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.
Forage and grow 2017
As many of you know by now wild garlic is coming to the end of its season, so grab it while it’s there to keep it for the rest of the year preserve it by pickling it or making a pesto.
Don’t worry there are many herbs coming through in its place so there is no shortage of wild greens, wild chervil, wood sorrel, Dandelion, hawthorn, nasturtium to name but a few.
Alongside these however are early summer berries, wild strawberries also known as pine berries, and berberries or firethorn, one of these is new to me but the other I’ve known about for years only ever picking once while on a stroll as a child, I’ve never forgottenwhere they were, the picture of them this year on my Instagram @chefpaulc is from the spot I first are them.
The berberries likewise ripening over the next week or 2, can’t wait to get holt of them to be used in the kitchen. Meanwhile at home my strawberries are continuing to grow and ripen into beautiful fruit that I’m proud to use in the restaurant. Along with everything else that’s growing in the tunnel which is proving to be a hit with staff and customers alike. I must say my foraging though it has taken a back seat still rears its face every week for herbs and seagreens, with one other item flowers, they serve a dual purpose to me, a little flavour pocket and a little pip of colour to each dish in which they feature.
Stay tuned to the restaurant @croitralee on Facebook Twitter Instagram.
Or myself @chefpaulc on Twitter and Instagram.
As more light shines in the daytime more flowers come to life. Some of our spring flowers are coming to the end of their season.
There are summer flowers blooming everywhere from the meadows to the hedges and the rivers and streams
The red clover and fuschia are beginning to bloom across the countryside along with the rather unlikely suspect the hawthorn is flowering, however be careful as when you are plucking these flowers they have a tendency to fall like cherry blossoms littering the undergrowth with its tiny white petal, wild garlic and leek flowers are still going strong but are coming to the end of their seasons.
While most flowers this time of year are perfectly edible some are harmful if ingested in large quantities, or if eaten raw, though may be eaten if cooked.
As always be sure of what you are picking before you eat it. Also keep an eye out for wild berries starting to flower at the moment wild strawberries are flowering at the moment if you know where they are.
We are using a variety of wild herbs and flowers in our restaurant in the square Tralee Croí. Come in and experience homegrown and wild food like no other.
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To eat or not to eat?? Pretty garnish or dish component??
Well for me as a child of rural Ireland eating flowers was something that was never done, even now the mention of eating flowers brings strange looks to some people’s faces.
As a general rule flowers were a no go area for us. The echo of my mother “mind my flowers” still rings through my head, also remember a boot or Welly being thrown in the direction of a dog that was taking apart a flower bed.
However as a forager, chef and culinary gangster being open to new items comes almost as second nature at this stage. Many new finds for me are because of the flowers that i noticed them in the first place. Many of these are not just pretty they pack a flavour punch. I no longer fear the flower patch eat the evidence so to speak. Many flowers are beautiful pickled or in a light batter and deep fried.
Are flowers here to stay i believe they are seasonally at least. There are companies dedicated to growing edible flowers for restaurants and hotels. Now it’s a trend that is growing rapidly as well as foraging however at a much slower rate, I feel that the vast majority of people could be converted to at least trying a flower, I’m not going to force anybody to eat flowers or only wild food eating .
I think we overlook a lot of the possibility for flavour by not trying flowers either raw or cooked as sometimes they change and often give a beautiful scent to compliment a dish.
Flowers are no longer the reserve of the fancy restaurant even pubs are using flowers now as they are more available to everyone.
Let us know what you think in the comments @traleeculinarygangsters.com or to me directly @chefpaulc on Instagram and Twitter
Foraging and the know how
I’ve been asked a few times about foraging and the wild food on the menu in the restaurant. The most common of these questions is how do you know it’s safe or indeed if it’s edible at all.
Putting it simply i don’t when I’m identifying new plants and herbs. The truth is 90% of the greens out on the forest, hedge, meadow and seashore are edible, maybe not raw where some tend to be quite bitter and harsh, and cause you to spit it out straight away. However once I’ve identified it, as edible or inedible i can pick more and use them.
Others are more easily identified dandelions, dock leaves and “sticky backs” “robin run the hedge” all are edible although you might not think it due to never having eaten them. Nasturtium leaves and flowers are also edible and again here’s where most people hear their mothers voice stay away from my flowers with that ball or bike or dog.
