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We are now in November, but on the last day of October I took a walk around the (very neglected) garden and this is what was in bloom.

I know we’ve had an extremely hot summer, but seriously so many of the plants seem to be so utterly confused as to what season it is.

Is it climate change, or is that all just fake news?

Borage

Buddleia

Fuchsia

Nasturtium

Sweetpea

You’d have to be living in a bubble to not know tis pumpkin season!  Our pumpkin season started quite early as I had planted a couple of Hokkaido pumpkin plants in the polytunnel this year, and they gave us lots and lots of fruit.

Just as well we like this pumpkin… and by the way, it stores really well in a cool, dark press… if it gets a chance to.

As we had a busy time through September, and even into early October, with B&B guests this recipe featured quite a bit.  It is definitely a keeper!

The original recipe from Olive Magazine features butternut squash, but let me tell you it works just as well with pumpkin.

If you are carving a pumpkin this weekend, try this out with your dinner.  It is totally yum.

Creamy Pumpkin Gratin

Ingredients:

  • Hokkaido pumpkin – peeled and thinly sliced (I use a mandolin)
  • 300 ml cream
  • 150 ml milk
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1 clove garlic – crushed
  • A bunch of sage leaves – chopped

Method:

Heat oven to 180 deg. C

Prepare your pumpkin.  Grease an ovenproof dish, and arrange your pumpkin slices.

In a small saucepan heat the cream, milk, mustard, chilli, garlic and sage for a few minutes.  Stir well to incorporate the mustard.  Pour this liquid over the pumpkin.

Bake for 20 minutes or so, take your dish out of oven and press the pumpkin down into liquid (I use an egg flip for this).  Return to the oven for another 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown.

You can leave the gratin to sit for a few minutes before serving.

 

 

Afternoon Tea

I’ve told you before about how some members of our community are fighting back, and doing their very best to stop the ebb of activity in rural Ireland.  Our community shop continues to thrive and is open for even longer hours these days.

Well, I’m delighted to tell you that another local group have come together and are hosting a variety of events at Redwood Castle.  They started the whole process on Sunday last with Afternoon Tea.  I popped along to take some photos that I could post here and hopefully, encourage you all to come along and visit.

 

Tea in a china tea cup

Lots and lots of home baking

 

Is there anything nicer that whiling away a few hours with copious amounts of tea and cake, in front of a roaring fire?

Woodburning stove in great hall at Redwood Castle

Numbers are restricted at the moment, so you definitely need to book well in advance.  Contact them via email redwoodcastleireland@gmail.com or call 00 353 89 480 1888.

I could go into a ton of detail on the history of the Castle, but I’d rather just say you should try to incorporate a guided tour with your afternoon tea.  Ger, the guide, is brilliant at telling the history of the Castle.

Stunning views across Co. Tipperary

Other forthcoming events planned for the Castle are an upholstery class in November (which I believe is already booked out), and then on 8th and 9th December there will be an artisan craft and food Christmas fair.. you could make a weekend of it!  And, of course, don’t forget we can do bed and breakfast for you, either before or after your visit to the Castle.

Cosy Alcove from which to admire the view

There are also major plans for various events in 2019…. watch this space.

We wish Coleesa and the team at the Castle, all the best with this new venture.

Isn’t it wonderful to see rural Ireland fighting back, and bringing more people into the area?

A bucket list thing

It’s on the bucket list.  In fact it has been on the bucket list for way too long.

I want to go up in a hot air balloon.  That is all.

I stood in awe for hours a couple of weeks ago as the Irish Hot Air Balloon Championships were held in Birr.  I was fascinated watching the weather along with them, waiting to hear if it was going to be a ‘Fly’ or ‘No Fly’ decision.  It was all quite technical but fascinating at the same time.

We were lucky that Monday evening was a beautiful evening, the winds were right, so it was a ‘FLY’ decision. We dropped everything and raced into Birr.

Aren’t they just magical?

There was a very enthusiastic chap who jumped out and parachuted back down!

And then I was lucky enough to be able to capture them on an early morning flight rom our kitchen.

