Mushroom hunting. As I have mentioned before here that when foraging mushrooms you will need to be 110% sure that the mushroom you are picking is edible, check and double check each time until you are sure yourself that what you pick is the right identification. the best thing about facebook and Instagram is memories, a mushroom showed up on my memories this year from 2 years ago, I therefore went back to my spots in hope of finding said mushrooms again but to no avail. the 1st time I ever spotted these mushrooms was by pure chance, then again from the size of the mushroom I found you would think that it would have been hard to miss. measuring 1ft across at its widest point. Although edible in its smaller stages I found the larger ones better for drying and keeping for later in the year for stock and soup or gravy etc. I hope this year, I am fortunate enough to go and collect small ones, I don’t expect to find them, I dehydrated most of what I picked last year and still have some left in my jar, Ive added more mushrooms dried to another jar to start a collection for this year, lets see where it goes. I hope to identify more edible mushrooms, to add to my repertoire, as well as my jar of flavours. I will be posting these finds on my Instagram so I know what and where the mushrooms are. Im happy to share my finds as well as any info I find and my identifications. As always stay safe and you can follow my hunting journeys on my Instagram @chefpaulc
Irish food culture After leaving and working outside of Ireland for a while now, I have discovered a few things about the perception of the Irish food culture. 1) We don’t have a bold rich historic food culture, so people are ignorant to our views and some of ours foods. (you try to compare dishes or explain similar ingredients and people just don’t want to know) 2) People think we belong to the UK (united kingdom), this really irritated me as Ireland has its own culture, and its own presence in the food world we certainly do not need to piggy back off the UK 3) Beer – so aside from being associated with the UK for food if you’re Irish while living abroad or associated with an Irish establishment, people straight away ask about beer and whiskey. As I sit here at my desk writing these stereotype discoveries, I ask myself what I can do as a chef to showcase Irish food culture. The only solution for me at this moment is to cook even if just for one person at a time, if only just one person opens their mind and learns a little about a different culture then it’s all a success, as food is always enjoy therefore a culture never dies.
A short one today. For this chutney you will need:
1 punnet of Grapes
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 tablespoon distilled vinegar
1 pinch nutmeg
1 pinch Chinese 5 spice
1 pinch ground cinnamon
1 whole star anise
40 mls Irish whiskey (“The liberator” was used in this recipe)
Add all ingredients to a medium sized pot, put on a low heat and cook until grapes are soft, until the skin is almost falling off of them. Remove from pot and put into a bowl, blend until desired consistency and chill. Compliments cold cured meats
summer begins As the country begins to emerge from yet another lockdown, so do the plants in the wild, gorse is dying back, while hawthorn, and elderflower and rowan take its place amongst other perennials, the hedgerow now a bloom of white flowers and the fragrant elderflower will undoubtedly brighten up the roadsides of rural Ireland, as always if your are picking roadside try find the quiet unused roads where traffic fumes will be minimised. while all this is happening at eye level and above, the herbs of the undergrowth, are battling for space and sunlight, including cleavers, (robin run the hedge/sticky willy), herb Robert, daisies, sorrel, different varieties of cress, depending of the ground type different plants will thrive, many of which are edible, some pleasant some not so pleasant.Ive always found nature of a great place to be to pass time, think about things clear your head, and explore whats close to you, I think people forget that sometimes that the hustle and bustle of life can be overwhelming and the return to what I can only expect to be mayhem, even the crowds around towns, shopping milling around talking chatting while its great to see some semblance of what we knew of normality returning I know it will be extremely busy in kitchens and food outlets across the country, and not just our beautiful county, I just hope that people will remember that there is more to life than the mayhem that will be the summer season. I know myself I will be once again making an elderflower cordial, using both lemon and lime separately, this elderflower and lime drink made an epic keifer, as well as a stunning addition to gin and tonic. while picking flowers please bear in mind that the more flowers you pick the less elderberries you will have later in the year, while I keep an eye on the trees and the flowers Im also watching the world go n=by in a stream the runs through the forestry, its nothing spectacular its just a gargling, bubbling stream that splashes out, over stones and rocks, dousing herbs and mosses at random. As always stay safe and you can follow my journey in the forest @chefpaulc on social media platforms
The early spring flowers are starting to come through around now, each of them has their own smell and use, each flower is as attractive as the next. As a chef we use flowers as a garnish, to add a pop of colour to a dish, adding orange calendula flowers or a variety of violas. At the moment Gorse or Furze, is a member of the pea family and the flowers, they have a beautiful smell from them. Some people get coconut others get pea; I get both at different times all weather dependant. (that’s me) the flowers themselves are edible as part of a salad or in a dessert by putting them in some boiling water and sugar a simple syrup, and leaving it to cool overnight ti allow the flowers infuse into the liquid, then form there into a panna cotta, a very simple dessert that holds extremely well. Ive used it in some keifer also that’s a whole other subject to get into, using a water keifer or a milk keifer the health benefits and microbiology of the yeasts and bacteria that promote good gut health, I make about a litre every couple of days using flowers and fruit and mint. Next is sweet briar or flowering currant, this scent is one of my favourites in the spring, the smell is so powerful to me I will often smell before i see it much like elderflower the smell draws me in just heaven. I plan on drying out a few this year and put it into a wax burner to add to the scent it may work it may not, I’m going to give it a go anyway. Next on the flowers that appear are primroses, they appear in patches in places this little yellow pop. The flowers and leaves are edible, the leaves are not quite strong to eat, while the flowers can be used to decorate a cake when candied they are a lovely little bitesize snack. Once the flowers are washed, and dried off as much as possible, make a stock syrup equal quantity of sugar and water, cook until the sugar is completely dissolved, then allow it to cool completely as the heat will dull the colour of the flowers. Coat the flowers completely in the syrup, then sieve over icing sugar, place on baking parchment and then leave in a warm dry place to dry out, these can be stored then in an airtight container for up to a week. Alternatively, you can dip the flowers in and egg white beaten with some water, then dipped in some caster sugar, then left to dry out, these hold for a bit longer. I tend to leave the dandelions for the bees until much later in the spring, they are edible, and make a unique tasting tea. Follow along on the Facebook page for more information.