However if i don’t know what the flower or herb is I take some home and research it “Google it” look up in one of the wild flower or plant books that i currently own and am waiting on a bigger book to encompass more wild flowers, plants, shrubs, berries etc.
Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @chefpaulc and like the Facebook page Traleeculinaryangsters.com for more interviews from around the culinary world in kerry
Video on facebook page
Kingdom bee keepers
I have always been a wildlife enthusiast, last week i got the opportunity to go visit a bee hive in knocknagoshel. As it is too cold at this time of year there is no honey production going on at the moment, so i got to see one of the hives being assembled and explained to me what each part was for and what happened in each compartment. I found this extremely interesting and a lot more complicated than i had previously imagined.
Just talking to Seamus his passion for the bees and the life cycle of the bees and their life in the hives was far beyond any nature documentary i have ever seen on the bee. I am looking forward to the summer where i will be suited and booted to collect some honey and see the final product in action i think will be very interesting, i am also looking forward to trying honey straight from the comb, now i had some already but i was crystallised and it’s far tastier than any shop bought honey I have ever tried.
There are several bee keeping clubs in the county and more producers, Inthe county than i previously imagined. Please like and share their page on Facebook @Thekingdombeekeepers
You can follow this story on our own Facebook @traleeculinarygangsters.com you can follow me directly on Twitter and Instagram @chefpaulc
Forage and grow 2017
Last year was strange for me. The only thing I managed to grow was strawberries, but foraged loads more, as time goes on I learn more and more about what is and is not edible. In my experience I have tried everything that I spotted once and out of all these weeds I have had one bad experience. I picked a little bit as per usual tried a bit shortly after the 1st chew it started to sting so that got spat out it sting for about an hour afterwards other than that no bad experience. I don’t count the horrible tasting ones.
This year is different I am more motivated to grow more of my own, with the loss of my mom last year I suppose it’s trying to keep her spirit alive in the homestead, and the polytunnel becomes this oasis of life. A month ago I started by weeding out the tunnel of the heavy weeds. Followed by a drowning of water to revive any plants that were hiding dormant underground some of these are now coming to life with a little heavier weeding I’m now ready to sow some lettuce leaves “cut and come” varieties I’ve no interest in the big heads I won’t have time for them I have also down some cress some garlic chives and some normal garlic in the hopes of having my own. I’ve planted some squash seeds in the ground and some in small pots which can be transplanted at a later date. I picked up some cherry tomatoes with I know I can grow in buckets put a hole in the bottom with a tray of water add warmth and sunlight and they will be happy out, just to spice it up a bit I added basil to the plants as I am led to believe they thrive alongside these tempestuous fruit.
My progress on a berry patch is also underway after the birds thieving everything last year, I am an animal lover and have no issue with small birds of any description I would prefer to have been able to put the berries to use in my workplace or even the homestead, most of the berries needed a few more days to ripen to perfection, as luck would have it, it was 10 days before I got a chance to return home to find no more than a jam jar full of berries. At least the birds will survive I thought next year I will be better prepared. This year I have transferred done of these through small rooting shoots to the centre of the poly tunnel where I can keep an eye on them, less chance of the birds making off with my berries.
As this new season and my second year of foraging begins I look forward to trying different things and exploiting more of nature’s bounty in the first of leaves seeds fruits nuts and vegetables from the shore to the forest and everything in between. I look forward to the people I have yet to meet on my travels around this beautiful county of ours and what she has to offer us over the course of this year from the wild garlic which is with us right now to Dandelion leaves, chickweed, wild cress, wild leeks, sorrel, seabeet, samphire just to name a few that we have plentiful supply of for the year if treated and preserved correctly will ensure a year round supply of nutritious greens, later in the year nuts and mushrooms appear, through careful identification mushrooms can be found year round I am learning these as I go pick, identify have found a handful of mushrooms so far that I can safely eat I hasten to add here I’m NOT an expert at this I need more practice, training before going on a proper mushroom hunting. Through this year I’m going to focus more on growing than my forage and other parts more on the forage than the growing. While I find the balance.
More on my success and failure through this year follow this blog.
