28 July 2012

My Italian Fix at Eataly in New York

Back in 1989 I was in my third year in college and I was lucky enough to spend the year abroad - from The College of Wooster in Ohio and spend the year studying Italian and Art History at the Syracuse University program in Florence, Italy. I've been obsessed with Italy ever since and completely fell in love with the food, the architecture, the art and well the men weren't so bad either...but that's a story for another day.
Anyway, on my recent trip to New York for a brief 48 hours a PR friend of mine was free to meet me for lunch and she suggested we meet in Eataly. Having  moved out of New York over 5 years ago - I've been bad about keeping up with the latest and greatest but of course like to visit something new every trip.

Well I was delighted and arrived in early from the hot and stickiness of the New York summer streets. A cool oasis filled with the tastes and smells of Italy everywhere. I was back in Florence all those years ago - walking around watching one person making mozzarella another young man was cutting a huge wheel of parmesan. In La Piazza (above in the middle of the space) you can sit at high table and sample foods from the myriad of stalls around you.

The cheese counter with salami and prosciutto hanging overhead.
 My friend and I ate in Manzo a restaurant inside the cavernous space - which was handy as we knew we had a place to sit. Eataly was founded by Oscar Farinetti and his partners include Mario Batali - renowned chef - author of 8 cookbooks and owner of 15 restaurants plus a slew of televisions show Italian cooking is synonymous with Batali. Also a big name with Italian cooking is Lidia Bastianich - she too is an author, restaurateur but also owner of a food and entertainment business. Her son Joe Bastianich, also a partner, has followed close behind her in the same footsteps -additionally Slow Food Italy and photographer David Gallizio are key partners. Slow Food acts as a consultant for Eataly - helping the establishment keep their quality control up to standard while continuing to provide delicious Italian food at reasonable prices.
Fresh Pastas.
Visiting Eataly made me yearn to return to Italy even more. It's been 22 years since I left Florence and I still pine for the place. I'm hoping next summer our family can get to Italy as I'd love to show my husband and daughter the magic and wonder of all that it has to offer. 
The pasta aisle.
Fish Market.
The Piazza  again.
Fruit and fresh vegetables.

If you are in New York and craving an Italian fix - don't forget to visit Eataly conveniently located on 23rd Street and 5th Avenue.
Many thanks to my dear friend Jeanne Byington - who has a lovely blog of her own - and grazie mille for the delicious Italian lunch at Manzo. Bellisimo!! 

06 July 2012

Curry - Perfect for Rainy Irish Summers

Before I moved to Ireland - I really had no idea how big curries were in this country. Sure I knew about curry and chips - especially after a long night out on your way home but curry in Ireland? It never really made huge sense to me. And I'm sure one of you can tell me why curry is so popular here but I'm convinced it has something to do with the weather. The damp chilly evenings we get - all year round mind you - not just in winter - today being a prime example of a miserable summer day and to me nothing feels more comforting than a spicy warm curry to get right into your bones.
I'm not particularly partial to curry sauces in a jar - I think it has something to do with my age - my body craves much more natural food - less processed and also I love making my own dishes - the process the smell of onions frying up in a pan and then adding in spices and coconut milk and all the other ingredients. One of my absolute favourite ingredients to add into many dishes is fresh ginger - I buy it fresh - peel it and then keep the chunks in a Ziploc back in the freezer. When I need a piece - I pop in the microwave for about 10 seconds and it's immediately ready to use.
So while I love making my own dishes from scratch - perfecting the right spice mix to make a truly delicious curry does not come easily and that is where the company Green Saffron comes to the rescue. Green Saffron is an Irish company based in Middleton, Co. Cork.