Early morning flight over Tipperary countryside.

 

Early morning flight in the mist.

Someday that bucket list ‘tick’ will be marked.

Marinated Courgettes

Who plants courgettes/zucchini, and then ends up wondering what to do with all the produce?  Is there a person in the world who has got the balance right on how many plants to grow for their family?

If you grow them, I can put money on it that someone in the house is saying ‘not courgettes again!’

When I shared the Courgette Scarpaccia a couple of years ago, lots of you tried it, and I know it has become a favourite in this house and in many others.

Well folks, I’ve another courgette recipe to share with you.

It too has become a welcome favourite in this house, and it works on so many levels.

The original recipe came from Olive Magazine, but as always it has evolved and changed here in Redwood.

Marinated Courgette/Zucchini Salad

Ingredients:

  • A medium courgette
  • Olive oil – plenty of it
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • Clove of garlic – bruised

Method:

Cut the courgette into slices of 7 to 8 cm long, and half a centimetre in thickness.  Heat a griddle pan to high.  Brush one side of each courgette slice with olive oil and place oil side down on pan.  Griddle for 4 to 5 minutes.  Brush upper side with oil, and turn over for a further griddle.

Arrange your slices in a nice shallow serving dish.

Mix the rest of your ingredients together and pour over your sliced courgette.

This is all best made ahead, and left to sit for an hour before serving.

(Note:  I do tend to warn people about the lump of raw garlic in the dish… it is not something I’d like to bite into!)

Give it a try and let us know if you enjoy!

 

Burgerton 2018

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We offer guests the option of joining us for dinner when they come stay.  If they decide to take up this offer I ask about food likes and dislikes.

The most usual answer to that question would be that they don’t eat ‘offal’.  Now we do, but I don’t think I would ever randomly serve it up to guests.

Then there are the people who don’t eat fish. Those who only eat ‘white’ meat …. pork seemingly comes under that classification!!! (What kind of pork are they used to???)

We’ve had some interesting challenges in the food department.  There’s been the nut, dairy and egg free challenge.  The latest was dairy, sugar, salt and red meat free diet… that was somewhat of a challenge but we managed it.

More and more people are saying that they’d like something ‘traditional’.  Now here’s a question for you…

  • If you are Irish what do you classify as a ‘traditional’ Irish dinner?
  • If you are not Irish, but travelling to Ireland, what would your expectation of a traditional Irish dinner be?

I think it is fair to say that Alfie and I really don’t do much that is ‘traditional’ Irish food. We have on occasion done ham (usually finished on the bbq!) with the potatoes and vegetables.  I’ve also done stuffed pork steak with vegetables as a ‘traditional’ option.

As Irish as it gets here

Summertime traditional?  I don’t know.  My childhood memories would be of salad plates with lettuce, ham, tomato and probably a hard-boiled egg.

Give us your answers….

I know, a drought is not what anyone would think of in relation to Ireland.  Having had the longest, wettest Winter anyone can remember, we had about a week of Spring, then straight to Summer.

Not just any old Summer though.

The temperatures have been crazy.  Many days here in Tipperary have been over 30 degrees Celsius. It was lovely to have that beautiful sunshine, and to be able to just pull on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt.

Weeks into it and things are looking very serious.

There is a ‘hose’ ban in place for the entire country until at least the end of July.

We are so very glad we stuck with the plan and maintained our own well.

We, thankfully, have sufficient water.

You’d be astonished at how much water hens and ducks drink.  Pigs need water to drink but also to wallow.  Pigs roll in wet mud to protect themselves from the sun – pig sunscreen!

Our 1,000 litre rain barrel is almost empty, but we have 2 smaller ones on standby.

We’ve watched our neighbours hauling 10+ tonnes of water for their cattle every day!  They are pumping water from a stream/spring to supplement their mains supply.  Can you imagine the effort involved in that?  Can you imagine the extra costs they are incurring?

The grass isn’t growing, and is in fact parched.

