Changing Times for Irish Food - Cookery Schools - Souffle - Wild Garlic Pesto - Wild Garlic

Cookery School - Kevin Dundon in Dunbrody House Cookery SchoolWith gastro-tourism the buzz word on every foodie’s lips this season, the burgeoning Irish cookery school industry looks set to do very well indeed – especially as so many of our cookery schools are beautifully located in areas where there are lots of other things to do as well as spending time in the kitchen. 

Aside from the longer courses designed for serious cooks in search of professional improvement, it’s hard to imagine a more enjoyable break than a couple of days spent purposefully honing your kitchen skills in a sociable atmosphere, with the pleasure of a fine meal in congenial company to look forward to at the end of each day. And visits to many of our cookery schools deserve to be built into a longer stay in the area.

Taking just three examples from around the country, all with accommodation:

Belle Isle Cookery School is magically situated at Belle Isle Castle on one of eleven islands owned by the Duke of Abercorn on Upper Lough Erne; it offers an extensive range of courses throughout the year (including May, which tends to be a quiet month in most cookery schools), and this stunningly beautiful area is at its freshest in nearly summer so it’s a perfect time for exploration.

Over in West Clare, short courses at Berry Lodge at Miltown Malbay have always been designed to fit in with other activities in the area (especially golf, but also walking, music and sight-seeing – with the Burren flora at its best in May and June, this is an ideal time to go), and non-cooking partners are made especially welcome here. 

Down in the sunny South-East, the stylish Dunbrody House Cookery School at Arthurstown is in a fascinating area and students especially enjoy visiting the productive organic vegetable and fruit gardens which supply the hotel kitchen all year round - and also the luxurious Dunbrody Spa, where energising menus are based on freshly-picked produce in season.
Free Recipe - Dunbrody Souffle with Abbey Blue Cheese
Dunbrody souffl of Abbey Blue cheese, with a watercress salad
Souffls seem to scare the wits out of a lot of otherwise competent cooks, but there is no need to be nervous as Kevin Dundon demonstrates to students at his Dunbrody House Cookery School, in  County Wexford. In Irish Country House Cooking (Epicure Press EUR25) Kevin gives this classic souffl a new twist with a local farmhouse cheese and contemporary presentation.  Serves 4

2oz / 50g brioche crumbs or breadcrumbs
11/2oz / 40g ground walnuts
For the souffls:
2oz / 50g butter, softened
2oz / 50g plain flour
5fl oz / 150ml milk
2 egg yolks
31/2oz / 100g / blue cheese, eg  Abbey Blue, crumbled
salt and freshly ground pepper
5 egg whites
a few drops lemon juice
7oz / 200g (a good bunch) watercress

Preheat a hot oven, 425°F / 210°C / gas mark 7.
First prepare the moulds: Butter 4 cappuccino cups with soft butter. Mix the brioche crumb and walnuts, and use to coat the cups, then freeze. Repeat this process three times in order to obtain a good coating.
To make the souffls: Melt the butter in a saucepan and slowly add the flour, stirring constantly until the mixture becomes a light coloured roux. Gradually mix in the milk to make a thick bchamel and stir in the 2 egg yolks. Add the Abbey Blue and blend lightly. Put this mixture into a mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper. Whisk the egg whites to a firm peak. Stir in a tablespoonful of the egg white to loosen the mixture then, using a metal spoon, lightly fold in the remaining egg whites. Divide the mixture between the four prepared cups and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until the souffls are well-risen and golden brown but still a little wobbly in the centre.
To serve: Put the souffls, in their cups, onto four serving plates, with the watercress salad on the side of the plate - dress simply with a squeeze of lemon juice and some cracked black pepper.

Free Recipe - Wild Garlic Pesto SHORT ITEM:  Wild Garlic Pesto

As well as having one of Ireland’s largest private herb gardens, guests wandering through the 1500 acres of the beautiful Mount Juliet Estate at this time of year will also find copious  drifts of wild garlic, traditionally credited with the power to fight colds and reduce cholesterol..This is Chef Eugene McSweeney’s  recipe, as  used in the hotel’s two restaurants:
200g / 7oz wild garlic leaves
200g / 7oz grated parmesan cheese
200g/ 7oz  pine nuts
enough olive oil to make a pouring sauce
salt and pepper
Disregard the stems and use only the leaves from the picked wild garlic; clean them well. Put the garlic leaves and pine nuts into a food processor and process them until they are smooth. Next add the parmesan cheese and blend well. Gently pour in the olive oil until you have a smooth sauce.
Season with salt and pepper. Stored in air-tight jars  in a dark cupboard, this pesto will keep for several weeks.

What Is It?
A hardy perennial of the onion family; valued for its strongly flavoured leaves, it is currently a fashionable item on restaurant menus.

Where does it come from?
Wild garlic grows profusely in wooded areas throughout Ireland and drifts of the star-like white flowers are very noticeable  alongside  bluebells  in late spring and early summer.

Where can I get it? 
It can be picked where it grows in common ground and laneway verges, and is particularly abundant in the old woodland areas found on large estates. 

What can I do with it? 

It can be used its own or as Wild Garlic Pesto (see above) to flavour dressings and dishes. The pesto can  simply be spread generously over freshly made breads, and other suggested uses include:
- Toss fresh pasta in a few spoonfuls of the wild - garlic pesto for a lovely summer dish
- Drizzle over oven-baked vegetables
- Mix into a light potato soup
- Mix a spoonful into a bowl of sliced tomatoes for a barbecue salad
- Spread on toasted ciabatta bread and top with sliced cold chicken

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