Paul on foraging

Forage 2019.

As the spring kicks into gear, wild flowers, herbs, plants trees and shrubs awaken from their winter slumber. As I continue to forage on a pretty much a daily basis, I see the transformation in slow motion, little bits here and there then I go missing for a week and bang loads of stuff has sprung. 

At the moment primrose and sweet briar are all coming along strong, alongside gorse, wild garlic wild leeks to name but a few.

Dandelions as I’m sure you may be aware are weeds, that grow uninhibited in area where you may not necessarily want them. These flowers are the 1st food for bees, along with the sweet briar, all very important to the bees for nectar and honey production. 

Later in the season I hope to develop my mushroom hunting skills, as I can already pick the elf cup in abundance, on some days and in scarce supply other all weather dependant. 

By the coast, all the greens are developing at a rapid pace. These spring shoots are soft, salty, delicious bursts of freshness, flavour and nutrients. 

Now for nettles as they begin their growth on the roadways and hedges of the countryside stinging any unsuspecting passer by. I plan this year to develop a bit more than soup as these early nettles are loaded with iorn, and are a great detox after the winter to kick start the immune system after taking a beating all winter long. 

As always stay tuned and follow on all social media platforms @chefpaulc for some random pics from my adventures 

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Winter foraging

Winter

As it’s said on “game of thrones” a programme/ series I have no interest in winter is coming well sod that it’s here. Freezing howling winds on the coastline a warm car a short walk away I need to stay on the grass as the restaurant requires fresh sea greens as we once again run close. Now I don’t mind the cold, it’s now wet and cold it’s miserable and I’m stooped over some sea beet like I’m footing turf scanning around for the next plant to take a bit from.

While the forest still some respite from the elements, wild herbs still flourish and the hardier herbs remain, dandelion leaves still like through the undergrowth. While briars begin the annual purge of leaves, along with the rest of the deciduous trees, the sound of crunching leaves no matter how old you think you are brings the cheery child out of everyone. *kicks a pile of leaves.
Many of you know I enjoy forestry walks and have discovered mushroom hunting, Just wandering from a beaten track because something catches my eye, and intrigues my more inquisitive side regardless of my attire, in I go through mud, swamp, and water. Not often has my balance betrayed me when it does I have a soft/wet landing.

As always follow the restaurant on all social media @croitralee or myself @chefpaulc

Quick side note, butcher masterclass on the 15th November in the IT Tralee at 1pm. Check put our page events for more info.

Autumn

Autumn

As my summer harvests draw to a close the autumn/winter crops begin to flourish, amid shades of red orange yellow and green, whilst a hazy sunrise listens over the coast. A lapping tide caresses rocks with pools of seaweeds, and sea grasses.
The coast i find is an amazing place this time of year so peaceful and beautiful, yet silently deadly at the safe time as I fell foul of rock lucky to escape with bruising.
While near the coast a number of people who walk regularly whether with a dog or by themselves have come to associate me with the restaurant and my mandatory gangster gear.
Berries cascade from briars, along a pathway near the beach. Morning gangster, or chef, or Jez your out early to some new faces. A conversation about food and their memories usually ensues, I find these interesting and borderline inspirational, people talk about their childhood memories about picking this or that or my grandmother used to do this is that long-go (abbreviation intentional).
My forestry trailers still find my presence amusing, a hearty morning and continue on with their business, that is until they see tree leaves in my tub and all of a sudden, using those really??? Total confusion, tell them it’s dinner and this look quickly turns to disbelief, a little explaining and they turn to shock and awe, that idea is class.

Till next time people.
Follow on all platforms @chefpaulc and the restaurant the same @croitralee.

Mushroom hunting paul

Mushrooms

Recently Marcus Karl and 8 visited killarney to do a spot of mushroom hunting, with Marcus as our guide.
As luck would have it not 5oo many to be found. The summer has dried u o most of the moisture that would sustain these fungi throughout the summer months, heavy drought did not help. Never the less still some to be found if your eyes are peeled. To the right eyes mushrooms are easily found, Karl’s and mine not so good. However in the absence of fungus I spotted wild herbs that I myself required for the restaurant, decided to hijack the mushroom hunt for some green foraging.
Help a fella out. The day after Marcus and I met up once more and went hunting in another area, rich in hard white inedible “mushrooms” we noticed a number of these flying through the air, best not to follow as a 9 iron may be following the strange flying mushroom.
Anecdote over. Mushrooms are elusive just because they appear in one spot this year does not mean the same spot next year will be as plentiful.
As always with mushrooms be sure you have identified the mushroom as many dangerous ones share very similar characteristics as their safe to eat cousins
Chat soon folks

Paul on preserving

Summer time preserves.

Ok so, here goes I’ve got married and can say I’ve never been happier with my place in life right now, the path is clear for my personal life anyway.

Preservation work continues with chutney and cordials that have began to ferment to I suppose champagne is the best comparison, knowing when i made the “cordial” if I hadn’t killed the naturally occurring yeasts if end up in this position. Oh well elderflower champers, Wahoo. Tasty is an understatement for this beautifully light drink. I used this on the symphony of flowers dish for vegtopia menu, cooked and designed by myself and the 2 d’s Dave and Dale, fantastic dishes produced by these too lads also.

Now keeping nettles is much easier than the aforementioned elderflower cordial I’ve dried some and crushed some and rolled more into paper or as close as one can get to an edible paper. Fun idea I loved doing. Experimentation here is key to finding uses for this prolific weed.

Fraughans are in full flight at the moment I will be harvesting some this year, if I get a jar of jam I reckon I will have a lot.
More to the forefront of my preservation is that of the haws which will be colouring over the next few months. These little jems are all I’m looking forward to. Watch this space seriously there’s loads of them, I plan on hoarding them. Till the new year and far beyond if I can.

As always I’m on everything @chefpaulc for a more direct follow to me, the restaurant is on all social media platforms @croitralee
Chat soon people

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.

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