Thursday, 22 September 2011

Guest Blog - Colm McCan, Ballymaloe House.

Outstanding in the field is a concept whereby a meal is served outdoors, as near to the source of the food as possible. It was first started in California by Jim Denevan. Over 90 outside dinners are now run in the USA and over 35,000 people have experienced an outstanding meal in a field!

A few weeks ago Ballymaloe house, Shanagarry, Co Cork hosted the first in a series of European Outstanding in the Field events. This is the first time the event has been taken outside of the U.S.
Colm McCan is the sommelier at Ballymaloe House and wine tutor at Ballymaloe Cookery School. In this week's guest blog Colm, who was the sommelier for the event, talks us through the wines he chose to go with each course of this unique dining experience.

Outstanding Wines for an amazing dinner - outdoors!! (Well almost...)
Ballymaloe House recently hosted an event called 'Outstanding in the Field'. One long table, set for 100 people, was set up in the middle of the busy, working, bustling, organic greenhouse in the gardens at Ballymaloe Cookery School. Rory O'Connell, Darina Allen and their team prepared a meal using home-produced produce. 
We couldn't get much closer to the source of the food!
The produce was gathered by host gardener Eileen O'Donovan, head gardener at the school and host farmer, Hawlie, farm manager at the school. All the food served was locally sourced in line with the ethos of the event - one eats as close to the source of the food as possible.

Table set for 100 in the greenhouse.
Wine plays an important role in these events. Along with the host chef, gardener and farmer there is always a host winemaker - something we do not have in Shanagarry (at the moment...). I was delighted to be asked to fill that role, choosing and matching wines to go with each course and ensuring that the wines have a local connection, of sorts!!!

Looking after the wine for the evening were Colm & John.
Reception: Grilled Arbutus sourdough bread with various toppings.

Sparkling wine: Coates & Seely Sparkling Rosé NV, Hampshire Downs, England.
Sparkling wine on ice.
This sparkling wine is new this year. Wine writer Hugh Johnson noted to "look out for this sparkler in 2011". The owners have been involved in wine all their lives and have a high profile in the wine world. I used this wine at a blind tasting in a line-up of sparkling wines for guests at Ballymaloe over the summer and all enjoyed it. They were all surprised to find it was from Hampshire Downs.
For a quality sparkling wine made 'closest' to Ballymaloe this fits the bill!

Fish course: Platters of seafood which included: Frank Hederman's smoked mackerel and eel; Bill Casey's smoked salmon; Ballycotton prawns, shrimp and crab; soused Ballycotton Mackerel; mayonnaise and pickled cucumber.
Platters of seafood.
White wine: Bodegas del Palacio de Fefinanes, Albarino, Rías Baixas Galicia, Spain 2010.
From the far northwest corner of Spain, the area of Rías Baixas, is located in Calicia where the vineyards, due to their proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, provide acidity and freshness to the wine.
White Wine.
Showing the refreshing Albarino grape variety in all its splendour -with aromas and flavours of pear, peach, apricot, white flowers, apple, honey, citrus and even a hint of sea spray! A subtle flinty minerality seeps through finishing with a complex, balanced wine. Great aperitif and enjoy also with shellfish and fish. The Albarino from Galicia was with the shellfish. This is what the Spanish drink with it in Galicia - they celebrate an annual Shellfish & Albarino festival! Sailing south/south-west from the local fishing harbour of Ballycotton to the wet north-west corner of Spain you will arrive at Galicia - home to the Albarino! (Local wine importer- Sacha)

