This time of year is truly wonderful for food enthusiasts, as every other week, countrywide, there are food festivals to attend. Last weekend brought me to Sheridan's Irish Food Festival, an amazingly well run event, that I will tell you a little more about, in a blog post soon. Tomorrow I'm very much looking forward to spending the day, with fellow food bloggers, at Bloom where we will be celebrating Irish food through a food bloggers picnic. 
In a fortnight's time The Iveagh Gardens will be home to the ever impressive Taste of Dublin. We always have a marvellous day out for Taste of Dublin and I was thrilled, last year, to get the opportunity to demonstrate at Taste, after winning a competition on Ireland AM. A new event for the festival, this year, is the 'Kanchi Dine in the Dark' experience. I think it sounds like a fantastic idea, that will offer the attendees a completely unique dining experience. The event is organised by Kanchi, a not-for-profit disability organisation, which was established in June 2000 by Caroline Casey, a visually impaired social entrepreneur. Kanchi works to change mindsets and behaviours around disability. They do this by creating initiatives that influence business and media leadership. Their work is grounded in the Disability Business Case which demonstrates the tangible business benefits of embracing people with disabilities as employees, customers and suppliers. The aim of the event is to challenge perceptions of difference through unique experiences with a cutting edge and inventive food event.

Kanchi Dine In The Dark.jpg

Press Release

Kanchi to Immerse Food Lovers in Complete Darkness at Dublin Culinary Festival

Disability organisation Kanchi will give diners a truly unique culinary experience at this year’s Taste of Dublin. Fittingly entitled ‘Kanchi Dine in the Dark’, this experiential dining event will see festival goers served an exclusive tasting plate by legally blind waiting staff whilst immersed in complete darkness. The delicious culinary delights will be prepared by ten of Ireland’s most award winning chefs, including Ross Lewis, Kevin Thornton and Malcolm Starmer. The event will take place in an atmospheric pitch black dining venue inDublin’s Iveagh Gardens from 14th – 17th June.

Festival goers will be guided to their tables, where they will be served a taster plate created by Ireland’s most acclaimed culinary experts. Without their sight to guide them, guests will experience the complex tastes, flavours and textures in a completely new and innovative way. In the blacked out dining room, everyone will be immersed in complete darkness, whether they are visually impaired or not. Each sitting will last approximately 30 minutes, after which guests have the opportunity to meet with the award winning chef who prepared their food, and to discuss cooking techniques and the local produce they have sampled.

The ten chefs confirmed to participate are: Oliver Dunne, Head Chef of Bon Appétit and the youngest Michelin Star Chef in Ireland; Malcolm Starmer, Head Chef of newly opened Bite in Dublin; Stuart O’Keeffe, Private Chef featured on The Food Network (USA) and Stuart’s Kitchen (TV3);  Ed Cooney, Executive Chef, the five star Merrion Hotel; Ross Lewis, Head Chef at Michelin Award Winning Restaurant, Chapter One; Master Chef Ireland contestants, Bridin Carey, Conal Markey and Richard Speedie; Kevin Thornton, Thornton’s Restaurant and Ireland’s first Head Chef to win two Michelin Stars. Radio personality Tom Dunne will also appear as a Special Guest Chef in collaboration with his wife Audrey McDonald of Private Caterers.

 Kanchi Dine in the Dark’ will enable attendees to experience how, by removing one sense, others can be altered and heightened, encouraging them to value different abilities. Communication whilst in the dark is also fundamentally impacted which will see social interactions altered greatly from the typical dining experience. The aim of the event is to challenge perceptions of difference through unique experiences with a cutting edge and inventive food event.

Nikki Hegarty, Kanchi Network Manager and coordinator of the event said, “Kanchi Dine in the Dark was designed with the aim of challenging people's perceptions in a manner that is enjoyable, engaging and fun. In this blackened out space, without even realising, guests will begin to tap into other senses, utilising their taste, smell, auditory and communications skills in a new and different way. Ironically, when you take away an individual’s sight, they see the person not the disability. Our goal with this event is to challenge how our participants perceive disability. We want to eradicate the stigma that surrounds this complex and multifaceted issue.”

There will be several sittings each day for the duration of the festival for both lunch and dinner with 25 festival goers served per sitting. Guests will be seated on a first come first served basis. The cost of entry to the ‘Kanchi Dine in the Dark’ pop-up restaurant will be eight Florins, which is the Taste of Dublin currency that is available on site. This will include the tasting plate and a glass of wine/non-alcoholic alternative per person.

