Paul on spring

Spring flowers.

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.
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Lockdown , Paul

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.