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Also we are hosting a forage and talk in ballyseedy woods @10am on the 25th march come join our event on Facebook like the page Traleeculinarygangsters.com
I had a few days off this week and was asked to give a fella a life out to the beach to collect periwinkles. I decided sure why not I go with you give you a hand to see what else is out there as you never know, with the Irish coastline can range from golden sand to rocks stones and silt.
So off we went at low tide, today was to turn at 11.20am so we were there for 9am out in the shore plenty of seaweed and stone. I think to myself this is going to be a long day. Right so straight out do you see that black bit way out there that’s where we are going (oh here goes). From this point on I’m in completely uncharted territory I don’t wander too far from shore usually. However that black bit was a bank of mussels, clams, periwinkles, and oysters. (Jackpot) as I turn around to look back I think anyone who does this deserves to get paid. We returned day 2 for more winkles I took the excess mussels and clams as my payment for my days labour. (First time for everything).
Getting all these into bags is the easy part getting all bags back to shore when you are half a mile out. That’s the hard part.
Cutting a long story very shortly all bags arrived to shore and were left over night to be rinsed by the incoming tide, to be taken the following morning to a place to be washed and sorted. I was given plenty mussels and clams for my troubles just to sort through what was usable and not anything small goes back so it can continue growing. These however get dropped somewhere I can get them without getting covered in silt sand and muck. In a year or so I will put them on a plate provided birds don’t get to them 1st.
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As I said in the live feed we were going to pickle some of the sea purselane.
Recipe for the pickle.
2 garlic cloves whole
Now the process is quite simple don’t think because chefs are doing it that is complicated
1: wash the purselane in salted water, pick out any dead leaves or miscoloured leaves, also the seaweeds that grow around them
2: pick through the purselane once washed and discard any heavy stalk as they will sour the pickle.
3: bring the water, vinegar, sugar and salt to a vigorous boil for 1 minute
4: place the picked purselane into glass jars with lids cover with the pickle liquid while still hot
5: leave to cool before putting on the lids.
You can use this recipe to pickle anything you want from carrots to cucumbers and onions.
This will hold indefinitely as long as the pickle is not contaminated use tongs/tweezers or gloves when taking the purselane from the liquid once pickled.
We served this alongside a mix of the other foraged greens with fresh unsmoked haddock.
Carrots use a veg peeler and peel to the core
Onions thinly slice on a mandolin (handheld slicer)
Cucumber as above
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Winter in the forest floor
Now that the season is well underway the remnants of the summer herbs and vegetables are still to be see fading into the background.
Now the chick weeds mosses and thicker ferns cone into season, and mushrooms still holding strong although I suspect not much longer left in them ( please identify mushrooms correctly as they can be toxic)
Seeds and nuts are now in depending on where you are oak and pine check the floor for acorns and pine cones if the pine cones is fully opened with a white milky ring it’s empty no point trying to get the tasty nuts inside. If they are closed and still attached pick them leave them by the fire for a few days to open them then tap them to release the beautiful nuts inside, can be eaten raw and most often roasted or toasted and used in pesto’s.
If neither of these apply to you try the beech nuts which have a fuzzy casing that can be easily burst, again eat raw or roast or toast them as a healthy snack. Should you be lucky enough to find sweet chestnuts still hanging around these are the ones with the prickly casing on the outside these can be used to make a puree or as part of your stuffing for your Christmas dinner.
Spruce trees produce cones they are edible but are overpowering, so instead clip the tips off the branches and steep in hot water but not boiling water to make a tea which native Americans still enjoy.
Fir trees take the needles and dry them out by the fire or the hot-press, blend once dried and add to hot water to make tea or to fish, chicken dishes or soups to add a lemony taste.
Now that’s one way to get rid if your Christmas tree as it’s works with pine and spruce also. Use the wood in the fire and the needles in the dinner.
While there are many different types of each of these trees here’s a general how to tell the difference between pine spruce and fir. While they all grow here, are coniferous and needle bearing. The difference lays in the needles
Pine has long needles, by comparison with the other 2.
Fir and spruce are the 2 most similar, both needles are short difference is the needles themselves fir needles are flat while spruce needles are rounded
See James piece for more info on the pine
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