Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sunday Supper Club: The Gravadlax Edition

Sunday’s supper club went very well. Those that follow me on Twitter might have noticed me getting myself into a bit of a tizzy about finding dill in Brixton (apparently a military-styled task to test even the most ardent of resolves) for the Gravadlax – but all’s well that ends well. So without further ado, I present the Crumbs and Dirty Dishes Secret Supper Club: The Gravadlax Edition...

The menu :
Gina welcome cocktails
Gravadlax with New Potato Salad and Ballymaloe Brown Bread

Scallops with pancetta and purple sprouting broccoli on a bed of lentils with lemon crème fraiche

Tarte Citron
Cheese & Biscuits

November dates are 7th November and 28th November and filling up quickly. £20 for four courses and a welcome cocktail – BYO wine. Email to book a place or find out more.

Yours in hungriness,

Chomping Through South-West Ireland

Up until last month, my experience of Ireland was limited to an 18 hour stint in Dublin along with three girly friends to celebrate my 21st birthday and a few tall, dark and handsome men with irresistible accents. You might think I’m joking when I say 18 hours – I’m not even sure it was that – being young and energetic I relied on the fact that we could stay up all night, go for drinks, party and then get back to London the next morning.

Not so last month’s trip to the Emerald Isle. I wasn’t sure what to expect from a seven day gourmet tour of the country ending with the Galway Oyster Festival but it was going to have to set the bar pretty high to impress. It did.

Within an hour of getting off the plane, I was rolling up my sleeves and helping out with the feeding of one of the lambs at Rathbaun Farm: the lamb was possibly the only animal I’ve ever met whose very, very enthusiastic appreciation for its food surpassed my own – as it literally dragged me across the barn trying to get the dregs of its milk from the bottle.

Culinary treats abounded from the first day – holed up in the secluded Cashel House, I have very fond memories of the sticky toffee pudding that rounded off the evening’s dining. Forget the mediocre semi-dry sponge too often masquerading under the title of sticky toffee pudding – this dish lived up to its reputation in every sense of the word – a dense, moist pudding with lashings of toffee sauce and a dollop of cream to set it off.

The next morning, when getting on what is possibly the smallest plane in the world I might have wished I’d shown a little less gusto with the pudding the night before as I heard the dreaded words ‘Hop onto the scales then – we need to weigh you to make sure we distribute the weight evenly throughout the plane’. Urgh... but it was worth it when we stepped off the other end on the smallest Arann island Inis Aer.

After tramping around to take in the views of the small stone-wall fields and rugged coastlines, we went to the small independent Fisherman’s Cottage restaurant run by Enda and Maria Connelly for some local seafood treats – treats being the operative word. The table was piled high with simple mouthwatering fare such as lobster and crab platters, saltfish fritters, mackerel escavetch and seaweed scones. Most of the ingredients used in the dishes are sourced locally, from within a one kilometre distance – making it a locavore’s dream.

Seafood platter

Mackerel escavetch

From Inis Aer, it was a short hop skip and jump over to the biggest of the Aran Islands, Inis Mor. Although it’s the most developed of the islands, it’s still incredibly relaxed – you can still travel around the island by pony trap – though in practice this is the domain of the tourists....

Visible from much of the isle. Dun Aonghasa is a prehistoric fort atop a cliff with absolutely stunning views out to the mainland. So focused was I on storming my way up to the top, I just about caught the rainbow that saw fit to appear at the very moment we reached the fort. Didn’t run off in search of the leprechaun though, rather a shame as a pot of gold wouldn’t go amiss but hey....

Like all island people, the folk on Inis Mor know how to party in my personal favourite sense of the word – great food and a spot of craic: the destination? Ti Joe Watty’s... Local singers and musicians take to the stage while the pub focuses on putting out some rather mouth-watering treats. I maintain that the lobster and chips might not only be one of the tastiest I’ve ever tasted but was definitely the best value at €29 for a monster-sized portion...

Back on the mainland, we drove through the picture-perfect views of County Galway and County Mayo before settling in at Delphi Mountain Resort for a pampering session complete with a seaweed bath – a novel experience to say in the least. In line with the resort’s emphasis on sustainability , food is sourced as locally as possible before being served in the restaurant.

Views from Delphi Mountain Resort

And then, it was time. We wended our way to Galway for the Oyster Festival – the perfect place to gorge yourself on the world-famous Galway Bay Oysters and shake a leg at what’s been named as one of the 12 best experiences on earth. The festival was made up of a series of events from the official opening ceremony to black tie dinners and afternoon celebrations. We’d barely settled into the hotel before we were whisked off to put back a few pints of Guinness (or other tipple of choice) in the local pubs in preparation for the Friday night party.

I can’t say I have ever encountered a night where I’ve quaffed lots of champagne, eaten oysters and not had a good night and myself and new mate Jill ended up storming the dancefloor later as the party stepped up a notch.

It follows that a good night can be followed by a slightly err rougher morning – if it wasn’t for the fact that we were going to a cheese shop and deli, I’m not sure getting out of bed before midday would have been a valid option at all. I was rather glad when we got to Sheridan’s Cheese Shop & Deli and Seamus Sheridan announced it was his birthday and promptly cracked out a few bottles of prosecco accompanied by (of course) more oysters.

The deli is one of the orginial artisan cheesemongers in Ireland and the perfect place to pick up local cheeses like Cashel Blue – a rather punchy blue cheese and Durras an unpastureised cow’s milk cheese from West Cork.

We carried on with the festivities with the afternoon gala lunch where the official Guinness World Oyster Opening Championship takes place. Though mainly occupied with tasting the seafood platters, oysters and other delights tantalisingly wafting past me – I did take the time out to notice that the oyster opening contestants have rather delicious arms, especially when employed in opening up one of my favourite little tidbits. When I do finally write my Mills & Boon bodice ripper, it will involve one of the said contestants – Mr Ireland and Mr Sweden would make particularly good fodder methinks.

And then, it was almost all over – but not before we’d spend the night at the wonderfully quaint and romantic Mustard Seed Lodge in Adare, County Limerick. Game dishes such as the rabbit terrine particularly stood out for their intense flavours, as did the braised duck (gorgeous), the crème brulee too was definitely something special. In the morning it was one last full Irish breakfast and then time to go home – sad. That said, I can’t imagine it will be that long before I make my way back.....