Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Autumn musings

Well, that time of the year again - hope the harvest is in.

Found something on Youtube. This was the time of year for basket making, cishogs, and this footage is of a very dear friend.
The collie was called Bran.

In the background is the house where I spent a lot of my summers, happy memories.

Mind you, I hated the sheep in the spring.

I just wanted to share these videos with readers, a great deal of what I know about growing veg, the importance of being able to sustain oneself and to plan ahead, to value what nature can give to you, I learnt from the man featured in the videos above.

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Bespoke Irish Garden Furniture

A very dear friend of mine has recently started producing garden furniture.
Its made with care, and made to last.

His facebook page gives a much wider selection of his designs

Personally, as you can see from the blog, I really do believe in supporting local Artists, Craftspeople and Artisans
Something like Ian's creations really add to a garden, they are individual and unique as opposed to something mass produced and soulless from a factory in the far east.
Ian's work is designed to be durable, to the point that several bars, cafes and clubs use his products because of their style, sturdiness and durability.

 Ian is primarily a metal worker, so also does features for inside the home like the quirky wine rack bicycle (but please don't drink and ride!!) or other features such as light fittings, candle holders etc.

Other features that add to a garden also feature in his creative talents. I really like the gate cap featured here.

As always, I really feel people should re-duce, re-use and re-cycle - but also re-source, something from the locality or even the country maintains funds - and equally important - creativity in the community.
So, if your considering adding features to your garden, or preparing a meal, keep an eye out for local and national creators and producers.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014


Just browsing recently, weather in the Baltic means a bit of downtime.
I am looking at a new property, I am hopeful, but nothing is certain yet - the mortgage still needs to be applied for, engineers need to be consulted etc. Early days but fingers crossed.

When one is daydreaming, the internet can be a disaster - but sometimes it helps.


One thing I would like to do is keep chickens. When I was a child in Connemara, my grandmother kept them - as did my friend Sean in Roundstone, with whom I spent many happy days.
Chickens Rock.
Chickens provide food
Chickens provide pest control 
Chickens provide a great deal of entertainment 
- especially for children (if you meet me in a pub ask me about chicken dominoes)

There are several companies in Ireland who provide chickens commercially.
Two I have seen are: 
henpecked based in Galway, and present at the Connemara Pony Show (see pics) & chique-hen with whom a schoolfriend of mine was involved - 

Both these companies also provide coops, equipment  etc.

I remember as a child, a box of chicks being delivered to my Grandmother by Bus Eireann.
That'll teach him to stick his fingers into the cage!!

But in getting chickens, I saw something recently that I thought was a cool way of getting chickens and doing something compassionate. A quick internet search will give quick results - but essentially it is re-homing rescue birds from battery chicken farms.

Rescue Hens Ireland is probably the biggest.

Pethelpers.ie - and their facebook page Halfway Henhouse

Nuthouse Hen Rescue are in the North 

Little Hill Animal Rescue also - at times - save chickens from mass culls.

Adopt A Pet Ireland have a list of other rescue centers who may be able to help or advise near you.

from www.ex-battery-hens.com
Here's some advice from gardenplansireland.com They may go off-lay for a couple of months when you get them but should start laying again. 
Afterwards, treat them as other hens by worming and mite prevention. You will probably find the eggs are larger than you will get in the shops as well once they have moved back into full-lay. They can be great for double yokers. Give battery hens a chance in life, treat them with respect and you won't be sorry. The main psychological problem is feather plucking, it can be stressful for the bird on the receiving end of this habit, identify the bird responsible and the vet can snip his beak in the appropriate place to stop this. It does no harm to the bird and doesn't prevent her eating etc, just makes it difficult to get a hold of the feather, they usually stop once they go free range though, although sometimes one can persist. Please don't get a "I-can-do-that-for-you" person to do it, if it goes wrong, you can end up with another stressed hen. 
From www.ex-battery-hens.com
You will get eggs from the ex-battery-hens, but just take your time with them. They should be quite quiet as they are used to close proximity of humans and handling. Due to the amount of antibiotics etc they have been given, they would do better in a large run initially until their immune systems get back to what it should be like, then allowed to roam free range, if that's your wish. 

I think its a bloody great idea. Rescue chickens, give them dignified and decent conditions - and you get fresh eggs, virtue IS its own reward.