Main course: Roast organic pork from Kinoith Farm with garden herbs & garlic, brambly apple sauce, spiced aubergines in the pickling style, beans and farm potatoes.
Rory O'Connell & team preparing the meal.
Wine: Domaine des Anges, Côtes de Ventoux, southern Rhône, France 2007.
Domaine des Anges is situated on a hillside facing Mont Ventoux, 'The Giant of Provence', which rises to 1912m. The mountain has a profound influence on the climate of the vineyards with cool evening breezes refreshing the vines in the summer after the days intense heat. This enables the vines to maintain high natural acids and elegant tannin.
Irishman Ciaran Rooney is winemaker at Domaine Des Anges - The 'Irish vineyard in France'! Ciaran is a very experienced winemaker having previously worked in Stellenbosch, Bordeaux, Oregon and Australia. He creates exotic and award winning wines from vineyards high up the slopes of Mount Ventoux. Ciaran visited Ballymaloe last year and gave a great presentation on wine making.
John Quinlan serving the wine at the event.
Oz Clarke, author of '250 Great Wines' says of Domaine des Anges "I've known about it for ages. Hidden up in the hills to the east of the Rhône Valley and this (wine) is as good as anything they have ever produced. It has a ripe, rich smell of chocolate and plum and a fascinating array of flavours - Blackberry, damson, pepper and the rasp of herbs truly evokes the warm wild hills of the Ventoux". The grape varieties are grenache and syrah.

Dessert: Carrageen moss pudding, with blackberry, apple and sweet geranium compote with jersey cream.
Blackberry, apple & sweet geranium compote.
Wine: Elysium Black Muscat, Quady, California, U.S.A 2009.
Black Muscat is one of the very few black skinned Muscats. The rose aroma led the winemaker to name the wine Elysium, Greek for heaven. Drinking this you can almost feel that you have fallen into a rose garden and been transported to heaven. Floral, raspberry, black cherry, spice, honey and raisin aromas and flavours.

Cheese Course: Irish farmhouse cheese & cheese biscuits - Gubbeen, Cashel Blue, Fermoy and Ardsallagh goat cheese.
Cheese board for the evening.
Wine: Allegrini Palazzo della Torre, Veneto, Italy 2008
Located on the southern shore of Lake Garda, near Verona in Northern Italy, this is a family business which has built up a reputation for fine quality wines. Produced from vineyards in the historic zone of Valpolicella. Approximately 30% of the fruit is air-dried, amarone-style. The fermenting juice from those grapes is added to their Valpolicella, produced earlier in the season in usual red wine fashion and is passed "back over" using some of these delicious semi-dried grapes. All of this leads to a second fermentation 'ripasso' and the creation of a Rispasso style - a baby Amarone, whose colour, depth and flavours are greater than those of even the original Valpolicella. The flavours of dried fruit, dried cherry, black fruit and earth is admirably supported by the wine's full body, fine balance along with intriguing hints of chocolate, mocha, liquorice with a lovely , velvety texture.

The wines for the evening.
It is very challenging to match a wine to a variety of cheese (fresh goats cheese needs a Sancerre; blue needs a sweet and so on) so we went for an interesting red that would stand up alongside all these full flavoured cheeses.

This completes the wine line-up. It gave us a good selection of different styles and regions taking us to some of our closest quality vineyards in different European wine regions and finishing up where Outstanding in the Field originated - California.

Ballymaloe cookery school hold lots of really great wine events from tasting and matching to special guest speakers from the world of wine making. Click the link for more information:
Ballymaloe cookery school. Colm also writes a regular wine blog on the website.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

For the Beginner in the Kitchen....

In recent months there has been a wave of cooking related programmes gracing our screens. This has inspired many of us to don the apron, locate the cupboard in the kitchen where the cooking utensils are hidden away and give cooking a go.

Food with a view...
For the beginner this can be quite daunting so we decided to go straight to the experts to get some tips.
We asked the Blue Book cookery schools for advice:
Ballymaloe cookery school, near Ballymaloe House,  Co Cork.
Dunbrody cookery school, home to chef Kevin Dundon, at Dunbrody House, Co Wexford.
Belle Isle cookery school chef and manager, Liz Moore, at Belle Isle Castle,  Co Fermanagh.

The top ten tips for beginners in the kitchen!
1. Preparation is key.
A lot of preparation can be started the day before and a list of when to do things can be useful. Before you start to cook, take out the utensils and weigh out all of your ingredients then place them all together in a convenient place.

2. Start off simple.
Make sure you start with a recipe that sounds appealing and is not too complicated. If it goes badly wrong, it may put you off for a while.

Liz Moore with students in Belle Isle cookery school
3. Think your timing through.
When are you planning on serving the dish, how long will it take to cook and if baking, how long to cool before serving? Sometimes an unfamiliar recipe can take longer than planned.

