Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Wine Society at Hayfield Manor

Hayfield Manor is an oasis of calm in the middle of bustling Cork City.  Hidden from view by an innocuous driveway, this family-run hotel delivers a five star luxury experience with charm and grace.  Not only does it offer guests a beautiful place to stay, but Hayfield Manor loves wine, with a subterranean wine cellar and dining room in the basement.  The Vine wine cellar not only contains a collection of exceptional wine, curated by sommelier Sandra Biret Crowley, but also hosts their Wine Society evenings.



I was invited to attend the May dinner which featured Rustenberg Winery from South Africa, represented by winemaker Murray Barlow and whose wines were chosen to complement the five course meal created by Executive Head Chef Mark Staples.  Founded in 1862, the Rustenberg Estate is a family winery in the valley of the Simonsberg Mountain, right in the heart of Stellenbosch. Peter & Pamela Barlow purchased Rustenberg in 1941 and have worked with nature to create a range of truly exceptional wines, some of which were showcased at the Wine Society dinner.  Their son Simon took over in 1987 and his son Murray, who holds a Masters in Oenology, has now joined the team, both making wine and marketing it globally.  What a fabulous job to have!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Review : Summers Under the Tamarind Tree

There are some cookery books that merit more than a quick glance and a once over of the recipes, especially ones which tell a story about life in a faraway land full of recipes handed down through generations. Karachi-born Sumayya Usmani has written such a book, with a lovely foreword by the iconic Madhur Jaffrey. Based in Glasgow, she is a former solicitor who wrote about her nostalgic childhood recipes on her blog My Tamarind Kitchen.  She has now written her first book : Summers Under the Tamarind Tree, a collection of recipes and memories from Pakistan which offers a great understanding of the spirit, passion and flavours of her homeland.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Airfield's Festival of Food

Airfield Estate is hidden away in a corner of south Dublin, just a few minutes from the busy Dundrum Shopping Centre. You may have driven by the gates many times without realising what was within - a 38 acre working urban farm, cafe, gardens and heritage experience. Established over 40 years ago in 1974 by the Overend family, Airfield offers visitors a unique opportunity to experience food, farming and nature, just steps from the Luas.


Airfield's Festival of Food returns from Friday 9th - Sunday 11th September to really inspire people to think about where their food comes from and how they can protect their environment. It will offer visitors (like you) the very best of Irish food and drink over a weekend packed with workshops, talks, food markets, unique dining experiences and activities for all ages. Entrance to the festival is free but some events are ticketed.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Apricot Frangipane Tart

I know, I know... enough with the stone fruits and almonds.  Yes, I'm guilty of creating as many variations of the classic frangipane tart as possible but they're all so delicious and really easy to make.  They look really impressive too, so it's the perfect dessert at any time of year.  With stone fruit in season, it's very hard not to make the most of them.  And I promise, this is the last one I'll bring you for ages.


You're right, there's some nectarines in this tart too.  Truthfully, it's because I ran out of apricots and had to make an emergency substitution.  However, this means you can use any stone fruit - try plums, greengages, peaches, mangoes... they'll all be equally delectable when smothered in almond cake batter and baked until tender.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

My Splashy Flashy Garden Fence

Let me start by apologing (once again) for the radio silence of late.  Life has been a little bit hectic for the past few months because the day job has become twice as busy as I planned and my spare time usually involves sleep, sleep and even more sleep.  Honestly, I'm not complaining because I really do love my day job and it gives me the chance to travel and do some phenomenal things, but when you're juggling everything, something's got to give.  Whoops, that was Babaduck hitting the ground with a thud.  Right, enough apologies and explanations for now.

The finished masterpiece

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Chimichurri Lamb. Easy Tasty Fun*

A traditional Sunday roast, rich Greek moussaka, a warming bowl of Irish Stew. They'd all be nothing without delicious, tasty lamb.  It's not just for special occasions or celebration meals - there's a multitude of lamb cuts which are quick, simple and very easy to cook.  Given how busy our lives have become, anything which gives us a chance to create something delicious in moments has to be worth a try.



Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Nectarine & Cherry Upside Down Cake

When we were kids, an upside down cake was an exotic American creation, baked by a friend of my parents.  It was a world away from Victoria sponges and apple tart on a plate, and we couldn't get enough of it.  Pineapple was usually reserved for gammon steaks and glace cherries for buns or Christmas Cake, so to bring the two together with syrupy sponge was a complete revelation.  Nowadays I like my pineapple barbequed, my cherries fresh and my cake a little less sweet.


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Tipperary's got Great Taste

If you've ever been in a shop and spotted a little gold and black sticker with one, two or even three stars, it's been the recipient of a prestigious Great Taste Award. Over 10,000 products are entered into Great Taste annually, with only a tiny minority being awarded coveted 3 star accolade. Last year, Tipperary butcher Pat Whelan won not just 3 stars, but also the Supreme Champion award for his sublime Beef Dripping.

The Shrine to Divine


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Super Cheesy Parmesan & Chive Scones

There is nothing nicer than a fluffy scone, liberally spread with good Irish salted butter and perhaps a dollop of raspberry jam.  Until you make a savoury scone crammed full of cheese and fragrant herbs and realise what you've been missing out on.  I'll be honest, scone making has never been my special skill and when I was learning to bake in Home Economics class in school, mine were usually an unmitigated disaster.  Overworked, dry and tough, my scones could have been used as a hockey puck.  Not now however, I have a secret weapon to transform my scones into little fluffy angels - my food processor.  It blends butter and flour together in an instant and means that anything that uses the rubbing-in method turns out as light as air.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

It's OK not to feel OK

For the past few months, I've been organising the local leg of Cycle Against Suicide 2016 which came to my adopted home of Arklow on Friday May 6th.  Rather than a fundraising exercise, the main objective of the Cycle is to raise awareness of the considerable help and support in place for people battling depression, self-harm, suicide or those bereaved by suicide.  I initially volunteered because of the suicide of a friend last year, seeing the devastation of their family and hoping that we would never be in a situation like that again.  I did write about it at the time but it was too raw to publicise and I wanted to do something practical to help instead.

Some of the TY students of St. Mary's College