Archive for the ‘All things food’ Category

Rock Buns

Who else is of an age that the very mention of ‘rock buns’ sends shivers through you?

I think rock buns were the very first thing I made in Domestic Science class at school….. way, way, way, way back when.  Oh the memories, of struggling through wind and rain on the bicycle, with the bag of ingredients on the handle bars!!!

And rock buns, they left an indelible ‘yuck’ mark in my brain.

So, why you might ask are we talking about them today? Well the Lord only knows! I got a notion a couple of weeks back that I’d like to try making rock buns. Senility? Madness?  Who knows?

I made them folks, and they were delicious.  Nothing at all like my memory (or my neighbour’s either…. she called in for a cup of tea!).

Rock Buns reinvented

Rock Buns reinvented

Our conclusion…. we used crappy ingredients…. margarine, cheap horrible candied peel – remember how sticky and horrible it was?  This reincarnated version of rock buns is the business.  Try them and see!


  • 225 gr. Biodynamic Organic White Flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 125 gr. Butter
  • 75 gr. Caster Sugar
  • 125 gr. dried fruit, including candied peel (I got a gift of some home-made candied peel – amazing!)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons Milk
  • Granulated sugar for topping.


Preheat oven to 200 deg. C/400 deg.F/Gas 6.  Line a baking sheet with parchment.

Sieve flour and baking powder.  Rub in the butter until it looks like breadcrumbs.  Add the sugar and dried fruit.  Finally add beaten egg and milk.

Put small portions of mixture on tray about 1.5 inches apart.  Sprinkle some granulated sugar over each one.

Bake in oven for 10 – 15 minutes.  Leave to cool on tin for 5 minutes before transferring to wire tray.



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What’s your schedule like on Christmas morning?  Since moving from the city to the country, our Christmas morning routine has changed quite a bit.

We now like to get all the animals and fowl fed early (meaning we can have a shower and stay in clean clothes for the rest of the day!).  Sometimes we might make it to church – more for social than a religious reasons – and then, it is time to call into the neighbours for an hour or so.

This all means that we may not have breakfast until we get back from the neighbours… and by then it has turned into brunch. :)

These days brunch would consist of our homegrown produce.  Even when we lived a less hectic city life, we would generally have gone for the brunch option on Christmas day.  Back in those days, before we were pig farmers, kedgeree would often have been on the menu.

Kedgeree seemingly was very popular in the days of the Raj with the British living in India.  I guess that makes it a kind of ‘posh’ brunch.  It was traditionally made with smoked haddock, but, hey, if we’re going ‘posh’ let’s go all the way and use smoked salmon!

I was asked by the folks at Quinlan’s Fish if I’d share a recipe using their Organic Irish Smoked Salmon.  I was delighted to… and had all sorts of plans involving sushi and homegrown horseradish, but then came back to this old favourite.  Time is very precious in this house in this week just before Christmas!  Last year, I remember saying I wanted a live-in chef for the week of ham shipments.

That didn’t happen…. but seriously this just took 20 minutes to prepare.

Give it a try…. you’re probably going to have smoked salmon in the house over Christmas, and this is so tasty and easy.  Serve it either as a brunch or supper, it works either way.

I made it for dinner this evening – just for two of us – but it’s easy to multiply the ingredients for more.




  • 2 organic eggs – hard-boiled and quartered.
  • 6 oz. Organic Basmati (or long-grain) rice
  • large knob of butter
  • 1/2 organic onion finely chopped
  • 1/2 (large) clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 inch piece of ginger, grated
  • 100 ml cream
  • 125 g. Quinlan’s Organic Smoked Irish Salmon
  • Large pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Coriander leaves
  • A couple of slices of lemon


Hard boil your eggs…. 5 minutes is usually enough…. draining the hot water off the eggs, and running cold water over them to stop the cooking process.  Leave them in the cold water until you are ready to peel them.

Cook your rice for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in another saucepan.  Add the onion, garlic and ginger and fry gently until translucent.

Add the cream to the onion, garlic and ginger and heat slowly.

By now your rice should be cooked and drained.

When the cream has heated through, add the cooked rice to this saucepan and mix well to combine all ingredients.

