Notes from the Kitchen… Wild Mushroom Soup

Wild Mushrooms 250g
Dried Mushrooms 250g
White Onion 1
Garlic 1 Bulb
White Wine 250ml
Water 500ml
Cream 500ml
Coarse Black Pepper
Lemon Juice

I’m going to let you in on a little secret soup method that they (probably) don’t teach you in culinary school. It’s called the chuck-everything-in-a-pot-and-cook-it-til-it’s-done method. Puréed soups lend themselves extremely well to this style of cooking. Now if you think you can make this soup taste better by carefully caramelizing this, or simmering that, you go right ahead. I’ll be having a drink by the fire while you’re busy fawning over the soup.

All you need to do to make this delicious soup is follow these three simple directions:

1. Combine everything except the lemon, salt and pepper in a pot. Bring it up to temperature without letting it boil over, and simmer gently for 15-20 minutes, or until the dried mushrooms have softened and the cream has had time to reduce a little.

2. Pureé with a hand blender. If you don’t have a hand blender you should reconsider attempting this soup, but a regular blender will work too. Also, you may want to put it through a medium-gauge sieve before serving to give it a more refined consistency.

3. Finish with fresh lemon, salt & pepper to taste, and if you really want to add some wow factor, drizzle a little truffle oil into each bowl just as it’s being served.

Notes from the Kitchen… Basket Case

​​I think there’s something great about eating the thing that your food comes in. A crunchy foil​ ​housing a gooey centre. Gooey things can be delicious but they’re, well. . . gooey. So in the kitchen, I’m always on the lookout for new flavour delivery vehicles. A cool looking, crispy and compact way to present the goo to varying numbers of guests, with various dietary requirements. This can be a tricky manoeuvre, especially, for the first course. It’s always a little more intricate, and it sets the stage for the meal. Working from a set menu, you want to be sure you get everyone’s attention right away.

We all know that gluten is particularly troublesome these days, and cooking without it can be ​… ​challenging. Please don’t get me wrong. Gluten intolerance is a curse, and not just for the chef. My taste​​buds ache for people who can’t eat pancakes. Genetically modified wheat strains are wrecking us and our stomachs. But for the record, when I’ve custom made a gluten free menu for someone who eats pancakes for breakfast, it increases my intolerance.

Enter the potato basket. Imagine something between and potato chip (crisp) and a french fry (chip) strong enough to hold your soup, but tasty enough that you could eat a bag of them. Now fill it with just about anything you like. It’s perfect.

It took an incredible amount of experimenting to get them right, but it was worth all the smashed muffin tins, and now, when I’m serving a large number of guests, I have a uniform delivery vehicle that can be customised to even the most specific of dietary requirements​… ​unless of course you’re allergic to potatoes.

The Beginning…

There was a time in my life when it would have been unimaginable to me that I would be writing a piece about life in the country with any personal insight.  I was a city boy, raised in Canada, and spent years touring from city to city playing music with various bands. I was aware of the country, and drove through it often on my way to the next gig. But I wouldn’t have known what to do with myself if I was ever left there for an extended period of time. That was then.

The short story of how I got here is that I spent my first 28 years in Canada, moved to Ireland to study for a year, met my darling wife Hannah (saw her house) and fell instantly in love.  The opportunity arose to change my career path as a musician, when her parents decided to retire. They had been running Roundwood House as a country guest house since Hannah was five years old, and handed the reigns to Hannah and I in the summer of 2008.

There is an adjustment period though; trading city life for country life. Out here, life is work. Paddy the musician, didn’t understand what life was going to be like living in the shticks, but Paddy the chef wonders how many songs I would have written if I’d had the work ethic then that I’ve had to adopt living here. The city kid’s natural instinct when anything goes wrong is to call the experts. If you live in an apartment and your toilet backs up, you call the landlord and ask him to send a plumber, and as if by magic, when he leaves, your toilet flushes again. But this is not the case when you’re the landlord, the plumber, the electrician, the list goes on. You’re expected to be able to deal with small maintenance issues. So you try it yourself, break it a little more, then call the expert.