The 7th annual Taste of Dublin 2012, sponsored by Electrolux takes place from Thursday 14th - Sunday 17th June, in the stunning Iveagh Gardens. Tickets are on sale now or call 0818 30 00 30. All advance standard tickets are only €20 and have been reduced from the 2011 price of €25. Booking fees apply.  

A few weeks back I went down in Cork, for the launch of Sheila Kiely's new cookbook - Gimme The Recipe. I've come to know Sheila through food blogging, as she writes a wonderful blog {Gimme the Recipe} that I have been following for the past couple of years. I was very excited to get my hands on Sheila's book, as her blog is one that I regularly refer to and quite often cook from. Sheila's approach to cooking is completely no-nonsense and the recipes are always straight forward. They would surely need to be, as this lady not only runs a food safety consultancy business with her husband, but she also has six, yes six, children.

The book is divided up in a way that reflects any busy home. The main section of the book is titled 'What's for Dinner Mom?'. A perfectly named chapter as, like all mothers, this is something I hear many times a day. Sheila includes quick after school snacks, such as Quesadillas and Crispy Potato Skins, delicious soups, one-pot dinners as well as many many dishes that could be whipped up in a flash. I recently made Sheila's 'Salmon in Soy Sauce' which I served with a noodle salad. A very tasty way to cook salmon and was made in minutes. Sheila has also included a fair amount of recipes for days when you have the time to do a little home baking. The next section of recipes are especially tailored for entertaining, be that dinner parties or large family gatherings. A wonderful addition to this book are the detailed plans for hosting these meals, relatively stress free. As well as Sheila's candid approach to her recipes, she maintains this course with her ingredients. She made a point to only include ingredients that she could source at her local supermarket, making the recipes accessible to all.

On the night of the book launch, Sheila thanked her husband and children, for their involvement with the book. Their presence in her kitchen, and her heart, is evident throughout the chosen recipes and the way she introduces each dish. An adorable touch to this cookbook is a page filled with hand drawings by the children. How proud they all must be that this snippet of their life will, ever more, be on the book shelve of stores. I've seen and bought many 'family cookbooks' but there is a certain honestly to this one, that so many celebrity focused ones just don't seem to undertake. I've a feeling that this is the just the beginning of a very successful career in writing for Sheila.

Salmon in Soy Sauce

This is a tasty and very healthy way to cook salmon. I severed the salmon with a simple noodle salad but it would be equally as nice with boiled potatoes and green beans.

3 garlic cloves
3cm thumb-width piece of ginger
1 red chilli
2 spring onions
50mls dark or rich soy sauce
4 salmon darnes (approx. 480-500g)
1 tbsp olive oil

To Marinate
1. Peel and crush the garlic and grate the ginger.
2. Deseed and finely chop the red chilli with the spring onions.
3. Combine the garlic, ginger and chilli with the spring onions and soy sauce. Pour over the salmon.
4. Leave to marinate, in the fridge, for a couple of hours, covered with cling film.

1. In a large frying pan heat the olive oil, on a medium to high heat.
2. Add the salmon pieces, skin side down, and cook for 2 minutes, reserving the marinade sauce.
3. Turn the salmon over and cook for a further 2 minutes, add the sauce and heat through for another minute. Check that the salmon is completely cooked, then serve.

It is indeed evident that our life expectancy has increased and we are witnessing that, as a nation, Ireland is ageing. This can be credited to our evolved health care and regardless of the poor media cover it often receives, with the political antics that tend to interfere with the day to day running of the service, we can still be proud to have one of the best health care services in the world. When I was training as a nurse I would work weekends as a care assistant, in numerous different nursing homes. It was a fairly intense and busy job, as the physical work was constant and most residents would need a lot of care. I have many memories of these nursing homes and the ones that I remember most fondly are the ones that had a feeling of home for the residents. Where staff were kind and the days could be spent not only on physio and occupational therapy but also activities such as bingo and gardening. In most cases these men and women aren't sick, more that they've just slowed down considerably. Since I was a child I've had great respect for the elderly, as there always seemed to be someone who needed care in our area and never was there anyone who gave as much time or was as kind to the elderly, as my mother  .

