Kevin on foraging

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Foraging

2 days in a row now I have been out in the woods foraging with Dale our apprentice chef. First we headed off to cockle shell (in Kerry) to do a little coastal forage. When we arrived I could see nothing but walls full of what I can only describe as coastal gold, (samphire). Being out by the sea, picking ingredients to put on plates for costumers and then knowing that I have done what’s best for the people that pay me to do so. We picked up seabeet, sea Astra. All this grows in every place by our sea and is so healthy for us that companies are coming to Ireland and pillage the coast. The best thing is Dale and I got to spend time together knowing what we were doing was our best for your plate.

On day 2 we went to the woods to get some delicious woodland herbs to garnish your dishes putting the freshest herbs on a plate that cost petrol. I have watched Dale now for 10 months and it is sensational to watch the youth I spire me. His ability to do what’s right is fantastic. His heart has what we call Croí but that’s not what this is about, it’s about spending time in nature so as not to forget not to abuse it and I don’t consider golfing spending time in nature. Pre-occupation is you considering the golf ball. Foraging is spending time with your thoughts while using the beauty of nature as inspiration. I thank Noel, Paul, David and Dale for inspiring me everyday.

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Summer foraging

As the heat gets turned up on the Irish summer, i know its only gonna get hotter, and foraging is going to get harder with the ground drying up, and soil types will decide whether it will becomes dust or clay, fortunately both forest are a mix of both so happy hunting for me, both have an abundance of wild herbs and leaves to choose from which include chervil, sorrel, vetch and dandelion to name but a few, the coastline has erupted into life with a large variety of edibles on offer from samphire to seaweeds, and everything in between.

Now more than ever before I’m being recognised, I’m not a shy person by any means or stretch of the imagination. Your one of them Croi lads, or one of the gangsters. Especially on the coast, i was told in passing by a gentleman in passing that i was out early for the restaurant, in his defence it was 7/8 am on a Sunday. He kept going as did I. Thats what i love about it true Irish remarks.

That’s all wild, and interesting, my mothers tunnel, is a whole other story, im trying to restart a growing system in there and try to grow winter stuff this year and let nasturium run free, madness to some gardeners, to me nasturium pesto, dried leaves, and capers, later in the season. So there is a plan seems mad and i suppose it is, i see logic to it, its in my head and that’s enough for me. Strawberries are flying as is the rhubarb and peas, tomatoes starting to come. Last years crop returning once more i had planned on having beef steak tomatoes this year bit lost the packet, couldn’t find them again, oh well, help a fella out @evesleaves love her relish and a huge thanks for the elan strawberries, delish. So later in the year ill have jams etc from wild berries bilberries (fraughans) are coming nicely, still green.

As a side note i will be writing my next piece as a married man. To my bride to be Jenny, @wattonarts on Instagram, dont be too late.

As always I’m on all social media @chefpaulc and snapchat for the restaurant @croitralee. Like us on facebook and twitter @croitralee

Nettles

Nettles

Not so much an info piece more an acecdote. Recently I’ve become a little braver with my foraging, from my childhood I have a healthy respect for nettles knowing enough to steer clear of the sting. Last year I witnessed the most unusual thing to me anyway a guy (Max, of once upon a cheese). Decides to play with them like they were a sponge or a ball, not a care in the world. If you intend to rub them they won’t sting you I’d you rub accidently they sting. Laughing at him I witnessed the afore mentioned scenario. This year as they begin to sprout and grow and gain strength I’ve decided I’m gonna use them I know they are edible and extremely good for you with ample iorn and other nutrients that the modern diet lacks.

These can be eaten raw or cooked, I too was hesitant in eating raw I didn’t get stung, delighted with myself. As much as experimenting is part of my job I also want others to experience it too I’m willing to share hence this piece. I want to assure you that there’s more to so with nettles than just soup. It makes a wonderful tonic tea, holds well as a pesto or as part of a salad once blanched and many more. Now with time time or relative opulence and an age of convenience wild food are being distanced from the general public and are almost seen as a form of destitution to go picking and eating the weeds. Grow your own is gaining in popularity and many people have made a success of growing veg, salad and flowers for use in restaurants.
In the restaurant I ate it raw as did Dave, eating it Ike anything else not to be hesitant, pretty much like handling the nettles. Chew away and no sting play with it in your mouth stung as Dave found out the hard way.

