a struggle as I was very hot and tired at this stage and also knew I was only half way around.  And then the moment arrived when I knew I was lost.  I thought I had taken an accurate compass bearing after number ten, but others running around the forest took my eye, and after a lot of head scratching and attempting to relocate using path junctions, I decided to go back to number ten. Miraculously number eleven was then easy.  The rest of the course flowed reasonably well.  I played it very safe with my route choices, which made my time unbelievably slow, but I found them all where I expected.

Once again I was last in, which is never great for the moral, but a point is a point.

The BOK juniors put on the Saturday meal, and the kids were very polite and polished in their service.  I elected to have an early night as I wanted to put my best foot forward for the team.

My Ireland Veterans Orienteering Shirt

My Ireland Veterans Orienteering Shirt

Mallards Pike was the forest used for the Relays.  We started and finished in an old disused quarry.  I was third leg runner and got more and more nervous as runners came back utterly exhausted.  I just had to finish.  Simple you would think.  The start “kite” was up a slope and I had in my head I would jog slowly up it while getting my bearings.  Again the day was very warm.  My number two runner arrived, and I was off.

In retrospect, nerves got the better of me.  That, and the bracken.  I wasted valuable time at most controls being in the right area but not seeing the kites as they were in pits surrounded by bracken.  The second half of the course went better as I trusted myself more.

I always say never again.  But the group of Irish that travel are so dedicated and great fun to be with.  I made a huge effort this year to be fitter, which definately helped.  But I need to be twice as fit.  Better get going so….

My Autumn Salad- Venison & Pinot Noir.

I truly love Autumn, the slight chill in the air, the earthy smells as the leaves start to fall from the trees.  This year we were incredibly lucky with our beautiful summer and felt justified in having BBQ’s and salads nearly every day.

Into the back garden

Into the back garden

So I wanted to have an Autumn salad meal, as a transition between the two seasons.  Venison is lovely at any time of the year, but I think particularly comes into it’s own in Autumn, I use our own Seika Venison, grown on the farm.  I chose the pinot noir to accompany the dish as you can almost smell the autumn earthiness when you open the bottle.  The soft tannins complemented the St Tola Goats cheese in the salad also.

Vision Cono Sur

Cono Sur Single Vineyard Pinot Noir

With a salad using such bold ingredients I think it’s nice to have a dressing that both draws out the other flavours and brings the whole meal together.  I made a pinot reduction slowly with some of our own honey, the cherry character that finely touches the wine also goes well with the game.

The venison was pan-fried first as it benefits from resting for a time, and I then used the pan to flash fry the field mushrooms, this addition to my salad further encouraged the mouth feel of autumn, before finishing off the reduction.

Pan Fried Venison

Pan Fried Venison

Then it was just a matter if preparing the salad with the cheese., and the in season tomatoes.  I thinly sliced the venison, and served it warm with the Cono Sur Pinot Noir.

Venison Salad

Venison Salad

Perfection in a salad.  Perfect for a Monday. Who said salads were boring?

PHEV-ever love

When I was younger all I wanted was a Jaguar, in racing green.  And I got one, well, a little model one that my now 16 year old would spend time driving his toy hens around in.

When we moved back to Waterford, and I got a horse, and had to upgrade our civic for a very old Mitsubishi Pajero.  It was my first automatic, and I LOVED it, it was clattery and clumsy, but pulled like a dream and never gave up.

Then when all the kids on the farm needed to go to school, it was time to look at a seven seater.  After an awful lot of looking around we finally settled on the Mitsubishi Outlander.  That was in 2007.  She’s still with us.  We love her.  Truly love her.  She has driven to Spain, Belgium, France, Scotland, Wales, England and everywhere in between.  She has done school runs, is constantly my office on the road, and has brought many a horse to many an event, and us to numerous national, and international orienteering events.  She really is the fifth member of the family.

So it was with heavy heart that we felt we should look at upgrading.  My husband is very into new technology and also environmental savvy, so an electric car was the way we were looking.  BUT, we live in the middle of no-where, well, not really, but close enough.  So a pure Electric Vehicle (EV), wasn’t really an option, plus with all the sporting activities all over Europe,  we needed the distance.

In stepped the Outlander PHEV.  I wasn’t really sure, but himself persuaded me to go to the Mitsubishi Dealer in Enniscorthy, Simon Kavanagh Motors. (http://www.enniscorthy.simonkavanaghmotors.ie)

We met Dave and he showed us to the demo model and said we could take it for a spin. So in I got.  With the kids and Nigel.  All of whom were told under no circumstances to open their mouths.  Went to reach for the gearstick.  Wasn’t one.  Automatic.  Gulp.  Sweated.  The Control Panel looked like it would launch a rocket from NASA. Scarily complicated.  I got about 100m’s down the road and abandoned ship.  Himself test drove it that day.  But we were in love.

#PHEV

#PHEV

He persuaded my to test drive it again, I did, and managed to drive forwards AND reverse. Impressive I know.  We took a trip to Dublin to see the model with the sun roof.  We were nearly afraid to talk to each other in case we talked ourselves out of it.

charging....

charging….

I’m a bit evangelical about her actually, so should me meet, perhaps it would be best to talk about the weather….

 

 

Wedding Songs

We were watching “the” wedding last night from the latest series of Modern Family.  Robert hadn’t seen it as he had been away, as with any episode it really is side splittingly funny, but the wedding at the end was truly beautiful.  The Vitamin String Quartet played a tribute to Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.

Not sure what song I would pick now if I was getting married now, both of us have similar taste in music, he introduced me to Prince, which certainly broadened my repertoire.  Grey’s Anatomy are another series that do great music, last season (10) they did really amazing covers of 80′s music.

What was your wedding song?

 

#eday cake

I made a cake for Pims Business Systems today, as they were having a seminar on e-payments. It went down well, and was a chocolate and Guinness cake.

#eday

#eday

Yum.

Glad there is some left over….

 

Knowing my alphabet

I sometimes have to give out codes in work, as in software, most activations work on a code system.  I simply CANNOT manage to give out these codes without getting tongue tied.  A is for …….auxcillary???

Radiotelephony Alphabet

Radiotelephony Alphabet

These codes were originally designed in the 1950′s to standardise the format in which letters were called out over the radio.  The final choice of code words was made after hundreds of thousands of comprehension tests were completed with 31 nationalities.

But they never asked me….

 

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!