Tag Archives: Food

Day Two: #AFairLand Alive and Kicking at IMMA

Day two at A Fair Land began in earnest. The courtyard has yet to fully transform due to technicalities but it’s a definite work-in-progress.

But first, let me talk a bit about the project’s creators: Grizedale Arts.

Based on the historic site of Lawson Park farm in the Lake District in the UK, their site still runs as a productive farm house, with a multifaceted programme of events, projects, residencies and community activity taking place there.

freshly-harvested-courgettes

With an aim to develop contemporary art in new directions (especially with an emphasis on food, value for art and resourcefulness), they are trying to work beyond the Romantic and Individualist frameworks that have dominated art history.

What I loved hearing about was how they really wanted to involve the local community in their projects, something that I find some artists do not do or simply don’t think about.

crackers-with-pickle

For Grizedale Arts, it’s about bringing projects to a wider audience, concentrating on the process itself rather than the finished product. This to me is a brilliant approach to contemporary art.

The arts organisation worked with three main groups to make A Fair Land happen. The first group is from the Creative Villages of Leytron in Switzerland, that worked on the straw bale Glut Garden. Second, was Coniston that worked on the house building and signage and finally, Sweetwater Foundation from Chicago, a project that is building a new system for a new way of living.

So what was going on today? Well, it was all about serving up and creating food. Kitted out in rather fetching aprons we put together nibbles for mobile vendors who would be selling delightful crackers with courgette pickle and carrot drip.

a-fair-land-food-vendors

But why grow courgettes? Why choose them over other vegetables? As proven by their innovations for this particular project: they’re so versatile.

Three core questions lie at the heart of the project: is it useful? Is it desirable? Is it achievable? They also needed to show that this was a product that people could easily use with simple resources.

What Grizedale Arts needed was a food that would easily create a glut so that they had mountains to work with. The fact that they’re continuing to grow in bales of straw is further proof at how manageable they are to grow and maintain as a vegetable.

With all this in mind, I happily continued work as part of the A Fair Land Food School team, prepping dishes for the public who were coming in for lunch.

carrots-getting-read-for-roasting
Carrots and garlic ready for roasting!

Lunch is a three-course affair on communal tables to spark conversation between diners. Food is served at 1pm and there are 20 minutes between courses so whether you’re finished or not, after 20 minutes the food is going to go!

Diners use the same bowl for each course, spoons are made of clay or you can use chopsticks if you’re feeling particularly adventurous.

Booked online, people arrive at IMMA, head to reception and get a cushion for their seat – this is the official ticket for the lunch and people without a cushion will be politely asked to leave or if they simply forgot to collect it, they may do so then.

Also in the courtyard where the meal’s taking place are the mobile vendors and craft makers that the public could partake in. It’s very much a DIY day out.

serving-food-and-prep

Brenda, Francesca and Niamh of the A Fair Land kitchen team brought us through the recipes during the day and were very patient with us.

Even though I wasn’t doing any major cooking and more prep, it still brought back my fond memories of Ballymaloe [link]. I have such a love for food and seeing the courgettes growing reminds me both of the three-month course and my home in Kerry with our very own fruit and veg in the garden.

Day three is tomorrow. Will I tire of courgettes? Who knows? But I know that they’re on the dinner table tonight!

For those interested in A Fair Land, you can find out more on the IMMA website here.

I was invited to be a guest at the Food School. This is a sponsored post.

Word of Mouth: Inspiration aplenty at the Waterford Harvest Festival

A last minute notion struck my Mam and I to head down to Waterford for the weekend for their annual Harvest Festival, that was in conjunction with Grow it Yourself (GIY) International.

A celebration of food heritage and culture aimed to suit all tastes, the harvest festival has been around since pagan times acting as a way for the community to celebrate the fruits of their labours.

Pairing up with GIY to form GROWfest, the organic and gardening aspect of the festival, it was described as a weekend that would educate “people in the appreciation of good, clean, fair food, showcasing all the gastronomic delights the region has to offer”. A promising statement indeed!

Taking about two hours on the train, I arrived down to the city of Vikings to rain that poured from the heavens and soaked everything in sight. I was so glad to hitch a lift to the hotel off the Mammy!

For the weekend that was, we were booked into the Waterford Marina Hotel tucked away from the bustle of the centre overlooking the River Suir. Nestling into a twin-bedded room that was quiet and clean, we soon freshened up, off-loaded our bags and set sail in search of food.

