Rachel Gaffney's Letter from Texas

Rachel Gaffney Group at MacNean HouseRachel Gaffney, the famous foodie who’s flying the tricolour for us in Texas shares a story of wonderful time spent at MacNean House & Cookery School with a group of American visitors

MacNean House is a special place. Located in the village of Blacklion, Co Cavan, it is of course home to Ireland’s leading chef, TV personality and cookbook author, Neven Maguire.

I first met Neven in Atlanta, Georgia on April 3rd 2010. I liked him from the moment I met him. It is hard not to warm to Neven. I can see how he appeals to each and every generation. He has such a caring way about him.

Exactly 5 years later to the month, my group from Texas, Louisiana, New Jersey and Virginia descended upon MacNean House after spending the afternoon foraging for seaweed. We had worked up quite the appetite from all that lovely sea air.

That evening we had booked the Chefs Table. This was such a wonderful and fun evening. The menu consisted of Celeriac Mousse, Kelly’s Warm Ham Hock, Castletownbere Sea Scallop, Blood Orange Jelly, John Stone Aged Beef Fillet, Goats Cheese, Raspberry Sorbet and Chocolate Sensation Dome.

Neven prepared each course and explained the stories behind every producer both locally and nationally. The grand finale was the dessert, which was quite simply spectacular. I took a video of this signature dessert being presented to us. You can view it on my Facebook Page.

That evening we retired to the bar for after dinner drinks and listened to the music. I was going to have an early night but I know when I looked at my watch, I noticed it was after 2am. Ah well, all the best laid plans and all that!

The following day, after breakfast, which was also quite spectacular, we made our way to the cookery school. This was one of the highlights of the trip for everyone. The staff at MacNean House are simply wonderful. There is nothing too difficult for them. You really do feel as though you are a guest in their home.

The days leading up to this class were hugely helpful for my group, as they had learned all about, seaweed, Irish beef and dairy products, learned about the importance of sustainability, foraged for wild garlic and herbs, sampled elderflower cordial for the first time, taste tested Irish smoked salmon and rejoiced at discovering a ’99’.

This class with Neven brought all of the moving parts together as he was able to talk about the fabulous Irish products like Donegal Rapeseed Oil, Atlantic Sea Salt, Coole Swan Liqueur, poultry producers, farmers and fishermen.

After his demonstration, people were paired up and off they went with Neven and staff walking them through their dishes.

Kevin AshleyWe all ate lunch together and, before we left for Dublin, we spent some time with Kevin Ashley. Kevin looks after the kitchen garden at MacNean House. We toured the poly tunnels where everything is recycled as much as possible. He had an ingenious use for drainpipes to grow his seedlings in.

Edible flowers were beginning to bloom, lettuces were springing up and it was clear to see that Kevin Ashley loved what he did. I wanted to drag my fingers through the potting soil which was bursting with nutrients but seeing as our driver was waiting to whisk us off to Dublin, I could not!

The group asked questions. In fact they asked many many questions. Their desire for knowledge about the food and ingredients of the island of Ireland knew no bounds.

They had and still have an insatiable desire to learn more. And that is why, I am now currently researching and planning my 2nd and 3rd culinary adventures to Ireland.

Rachel Gaffney's Real Ireland


: Rachel Gaffneys Real Ireland
Follow me on Twitter: @Rachelgaffney

Email: Rachel@Rachelgaffneys.com

Watch 'The Irish Kitchen' now on HULU


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