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.

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!

 

 

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?”