4. Prepare your cooking area.
Wash your hands thoroughly as well as the counter top and utensils you intend using.

Freshly baked Ballymaloe bread.
5. Use good quality, fresh ingredients.
Your food will already taste good before you start! You can be sure that there are many great local food suppliers in your area. A good place to start is the local farmers market.

6. Baking.
If you intend to bake, make sure you start in the morning when concentration tends to be at its best. Cakes and bread will need time to cool before serving so make any icing, or toppings you need during this time, or even set the table for dinner. 
A great tip for removing egg shells from batter is to use the remaining shell to attract the piece!

Class in progress with Kevin Dundon of Dunbrody cookery school.
7. Only use sharp knives.
Blunt knives can ruin food and are far more harmful if you get cut. Learn how to sharpen you knives and preferably use something bigger then a paring knife. They can be useful but not for chopping. Your butcher or friendly cookery school will show you how to go about it!

8. Let roast (beef, pork, lamb or poultry) sit before carving.
This is very important as this allows the juices to retreat back into the meat. If you carve too soon much of its goodness will spill out onto the chopping board.

Enjoy a stay at Ballymaloe house while attending Ballymaloe cookery school.
9. Remove the odour of garlic, onions and fish from your fingers by rubbing them under cold water and against stainless steel, e.g. the sink, at the same time.

10. Clean up!
To clean copper bottoms on pots and pans, open a can of tomato paste, rub it on and scrub, then rinse. If you do this weekly, your pots and pans will stay clean and shiny. This is a very inexpensive way to clean copper and brass items.
Liz gathering fresh herbs from the kitchen garden at Belle Isle cookery school.
So that's it! Keep it simple and you won't go wrong. If you think you could do with a little more help then why not try a cookery course? Enjoy the surroundings of a beautiful Blue Book house or hotel and avail of one of the many cookery courses available. The schools have a wide range of courses and cater for all levels. Click the links below for more information:

Dunbrody House.

The girls in the Blue Book office had a look at some recipes we think we could manage. Here is a lovely one from Belle Isle. Have a go and leave a comment below to let us know how you get on. Bon Appétit!!!

Spaghetti with mussels and chilli (serves 4)
350g/12oz spaghetti
900g/2lbs. fresh mussels
4 cloves garlic, finely sliced or grated
6tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 large handfuls flat leafed parsley, finely chopped
1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
Sea salt

- Put a large pan of salted water on to boil.
- Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling, salted water until al dente, usually about 8-10 minutes.
- Put the olive oil in a large pan, add the garlic and cook over a very gentle heat with the chilli. Do not colour the garlic or it will become bitter. 
-Add the mussels to the pan and place a lid on it. Shake slightly and then cook for a further 3-4 minutes or until the mussels have opened. (Discard any that do not open)
- Add the cooked pasta and parsley. Season and toss well. Serve hot with some fresh crusty bread and a drizzle of extra olive oil.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Electric Picnic

Tickets are bought, wellies are packed, the boot of the car bursting with camping gear... There is something missing though, something that has been a festival staple for years.  Gourmet food??!!!
This year Electric Picnic is taking ‘festival food’ to a new level. Not only is this year’s music line up impressive but the food line up is pretty tasty too! The Theatre of Food at this year’s Picnic will ensure that no matter your preference, your tastes are catered for.

The Blue Book will be well represented. Rathmullan House are taking their ‘Good Food, Road Food’ van on a road trip from Donegal to Stradbally armed with three mouth watering menus. Personally I am looking forward to a breakfast of Rathmullan muesli, stewed rhubarb with organic yoghurt. They have an amazing dinner menu and house menu for later in the day. They will be located in the Mindfield. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates and full menu details.
Rathmullan House on wheels!

Blue Book chef Derry Clarke of L’Ecrivain has come over all romantic. He is running a competition  in the Theatre of Food to treat two people to a romantic candlelit dinner, followed by a camping upgrade to Boutique Camping and a delicious breakfast the following morning to set you up for Sunday! The winner will be announced at 6p.m in the Theatre of Food – so make sure you are in it to win it!
Derry Clarke of L'Ecrivain

Enjoy the festival, make sure you stop by and try some Blue Book style food and happy camping!!