Moral of the story just eat nettles rough and intentional handling and there’s no sting accidental handling sting.

As always @croitralee on all social media platforms and myself direct on twitter and Instagram @chefpaulc

Coastal foraging , paul

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Seaside and seagreens.

Anyone that knows the restaurant or follows the gangsters page on Facebook knows that we forage sea greens and use them in fish and vegatarian dishes in the restaurant, with this comes the chance to experiment with our customers the unique flavour oppertunity presented to us by our shores. Seaweeds are not my strong suit, however I plan to introduce more to my cooking over the coming months. Not for the lack of seaweeds on our shores rather the inability to look past the cultural stereotype associated with them. Most gardeners will tell you seaweeds are great fertilizers, what they won’t tell you is they taste good or are extremely healthy and free if your willing to go to the coast with a tub and a scissors.

In other cultures seaweeds are highly prized and commonplace in certain diets, and these cultures live longer and without many health problems. Now I’m not saying that these cultures are perfectly healthy without any health problems it’s the percentage of the population diagnosed with serious health issues is much less than that in this country or those similar to us.

So in addition to preserving I will be looking at seaweeds for dinner, hoping to start a better live with my future wife, sorry Jen it’s happened we’re doing it.

As always follow @croitralee on all social media platforms and myself direct on @chefpaulc on Instagram and twitter

Spring flowers

Spring flowers

I know I did a piece last year about flowers to eat or not to eat, here’s to year to year 2 of using flowers on dishes. I’ve stood on both sides of the fence just hopped from one side to the other. I’m now looking at flowers in a different light and becoming a more integrated part of my work in tbe restaurant, as it has by many other restaurants around the world, so here’s to spring.

Spring has a magic like no other season, everything bright, colourful, fragrant, and pretty springs back to life. Primroses and dandelions, both off to a flying start, along with sweet briar also known as flowering currant or wild currant depending on where you were brought up always loved the smell that these flowers bought to the yard at home. The wild leek and wild garlic flowers have been slow to show this year due to the abismal weather over the past few months, as the temperatures gradually rise the buds begin to show. The gorse flower is still going strong and flourishing in the cool weather, be careful of the thorns use a scissors, a knife to avoid getting caught by thorns or my personal favourite get someone else to do it ( haven’t been so lucky on this one though) marigolds have also begun to pop up around gardens along with the wild mustard beginning to flower (small yellow flower on top of a plant about 2 feet tall). At this point I feel like I’m grandad from Jackie Chan adventures “one more thing”, firethorn or berberry, is flowering at the moment these bright almost luminous orange flowers bring a nice little colour pop to any plate of food. Later in the year they produce a Berry the flesh itself is not poisonous but the seeds inside are so take the seeds out. I will be doing different things with these Berries so stay tuned to all our social media channels,
Instagram and twitter croitralee and myself chefpaulc snapchat @croitralee for live restaurant bits

preservation

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Restaurant preservation

As a chef in the restaurant I want to learn and as much as I can, I’ve a particular interest in preservation, on fish, herbs and vegatable, im not brave enough to go after meat just yet then again I’m gonna leave the cueing of meat to the professionals, plenty of them around. In Listowel and Rathmore as the best ones I know of curing pork and bacon products, plenty of the older generation still curing their own hard salt bacon., tasty stuff when done right and it’s not for everyone.
Preservation of fish started for me weeks ago when I botched a mix for gravalax so I had to cure in pickled beetroot liquid, it worked a treat and attempt 2 had more appealing results so I decided I need to perfect this and get better and I’m now on another batch of gravalax just waiting for it to cure.
I love pickling vegatables from beets to carrots and from cucumber to mushrooms. A huge thanks to the people of mooncoin beetroot for the selection this year the colours of the pickle mix was amazing. The flavors were also unbelievable. I’ve began fermentation also in the restaurant with Sauerkraut a German dish I know using Irish produce, thinking slightly outside the box on the next one but turnip I’m not sure how its gonna turn out so fingers crossed. Stay tuned for more experiments and an update on the current status of the turnip kraut
Follow me on twitter and Instagram @chefpaulc and the restaurant on all social media platforms Facebook Twitter Instagram and snapchat @croitralee don’t forget to like the Tralee culinary gangsters page on Facebook also

