Mon 19 Mar 2012
It seems appropriate on this St. Patrick’s Day weekend to pay homage to Ireland, my current home and land of rolling green hills, shepherd’s pie and Guinness. Aren’t these the things that come to mind when most foreigners think of the Emerald Isle?
Thing is, Ireland is so much more. And the longer I live here, the more I realize just how much this country has to offer – especially when it comes to breathtaking views and FOOD. I’ll admit that when I first moved here I thought Irish food was terrible: overcooked meat, over-boiled veg and breaded & fried everything. I was wrong.
Last weekend, I sampled the best of Irish food in a place that is quite possibly one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. Along with a few other food bloggers, I was invited to spend a weekend at Inchydoney Island Lodge & Spa in West Cork. Though I’d been to Cork, I’d never visited this picturesque coastal area before. With its pristine beaches and lush green pastures, West Cork is an absolute stunner of a place.
The hotel is a quiet seaside escape that has everything one needs to forget bustling city life and relax: a spacious lobby complete with a fireplace and plush chairs, a residence lounge with walls of bookshelves, a fully-stocked bar and a grand piano; a spa offering a variety of treatments; and a workout facility with a warm, seawater pool. As soon as we walked into our well-appointed room (which featured a sea-facing balcony!), all our worldly cares instantly slipped away.
The point of the weekend was to show off the best West Cork has to offer, and I can say wholeheartedly that the mission was accomplished. The hotel’s proprietors, Des and Anne, hosted a wonderful evening where we got to meet many of the area’s most respected food producers. At the pre-dinner champagne reception, we mingled with the owners of Ummera Smoke House, Rosscarbery Recipes, Shellfish de la Mer and more. The incredibly charming and lovely Sally McKenna of Bridgestone Guides gave a fascinating and enthusiastic talk about seaweed, which can be foraged right along the waters in front of Inchydoney Lodge & Spa.
So it was appropriate that our dinner featured the best these local producers had to offer, as well as some of the seaweed Sally had talked about earlier. The multi-course meal included a gorgeous mini-cone filled with smoked Giga oysters bound with fresh code roe from Con Murphy of Shellfish de la Mer; pan-fried Ummera smoked organic salmon with a foraged sea lettuce salad; wild rabbit loin caught by Dan McCarthy served with the famed Clonakilty black pudding; a surprising sweet sorbet made with organic beetroot picked by John Devoy; and a beautiful roasted fillet of West Cork Beef from Neil Kelleher of Coolcower Meats. Though Mountaineering Man isn’t a huge beef fan, he raved about the fillet and ate every last bite.
The meal finished with a wildly creative dessert that would make Heston Blumenthal green with envy: Sweet Spring Chicken Fresh Laid Eggs, served with bread soldiers. I know what you’re thinking – eggs and bread for dessert? But what looked like a perfectly-cooked, medium-boiled egg sliced in half was actually a sweet, soft meringue filled with tangy lemon curd, and the “bread” soldiers were in fact sticks of buttery shortbread made with oats milled by Donal Creedon of Macroom Oatmeal Mills. The entire dinner, along with this fantastically whimsical dessert, was the work of Inchydoney Island Lodge & Spa’s own Chef Adam Medcalf. Michelin folk, take note!
To be able to sit among those who produced the food on our plates and to hear of how they raise and rear and lovingly grow the ingredients was a real treat, and we felt lucky to be in the company of these hard-working and dedicated farmers and producers. MM and I also got to chat with hotel owners Des and Anne, who were an absolute delight. I really admire their approach to the business; they work hard, don’t take advantage of their position and have immense respect for their employees. The result is a hotel staffed with caring people who seem happy to come to work every day. As guests, we could really “feel the love” and the service was warm and friendly.
While we were invited guests of the hotel, I can say with absolute certainty that we will be back – and will happily pay to stay here again. The hotel and the local area has so much to offer, including kayaking, seaweed foraging and fishing. More on those activities in my next post!
Biscuits & Rosscarbery Recipes White Pudding Gravy
For a while now, Mountaineering Man has been asking me to make biscuits & gravy, a classic American comfort dish that he learned about through Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives.” As we received some lovely white pudding from Avril of Rosscarbery Recipes, I finally made it this past weekend for brunch. Though I’ve never used white pudding in sausage gravy before, it worked wonderfully and will be using it for this hearty recipe from now on!
(Makes 6 biscuits, so you’ll have some left over – they freeze beautifully!)
113 grams of very cold butter, cut up into cubes
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
300 ml cold buttermilk
2 tablespoons melted butter
Preheat oven to 200 C.
In a food processor or mixer, pulse together the cold butter, flour, baking powder and salt until the texture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Dump the mixture into a large bowl, and add in the cold buttermilk. Using a plastic spatula, stir together until just combined.
Turn the mixture out onto a board or counter, and quickly pat it together (don’t over handle the dough!) and form it into a rectangle (about 9 x 5 inches). Now fold dough over itself in three sections (imagine this is a piece of letter paper, and you want to fold it into itself in three sections). So take one end, fold it into the middle, take the other end, fold that into the middle, then make the log back into the same 9×5 rectangle. Do this again two more times, again keeping your hands cold and using flour as you go to keep it from sticking. Pat or roll the dough out to about 1/2 thickness, and using a biscuit cutter or top of a pint glass (which is what I used) cut 6 circles out and place onto a baking tray. Brush with melted butter and place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove, brush with more butter and let cool for 5-10 minutes.
To serve, split the biscuit in half (because it’s so flaky you can just pull it apart with your fingers – no knife required!) and face-up on a plate. Pour white pudding gravy over the top, sprinkle with a few chopped scallions or chives and serve hot!
White Pudding Gravy
200 grams of white pudding, cut into small dice/cubes
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons plain flour
480 mls of whole milk
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons fresh cracked pepper
In a large sauté pan over medium heat, warm up the white pudding cubes for 5 minutes or until it starts to give off some drippings. I found the Rosscarbery pudding to be quite lean, which is fine, so it gave off probably a 1/2 teaspoon of fat. Remove the sausage and leave the drippings in the pan.
Still over medium heat, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter in the same pan. Add in the flour and stir, making a roux. Because this is a white gravy you do not want your roux to get too dark, so just cook for 1 minute. Now very slowly add in just a couple of tablespoons of milk and whisk; the point here is that you want the roux to start dissolving. Slowly add in the rest of the milk while whisking, and keep stirring for a good 3-4 minutes until the gravy starts to thicken. Add in the sea salt and pepper and white pudding, and cook for another few minutes. The gravy should be quite thick, like a hollandaise sauce.
Serve over biscuits! This recipe is enough gravy for approximately four biscuits.