My sister Fiona is the A-CNM2 for daycare at Birr Community Nursing Home. The hospital offers long stay care and a respite service as well as palliative care. If ever there could be an example of a health care unit run solely with the welfare of the patient in mind, then this is it. I've visited the unit where the staff and more importantly the residence are genuinely happy. This naturally must give immense relief to the families, of the residence, that their loved ones are being cared for in a pleasant and safe environment.   
There is a committee of staff from the unit, called the Friends of Birr Community Nursing Unit, that raise money for the residence comfort fund. This money provides little pleasures, that the HSE don't pay for, which include a huge range of activities and outings. There are daily activities organised for the residents including bingo, cookery classes, floral demonstrations, gardening, exercise classes and art classes. The art work of the residents can be seen on display throughout the hospital. Each week an aromatherapist and a massage therapist visit the unit and they are paid from the comfort fund. I know that my Dad would still enjoy the occasional Guinness, so I thought it wonderful that each Sunday afternoon a drinks trolley is brought to each resident and they can enjoy a little drink with their Sunday paper, again this is all paid for by the comfort fund. Also included are remembrance masses, outings to the local theatre, the odd trip to the pub and even a present for each resident, at Christmas. What I find outstanding about Birr Community Nursing Home is the dedication of staff. There are 75 residents in the unit and they are all aged between 80 and 100, so to organise all these activities and outings isn't an easy task but can be credited to the commitment that's involved from staff to make a real quality, care of the elderly service. 
Jack with Donal at Taste of Dublin.
There is a fund raising night, in aid of the Friends of Birr Community Nursing Unit, next Thursday 24th of May at The County Arms, in Birr. I'm delighted to say that the very lovely Donal Skehan will be giving a cookery demonstration, from 8 pm. The evening kicks off at 6.30pm with a wine & canapé reception, then you can browse through the attending stalls which include, Mossfield Organic Cheese{who are providing the cheese for the canapé reception}, The Emporium{soft furnishings}, Adele Brady{bags & jewellery}, Boulaban Farm Ice Cream{one of my favourite ice-creams!}, Geraldine & Michelle{costume jewellery}, O'Meara's Pharmacy, Siobhan Hickman{designer & maker of jewllery}, Vanilla Bean Bakery{novelty cakes & cupcakes}, Crossogue Preserves{jams, chutneys etc} and Georgia Smokehouse Foods{bbq sauces & marinades}. There will also be a raffle, which will take place on the night, which boosts of some very impressive prizes.
Tickets for this night cost only €20 and are on sale from The County Arms, Foxes and Butlers Pharmacy in Birr and Birr Nursing Unit. Tickets can also be bought on the door on the night. If you are in the area please support this great cause and enjoy a really fun night out. See you there! 
We are privileged in Ireland to have some very impressive cookbook authors and through blogging I've been lucky enough meet many of them. One such author, that I met and got on brilliantly with, was the lovely Edward Hayden. Edward is a great, down to earth guy and this is very much reflected in his recipes.

 Edward's second cookbook Food to Love was release last year and now a new a paperback edition has just been reprinted and is in shops, priced €14.99. I've really enjoyed cooking from Food to Love and Edward's Never Fail Muffins have been a big hit in our house, as well as his Slow Cider-Roasted Loin of Pork. 

If you would like to meet Edward, he has numerous upcoming cookery demonstrations. This weekend Edward will be at SO Sligo. Kilkenny Design Centre, in Edward's home county of Kilkenny, are organising tasting events, almost every Saturday, through the lunch hours of 12-3. On Saturday 2nd of June Edward will be there for a book signing. Later in June he will once again be gracing the stage at Taste of Dublin. This man is travelling the country, doing cookery demonstrations, and could possibly be at a venue near you, so check out his website for more details.

To celebrate the release of Food to Love {paperback edition} I've been kindly given a copy to give away to one lucky reader of the blog.

It is very easy to enter this competition. All you have to do to be in with a chance to win this lovely new cookbook is a follower of Nessa's Family Kitchen* and B.answer the question, using the comment box below.
What is Edward Hayden's native county?

The competition will end at 6pm on Friday 18th May. The winner will be picked at random. Postage allowed worldwide, so all followers of the blog are in with a chance of winning.**

Best of Luck!!

*See the sidebar on the right
**No cash alternative is possible. 
I have always had a great love for all types of cheeses. I have memories of being out for dinner, with my parents, starting from when I was as young as seven, and when given the option between dessert or a cheeseboard, the chessboard would always be my preferred choice. I now could quite happily incorporate cheese into any dish, as there are just so many different types, varieties and flavours, that can complement many ingredients. The cheese made from the Co. Tipperary based farm, Cooleeney are ones that I have very much enjoyed to cook with, but quite often have savoured just alongside a nice bread and a dollop of chutney. I was delighted, a few months back, when a lovely lady from Cooleeney contacted me to see if I'd devise a few recipes for Cooleeney's newsletter, using some of their magnificent cheeses. This is my recipe for cheese & chive scones which was included in Cooleeney's spring newsletter. I make scones almost every other day, as the kids love them and they make very convenient lunch box fillers. These scones are perfect served with just butter, but are even nicer when topped with a chunk of Cooleeney's Darú, a few slices of tomato and a sprinkling of chopped chives.

