Monthly Archives: June 2016

Note to self: Ireland food story worth a nibble

CORK, Ireland – the MU food writers visited Irish food pioneers, ate their way through excellent meals, visited farms and created another few pages of food story over the last 2-1/2 weeks. Check out the re-cap here:

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Fresh, good and Ballymaloe


A cooking demonstration at Ballymaloe. Photo by Caitlyn McGuire

By Caitlyn McGuire

MUNSTER, Ireland – Along a narrow road through the rolling hills of Ireland lies a global culinary destination. Ballymaloe Cookery School attracts students of all ages from around the world. The school opened in 1983 and is located on its own 100 acre organic farm. Fresh ingredients from the farm are used by students daily, and the MU Ireland food journalists used them ourselves.

A cooking demonstration began our culinary adventure. A skilled chef showed us how to make white soda bread and scones, pea and coriander soup, chargrilled chicken paillarge and meringue roulade with strawberries. All in one hour.

After seeing her brilliant presentation, the pressure was on us to perform. We continued to the kitchen and split off into different groups for maximum efficiency. There, other experienced chefs instructed us on how to turn the beautiful ingredients in front of us into the wonderful foods we had just seen.


Soda bread made all ways. Photo by Caitlyn McGuire

The white soda bread took my breath away. This simple recipe of all-purpose flour, salt, baking soda and buttermilk created perfect pizzas, savory scones, fantastic fococcia-like creations and more, but that’s all we could fit in the ovens.

The recipe goes like this: begin by mixing the dry ingredients – 4 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda – into a large bowl. Once mixed, being careful not to add too much baking soda, add 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 cups buttermilk or sour milk. Shaping your hand like a claw, swiftly mix the ingredients until just moist (6 – 8 rotations) to create the delightful and fragile dough. Then, gently move the dough onto a floured surface, and shaped into a round about 1-1/2 inches thick. If you are keeping it as a simple soda bread, be sure to cut a deep cross onto the top to let the fairies out, the Ballymaloe recipe states.

But our important decision was to decide what to form of bread we wanted to make.  Personally, I chose a pizza shape and patted the dough out, layered it in tomato fondue and sprinkled a hefty amount of mozzarella over the top before popping it into the oven.

The breads need baking at 450 F for 15 minutes, and then a 400 F oven for an additional 6 to 30 minutes – you can check the bread by turning it over and thumping. It should sound hollow when done.

Within a half hour, my beautiful pizza emerged. The combination of Irish white soda bread and fresh ingredients was utter bliss.

If I don’t come back to the States, you can find me cooking at the Ballymaloe Cookery School.


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Organic seeds of change

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Madeline McKeever, owner of Brown Envelope Seeds, in her largest polytunnel. Photo by Kristin Kenneally

By Kristin Kenneally

SKIBBEREEN, Ireland – Originally owner of a 12-cow dairy operation, Madeline McKeever has now become Ireland’s biggest organic seed seller – well actually its only organic seed seller. McKeever has been selling heritage seeds, grown in Ireland to ensure the best growing results, to the public since 2004.

The road to success has been an interesting one to say the least. McKeever started organically growing seeds in 1999, when she registered with the Department of Agriculture. When selling seeds to Polish growers in the past year or two, the Polish government asked for McKeever’s grower number and she realized that she never received an official number in 1999. Once again, McKeever called the Department of Agriculture to come and visit to certify the property as an organic seed farm.

“They sent a young man out to the farm,” said McKeever. “He couldn’t find anything wrong with the farm, but of course they had to change something. Now we have to have temper-proof envelopes,” she said with a laugh. “I have to make sure no one switched cabbage seeds with cauliflower seeds.”

McKeever sells her Brown Envelope Seeds at the Skibbereen Farmers Market as well as online. She sells over 25 types of seeds, such as aubergine, beet, leaf beet, spinach, beans, squash, gooseberries and tomatillos, among others, depending on the time of the year.

As Brown Envelope continues to grow, McKeever hopes to bring an element of tourism to her farm. “I hope to get Sunday brunches to the farm,” said McKeever. “Then after the brunch people can run around the barn and communicate with the donkeys.”

Based off her past successes, I think that McKeever will have quite a successful farm brunch on her hands.

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Brown Envelope Seeds catalog for 2016. Photo by Kristin Kenneally




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Gluten free baker takes the cake


Michelle Mansuy of Michelle’s bakery at Midleton Farmers Market. Photo by Maria Kalaitzandanokes

By Maria Kalaitzandonakes

MIDLETON, Ireland — Tucked in between icy fish stalls and heaping piles of fresh veg in the Midleton Farmers Market, Michelle’s Bakery sticks out. It’s an eclectic mash up of signs, desserts and doilies. Delicious chaos. There’s a huge chalkboard sign that hangs precariously behind the table, showing off the handwritten names and prices of the sweets. Little perfectly baked pies and tarts sit in rows and stacks, beckoning. A sign on the left proclaims, “Carpe the hell out of the diem.”

“A gluten free welcome to ya,” owner, Michelle Mansuy said.


Gluten free baked goods at Michelle’s. Photo by Maria Kalaitzandanokes

Mansuy has run this stall for four years and has only been baking for eight. She was self-taught, explaining, “I learned how to cook how I learned how to knit. At first it is complicated, but then you begin practicing and now I simply love knitting orange jumpers.”

A witch themed wind chime blows in agreement, and a regular customer comes up to request a gluten free strawberry and cream cake for her mother’s birthday.

