Support your local restaurant

AWARDS are two a penny these times, so much so that they often come and go with minimum publicity.

However, the recent 2010 Georgina Campbell Ireland Awards caused a significant stir, not only because of the calibre of the winners, but also because Georgina Campbell issued a dire warning about the consequences of incessant haggling in restaurants and hotels to the point where it has become totally uneconomic for many establishments to operate.

“Many fine establishments have cut costs to the bone and businesses are now literally hanging by a thread,” Georgina Campbell said. “Prices have often been reduced to an unsustainable level and yet there is constant pressure from the public to make even further cuts.”

Georgina Campbell complimented this year’s award winners for showing “a determination to keep standards up while prices fall”.

This is far from easy. If prices are cut too much it becomes impossible to deliver top-quality service so when guests arrive they are disappointed when the experience does not live up to the expectation.

But back to the awards — Georgina Campbell’s Hotel of the Year Award 2010 went to the Brooklodge and Wells Spa, Macreddin, Co Wicklow, owned by Evan Doyle.

“Brook Lodge has earned national recognition for its strong position on organic food — and their organic food markets are legendary,” Georgina Campbell said.

Campagne in Kilkenny, described as a “bling-free zone” won Restaurant of the Year for “its exceptional dining experience. No fancy large plates, no extravagant flowers, nothing at all showy, just exceptional attention to detail, well judged flavour combinations and perfect French inspired modern cooking.” Doesn’t that description make you want to whizz to Kilkenny right away. Opposite, owner Chef Gareth Byrne shares his recipe for deep fried smoked haddock, poached egg, spring onion hollandaise

Chef of the Year Award was presented to a chef I have admired for some time, Eamon O’Reilly of One Pico in Dublin. Next time you are in the city seek out his delicious food in Molesworth Place in the city centre.

There were a whole raft of other awards, four of which also came to Co Cork. The Quality Hotel in Clonakilty, Co Cork, owned by two local businessmen won the Family Friendly Hotel of the Year. According to Georgina “many happy families vote with their feet by heading back to this hotel, every year”.

The Natural Food Award went to Carmel Somers of Good Things Café in Durrus for “using the very best of fresh, seasonal and mainly local foods — and preparing them simply and with style, to showcase their natural goodness and the quality produce of the locality”.

There was also great excitement in Shanagarry — the Wine Award of the Year went to Ballymaloe House much to the delight of Sommelier Colm McCann and wine consultant Sascha Whelan who have gone to extraordinary lengths to source special gems for the wine list.

Another family business, Aherne’s Seafood Restaurant in Youghal, won the Seafood Circle Restaurant of the Year. For the entire list of 2010 award winners see www.ireland-guide.com/ award/index.php

So hats off to Georgina Campbell for flagging up this issue. Her advice to all of us is “to think twice before pushing restaurants and hotels beyond their limit — if for no other reason than enlightened self-interest. After all we will no longer be able to enjoy our favourite places if they go out business — consumers need to think long and hard before pressing for even better bargains”.

Brooklodge’s Grilled Organic Kerry Black Rib Eye Beef, Roast Portobello Mushrooms, Roquefort Cheese Crust and Red Wine Jus

Due to the stalwart dedication of Raymonde Hilliard and others in protecting the Kerry Black Cow down through the years, we now have a sizeable herd in Ireland. And there are now regular occasions in the kitchen of The Strawberry Tree where we have the honour of serving this to our guests. We use organic ingredients at Brooklodge.

4 x 200g Kerry black rib eye beef

4 x Portobello mushrooms

80g Roquefort cheese

1 onion

100g bread crumbs

80g butter

A few sprigs thyme, parsley and bay leaves

1 clove garlic

¼ bottle of red wine

½ litre of beef stock

Salt and black pepper

Cheese Crust: Soften the butter in a mixing bowl, add the cheese and whisk together, add bread crumbs, chopped garlic, parsley, thyme and ½ one onion add salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

Red wine Jus: Slice the remaining ½ onion and cook in pan till caramelised. Add red wine and bay leaf and reduce heat till a syrup. Then add beef stock and reduce to sauce consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Roast the Portobello Mushrooms in the oven with a little butter, thyme salt and pepper.

Grill the rib eyes in a grillette pan to your liking, add the cheese crust and then grill until crusty.

Serve with the mushrooms and sauce.