The city also gives you a certain immunity to noise. It took me a long time to get used to the silence here. Living in a city provides you with a sub-conscious soundtrack to the sound of humans. Most of it is filtered out and disregarded.  Car alarms and sirens. Laughter, jackhammers, and kids. Any one of these sounds now however, would wake me in an instant.  I have become an expert in every unnatural sound in the country, and any time I hear one, I will immediately try to determine where it’s coming from and why it is being made. You could say I’ve traded filters. I no longer respond to creaks in the middle of the night, or the ungodly sound of a vixen in heat, which would make any city dweller with a sense of self preservation hide under the sheets. But a car door closing in the night will have me down the stairs and outside before I’ve even woken up, and you don’t need an alarm clock when the birds are telling you that there’s work to be done. This new life couldn’t be more different than my old one. I’ve traded noise for silence, anonymous for personal, and I’ve made life my job… I wouldn’t trade it back for anything. It’s a good life.

Angela’s 80th Birthday Party

We had the pleasure of hosting Angela’s 80th birthday party last weekend and if anyone thinks 80 is old they obviously haven’t met Angela. She looks amazing and has the energy of someone half her age. Hang on, I’m half her age and I don’t have her energy so that argument doesn’t quite work.

After having dinner with her family and friends she came into the kitchen, took me aside and said something that has stayed with me since then –

“Do you know your house has a little bit of magic in it? I don’t know if you feel it because you’re here every day but it is a special kind of magic and I hope you believe me when I tell you it exists”.

Happy birthday Angela. Here’s to many more…

John’s 70th Birthday Party

We were delighted to host a surprise party for John in September, arranged by his wonderful wife Annette (who was very relieved when the day arrived and she could stop living in fear of ruining the surprise).

The following is an excerpt of a review she posted on TripAdvisor –

“We have just returned from a wonderful weekend at Roundwood House where a group of family and friends (35 in all) celebrated John’s 70th birthday! It was truly magical and we felt so much at home in this great house. Hannah and Paddy and their two gorgeous girls obviously love sharing their home with their guests. They were the perfect hosts – there when we needed them and quietly in the background the rest of the time. It felt like such a happy place and the food was just amazing – we hadn’t realised that we would have such a gourmet feast for dinner and again in the morning for breakfast… Our friends think we are now the perfect event managers but really all we had to do was to contact Hannah and she, Paddy, Marie and all the staff did the rest.”

how do you cure an egg yolk

Notes from the Kitchen… How do you cure an egg yolk?

How do you cure an egg yolk? First, you have to get it to admit that it’s sick. But after that it’s a pretty easy process – gently bury it in equal parts salt and sugar… and wait.

The first time I saw someone curing an egg yolk on YouTube, I jumped out of my chair and immediately burrowed a dozen yolks into a sugar and salt bath, and then noted the effects on each as I pulled them out at different time increments. But even when I found the perfect curing time and fleshed out all the different methods to produce this tasty little garnish, the question still remained. . . now that it’s cured, what do I do with it?

Ted and I have great fun in the kitchen playing the “What if?” game. What if we put this with that? That with this? What if we tried braising it instead of roasting it? What if we use yogurt instead of cream? It’s discovering the answers to some of these questions that has led us to some pretty interesting plates.

Sometimes it’s immediately clear if something has worked. . . or if it hasn’t. Then there are the times that the initial results disappoint, but potential remains and you wait  until the day inspiration finds you and one slight tweak leads to a stunning success.

The slightly cured “just long enough” version  that produced a thin savoury membrane over the luminous, raw yolk, naturally made us think of breakfast. Black pudding and streaky bacon. The debut performance of our slightly cured egg yolk was basically a bite sized breakfast complete with hollandaise sauce served in a potato basket. The black pudding component eventually got melded into a delicious croquette, which in turn lent itself very well to our homemade raisin chutney.

And then came the day we asked “What should we do with these asparagus that won’t last much longer?”

Wrap them in proscuitto and serve them with a black pudding croquette and the lonely cured egg yolks. Obviously.

It writes itself.