Neasa does it by the book

Nessa Robins has finally got round to putting her popular blog, Nessa’s Family Kitchen, onto the printed page in a new book, Apron Strings (New Island Cookery), a mixum-gatherum of recipes, household tips, party and picnic ideas and cockle-warming tales of family and friends and her efforts to feed ’em all. With this former nurse also furnishing a list of natural food-based home remedies, it’s the class of tome a body could wind up consulting from the crack of dawn to the dead of night.

Winners and winning festivals

Congrats to our own Darina Allen on her recent Lifetime Achievement award from the British Guild of Food Writers while Siobhán Ní Ghairbhith’s exceedingly handsome organic goat’s cheese, St Tola Ash Log, was named Supreme Champion 2013 at the recent Irish Cheese Awards. The Dunmore East Food Festival offers (Jun 21-23) ‘Food, Fish & Fun’ — all The Menu ever seems to do anyway in the impossibly beautiful little seaside town ( but Taste of Dublin (Jun 13-16), on the other hand, has a list as long as your arm, including top restaurants and chefs, masterclasses, live entertainment and more than 120 producers, so expect big crowds in the glorious Iveagh Gardens. Finally, another tidy series of cookery classes is planned for Galway’s Aniar Restaurant and Boutique Cookery School, under the esteemed tutelage of JP McMahon.

Only here for the beer

The Menu, taking his own hindquarters out for a constitutional and a lick of that recently returned prodigal sun, somehow found himself stretching like a cat in the baking Blackrock Castle courtyard, home to The Castle Cafe, with nothing to ease his pain save one of Dungarvan Brewing Company’s finest ales. Whereupon he received tidings of a new Weissbier from the fine White Gypsy brewery in Templemore, brewed exclusively for the The Castle Cafe/Market Lane posse, to be paired, if so desired, with an especially created pan-fried monkfish dish with spinach mash, smoked bacon lardons, roast parsnips and a honey lemon jus. ( And speaking of outdoor nosh — The Menu recently encountered the lovely Sarah Baker of cookery school and top hospitality destination Cloughjordan House, Co Tipperary, and hopes to join her renowned Long Table Dinner (Jun 29) serving finest local produce and live entertainment (

Today’s special

The Menu has long believed chocolate is not just for Easter cavities, so The Good Little Cook’s homemade fresh Cocoa Tagliatelle was right up his street — a mere minute in boiling water for the class of al dente that only comes with freshly made pasta. It could be devoured with nothing more than some country butter, fresh basil and a little ground pepper but those hint-of-smoky-cocoa notes perfectly underpinned The Menu’s hot’n’spicy rabbit ragu.

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