Fermentalist with a fetish for fatty foods. Don't listen to those looneys telling you that fat is bad for you. Love your gut, eat real food. Writer at Irish Examiners on Saturdays and Irish Independent and Sunday Times, Food and Wine Mag and Tourism Ireland
I didn't think it was possible to enjoy a scenario where, technically I lost the challenge
I felt really nervous coming up to the screening of the programme, as of course I knew I'd lost so I wasn't keen on seeing that on TV.
Given that I was finished an hour and a half before my opponent Niamh, and I had no food sent I was pretty sure I had won. All my food was actually cooked!!!! A simple requirement in any kitchen. I wasn't aware of the effect of the tarte tatin. That was the dish that won me the first round and lost me the second. Just shows that the palate of a chef and that of Joe public are worlds apart. It's good enough for Kevin Dundon but not for the customers???
Chocolate deserts are always a winner. Chocolate fondant is everywhere and I make a mean one myself. It's a yummy thing and clearly was a good choice
All that said and done, I'm thrilled with the programme. I had no idea I could do that and I'm really happy with how I came across on camera, I made lots of jokes and was caught with my pants donw a few times. If you're wondering what the hell was going on with the stock, then I have to confess and tell it was a chef friend who gave me some as as a present. It's no biggie, but I was so clearly lying!!! Like a bold child with jam all over their face.
Thanks to friends who sent me the following text messages: It's all about the love at the end of the day...........and the edit :)
Well done!! You were great, and what a compliment to be referred to as "cool" in such a stressed environment! You are very photogenic!!
Michaela - Alchemist Earth Limerick
John Flynn- Limerick: Magic
Tom Mann- Abbeyfeale: Lookin Hot Val, you were excellent, a natural, the camera loves you (I like this one)
Stewie McMahon- Limerick: Saw the show, I disagree with the result, Disgraceful, well done
Emer Sherry - Co. Clare: Well done! Was V impressed with the show. Needless to say we think you should have won
Des Fry- Limerick: We watched and enjoyed,. We both think you were robbed. Well done
Claire McEntee- Dublin: Val you were tobed and u played a blinder and u looked fantastic
Sinead- Limerick : Well done Val, Cool out you did great
Lorna Hodkinson - Limerick: Well done u were excellent
Martina Hill - Wicklow : You were robbed! You looked like a natural in the kitchen though!
Carmel Fallon - Congrats and well done- you should have won- great achievement anyway
Caroline Rigney: I thought you said you lost! Clearly not, they got the numbers wrong!
So time is fast approaching.... When I'll be on da telly......
Last week I developed stick-your-head-in-the-sand-and-pretend-it-isn't-happening-syndrome. I was fussin and fretting about the show, would I make an eejit of myself? Maybe but I don't have to go on TV to do that. I quickly recovered from that state of mind and then called friends who are coming over here tomorrow and good-naturedly heckle my opponents! Pizza from a supermarket should be appropriate to serve as vittles. The ads for the show have been on TV all week, I get texts from someone every time they see me on the screen, and I'm in the RTE guide with a face like a horse on prozac that hasn't kicked in yet.
As part of the "media frenzy" I'll be talking on Live 95fm tomorrow morning at 10.25 or so and then on Spin Southwest later on, sometime between 1 and 3.30, sorry for the vagueness. I'll be the studio with my "opponent" but we can't give the game away. Sour grapes. As long as I remember to say all the things I want to say (note to self- make notes!), it should be fine. I've been on radio before, It's easier than TV cos you can look like the back or a bus or be in yur PJ's with porridge dribbling down your chin and nobody knows.
So, here are my recipes from tomorrow nights show. There's venison and I just heard that they are culling deer in phoenix park so keep your eyes peeled for some good free-range Dublin city venison (?)
Scallops with Roasted Beetroot in a maple syrup and lemon dressing
scallops with roe and muscle removed
quality bacon lardoons
yellow and red cherry tomatoes
leaves and edible flowers if available
Place the beetroot in an
oven-proof dish, drizzle with olive oil and roast beets in the oven at
200°C for 20 mins until cooked, leave to cool, peel and slice into wedges
Cook the lardoons by frying
them on a pan until crispy, drain and set aside
Quarter the tomatoes
Make the dressing by mixing all
the dressing ingredients together well
In a bowl mix the beets and
slices tomatoes with half of the dressing, set aside
Dress the salad leaves lightly
in another bowl, tossing to ensure they are coated
In another bowl place the
scallops, drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper
Place a frying pan on a high
heat, when hot place the scallops on the pan, check to see that they are
turning nice and brown and after one minute turn them over. Add a large
slice of butter to the pan and swirl around
Take two large bowls or plates,
arrange some of the leaves in the centre, spoon on some of the dressed
beets and tomatoes, arrange the scallops around this and scatter over some
cooked lardoons, drizzle over a little remaining dressing from the beets,
finish with a grind of fresh black pepper
Venison and mushroom stroganoff
Ok so technically this isn't a stroganoff, as Kevin pointed out in great detail, but it's yummier and you can name it whatever. The way it's cooked and served made it more of a stroganoff than anything else, as you can call it a STROGANOT!