Cheese & Chive Scones


450g/1lb plain flour 
1 teasp baking powder
25g/1oz caster sugar
100g/4oz butter
250mls fresh milk

100g/4oz Darú Cheese, grated
1 tbsp chives, finely chopped

For Glaze:
Egg wash - some beaten egg with a little milk

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/430°F/Gas mark 7
2. Sieve all the dry ingredients together into a large mixing bowl and mix well with a wooden spoon.
3. Add the butter and toss in the flour mixture. Rub in the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs.

4. Stir in the grated Darú and finely chopped chives.
5. Make a well in the center of the mixture and add the milk to the dry ingredients.
6. Mix together with a wooden spoon, then use your hands to make a soft dough.
7. Turn dough out onto a floured board. Wash and dry hands. Knead lightly- not too much as the scones would become tough. Roll out the dough and cut out using a circular cutter.
8. Brush the tops with the egg wash.
9. Bake in the oven for 10-12mins until golden brown. Remove and cool on a wire tray.

10. Serve with a nice chunk of Darú, sliced tomatoes and some finely chopped chives.

At this time of year, many homes will be hosting communion or confirmation celebration parties. There certainly are an increasing amount of families now favouring to have a get together at home, as opposed to taking it to a hotel or restaurant. Entertaining for a crowd can be quite taxing, on the home cook, but with some well-chosen dishes, the stress shouldn't arise from the food side of it. As a rule, if I'm entertaining a crowd, I try to avoid any cooking after the guests have arrived, so anything that I'm serving will be ready from the night before. I generally go for two main dishes, mostly sticking to the beef or chicken scenario. Most curries, stews or lasagnes benefit greatly from sitting in the fridge overnight, making them a perfect choice for this sort of gathering.  I find it nice to have some nibbles ready for when my guests arrive. A few bowls of olives, cheese, bread sticks and hummus will take the hunger pangs away from guests and gives an extra few minutes to preparing the feast. When it comes to dessert, most children will be very content with a bowl of ice-cream but, for a special occasion, a couple of luscious treats will give an ideal finish to any family party. A meringue roulade is one dessert that is very easy to make but it looks so impressive and tastes really fantastic. The meringue base can be made the day before, then assembled and refrigerated a few hours before serving. I like the combination of the tangy lemon curd and raspberries with the sweet meringue & cream but any soft fruit would work beautifully here.

Here's Jack testing if the meringue is ready for the oven. You should be able to hold the bowl upside down, without the meringue moving!
This is a nice, easy dessert for the children to help make. 

Lemon Curd & Raspberry Meringue Roulade

4 egg whites
225g (8oz) caster sugar

For the filling
150mls (5fl oz) cream, lightly whipped
125g (4oz) fresh raspberries
2 tbsp lemon curd
Icing sugar, for dusting


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C(fan)/390°F/gas mark 6. Line a Swiss roll tin with grease proof paper, folding over the sides of the tin. Brush lightly with vegetable oil.
  2. Place the egg whites in the spotlessly clean bowl of an electric food mixer or you could use a large bowl and a hand whisker. Whisk until soft peaks form.
  3. Add the sugar all in one go (but if using a hand-held beater add the sugar in stages) and whisk at full speed for about 4–5 minutes until stiff peaks form.
  4. Smooth the meringue into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for 15–20 minutes, until faintly browned and firm to the touch.
  5. Allow the meringue to cool for a few minutes, then turn out onto a sheet of foil (slightly bigger than the roulade) and gently remove the foil from the base of the meringue. Allow to cool completely.
  6. For the filling, lightly whip the cream.
  7. Spread the lemon curd evenly over the meringue. Top with a layer of cream, leaving the long edge nearest to you free of a little filling. Cover the lemon curd and cream with the raspberries.
  8. Holding the foil closest to you, roll up the roulade away from you. Really you are just folding it over. Refrigerate and leave it in the foil until you are ready to serve.
  9. Just before serving, unwrap the roulade and gently push it onto a serving dish using a palette knife or cake slice, open side down. Dust with icing sugar and if you wish decorate with a few more raspberries.