Pull your Smoked Salmon apart into slivers and add most of it to the rice.  Mix gently… you will notice it changes colour as it ‘cooks’ when it hits the warm rice.

Put the rice mixture onto a serving plate and top with a few reserved slivers of the smoked salmon, together with some coriander leaves and a generous dash of cayenne pepper.

Serve with slices of lemon.

Enjoy! :)


Disclaimer:  Quinlan’s Fish sent me the Irish Organic Smoked Salmon and asked me to post a recipe.  No money exchanged hands.  Their salmon is delicious and we enjoyed the resultant dish using their  organic salmon.

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And yes, there is ‘trouble’ with labels.

There are the ‘labels’ we attach to certain people, and there are the labels on our food. Here comes my rant about the food labels.

Do you read your food labels?

There are so many terms that are abused here in Ireland.  What’s it like where you are?

We use the word ‘artisan’ for so many things, and I’m sure most people have never even looked the word up in a dictionary.  Here’s the definition from the Oxford dictionary : Artisan (n) – skilled manual worker or craftsman.  So can a large factory-type set up, employing 100 people plus, running production lines, be producing an ‘artisan’ food product?  I guess you could say that the machines are being run by skilled workers, but is it not an abuse of the word?

Freerange hens, pigs and dog :)

Freerange hens, pigs and dog :)

Then there is ‘organic’.   Now this is much clearer – or is it?

I’ve often asked people what their perception of ‘organic’ is, and often times they are just so wrong.  While there are strict guidelines with regard to feeding and caring of the animals…. organic does not necessarily mean ‘free-range’.  Depending on the breed of animal, they can be raised indoors, but must spend some part of their life outdoors.  However, not necessarily all of their lives.

Some will say, that in winter it is better for the animal to be indoors.  Let me tell you, in the case of pigs, they are damned clever, and will not go outside if it is freezing, wet and cold.  Would you?  Especially if you’ve got a silly human who will bring you food!

Anyone who has read my post about the process and procedures we had to go through to receive the QMark for our free-range pork will be aware of the hoops that were jumped.  You will also be aware that we are completely and utterly anti-gmo’s in this house.

And here’s a very scary fact ….. if you go to the co-op to buy your animal feed, it is labelled as containing gmo.  However, although that feed has been fed to an animal whose meat will end up in the food chain, there is no legislative requirement to label the human food as containing gmo.

After months of negotiations for the Q Mark, here’s what was agreed as the free-range definition:

Free range farmed:  a type of animal husbandry where pigs have free access to fields/woodland with defined boundaries for all or most of their natural life.  They receive their nutritional needs from prepared natural feed or from pasture or forage depending on the season.

And, again, while there are producers out there that are termed ‘free-range’ and then spoil it all by feeding gmo contaminated feed.  You need to check what they are feeding their animals.  Well, if you care you will.

Another thing, some producers say their animals are free-range.  They perhaps allow some of their animals access to the outdoors – just to portray the right picture.  However, the majority are locked up in sheds.

And the biggest offender of all????

The word ‘natural‘.  You’ve got to watch this video…. it may be a little exaggerated, but then again maybe it is not.

So my warning to you all folks?   If you really care what you feed yourself and your family, check what the animals are being fed.

Do you know how your Christmas turkey has been raised?

Do you know what the pig that died to provide you with that Christmas ham was fed?

Do you care about how these animals lived their lives?

Ask the questions, folks.  Ask can you come see where they live, what they are fed?

Go shake the hand of the farmer and find the answers to the questions.


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We’ve just had another rather busy week here in Redwood with more family visitors.  On Wednesday night last we had an extra seven guests for dinner!

It was time for some quick thinking….  main course was fine… I trotted out a couple of my quick and easy sausage recipes…. both went down a treat by the way.

I had no time to go baking, or conjure up a dessert, so I opted for a starter.  This particular starter has had a couple of different permutations in the past few weeks, as we’ve had tons of pears, but we’ve decided this is our favourite combination.

It is so so so very nice we might even have it again this evening.

Pear and Blue Cheese

Pear and Blue Cheese

Recipe (for 2)

  • 2 pears – peeled and sliced
  • 1 or 2 oz. of Gorgonzola cheese
  • A couple of walnuts chopped/broken into pieces
  • A drizzle of Balsamic vinegar.