red onion, peeled and finely chopped
garlic, peeled and sliced
venison loin or fillet, cut into finger sized strips
quality meat stock
mushrooms like oyster, winter chanterelles, ceps
bunch flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Cook the rice by steaming it,
by the time it is cooked your dish will be ready too
In a bowl mix the venison and
paprika, and set aside for the flavours to infuse
Wipe the mushrooms clean with a
brush or damp cloth, do not wash the, it will ruin them. Break them up
into bite-sized pieces
Heat some olive oil in a large
frying pan and add the onion and garlic, cook gentle for five minutes, remove
from the pan onto a plate and turn up the heat
Heat a little more olive oil
and add the meat to the pan, it should be really sizzling. Cook the meat
quickly and add the mushrooms. Return the onions to the pan. Pour in the
hot stock and red wine, bring to bubble and cook for a minute as the
liquid reduces, season with salt and pepper and finish with the cream and
a light squeeze of lemon juice
Fluff up the rice with a fork
and serve the dish in two bowls, rice in one and meat sauce in the other
Top the meat with a spoon of
crème fraiche, some chopped parsley and sliced gherkins
Tarte Tatins with lemon curd ice cream
equal amounts of lemon curd and yogurt in a metal bowl and freeze
Smiths apples or your favourite local apples
butter – cut into cubes
1 eggs yolk
Rub the butter and flour
together until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Bind this with the egg
yolk and bring the pastry together, add a little water if it is too dry.
Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge
Peel, core and slice the apples
Take two small pans and rub
some butter on their bottoms, sprinkle with sugar and place on a medium
heat on the cooker
When the mixture turns brown
and starts to bubble, remove the pans and arrange the apples on the
caramel, return to a low heat for five minutes, watching so they don’t
Preheat the oven to 180°C
Roll out the pastry into two
discs, cut and place on top of the apples, pressing down. Prick holes in
the pastry to let any steam out
Bake for 15-20 mins until
Carefully turn the tart onto a
plate and top with a spoon of the lemon curd ice cream
One day, late in 2008, the fairy of reality TV came a knocking on my inbox.
It was an e-mail asking me if I would be interested in taking part in a TV show called Heat , starring famous chefs Kevins Dundon and Thornton. I paused for a moment, not long enough to catch my breath, and I replied, you bet I would. I'll do anything once, and somethings twice and all that...........
The next step in the vetting process was to answer a series of questions on the phone, I don't remember any of them now but I'm sure I made myself out to be all sassy and cool and interesting. I clearly said all the right things then too. A few days later the fairy of reality TV, a cute blonde girl called Debbie arrive at my front door, I was to cook her lunch while she video-ed me. Cleaning the house probably took the most time and then waiting for her while I bit my nails took a lot of the rest of the time. I cooked bangers and mash, not regular bangers and mash of course, but those amazing sausages that I'm always banging on about from Caroline Rigney in Limerick. I made colcannon and red onion gravy and it was all really yum, as the empty plate promised. I didn't have any problem with the camera, in fact it was a nice piece of gear.
A few days after that, or weeks, I'm not sure, I got another call to say that I was through and would be taking part in one of the TV shows as part of the second series. I had never watched Heat, though I am a big fan of Masterchef, so I had to pretend that I knew all about it (hmmmmmm). I was told that I would be cooking under Kevin Dundon, not literally, but that he would be my mentor. I hadn't heard much about Kevn Dundon, other than he's a nice bloke. I had heard that Kevin Thornton was a hard-ass, no shit-talking chef, and of course his restaurant is really famous. That kind of reputation is attractive but I'm a bit of a sissy and was glad that I was delivered into the hands of Mr. D and not Mr. T.
Being given this opportunity I thought, what will I do with it? Working as a food writer in Limerick and Ireland has brought me into contact with many great food producers and I've written about them and of course, I regularly eat their food. So I says to myself, I'll use as much Limerick food as I can get my hands on. And that's where the real fun began. I scoured magazines for recipe ideas, thought about what was in season and off I went, bombing around County Limerick in my Renault Megane (the one with the big bum) to meet people and get my supplies.
It was late Autumn so beetroot were about, as was venison, mushrooms and apples. I made my way to Emer O'Flaherty who runs a beautiful walled garden full of organic goodies, there I found beetroots, swiss chard and delicious crunchy salads. I was immediately converted to eating locally grown ( as much as possible) food and haven't looked back. Beetroots in the bag, I started to think about the menu. I chatted lots, grilled foodies friends and on went the search. Johnathan Sykes, of the big house in Springfield, rears his own venison herd. He assured he would soon have some for me so I put venison on the list. Rachel O'Grady in Askeaton grows lots of varieties of apples so I called in there to pick some, many different ones. John O'Connell from Kilkornan is mushroom crazy and was kind enough to give me a selection of all sorts of mushrooms from Amethysts to oyster for my dishes. Bacon lardons for my salad were from Caroline Rigney, of course!!
After much fussin, talking, asking of questions and tasting, I came up with this menu.....
There will be many blog posts about this, as it's the blog that led to this place, thank to the interweb for making opportunities and all that.....
Caramelised Kilmore Quay Scallops and Roasted Beetroot Salad
A Warm Winter Seafood Salad of Mixed Organic Greens & Root Vegetables, drizzled with a Lemon Maple Dressing
A Ragout of Springfield Venison
Sautéed with Limerick Mushrooms with a Red Wine & Cream Reduction and a Pilaf of Jasmine Rice
A Selection of Fresh Fish & Shellfish with a Vine-Ripened Tomato & Basil Sauce served on a bed of Home-Made Linguine
Warm Askeaton Apple Tarte Tatin
Caramelised Apples on Shortcrust Pastry with a Lemon Curd Ice Cream
Tea or Coffee
Just gotta get some photos from my old computer for this....
New movie from my lads here. They usually made animations but this time they went for documentary style. The film is finished just in time to enter it into the Fresh Film Festival in Limerick, an amazing festival that brought the boys from drawing at the kitchen table, to festivals in Europe and Ireland.