On recommendation of the hotel receptionist and feeling a bit on the lazy side, we strolled down to the local Thai restaurant Pa Pa where we ordered the perfect comfort food: curry (more on that soon!)


Up early for breakfast and looking forward to the day ahead, we headed down to the hotel restaurant which had a mix of continental and hot food on offer.


Now I’m a sucker for the Irish fry so you can guess what I got.

Though overall a good filler for the morning, I definitely wished that a bit more care went into their eggs. The scrambled completely lacked flavour and were watery, and plastic comes to mind with the fried one. A real shame for such a great food.

Onto the festival itself, and we headed off to the GROWfest, which had a particular focus on growing your own food, cooking it, looking after it and general gardening advice.


Just €10 for the each event in the tent and €47.50 for a weekend pass, we opted to pay per event and headed into where Ella McSweeney was speaking to Joanna Blythman.

For those who don’t know, Joanna is an award-winning investigative food journalist from Scotland who has covered everything from intensive pineapple production to the causes of obesity.

She broadcasts and writes frequently on the “secret food industry” that we’re expected to trust, and it was such a pleasure to hear her share her findings.

Among all of the fascinating things she talked about, one of the biggest things that struck me was when she was talking about “clean” labels and what actually goes into commercial products.

Ella had brought in an unnamed carrot cake that she had bought from a shop, and well, let’s just say a basic carrot cake really only needs to contain six ingredients: sugar, oil, flour, egg, a raising agent and carrots.

Have a listen to this snippet (which by the way isn’t even the start of the list!):

Despite some minor sound issues, Ella McSweeney did a great job and kept the ball rolling!

With a bit of time on our hands to explore the festival in its entirety, Mam and I sauntered around and waded through the crowds.


From sheep shearing and food stalls, to a real outdoor flower bed and historic re-enactments – one of the things that really gets you at the Harvest Festival is actually how family-friendly it is. One honey producer Déise, actually brought in bees and explained the process to curious children and adults alike.

  



Popping into the tent again for a panel discussion on “hospital food: it’s enough to make you sick”, we got to hear a variety of opinions from experts in the field.

The biggest issue that came up in the discussion was procurement, with the emphasis that hospital food should be of a standard that would speed up and aid recovery, rather than making us feel worse.

Would you believe that a survey of hospital patients in Ireland found 80-85% satisfaction with the quality of food? I was stunned!

Topping off the night and what could possibly be described as my favourite event from the weekend, was the GIY dinner in Momo Restaurant. Treated to fantastic meal using local, fresh produce (with even a few bits and bobs grown in the GIY HQ), it was a dinner that sparked excitement and exhilarated the palate.


With things like cucumber beer, stuffed savoy cabbage, beetroot ice cream and a salad with fresh strawberries, it truly was a feast at €40 a head.


  
Kicking off our Sunday, while Mam zipped off to the GROWtent, I headed to see Johann and Tom Doorley cook up fresh food in the GROWHQ Kitchen.

With a splash of delightful humour we were shown how to make some great but simple dishes like braised lettuce and peas and fried courgettes in garlic and vinegar. You can definitely tell that they have fun when they’re cooking!


Seeing Holistic grower and horticulturist Fiann Ó Nualláin in action was to be our final event of the weekend, and he shared with us just a snippet of his wealth of knowledge with regards to healing potential of plants (unfortunately we couldn’t stay for the full talk).

Slipping out of the tent and nabbing a falafel roll from the Lebanese food stall, I dashed off to grab my train back to the Big Smoke.

I was surprisingly restrained with the bits and bobs I brought home, the only two things that I forked out on was an exquisite bottle of heather-infused vinegar (€10) from Wild Wood and a wedge of honey comb (€6) from Déise.


All in all, the festival is definitely something that’s worth heading to and I’ll be keeping a note of it in my diary for next year. Apart from a few hiccups, it really is a jam-packed food-fuelled weekend with people that inspire you to take up a shovel and grow it yourself.

Tips for those thinking of heading next year:

  • If it’s on, book a seat at the GIY dinner. It’s fabulous – no more words needed.
  • Bring some toilet tissue when you’re roaming the festival – though there are portaloos, the tissue disappears quite quickly.
  • Might sound obvious, but definitely carry a small umbrella around with you – the chance of rain is always very high.
  • For the producers’ sake, try and have small change if you can and small notes. It can be pretty tough to deal with €50 notes on a stand!
  • The Waterford Marina Hotel is a nice hotel to book into if you’re looking for somewhere that’s quiet – I was only able to hear the bare murmur of music from the bar from where our room was. As I said, the breakfast offerings aren’t perfect but I found their staff to very, very pleasant and accommodating when it came to leaving our car in the carpark (which is very secure) for a few hours after checkout.