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Conservatories and Chairs

A correspondent of mine, Sean Gallagher from patchwork veg has just started a new venture.
Sean is a real 'get up and go' guy, I've always admired his drive and innovation.
When the slump in the building trade hit, rather than despair or give up - he got on with things, he started up patchwork veg. It was, at the time, a niche market and something that was new to Irish horticulture, but he made a go of it.

More recently he has gone back into building and the results look very impressive.

The new company is Gallserv so if you are considering extending or moving into the garden I would recommend Sean, not just because he is an obviously skilled builder, but also, as a kitchen gardener, he would look at the extension differently to a builder in that this is not more space to furnish in a house, this is part of a living garden.


OK - it's a folding bench table, but I write the blog, therefore have editorial control, and always like a bit of onomatopoeia.

I've got to say, I saw this table on facebook, and the only way I can describe it is Sexy - I must be getting old or developing a furniture fetish.

Terrible I know, but I think it is brilliant. A garden bench/kitchen table in one - those clever Dutch buggers.


Cost is 200 EUR (VAT etc is included in the price) and delivery is 78 EUR - all the way from the Netherlands!!

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Jerusalem Artichoke recipe thats not soup!
A Simple French staple
Topinambours à la Barigoule
A great winter dish.

One of the perennials I planted back in 2011 has kept going strong with no attention whatsoever - as has the cordoon etc.
With this meal, unfortunately I left my stick with photos at home, so I will upload some on my return.
You will have to make do with the rather pretty botanists painting above.

There are many variations, this is simple, peasant food - but once it starts to caramelize, it starts to become the food of Kings. First time I saw it was on a UK site from a Welsh lad called Alan Refail - so thanks to him, I have something other than a soup or puree option.

Jerusalem artichoke is hardy, and is suited to the Irish climate. After it was established it has required no weeding or care.
In terms of sourcing tubers, after my experience, I would, unfortunately, not recommend Mr Middleton's.
Try looking about, or contact me. I have quite a stick of them.

Mind you, when I did put it in, a lot of seaweed and manure went in as the base of the bed.
Since then I have had strong, healthy plants.

The fresh tuber tastes like a water chestnut and is used in salads. They are better cooked though as they will give you wind if raw - and I really mean that  - as did John Goodyer in 1621 when he was quoted as having said "which way soever they be dressed and eaten, they stir and cause a filthy loathsome stinking wind within the body, thereby causing the belly to be pained and tormented, and are a meat more fit for swine than men."

Dont let that put you off, it is a bit harsh. The flavour of Jerusalem artichoke is kind of sweet and smokey. If lifted and stored for any length of time, they become sweeter - so if using this recipe, dig the tubers up a few days in advance, it really helps with the caramelizing process.

This recipe Topinambours à la Barigoule, is a staple of Provence in the south of France, it's cheap, easy and different.

I like to keep it simple, and the recipe here is fantastic with roast pork.

INGREDIENTS (serves 4)
500 grams Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed and peeled
1 Lemon
100ml white wine
100ml of water or stock
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
12 Black olives, stoned
Handful of Parsley

Chop up the Jerusalem artichokes and cut into about 1 inch / 2 cm pieces.
Put them in a pan that just fits them and add two or three tablespoons of rapeseed or olive oil, the juice and grated zest of a lemon, about a dozen black olives, 100ml water (or veg/chicken stock) and 100ml of white wine.

Add water to barely cover them tightly, bring to the boil then simmer till the artichokes are tender. 
Uncover and let the liquid evaporates and the artichokes are just starting to caramelize. 
Season with pepper, no need to use salt normally the olives are salty enough.
Add a good handful of chopped parsley before serving.

Great side dish - enjoy

As always, please take the time to comment - I really appreciate the time and effort.

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Blackberry Recipes - that time of year again

Hi All,
That time of year again - blackberry picking - and if you have some apples and rhubarb also your away in a hack.
These recipes take work and effort - so ensuring its shelf life and giving you something of your own through the dreary winter is worth putting equal effort into.
I strongly suggest you read my previous posting on preserving, it is worth taking the effort.
Trust me, when you hear jars with a pop-up top 'click' as they cool, its a very rewarding feeling to know that's a batch of Your work that can safely be stored in the larder/kitchen for the next 12 months, until the next harvest.

Here are 4 blackberry recipes - click on the highlighted text to link to the recipes

Blackberry Curd  Smooth, velvety - really worth the effort

Blackberry Chutney - A staple of English West Country cooking, and a real delight

 Blackberry Jam - the quintessential Connemara childhood memory

Also try Beetroot and Blackberry Salad - Outstandingly good with Tom Durkins' Spiced beef from Cork
Enjoy the rest of the Autumn - and sorry for the gaps in the blog, I promise to try harder, soon.