Arrange first three ingredients on plate, and at last minute, just before serving, drizzle on your Balsamic vinegar.


  1. Omit the walnuts and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves instead.
  2. Subsitute goat’s cheese for the Gorgonzola – with this combination I lightly grilled the cheese (partially, as it was too cold, straight from the fridge).

Let us know if you try any of the combinations…. or even invent your own!

PS:  sorry the photograph isn’t great…. we’re back to winter indoor lighting :(

Enjoy :)


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If you follow our Twitter or Facebook pages, you’ll have seen some obscure references to a ‘secret’ earlier in the summer.  Well here is the big reveal!

Earlier this year Lidl (a German supermarket) and RTE (our national TV station) launched Taste of Success.  They sent out the call across the country for budding entrepreneurs to come up with a product that would fit into the mix of products already available in Lidl stores.

There was a magnificent prize available – €100,000, which includes marketing support, product royalties, a cash prize and the chance to see your product featured and sold on the shelves of 141 Lidl stores across Ireland.

Without any hesitation Alfie decided to enter his free-range pork burger into the competition.  There were hundreds of entries, and Alfie’s pork burger was chosen to go through to the Munster finals.

Alfie travelled to Cork in June to be interviewed by the Munster Regional Mentor, Martin Shanahan of Fishy Fishy.  He was only given 24 hours notice of the interview, so there was no time to prep some burgers and bring them as requested to ‘taste’.  Despite not being able to bring a sample of his product to the interview Alfie got through to the next stage.

Two days later on a scorching hot day at the Cork Summer Fair, the 8 finalists from Munster cooked and presented their products to the professional judges – Paul Flynn, Lidl Ambassador and of The Tannery, Dungarvan

; and Martin Shanahan, Fishy Fishy, Kinsale.  Then it was time for a select group of the public to vote, and make their judgements as to which four products they thought were good enough to go through to the next round.

The tension while waiting for the announcement for the four finalists was palpable.  The products were diverse and interesting, and all finalists had put their heart and soul into the competition.

RTE Interview

RTE Interview

As this was all being filmed for a TV series there were many, many takes…. and lots and lots of hanging around.  A couple of minutes of TV takes a horrendous amount of time to film!

The good news for North Tipperary is that Alfie’s free-range pork burger was one of the four finalists to go through to the next round.

We had the TV crew here for a morning during the summer too…. filming Alfie in his ‘natural’ environment.  I was perfectly happy to be the behind the camera person/catering manager that day.

The show is aired on RTE1 at 8.30 pm on Tuesday evenings, so far we’ve had the Leinster and Connacht finals.  We’ve been amazed at how many people we’ve actually known who entered.  Tonight it is the turn of the Dublin’s finalists.   Alfie’s first show will be on Tuesday 11th November.  If you’re quick-eyed you might spot Alfie on the promotional advert.

Did he get through the next round?  Sure, that would spoil the surprise… you’ll just have to watch and see.

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I don’t think we’ve ever had such a good crop of blackberries around here.  I love blackberries…. my favourite of all fruits.

I like blackberries anyway at all…. jam, jelly, crumble, cake…. anyway at all.

So I’ve been indulging lots.

Here’s such a quick and easy crumble that I made a few times recently when we had AirBnB guests… they loved it.  One guest loved it so much he requested to have another portion for breakfast!  Of course, we allowed him have dessert for breakfast… he was on holidays after all :)  And, with the inclusion of coconut oil and porridge…. sure, it’s got to be healthy, right?


Apple & Blackberry Crumble

Apple & Blackberry Crumble


  • 2 or 3 cooking apples – or more depending on the size of your apples and your dish.
  • a couple of handfuls of blackberries.
  • Sugar to taste
  • 100 g. flour
  • 50 g. butter
  • 50 g. Coconut oil
  • 100 g. Porridge oatflakes.


Grease a dish with some butter (I used my Quiche dish).  Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

Mix your butter and coconut oil into the flour…. the coconut oil takes a little longer to rub in than butter.  Mix until you have no ‘gritty’ bits left.  Add in your porridge.