Green Saffron has a stand set up in the Limerick Milk Market on Saturdays and I've become quite addicted to their convenience ready made bags of spices including Rogan Josh - Tikka Masala  and Korma among others. Not only do they have the most charming Frenchman working on the stand - Sophia and I have had long conversations with him about food and cooking but also when you buy these mixes you get a recipe to go with it so it is super simple. They also sell other spices such as star anise - cardamon and cloves which are always good to have on hand in the larder.
Here is the recipe from Green Saffron for:
 Rogan Josh - medium
Serves 4-6 people
500g/1lb onions, peeled, thinly sliced
60g/20z ghee, butter, clarified butter or 3 T vegetable oil
1 packet of Green Saffron Rogan Josh Spice Mix
8 cloves, garlic finely chopped or blitzed
60g or 2 fat inches of fresh ginger, grated or blitzed with skin on
1kg/2lb stewing lamb, cut into cubes (I also use chicken as I did here)
600ml/1 pint (or 4 small pots) natural, plain yoghurt
1 tin tomatoes, whizzed smooth
1 T sugar
600ml/1pint lamb stock (or water)
How To Make Your Meal:
1. Heat the ghee, butter (or clarified butter, oil) in a large casserole dish or saucepan on medium.
2. Next, add the packed of Green Saffron Rogan Josh Spice Mix and fry until you hear crackling (this will be almost instantly), then add the sliced onions and fry until golden
3. Stir in the garlic and ginger and fry for a couple of minutes.
4. Add the lamb cubes and fry for a further 15 minutes.
5. Add the yoghurt, tomatoes and sugar. Simmer on a low heat with the lid off for 30 minutes. 
6. Finally, increase the heat and stir. Then add in the stock and cook on a gentle heat until the lamb is tender (approx 1. 5 hours).
Serving Suggestions:
Sprinkle with finely chopped coriander - or a wild garlic flower (see below) and serve with Indian Basmati Rice.

All the recipes that they give with the spice packets have been tried and tested by the Green Saffron Masaalchi and therefore - pretty much guaranteed. Of course you can make your own variations and do some experimenting.
On a recent trip to the Milk Market I also picked up Green Saffron's Mango Chutney which went down a storm. Fabulous!
I served this up a few weeks ago for a family meal at our house after my father-in-law's anniversary mass. There was pretty much nothing left - young and old inhaled it with relish.
Green Saffron was at Bloom in Dublin this year as well and there I met the delightful Olive who is married to Arun Kapil. His family in India sources the best spices available and they are ground and combined here to make it easy for us all to cook delicious Indian inspired meals.
Please be sure to go to their website - Green Saffron - take a look at their incredible range in their online store - in addition to their spice blends they have fresh spices - rice and even Christmas puddings.

01 July 2012

Power of Poetry

This week I received a poem from my aunt in America. She and I have this wonderful bond - like mother and daughter - it's special - unique - I can talk to her about so many different things. We are avid supporters of each other - egging each other on and showing our support with our various ventures. She's always been writing poetry - quietly in the background in her own special way. Marking momentous occasions - the passing of time - the anniversary of the passing of a loved one. This week the poem was about me and my daughter. The story of our two lives weaving in and out of hers - her reflections and observations so diligently and carefully researched. It is not a sad poem but I cried big tears when I read it because I was so profoundly touched by her amazing insight into my life and her incredible observation to detail. 

Here it is for you to read as well. I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments.


The path is long , both real and remembered—
and it winds on into the years ahead.
A little girl takes first steps in overalls
between the snapdragons and catnip—
her Granny and her mother lean with arms
outstretched in glad welcome.   Then baptism
by the family priest with a scallop shell
near the pond with iris and daylilies,
shy deer and bold frogs, when her daddy
returns from Vietnam.  She’s the eldest, who
presides with Bunny over her brother’s
and her cousins’ christenings, in London,
after the whole family moved back.  See, she
holds a tiny fish for her just younger cousin,
because at three he’s overwhelmed by his catch. 
She conducts them all on bumper cars
at a carousel by the beach in Brittany.  Always
their senior, she advises on crossing the street,
choosing a college, finding jobs, then— in a blink,
it is she who is married with a baby girl— herself,
in turn, the eldest of her American cousins—
with dozens more in Tipperary where she lives.   
The path weaves generations across the ocean—
fastening families to their sense of home.
At eleven, our colleen writes a cooking blog,
wears a uniform.   She’s generous like her mother,
shepherds her little cousin to be a flower girl
in her uncle’s island wedding.   An only child,
she adores her role as helper.  Last summer
at her grandparents’ farm, she put the newest
baby cousin to bed, then kept disappearing upstairs
to check her breathing!  When she was satisfied,
she’d come outside to play badminton on the field.
And now she’s packing her bag to return, to watch
the swallows fly in and out of the barn, to shadow
her Maga in art studio and kitchen, and to assist
her Ba, who still tells tales of Vietnam, in his wood shop
and the vegetable garden, with its sentinel hares and fox,
and the gentle guardian rabbit on the gate.
The path is long, both real and remembered—
and it winds on into the years ahead.