Please, please, please do take the time to comment and let me know what you think, I really appreciate the time and effort taken.

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Just some shots from work

Missing the gardening, but I have to make money to pay for Delaney's shed - and extra winter carrots.
Just click on pics to expand

The top end of Europe, quite literally!!

I think the growing season might start a little later up here somehow

Angry skies, chance of snow later -

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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Simon's Super Simple Savage Cabbage and Salmon (and a little bit of Cork's Jewish history)

St Patrick's day, start of the growing season - so whats left?

Well, I'm stuck in Norway at the moment, but it does not mean I can't did up an old recipe to share.

Cabbage or kale is available all year round if the garden is planned well, its good for you, full of vitamin C, minerals and fiber.

This dish goes well also with pureed Jerusalem artichoke which are hardy, the smokey flavour works well with the bacon. Another good option is pureed parsnips - just to give some body or variety. 
In this dish it combines nicely with vinegar to offset salmon's richness.

Feeds 4 people.
1 small cabbage (about 1 lb.)
4  6-oz. salmon filets
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
250 grams (1⁄4 lb.ish) thick-cut bacon, diced
60 ml (1⁄4 cup) dry white wine
60 ml (1⁄4 cup) cup cider vinegar
100 ml (1⁄2 cup) 
Fish Stock or water
100ml (1⁄2 cup) heavy cream
1 tbsp. chopped fresh dill
1 tbsp. chopped fresh chives

1. Using a mandoline or knife, shred cabbage or kale 1⁄2" thick.

2. Brush or rub both sides of salmon filets with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Sear filets in a large skillet or grill pan over high heat, until evenly browned, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Wipe out pan with paper towels.

3. In the same pan, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp, about 10 minutes. 
Remove bacon, leaving fat in the pan. Drain bacon on paper towels and set aside. Add cabbage and/or kale to the bacon fat and cook 5 minutes. 
Add wine, vinegar, stock, and cream. Cover and cook until cabbage is wilted, about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to low and place salmon filets in pan over wilted cabbage and/or kale. 
Cover tightly and cook until salmon is firm to the touch, about 10 minutes.

4. To serve, spoon cabbage/kale onto plates and sprinkle with the crisp bacon. Top cabbage with salmon filets and a spoonful of pan juices. 

Garnish with dill and chives.

Just a note for American readers on this day - you might be surprised to learn that your traditional St. Paddy’s meal—corned beef and cabbage—is as Irish as spaghetti. 
The first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place not in Dublin but in New York City, in 1762. 

Over the next 100 years, Irish immigration to the United States exploded. 

The new wave of immigrants brought their own food traditions, including soda bread and Irish stew. 

Pork was the preferred meat, since it was cheap in Ireland, as was salmon, and ubiquitous on the dinner table.

The favored cut was Irish bacon, a lean, smoked pork loin similar to the Canadian type familiar in the USA. 

However, in the United States at the time, pork was prohibitively expensive for most newly arrived Irish families, so they began cooking beef—the staple meat in the American diet—instead.

So how did pork and potatoes become corned beef and cabbage? 

Irish immigrants to America lived alongside other “undesirable” European ethnic groups that often faced discrimination in their new home, including Jews and Italians. 

Members of the Irish working class in New York City frequented Jewish delis and lunch carts, and it was there that they first tasted corned beef. 

Cured and cooked much like Irish bacon, it was seen as a tasty and cheaper alternative to pork. 

And while potatoes were certainly available in the United States, cabbage offered a more cost-effective alternative to cash-strapped Irish families. 

Cooked in the same pot, the spiced, salty beef flavored the plain cabbage, creating a simple, hearty dish that couldn’t be easier to prepare.

After taking off among New York City’s Irish community, corned beef and cabbage found fans across the country. It was the perfect dish for everyone from harried housewives to busy cooks on trains and in cafeterias—cheap, easy to cook and hard to overcook. 
It was even served alongside mock turtle coup at President Lincoln’s inauguration dinner in 1862.

It is as American as apple pie.
Mayor of Cork - Gerald Goldberg
That is not to say that Ireland does not have a tradition of cured beef. In a quirk of history, with a large Jewish population, spiced beef is popular in Cork. 
It is a Jewish way of preparing meat that has become a staple of Cork life, no table in Cork is without it at Christmas.
Shalom park and Mayor Gerald Goldberg, whose wife worked with my Grand-mother in Cork for special need's kids, are just part of Cork's historical and cultural fabric.
An excellent article on Cork's Jewish community can be read on historian Cllr Kevin McCarthy's blog. 