Winter foraging

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Winter time forage

As many of you know we forage year round and for just about anything edible. Recently we decided I’m the restaurant that a dish needed more theatre so we added smoke in the for of smouldering pine needles. Smell the forest eat scallops, we have been toying with the amount of smoke and how to get more to hold as it leaves the kitchen.
Back to the reason I’m here writing this, I started growing this year doe the first time and to my surprise with a hectic schedule a wide variety of stuff blossomed and grew throughout the year, I also had to do more foraging which meant seeking out other sources and places where a plant grows wild. Discovering wild mushrooms along the way with thanks to Marcus of Nick’s in Kilorglin. As the winter fastens its grip more things are coming on in my tunnel weeds though they may be, edible they are thank you very much into my salad and a pesto you go. The weed I’m referring to is hairy bitter cress. My beetroots and carrots still producing leaves which are also edible, the chard still holding strong.
Whole the autumn was good to us on the restaurant with wild Berries and flowers etc. This winter has been an eye opener for me as I’ve never done so much foraging, I quite enjoy the wilderness and solitude the forest offers I’ve got to explore more of the forest than I previously needed to, and from a different route I found a wider selection for the restaurant. I still get stopped every now and again by people who are curious about the tub I’m carrying usually full with a plethora of different leaves or at one stage nuts and mushrooms.
For the winter I’m turning to gorse for my floral creations, coming soon to the restaurant menu and yes you read that right gorse or furze bush, I get constant funny looks when I’m picking the flowers for between the thorns.
As this winter continues I’ve to get more creative with my leaves, stay tuned for more.
Follow me directly @chefpaulc on twitter and Instagram. If your on snapchat @croitralee for behind the scenes look at restaurant life, or the restaurant on all social media platforms @croitralee

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November foraging

If you are going foraging in November here is a few of the wild edibles you can find

By the coast seabeat one of my favourites a little toughter this time of year but loads available treat it like a soft cabbage

 

Sea lettuce is just wonderful and very delicate flavour only warm it up gently

 

Samphire the asparagus of the sea and treat it like asparagus

. Sea Astra has a unique flavour profile and is rarely used but should be

Oyster leaf is the big one in terms of flavour it is harder to find than the other smaller but packs a punch of flavour. Reveried by chefs for it culinary uses

 

Forage well leave noyhing behind you and never pull a plant out of the ground cut it so it regrows

 

Noel

 

Paul on the sea shore

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Forage by the sea

As the spring and summer greens by the shore begin to come to life where I forage anyway. Samphire is in full swing and will remain so until the mid to late autumn.

We will be using these constant in the restaurant over the coming months, in a variety of different ways with different ingredients so stay tuned to the Facebook page for more info on that.

While out foraging on the beach, there are several edibles that have as many different flavours and effects of the palette as there are edibles to choose from. Some of the samphire can be soft and fresh salty while others have a lemony hit. Sea lavender I spotted recently poking through while it is edible its a ronseal ingredient in that it tastes like soap if eaten on its own, this however will be used, to infuse an oil or pickling liquid to add a floral tone to a dish, so be careful which one you pick as it resembles some samphires.

As it’s still early in the season bring a sharp scissors and ensure you keep as many plants rooted in the ground so they can grow and spread.

We will keep you updated on Croí restaurants Facebook page and as usual behind the scenes pics on my own Instagram and Twitter @chefpaulc.

Stay tuned for some exciting news in the coming weeks.