Susan V Walton, 6/28/12, v2

Note: Maga and Ba are the names my daughter has given my parents. We are not sure where they really came from but my niece now calls them that too. 

22 June 2012

Nenaghgal Learns about Seaweed with Spanish Point Sea Veg

As I mentioned in my post on Bloom earlier this week - it is only now  appropriate to post about my amazing experience in Spanish Point, County Clare during the Slow Food Clare festival since to my delight Spanish Point Sea Vegetables had a booth in the artisan food market at Bloom. Ger Talty, seen here above with Birgitta Curtin of Burren Smokehouse - is one passionate man about seaweed! His family has been farming it on the coast of Clare for four generations.
A group of us  met at about ten o'clock on a blustery Saturday morning, 26th May. Quite chilly for the end of May but then what do you expect in Ireland. Thankfully I had thrown a wind proof jacket and wellies into the back of our car when we headed off. 
Several from our group and dinner from the Wild Honey Inn joined us - in the middle Dr. Stefan Bergleiter and his wife Janice, to his right, Sofie Larsson and Donal Skehan. On the far left is Sean Monaghan - who I met later and he's done a brilliant book with Andrews Gleasure called A Taste of Cork - AGourmand's Tour of Its Food and Landscape - it's available on Amazon. 
Sophia with her hood on tight - behind her is the blogger Mark Graham from A Year of Festivals in Ireland blog - he's on an ambitious project to go to 3 festivals every weekend for a year and then blog about them. Believe me - there are more than 3 festivals every weekend here in Ireland so whether you are visiting or living here full time - you should never be complaining about a lack of things to do on the weekend. In fact, I just nominated him on his page for Best Newcomer  Blog  for the Blog Awards Ireland that will be running in October. Now back to seaweed.
The seaweed master - Here Ger shows us some Sugar Kelp which is found in the extreme lower shore and in gullies and rock pools. 
Sea lettuce.
A selection of different seaweeds at Ger's feet. 

The shoreline was beautiful and we walked along looking onto rock pools - Ger picked out bits of seaweed along the way and talked about them.

Sea "asparagus" which grows in the rocks along the shore - we all picked some on our way - delicious and fresh.
Back at HQ we saw the drying room where long seaweed like the Sugar Kelp and Wakame hung and sea "salads" lay on drying rack. 
We got to taste a variety of the seaweeds - we were first served a seafood chowder with seaweed in it and even brown bread with seaweed - all delicious. Sea spaghetti has been sautéed with ginger - there was jelly too. I headed home with several packets of seaweed along with their Seaweed Bath product. I'm going to do some experimenting with cooking with it - particularly interested in using the sea spaghetti as a side dish.
Three generations of the Talty family with Donal Skehan at the end of our tour - Ger on far left, his father to the right of Donal and Ger's son Evan.
Spanish Point Sea Vegetables is on Twitter under two different handles - @Spointseaveg and @seaweedsafari - which promotes their sea foraging. Do give them a follow.

Also, just a side note - nominations for the Blog Awards Ireland 2012 are now open so please head over and nominate blogs in Ireland that you love. I'm personally interested in the Lifestyle Category because, while I do blog about food - I weave a lot more about other things into my blog. I'd appreciate your support. There's a button at the top of my home page that will give you the direct link.

Happy Friday everyone - although another rotten one weather wise here . I'm off to Russborough House tomorrow morning to meet up with fellow blogger, Lorna Sixsmith - who writes a blog for her company Garrendenny Lane - she's also one of the key organizers of the Blog Awards Ireland along a dear friend who does a lot of freelance writing.

19 June 2012

Nenaghgal Visits Bloom 2012

There has been a huge delay in my blogging of late due to a trip to London for work so I'm finally getting back on track a bit now. My apologies - even for me this is a long time.
I was lucky enough to receive an invitation from Bord Bia this year to attend a "Food Bloggers Picnic" at Bloom. The event took place on Friday the 1st of June and we met at the entrance to Bloom at 9am. It was great to see some familiar bloggers but I also got to meet many more that I was certainly familiar with but had yet to meet in person. 
Bloom is of course,  known for it's amazing gardens and this year did not disappoint. I've always loved visiting show gardens - seeing unusual plantings - taking tips on how to pair different plants together and generally creating an appealing garden. I loved these wire floral globes in this garden - while not easily translated at home - they still inspired me.