Our soft fruits harvest is way down on previous years.  Last year I harvested 6 lbs of raspberries in one day.  This year I’ve only managed to get 2 lbs over the past week!

In conversations recently with city folk, there does seem to be a complete disconnect to just how critical water is to our food supply.  Plants and animals need both sunshine and water to survive.

I am no economist, but I would suggest that fruit and vegetables, in fact all food is going to increase in price, and is going to be in short supply – both for animals and for humans.

Worrying times ahead.

Breakfast

The most important meal of the day.

Certainly one I enjoy, I would rather be late for an appointment than skip breakfast!

Now that we are doing bnb, breakfast has become even more important.  The guests’ breakfast that is.  Ours on the mornings we have guests staying may never happen!

I was listening to Georgina Campbell who runs the annual Irish Breakfast Awards on radio some months back, where she was asked ‘how can you go wrong with breakfast?’.  I loved her answer!  ‘Let’s start with the orange juice’!  And how right is she?  Another guest on that radio programme who I think was a chef at a hotel, pointed out that you can give guests the best dinner in the world, but if they stay overnight and have an awful breakfast… that is going to be their abiding memory.  Again how right?

Here at Oldfarm, I am generally the breakfast cook.  Not everyone wants a ‘cooked’ breakfast, but we always offer freshly squeezed juice, homemade granola and homemade yoghurt.  Then if a guest wants there is the ‘cooked’ option

I never start cooking breakfast until the guests come down stairs.  Is there anything worse in the world than breakfasts that have been kept ‘warm’ somewhere!!!  Yuck!

This is what an Oldfarm breakfast consist of …. take all, some or none!

 

Freshly squeezed orange juice

Homemade granola with homemade yoghurt

Fruit and Yoghurt

seasonal homegrown fruit – fresh or stewed

Poached Egg

Eggs – any which way – from our own hens

Banana Pancakes

Banana Pancakes

Sausages and/or bacon (subject to availability) from our own pigs

Potato Cakes

homemade jams and marmalades, and maybe some of our own honey

Homemade Breads

Selection of homemade organic breads

Tea and/or coffee – real tea (with leaves) and real coffee (French press or Keurig)

Our guests enjoy their breakfasts…. well so they tell us!

When are you coming to stay?  We promise a damn fine breakfast!

Heaven help us!

Yes, a rant is coming up.

We have our own well.  We paid dearly to have the water diviner come and identify the best spot to dig the well.  We paid for the people to come drill many many feet down and connect the pumping system.  We installed the water filtration system.  We have lived happily with our lovely fresh water for 12 years.

Bath time

Then the filtration system packed up.  It seems that most things these days only have a life span of 10 years!  Lots of ‘stuff’ has needed replacing this year.

I digress.

Back to the water system….

Did you know there is a grant of 75% available to install/upgrade water filtration systems?

We did not know this, but discovered this gem of information when talking to one company.  Happy days.

We downloaded the relevant application form for Tipperary, and started going through the various processes.  Tedious but not onerous.

  • get water tested…. tick
  • complete application form ….. tick
  • get quotes from 3 different companies ….. tick
  • get water tested again after fitting of new system …..

We were told that there can be a 6 week delay in getting approval, but if you hand deliver your application it can be processed quicker.

So yesterday morning Alfie drove to Nenagh, handed over the documentation.  Person on counter said that we should get immediate approval, but she’d have colleague call us to confirm.

And here it is folks…..

The colleague called and said we don’t qualify for the grant.

Why?

We are too close to the road, and should connect up to mains water!

Now here’s the thing…. our neighbours are often on ‘boil’ notices for their water.  When this happens where do they go for their water????

They come here for our well water, and are most welcome to.  We have an outside tap and they help themselves.

So now the County Council wants us to use mains water?  And, by the way, the cost (to us) would be treble what a water filtration system will cost us.

As I say heaven help us!  We are willing to look after and maintain our own water system.

And then today it is announced that the government is giving Irish Water millions to upgrade/repair/clean the Irish  water supply system which is in a disgraceful state.

There is so much more that could be said …

but for now rant over.