Cookery Feature - Dee Laffan Shares a Taste of Fermanagh

Lough Erne Resort

Lough Erne Resort in County Fermanagh is a place that has long been on my list of must-visit spots in Ireland - now happily checked off the list following a fascinating press trip.

The drive up to Lough Erne from Dublin is through stunningly scenic countryside, passing through county Cavan – Ireland’s own lake district. Surprisingly, the trip is less than two-and-a-half hours yet, when you arrive, you feel as if you have transported away to another world. It is picturesque, quiet and truly peaceful.

Noel McMeel - Lough Erne Resort

Famed as the venue for the G8 summit in 2013, Lough Erne Resort and Spa is reminiscent of a Disney castle perched on the shores, with turreted loughside lodges, a picturesque lake-filled landscape and two championship golf courses. One of the most fun things we did on our trip was to take a golf buggy drive across the resort to the 9th hole tee beside the lake. In a wooden cabin, there is a small café – a rest stop for a cuppa break if you will – for golfers on their way around the course. A brilliant idea.

The resort is renowned for luxury, which of course comes at a price, but it is also practical for families, even if travelling on a budget, as the 2-3 bedroom Loughside Lodges have a kitchen area as well as excellent accommodation and a communal sitting room and dining room. But dining (formally or informally) in the hotel is not to be missed as Executive Head Chef Noel McMeel’s (pictured right) menus highlight the best of local produce and top-quality Irish ingredients

During our trip some of the wonderful Northern Irish producers that Noel works with were showcased, including: Seriously Juicy of Newtownbutler, Co. Fermanagh; Kettyle Irish Foods of Lisnaskea, Co. Fermanagh (where we enjoyed a visit to see their special beef ageing process); Ruby Blue Spirits of Lisburn; Yardsman Lager, Belfast; MacIvors Cider, from Co. Armagh; and Islander Rathlin Kelp, from Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim.

Lough Erne Resort - Restaurant

Noel is a true ambassador for local produce and has dedicated his career to one simple goal: finding, preparing and serving fresh food in season. He believes that in Northern Ireland, and especially Fermanagh, they are fortunate to have some of the finest ingredients at their fingertips and privileged to be in a position to work with a diverse array of superb raw material. Noel’s passion for food and his energetic personality shine through in all his achievements, from finding the best local suppliers to inspiring his team of chefs.

Below, Noel shares the recipes for a few of the dishes that he enjoys creating for guests at Lough Erne Resort, so you can sample a taste of Northern Ireland at home.


Noel McMeel’s Pan Seared Fillet of Irish Hake, Roast Cauliflower Purée, Broad Beans, Bacon Lardons & Vanilla Foam

Noel McMeel’s Pan Seared Fillet of Irish Hake, Roast Cauliflower Purée, Broad Beans, Bacon Lardons & Vanilla Foam

Serves 4, with extra bacon lardons and vanilla foam available for other dishes


2 large hake fillets
2 x small heads cauliflower
250g unsalted butter
1 pint/600ml cream
100g broad beans
rapeseed oil
1 kg cured bacon
10ml cider
1 vanilla pod
½ lemon juice
½ pt/300ml milk
sugar and salt to taste


- Season the fillet of hake and pan-fry, skin-side-down, for 2-3 minutes, then place into an oven preheated at 180°C and cook for approx 7-8 minutes.

- Break the cauliflower into small pieces and place in a saucepan with butter and cook till tender and lightly coloured. When cooked, drain off the excess liquid and blend for two minutes.

- Add the cream until the consistency is smooth and season.

- Pod the beans and blanch in hot boiling water for one minute. Drain and turn into a bowl; dress with oil and season.

- Slice the bacon into small strips and fry in a pan until light brown.

- Place the cider in a saucepan and reduce by half. Place the reduction, vanilla, lemon juice and milk into a saucepan and leave for 10 minutes to infuse. Season and foam it with a small stick blender.

To serve: Place a spoonful of purée in the middle of the plate, add the fish portions, then the beans and dress with the foam.


Lough Erne Resort - Rabbit Pithivier

Noel McMeel's Rabbit Pithivier

Makes 6


1 rabbit, oven ready
250ml chicken stock
100ml white wine
100ml verjuice (a commercial acidic fruit juice product)
1 carrot
½ leek
1 medium onion
5 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
10 peppercorns
3 sheets ready made puff pastry


Cut off legs and section the rest of the rabbit into four pieces. Braise in chicken stock, white wine, verjuice, a combination of carrot, leek, onion, garlic, bay leaf and peppercorns at 150°C.

Take the rabbit saddles out when tender and the rest out when falling off the bone (about four hours). Shred rabbit and reduce braising liquid by simmering, uncovered, until thick.

Fold the sauce through the shredded rabbit and season.

Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

For the Pithivier (pies), split the mix into six equal portions. Roll out the puff pastry and cut out five rings with a 10cm diameter cutter. Then cut out another five rings with a 12-13cm diameter cutter.

On the small rings, put the rabbit mix in the centre and then cover with the larger ring of pastry and seal the edges.

Place in the fridge for one hour to rest.

When ready to cook, brush with the egg wash and score the top, or just leave it plain

Bake in an oven preheated at 160°C for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.


Irish Cider poached Apple Tart Tatin, Cinnamon Ice Cream, Pistachio Soil

Noel McMeel's Irish Cider Poached Apple Tart Tatin, Cinnamon Ice Cream, Pistachio Soil

Tip: Home cooks will be able to simplify the method (eg there is no need to cook apple in a vac bag in a water bath, just cook gently so it keeps its shape)

makes 8 tarts, with extra ice cream to spare


1 pt/600ml cider
1 pt/600ml water
1 vanilla
8 lime leaves
200g sugar
8 star anise
4 apples
100g caramel syrup
8 puff pastry disks

For the cinnamon ice cream:

1 pt/600ml milk
1 pt/600ml cream
1 vanilla pod
3 cinnamon sticks
209g egg yolks
168g sugar

for the pistachio soil:

100g white chocolate
pistachio paste to taste
30g chopped pistachios
malto dextrin (artificial sugar/polysaccharide)

Place all the main ingredients into a saucepan apart from the apple and bring to the boil.

Peel and core the apple and cut it in half. Place into vac pac bags with infused liquid. Cook in a water bath at 64°C for 45 minutes.

Remove from bag and cut across the apple place the apple into pre-lined mould with the syrup on the bottom.

Place the puff pastry disk on top and bake in an oven preheated at 190°C for 17 minutes.

Remove from the oven, turn out and serve.

For the ice cream: Place the milk, cream, vanilla and cinnamon in a saucepan and bring to the simmer. In a mixing bowl, whisk the yolks and sugar till light and fluffy. Add the infused mix to the yolks and return to the heat and cook gently, stirring, until thickened. Allow to cool overnight before churning the mix in an ice cream machine.

For the pistachio soil, melt the white chocolate and add in the paste. Combine with malto dextrin until a soil like texture is achieved. Then add in the chopped pistachios. Serve as pictured. 

For more information


Dee Laffan is a freelance food writer and editor. Formerly editor of Easy Food magazine, she has written for the Irish Independent and Sunday Independent. She is a proud supporter of Irish producers and their products, and takes part in judging for food competitions including Blas na hÉireann and the Great Taste Awards. She is a member of the Irish Food Writers' Guild and secretary for Slow Food Dublin. Twitter @deelaffan

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