This contemporary garden of sorts had hay bales and white sheets woven through trees.
Loved the planting here - interesting texture and combinations. Below - a winner on many counts really appealed to a wide range of people. I'm a sucker for lupines and primroses and this garden had an outstanding display of them. The borders were lush and overflowing with colour and drama.

Glenisk yoghurt created the Lorax garden which was an innovative way to continue to brand this delicious range of yoghurts. Recently Glenisk gave my blog a mention on their newsletter so I was delighted to meet Emma first hand and the garden was inventive and practical. I have used their yoghurt to make this moist lemony yoghurt cake - recipe on my blog - really is delicious.

Here Emma shows our blogging group some of the key elements of the garden.
There were bug houses on the walls and innovative recycling using cans and used yoghurt cartons.

I loved all the circular elements in this garden, above. And was in awe of this gorgeous Iris I found.

I found these colour combinations particularly unusual and pleasing - many of which I have incorporated into my own garden in Nenagh. My own hydrangea is just coming out and my alliums are sadly now finished - would never be able to have them timed so beautifully !

This garden had a wild display of foxgloves, another favourite plant of mine and below spectacular primulas envelop a big clay pot.

After our main blogging activities were over Sophia and I returned to see more and she could not resist having a climb in this beautiful tree - all the kids were doing it! 
Of course, many of you know that Bloom would not be Bloom without the food tents filled with wonderful food producers from throughout the country.  As we were busy in the morning gathering goodies for our Food Blogging Picnic I did not take as many photos as I should have. All my favourite companies were there including Burren Smokehouse - the ever charming and enthusiastic Birgitta and I had a few brief moments to catch up, Goatsbridge - Sophia and I finally got to try the famed caviar. Delicious, salty and a wonderful pop of flavour. From North Tipperary - The SculleryTipperary Kitchen, Crossogue Preserves and Inch House were there. I finally got to meet Green Saffron (below) - I'm a huge fan of theirs and have buying their ready made spice mixes for Tikka Marsala, Rogan Josh etc from their stand in the Limerick Milk Market for the last few months - never fail curry - one evening I made one and the smell literally brought my neighbour Johnny in through the house to find out what it was. Really fabulous. For those of you  who don't live in Ireland - curry and chips is a very standard take out meal here and until I moved here - almost 5 years ago, I had no idea about this - curry, in Ireland? Yes curry in Ireland. Maybe it's age or something but I find it really hard to consume much takeaway these days not that I ever did but it just does not suit my body anymore so making a good curry at home is much better - nothing warms the soul on a rainy Irish evening - all year round!! 
Spanish Point SeaVegetables were there who I had met recently during the Slow Food Clare weekend -  my post on our fabulous seaweed foraging morning is done and will be following this one later in the week  - again my apologies on my delay with everything - this week I'm cutting back my hours at work after commuting 250 kilometres a day for the last 10 months - I won't know myself with two days less in the car. 
Sophia and I also enjoyed the animals and perfectly planned rows of lettuce. 
The food blogging picnic was great fun and an innovative way to get us food bloggers not only to interact with each other and Irish food producers but also a way for us to introduce the international bloggers to the wealth of Irish produce. Many thanks to Maeve Desmond from Bord Bia not only for the invitation but also putting together the idea. Our team included myself - Kathryn Laing from The Purple Page, Sarah Nicholson from Cake in the Country, Paula Ryan from Paula's Kitchen Table, Frank Murphy, a UK blogger from FrankMurphy100, Michell Minnaar, also from the UK from the blog, Greedy Gourmet and Anne Lataillade from the French blog, Papilles et Pupilles ( I just looked at her blog and her post on Bloom on 11 June is beautifully photographed)..

I just had to put together a little collage of this incredible display inside the tent of primulas - to die for!! I've got to buy up a mass of these to add to my rockery project I'm going to try and implement in my garden this summer. 
One last thing, yesterday my daughter Sophia launched her own blog called The Crazy Miss Matched Blog - she is doing all the writing herself and coming up with the themes and I'm doing a tiny bit of supervising - helping her see glaring spelling mistakes or the way she has written it - she is not on Twitter nor do I think she needs to be yet. Please take a look. Many thanks.