Essential Italian words for your food journey

“Everything you see I owe to pasta.” – Sophia Loren

If you’re looking for a quick cheat sheet on ordering some Italian grub, you’ve come to the right place.

This week we’re celebrating all things Italian, and so I thought it’d be quite useful if I dished out some essential words to use if you ever find yourself in Italy (or at least for when you’re reading an Italian menu!).

Please note that this is a very basic guide and is just to act as mini-list to help you recognise words on a menu! I’m far from fluent in Italian.

Breakfast: Colazione ~ Lunch: Pranzo ~ Dinner: Cena

At the restaurant

  • Appetisers/Starter: Antipasto
  • First Course: Primo
  • Main Course: Secondo
  • Dessert: Dolce
  • Side Dishes: I contorni
  • The Bill: Il conto
  • Service charge: coperto
  • Excluded: Escluso
  • Included: Compreso

On the menu

  • Bread: Pane
  • Soup: Zuppa
  • Meat: Carne
  • Chicken: Pollo
  • Pork: Maiale
  • Lamb: Agnello
  • Fish: Pesce
  • Prawns: Gamberi
  • Mussels: Cozze
  • Squid: Calamari
  • Octopus: Polpo
  • Vegetables: Verdura
  • Potatoes: Patate
  • Rice: Riso
  • Green Salad: Insalata
  • Cheese: Formaggio
  • Wine: Vino
  • Beer: Birra
  • Red/White: Rossa/Biano
  • Water: Acqua
  • Caffè: Coffee
  • Latte: Milk
  • Salt and Pepper: Sale e pepe
  • Ice Cream: Gelato

(Image via Wikimedia Commons/Alpha)

Ciao! It’s Italian Week on Spill the Beans

Last week Mr. POH and I celebrated Chinese week where I cooked nothing but food with an Asian-flair but this week we’re going European.

This week, we’re zooming over to Italia, where I’ll be rustling up some tasty (I hope!) Italian dishes.

Included on the menu this week is: Minestrone, Zuppa Toscana, Lasanga and a curious Spaghetti Cake.

I’ll be featuring at least two Italian-themed posts on the blog – movies, culture, recipes? We’ll see!

(Image via WikimediaCommons)

Food and Drink Festivals and Events 2015 – 2016

All listings are subject to change depending on whether the event or festival goes ahead or due to other circumstances.

If you’re hosting a food or drink event/festival (big or small!) and would like it featured please drop me an email to unaminh[at]gmail.com

Please consult each link and contact organisers if necessary before making plans! The listings for 2016 are mostly provisional as they haven’t been announced but all will be updated.


2015

September

4th – 13th            A Taste of West Cork Food Festival [Cork]
4th – 13th            A Taste of West Cork Food Festival [Cork]
11th – 13th         Waterford Harvest Festival [Waterford]
11th – 13th         Flavours of Killorglan [Kerry]
11th – 13th         Dublin Coffee and Tea Festival [Dublin]
11th – 13th         Clarenbridge Oyster Festival [Galway]
12th                       Midleton Food & Drink Festival [Cork]
12th – 13th         Athlone River and Food Festival [Westmeath]
13th                       Enniskerry Victorian Field Day [Wicklow]
18th – 20th         Seafood in September [Clare]
18th – 20th         Tesco Taste Festival [Belfast]
19th                       Taste of Togher [Louth]
19th – 20th         Tully Farm Food Fair [Armagh]
25th – 27th         Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival
25th – 27th           Macroom Food Festival [Cork]
25th – 27th        Dunshaughlin Harvest Festival [Meath]
27th – 28th         Food Fleadh Ballina [Mayo]
29th                       Trails Harvest Picnic [Kilkenny]

October

2nd – 4th              Dingle Food Festival [Kerry]
2nd – 4th              Taste of Monaghan [Monaghan]
9th – 11th            Kinsale Gourmet Festival [Cork]
17th – 18th         Galway Bake Fest [Galway]
18th                       Annual Mushroom Hunt [Cork]
23rd – 26th         Savour Kilkenny Festival of Food [Kilkenny]
25th                       Burren Food Fayre [Clare]
23rd – 26th         Virginia Pumpkin Festival [Cavan]

November

1st                          Orchard & Distillery Tour with Harvest Lunch [Cork]
13th                       Longueville House Long Table Game Dinner [Cork]
14th – 15th        Taste of Louth [Louth]
19th – 21st         Belfast Beer & Cider Festival

December

5th                         Longueville House Long Table Game Dinner [Cork]


2016 [Many Dates to be Confirmed]

Listings for 2016 are mostly provisional as they haven’t been announced but all will be updated.

