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,
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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
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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.
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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
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.
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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.
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