Brooklodge’s Marmalade Pudding

This is a recipe given to The Strawberry Tree by the wonderful Shirley Spear. Shirley runs the acclaimed Three Chimneys Restaurant on a remote corner of The Isle of Skye off Scotland. Here is a fabulous winter pudding to warm you whether in Ireland or Scotland.

Serves 6

150g brown bread crumbs

120g light brown sugar

25g self raising wholemeal flour

120g butter

360g coarse cut marmalade

3 eggs

1 tsp bicarbonate soda

1 tsp boiling water

Melt the butter and marmalade in a saucepan over a gentle heat.

Mix the flour, bread crumbs and sugar and add to marmalade and butter.

Whisk eggs till fluffy and gently beat into the marmalade mixture.

Dissolve Bicarbonate with water and add to mixture.

Pour into a 2lb pudding bowl, wrap tightly, put into saucepan of water and cover, bring to the boil and simmer for 2–2½ hours.

Ahern’s Poached Turbot & Prawns with a Chablis Cream Sauce

200g fillet of turbot

5 cooked peeled fresh prawns

75 ml white wine

1 lemon

1 onion

75 ml cream

4oz butter

Herbs: chives, coriander, parsley

Poach the fillet of turbot in wine, water, lemon wedges & herbs.

When the turbot is cooked (opaque in colour), remove from liquid. Reduce liquid to half of its volume, add a little cream and whisk in 4oz of butter.

Replace the fillet of turbot in the sauce, add chopped herbs then serve with fresh parsley and lemon wedge.

NOTE: Monkfish could be substituted for turbot in this recipe.

Campagne’s Deep Fried Smoked Haddock, Poached Egg and Spring Onion Hollandaise

Serves 4

4 x 100 g portions natural smoked haddock

50g flour

50g egg white

100g panko breadcrumbs

4 egg yolks

2 tbsp lemon juice

200g clarified butter

½ bunch spring onion, very finely sliced

4 organic or free range eggs

mashed potato

For the haddock: Remove skin and any small bones from the fish. Dust lightly with the flour, remove the excess and then dip into the egg white. Drain and dip into the breadcrumbs, coat evenly and place in fridge while preparing the poached eggs and sauce.

Bring a pan of water to the boil, add a dash of vinegar and poach the eggs to your liking. Remove and keep warm.

Place the butter in a pan and heat until melted and slightly warm. Whisk egg yolks and lemon juice together over a very low heat until a sabayon forms and the egg yolks are thick but not scrambled. Slowly add the melted butter a little at a time until it is all incorporated, season with salt and add the spring onion to serve.

Warm the mashed potato and pipe onto warm plates. Deep fry the haddock at 180C until golden brown, remove from fryer and season. Gently reheat the eggs and place on top of the mashed potato, placing the haddock beside it. Put a good tablespoon of sauce over the egg and serve immediately.

One Pico Vanilla Cheese Cake Mousse with Berry Compote

Serves 4

150g Philadelphia cream cheese

50g double cream

30g castor sugar

1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped out

Squeeze of juice from ¼ lemon (1 tsp)

For the topping:

6 plain hobnob biscuits

25g sugar

Berry Compote:

100g frozen mixed berries

50g castor sugar

First make the berry compote by reducing berries and sugar to a thick compote by placing in a pan for 10 minutes. Set aside and cool.

Now make the biscuit base. Crush the biscuits to a rough crumble texture. Place the biscuit mix into a large pan, sprinkle with sugar and caramelise quickly for five minutes. Cool & set aside.

Now make the cheese filling. Place the cream cheese, sugar and the seeds from the vanilla pod into a mixing bowl. Whisk on a low setting until it is mixed well.

Now add the cream, a little at a time making sure there are no lumps.

Then add the juice from half a lemon and whisk until the mixture starts to thicken.

As soon as the mixture becomes thick turn the machine off. Place in a piping bag ready to pipe.

Firstly place compote in martini glass, then pipe in cheesecake mousse. Top with caramelised biscuit.

One Pico Guinness Bread

250g strong flour

250g pinhead oatmeal

200g wheat bran

125g wheat germ

½ can of treacle

1 can of Guinness or stout

¾ tbsp bread soda

120ml milk

Mix all dry ingredients then slowly add in wet while continuing to mix. Place in two pre-greased tins and bake at 160C for 1½ hours checking all the time. Please note fan assisted ovens vary times (please watch accordingly).

Serve with crab salads or toasted with smoked salmon or simply toasted for breakfast. Portion into quarters and it freezes really well.

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