Peel and slice your cooking apples, filling your dish right up to the top.  Sprinkle on your blackberries, and some sugar.  Then spoon your prepared mixture on top.

Bake in oven for about 25 minutes.

Apple & Blackberry Crumble

Apple & Blackberry Crumble

Serve warm with ice-cream, custard or cream…. and make sure to save some for breakfast the next day :)



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Food tourism – what constitutes food tourism?

Wiki describes it thus : Culinary tourism or food tourism is experiencing the food of the country, region or area, and is now considered a vital component of the tourism experience.[2] Dining out is common among tourists and “food is believed to rank alongside climateaccommodation, and scenery” in importance to tourists.[2]  Wikipeadia

The World Food Travel Association describes ‘food tourism’ as : “The pursuit and enjoyment of unique and memorable food and drink experiences, both far and near.”    It also describes a ‘food traveller’ as someone who goes to a different neighbourhood to experience food of a different ethnicity.  I guess that means we are food travellers when we go shopping in the Asian market?

Does Ireland have a food tourism side to it?

These are questions we were asked to consider when we took part in workshops with Failte Ireland and Blue Sail.  Together with around forty producers, accommodation providers and others involved in the food industry, we had brain-storming sessions about what is ‘food tourism’.

It was an exciting and interesting exercise, as we discussed Ireland’s food provenance, what is local, what we ourselves expect when travelling, and what we look for in food when travelling?

If you take it on a very personal level…. what makes a holiday for you?  Is it the weather?  Is it the accommodation?  Is it the food?

Failte Ireland have been conducting research and have come up with 6 different ‘tourist’ categories – 3 international and 3 domestic tourist segments.

International market segments:

  • Culturally Curious – over 45 – food is very important to them – specialities, provenance, special places, good service, knowledgeable staff.
  • Social Energisers – young couples/adults – 20s/early 30s – casual eating but good food, fashionable, buzzy places, something different from home.
  • Great Escapers – young couples around 30 – authentic restaurants and pubs with good local food; flexible options – picnics and takeaway.

Domestic segments:

  • Connected Families – 25 – 44 age group – no specific mentions of food.
  • Footloose Socialisers – groups of friends, independent and confident – again no specific food requirements.
  • Indulgent Romantics – all ages but typically 25 – 34 or 55 – 64 – interested and knowledgeable about food and wine.

One of the exercises we were asked to carry out was to recommend in our locality a ‘romantic’ destination…. well folks, it is amazing, but the results were as diverse as people are.  A weekend in a hotel with a spa and beauty treatments would just not cut it for me as a ‘romantic’ break, but that’s what some folks want.  A ‘romantic’ break to me would be somewhere away from the ‘real’ world, where you can chill, sit about and read a book without being disturbed, go for long walks, and, of course, enjoy really good food (preferably seafood!) and maybe, a glass or two of wine.

We were also asked to consider where we would recommend people should go to people watch?  Any thoughts?  I chose a supermarket queue.  I always go off into daydream mode in the supermarket queue – wondering ‘why’ are people buying this, that, and the other.  I’m always shocked at how much processed food goes into shopping trolleys – but that’s another story.

And I guess the biggest question of all….. how would we describe Ireland’s food?  Again the answers were as mixed as the group…… how would you describe Irish food to a complete stranger?

Here’s the result of our brain-storming…. a great video produced by Failte Ireland.


And a funny aside to this story… we laughed so much when we saw the video… there right smack bang in the middle of it, is our friend, Daili :)



Since we started doing AirBnB we have found that without exception regardless of the nationality of those who have stayed here, the conversation invariable turns to ‘food’ and its ‘provenance’.  From our little vignette into the world of travel it would seem that people are getting more and more worried about where their food is coming from, and how their food is being treated be it in the pre-planting stage of seeds, or how food(meat) is grown.

It would seem like-minded people are drawn to each other.  People come to this green island of ours, as they perceive it as ‘green’ in every sense of the world.  They are blown away by the ‘green-ness’ of the countryside, the cattle and sheep grazing in the fields, the freshness of the fish, and the variety of ‘home’ produced food.  We are lucky to live in this country of ours with its natural larder.

We need to hold on tight to that image.






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