Lockdown life As I alluded to earlier finding motivation to do just about anything is a struggle for me on a day-to-day basis, I make bread every 3 days a kind of sour dough of sorts, originally, I made a bread with yeast and held back some of the mix and allowed it to mature in the fridge, for a few days. The next loaf I made I repeated the process, I’m not one for folding and shaping and doing this that and the other to food. I’m a simple man, less processes that a food involves the better, please and thanks. I don’t mind letting things go or ferment overnight, bake the bread in the morning. Ive been getting ducks from SuperValu Castleisland at what I believe is a bargain price of €6 it does my wife and I the same as a chicken for 2 days, plus it gives me duck fat. This I render out of the duck as I have little better to do and you make think it’s a complicated process, nope, trim the duck put the carcass in a large pot and put it on a low heat and leave it alone for an hour or 2 check it after an hour to ensure it hasn’t stuck to the bottom, it happens. Once all the skins and bones etc. look crispy its done strain it into a large jar, I use a coffee jar with a lid Maxwell house or Nescafé make no difference to be honest. Allow it to cool and put in the fridge where it will keep indefinitely. I also make stocks like I did in the 1st lockdown chicken bones roasted add some veg peelings and some dried foraged mushrooms, cover and boil for an hour strain and cool. nice simple base for a sauce or a casserole or a soup or even if you are that way inclined your own gravy. No granules needed. It’s very basic cooking skills that everyone should be able to do, but most people don’t. Further to this I’ve began to make potato skin crisps, once ive peeled the spuds I wash the skins in cold water to remove the starch and allow them to crisp up evenly. Store them in water until needed, squeeze off the water and toss in some oil and salt, or in my case some duck fat and bake in the oven at 180 for 15 minutes the best crisps ever.
Pissaladiere Tartlets: Pissaladiere is a dish originating from Liguria, specifically Genoa, and then making its way across to Nice in France where its popularity flourished. The traditional pissaladiere dish is prepared on a bread dough slightly thicker than that of pizza margherita, however in this recipe, they have been adapted and prepared in short crust pastry tartlets. Although caramelised onions constitute most of the filling, the salty taste of the anchovies balances well with the sweetness said onions. For the pastry, you will need:
250g Plain white flour
Pinch of salt For the filling, you will need:
5 small onions (Preferably French onions) peeled and chopped.
Black olives, Pitted and sliced
Anchovies, one small tin
2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
Red wine (optional)
Salt to taste
Short crust Pastry: Begin by making a short crust pastry. To do so, add the flour and butter (cubed) to a food processer, alternatively you can mix these together by hand, but the warmth of your hands may make the butter greasy. Pulse in the food processer until a fine crumb. Add the pinch of salt and pulse once more. Next to get the pastry to come together add a tablespoon of water, then pulse. Repeat until the crumb begins to clump together. Once the pastry begins forming in the food processer, tip out onto a clean worktop and form into a ball. Cover with cling film and leave to chill in the fridge for at least 30-45 minutes, ideally overnight. Take the ball of pastry out of the fridge, unwrap and place onto a floured worktop. Begin rolling out the pasty to roughly a third of an inch thick. For this next part you will need a cupcake tray, cut pastry into circles that will fit the holes of your cupcake tray, lay pastry into the holes and cut accordingly. Caramelized Onions: Pre-heat oven to Fan 180 degrees. Get a large frying pan, giving the onions plenty of room, add olive oil and bring to a medium-high heat. Add onions and some salt to draw out the moisture from the onions helping caramelization. Stir occasionally and add a small amount of water to enhance the colour. As onions begin to brown significantly, add the red wine (optional). Lastly add the balsamic vinegar and stir. Slice anchovies and add to taste, use very little as they have a strong taste and may easily overpower the onions, mix into the caramelized onions and scoop mixture into your pastry. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until pastry is a golden brown.