January

February

Dine in Dublin

5th – 7th                AlTech Craft Brews and Food Fair [Dublin]

March

April

A Taste of Sligo
Dublin Bay Prawn Festival
Galway Food Festival
Roscommon Lamb Festival

15th – 17th            West Waterford Food Festival
29th April – 2nd May Riverfest Limerick [Limerick]

May

Kildorrery Food Fair
Foynes Food Festival
World Chip Championships
Wexford Food & Wine Festival

20th – 22nd          Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine [Cork]

June

Strawberry Fields Forever
Sligo Food and Cultural Festival
Taste of Dublin

2nd – 6th                 Bloom [Dublin]

July

Féile na Mara/Achill Island Festival of the Sea
Kilmore Quay Food Festival

August

Doolin Craft Beer & Roots Festival
Taste of Donegal

5th – 6th                 Taste of Cavan [dates not confirmed]

(Lead image via WikimediaCommons)

The Lowdown on Rations in Metal Gear Solid

Warning: Contains spoilers for the Metal Gear Solid series

One of the main items to be found in Metal Gear Solid are possibly Snake’s best friend, rations. In fact these recovery items appear in every MGS game.

The item usually recovers a substantial amount of health or stamina and are designed to resemble rations that soldiers have when on tours. They have a long shelf life and high nutritional value.

But what was in them? More-than-likely there was some kind-of meat with a high fat content, beans and vegetables (like a preserved stew!)

In both Metal Gear Solid and Metal Gear 2, rations could be frozen due to the environments you were in, like the Shadow Moses underground warehouse. Though the rations are inedible when frozen, then can be warmed up by equipping them for a prolonged time.

The rations that Naked Snake gets during Operation Snake Eater and Virtuous Mission back in 1964 were made by Soviet forces and don’t do a good job at recovering in-game stamina (if you try and feed them to EVA she expresses distaste towards them and the attack dogs also tend to ignore them after giving them a sniff).

In contrast, rations made since the 1995 Outer Heaven Uprising have a much improved taste and recover more stamina.

In a conversation with Snake and Rose, Roy Campbell mentions that he attended a UN swap meet that dealt with rations. According to Campbell, the French rations came out on top with the Japanese being “much better” than he expected. The worst according to the judges, were the American rations.

Fun fact: Raiden’s girlfriend Rosemary (during the Big Shell incident), was such a bad cook that he actually preferred rations!

(Lead image via HD Wallpapers New)

Recipe: Quick Chinese Beef Noodle Soup

Warming, hearty and with mountains of flavour, this basic recipe for a quick and easy noodle soup is a must if you’re in a rush.

Strictly speaking, if I had a good amount of time on my hands I would definitely make the beef stock from scratch using beef bones but I’ve no problem using stock cubes.

(Serves 2 – 4, depending on how big your bowls are!)

Ingredients:

  • 250g sirloin beef, cut into strips
  • 3 spring onions, chopped including green stem
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 3 tbsp of soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 150g egg noodles
  • 950mls beef stock
  • 120g tenderstem broccoli
  • 4 baby corn cobs
  • 1 small leek, shredded
  • Optional: chili powder

Method:

Place your stripped beef into a bowl along with the chopped spring onions, garlic, soy and sesame and turn the meat in the mix to coat. Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (I usually pop it in for an hour if I’ve the time).

Pop your egg noodles and a pinch of salt into a saucepan of boiling water until cooked. Drain, then set aside.

Place your beef stock in a pan and bring to a boil. Add the marinade and the beef into the pot of stock, along with the broccoli, baby corn and shredded leek.

Drop down to a simmer and leave to cook for about 8 minutes until the vegetables are tender (keep an eye on your beef to make sure it doesn’t overcook!). You can add the chili powder at this point for heat.

Finally, add in your noodles to the broth to reheat and serve.

 

Note: You can of course vary the vegetables with this recipe – I love throwing in green beans when they’re in season.

(Lead image via Mo Riza on Flickr)

Top 6 Movies Featuring Chinese Food

“To the ruler, the people are heaven; to the people, food is heaven” – Ancient Chinese Proverb

As part of Chinese Week here on the blog, I felt that it’d be a fun idea to sit back and take a look at movies that featured real Chinese food at its core.