The best spiced beef in Cork is, in my opinion, Tom Durkins in the English Market
Waterford has a traditional corned beef, and that is normally also available at Toms stand.

If you get the chance, I heartily recommend you try spiced beef is in a sandwich, and with a bowl of soup ( or a glass of Midaza - a new local stout in the City) at Arthur Maynes. 

It is the perfect late lunch, a fantastic spot in Cork to soak up some of the local history, atmosphere and culture close to the English market.

Enjoy, have a great St Patrick's weekend - please do take the time to comment

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tonkatsu pork and pickles

This is a Japanese style breaded and deep fried pork dish.  
Like rookworst and endive in Holland, Caldo Verde in Portugal or our own bacon and cabbage the essence of this meal is those good companions, pork and cabbage.

I've added a Japanese staple, quick pickled veg to give it a little more of an oriental feel, and any excuse to incorporate seaweed in a dish is good with me.
Pickles take about 2 hours but are better overnight.

This recipe is based on one I found in Fionas Japanese cookbook blog 
Fionas recipe is really good, the main change I did was to incorporate fresh garden herbs and some mustard powder into the egg mix.

I pureed some parsley, chives, wild garlic leaves with half a teaspoon of mustard powder and beat in an egg.
I just did home-made breadcrumbs. Fiona talks about Panko flakes, but being in Connemara at the time, Asian supermarkets are tricky to find - unless your in China town on Craggy Island.
Cut off the crusts, toast and crumble onto a baking tray, stick into a warm oven or under a grill for two minutes - simple as that.

For the chops - 
Trim the fat off the pork chops if you prefer not to eat the fat, I just take off the rind.
Score small cuts all around the edge of the pork chops
Coat the pork chops in some seasoned flour (shaking off any excess flour)
Dip the pork chops in the beaten egg, mustard powder and herb mix.. 
Finally coat in the bread crumbs (rub the crumbs gently onto the pork chops).

Cook in a heavy based saucepan or cast iron frying pan - the oil should come half way up the chops.
Oil needs to be very hot - sizzling, about 140 C.
Turn and cook until golden brown all over

If serving with chopsticks dond forget to slice up the pork - and it makes for nicer presentation I feel.

Tonkatsu sauce
1 tsp. dry mustard powder
50ml cup ketchup
25ml Worcestershire
2 tsp. soy sauce
2 tsp Yorkshire relish (optional)

Whisk together mustard and 2 tsp. water in a bowl until smooth. Add ketchup, Worcestershire, and soy sauce, and whisk until smooth.

Sweet and sour cucumber and wakame pickles (kyuuri to wakame no amasuzuke) as a side dish - and the meal is served with Sushi rice and home grown greyhound cabbage.

Japanese style Pickled Cucumber
This amount of marinade is enough for one large  cucumber - the long, relatively thin kind that often comes shrink-packed in plastic. If you’re using other gherkins, aim for about 4 to 5 cups cut up.
The marinade:
8 Tbs. rice wine vinegar (not sushi vinegar)
10 cm square piece of kombu seaweed, its a kelp if you are foraging.
1 1/2 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. sea salt
4 Tbs. boiling water
Half a red chili pepper (optional; leave out if you don’t want any spiciness)
Combine and mix until the sugar is melted.

The vegetables:
1 large cucumber
2 Tbs. dried pre-cut wakame seaweed ( the kind that just requires soaking)

De-seed and cut up 1  cucumber
Put the marinade in a small glass, ceramic or plastic bowl (not metal) or the good old ziplock plastic bag. I used a fancy French jar!! Moving up in the world.

Put the cucumber and wakame seaweed in. Stir or shake around, seal well and let marinade in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours or overnight.

Drain off the marinade and serve in small bowls. This should be eaten within 2-3 days.
You can reuse the marinade once: let it come to a boil, cool off, and put in fresh vegetables.
Besides cucumbers try sliced turnips, carrots, daikon radish, regular radish, etc.
I served the pork and pickles with some regular rice nori and finely shredded greyhound cabbage that worked really well.

Thanks for reading, I hope you try and enjoy this - also works very well with chicken.

Please do take the time to comment, I really do appreciate the time and effort taken - and its nice to know someone is reading these postings

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