Forget that synthetic, gooey stuff you see so often at the takeaway, these movies will give you a real feel for what it’s all about (if you don’t mind your mouth watering!)

Eat Drink Man Woman

Directed by Ang Lee, this is the follow up to his successful movie The Wedding Banquet. It takes a look at ethnic conflicts within a Chinese family, using food as the main focus of the film.

Food is Heaven

“From the steamy kitchens of Canton to the arid moonscape of the north, food is the very heart and soul of China. But increasing development and dwindling water supplies threaten the nation’s ability to feed itself.

“Meet the men and women who celebrate the glory of authentic Chinese cuisine – while working to preserve a healthy food supply for future generations”.

The Chinese Feast

With its climax at the prestigious Manchu Han Imperial Feast culinary competition, The Chinese Feast is a great little comedy.

the-chinese-feast-1995-2

(Image via ChineseMov.com)

My Life as McDull

Winner of the FIPRESCI prize at the 26th Hong Kong International Film Festival (2002), this lovely animated feature is about a piglet in a world populated by both animals and humans.

Though strictly not food-based, it’s still quite special. The narrative is written in several set pieces involving McDull’s birth, education, with trips to his mother’s TV cooking show and indulging in local food.

The God of Cookery

A Hong Kong comedy directed by comedian, actor and director, Stephen Chow, this movie takes a look at a corrupt chef who really doesn’t know much about food!

The Biggest Chinese Restaurant in the World

A BBC Four documentary that takes a look at West Lake Restaurant in Changsha. The restaurant boasts 1,000 staff and 5,000 tables. That’s a LOT of food.

(Lead image via mubi.com)

Recipe: Fragrant Buttered Chicken Masala

When I hear the word “spicy”, I instantly know that it’s something I’m going to avoid, but when it comes to using more fragrant and flavoursome spices, it’s a big thumbs up from me.

This buttery chicken masala is one of those recipes where I get to throw in a dash of this and sprinkling of that, and it never seems to go wrong (famous last words!).

It’s a quick meal to rustle up and when you rattle off what went into it, instead of tossing in a pre-made packet, I’m sure guests will be impressed.

I know the long list of ingredients might look a bit terrifying but believe me when I say this recipe is remarkably straightforward.

Serves 4 (or more depending on the size of your chicken breasts)

Ingredients:

  • 50g butter
  • 2 medium white onions (chopped)
  • 4 cloves of garlic (crushed)
  • 2 tsp of grated fresh ginger root
  • 1 tsp of ground coriander
  • 1 tsp of curry powder
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes (deseeded and diced)
  • 250mls milk
  • 4 skinless chicken breasts (cut into bitesize chunks)
  • 4 tbsp of natural plain yoghurt
  • Fresh coriander leaves

Optional: 1 tsp or more of chili powder if you’re in the mood for something more spicy!

Method:

Prepare your ingredients. Heat and melt the butter in a large pan, and then add in your onions to cook until golden brown. This should take about 10 minutes on a medium-to-high heat.

When the onions have coloured, add in the garlic, ginger, ground coriander, curry powder, turmeric and a teaspoon of salt (with the optional chili powder). Sauté the spices in with the onion or a minute until the aroma becomes fragrant.

Add your tomato purée into the mixture along with the diced tomatoes and cook until slightly thickened.

Now to add in your milk! To make sure it doesn’t curdle, I always scoop some of the hot mixture in with the milk and stir it around to heat it slightly. Then I pour it into the pan along with the chicken breast pieces.

Cook your chicken on a medium heat for about 10 minutes until soft but cooked through. While the chicken is cooking, you can put on your rice so that it’ll be ready on time.

Don’t worry, you’re almost done – it’s finally time to stir in the yoghurt! Make sure it’s well incorporated into the chicken masala and then quickly chop up a handful of coriander and stir through.

Serve on hot plates on top of your rice with another sprinkling of coriander on top and ENJOY!

Question of the Week: Taking photos of your restaurant food – yay or nay?

It’s not uncommon these days to see diners whipping out their phones and taking a quick snap of their dishes – but is this a good thing or an annoyance?

For some it has become one of their biggest pet peeves and for others it’s all natural.

I’m one of those people who takes photos of what’s going on in the dining room for blogging purposes, but I’m always somewhat aware of the people around me.

I make a careful note of not having my flash on and getting the deed done quickly but I still can’t help but feel a bit judged when I take out my phone!

What do you think? Is it rude to be snap happy at the dinner table or is it just something people should be allowed do to celebrate their love for food? Here’s what you had to say on Twitter:

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