“Of course dear,” Mansuy agrees. “Now, you know where I live right? Come and pick it up Thursday afternoon.”

Mansuy makes treats for those who suffer gluten intolerance or those who prefer to avoid it. Coeliac Society of Ireland estimates that one in 100 people in Ireland are coeliac, and a further 7 percent of the population claim gluten sensitivity. Mansuy said she hope her stall can break stereotypes of gluten free foods.

“People say gluten free cannot be delicious, but the proof is the in the pudding,” she laughed.

Mansuy is the perfect pastry shop owner. She has dark hair, a gorgeous French accent and an obsession with the band Pink Martini. She bakes early in the morning with the band cranked to full blast. And she is always smiling.

“Days are only gray if you allow them to be,” she said. “Especially if you eat dessert.”

Every bite I took was delicious. The oat bars were tender and fruity. Her chocolate tarts were creamy and mellow. The fruit tarts were to die for.

Mansuy’s secret ingredient must be joy.

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Sine Metu – no fear and the slide of history

By Morgan Gunnels

MIDLETON, Ireland – Jameson Whiskey may be known for its smooth flavor, but its history has been one bumpy ride.

John Jameson founded the company in Dublin in 1780 with great success. According to, Irish whiskey led the world’s spirits trade until the early 1900s when political unrest brought production nearly to a halt. The Jameson distillery was overtaken by volunteer troops during the 1916 Easter Rising when men used the building as a makeshift barricade to protect them from The British Army. Andrew Jameson, grandson of John and managing director, wasn’t able to return until a week later to recover the business. Although times had been tough, Jameson found inspiration in his family motto sine metu, meaning without fear. The motto is printed on every bottle of Jameson to serve as a reminder.

Jameson uses water from the Dungourney River, which flows through the distillery, housed in Midleton since 1975, and a combination of malted and unmalted barley, sourced from farms within 100 miles of Midleton. Maize, the third Jameson ingredient, can’t be grown locally because it is a sun-loving crop, so it comes from farms in southern France.

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Jameson visitor’s center in Midleton. Photo by Morgan Gunnels

The company uses a triple distillation process to make their whiskey smoother. After distillation, the whiskey ages in oak casks imported from the U.S. and Spain. ­­While the whiskey matures, about two percent—the “angel’s share” according to the brewers—is lost to evaporation. Though the length of the aging process can vary, in order to be legally identified as Irish whiskey, the spirit must spend at least three years maturing on the island of Ireland.


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Holy cow, Ireland


Cattle roaming the rolling green Cliffs of Moher. Photo by Maria Kalaitzandanokes

By Tori Lock


CORK, Ireland – Coming to the Emerald Isle, I immediately thought of a large green patchwork quilt with hundreds of spots and when we stepped off the plane, the foreign air was rich with the scent of my favorite livestock- cattle.

Ireland’s dairy and beef industry are vital components to its economy. The rich, rolling farmland around the southern Munster and Leinster provinces suits the production practices of cattle perfectly; unlike sheep, cattle need good land to thrive. In many ways, cattle are symbol of prosperity. It’s no surprise that they feature prominently in Irish folklore and history.

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St. Brigid of Ireland is patron saint of dairymaids, cattle, midwives, Irish nuns and newborn babies. Photo courtesy of 

Cattle speckle Irish history as well as hillsides here. Their products are a golden staple in Irish culture. There is the famous Butter Museum that wouldn’t be in existence without dairy cattle, a pub in Cork called the Holy Cow and even Saints in Celtic history who are devoted to cattle. Saint Brigid of Ireland is patron saint of cattle and dairy and many farmers ask for her blessing. Traditionally, many Irish bake oatcakes to welcome St. Brigid on her feast day.

Being surrounded by such a rich history of the cattle industry makes me feel right at home in the heart of cattle country.

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Sweat and spuds or luck and leprechauns?


Mounding potatoes at Knocknaheeny Community Garden. The food center is open to all and is volunteer-based. Photo Maria Kalaitzandanokes

Caitlyn McGuire

CORK – Ireland: As I mound the potatoes in Knocknaheeny Community Garden, I can’t help but picture myself as a potato farmer in the 1800’s.

Callused hands, tense shoulders, sore back: there had to be a better way.

While many would say tough luck, a man by the name of Jamie O’Rourke refused to put up with it.

A Story of Irish Folklore:

O’Rourke was the laziest man in all of Ireland, he avoided any type of labor like it was the plague. He especially took great effort in avoiding anything evolving around growing potatoes.

His wife was sick of his nonsense, and was forced to work up all the potatoes just to ensure there was food on the table for her and her good-for-nothing husband. Her hard work caught up with her, and she became ill.

Jamie grew worried, if his wife was bed-ridden then who would manage the potatoes? No potatoes, no food. He took to the church to pray for a cure. On his journey to the church, he came across a leprechaun. Jamie snatched the leprechaun and demanded for his pot of gold. The leprechaun convinced Jamie that what he truly needed was a magic potato seed.

Jamie, once he got home, planted the seed and when he awoke he saw the largest potato ever. The potato was so massive that it lifted the garden shed and the corner of the house as it grew.

O’Rourke, with a little help from the luck of the Irish, brought food to his family and his entire village, without barely lifting a finger.

As I sit here with crackling shoulders and tender hands from work at Knocknaheeny, I can say that maybe Jamie had the right idea. I suppose, however, until I see a leprechaun that there’s no way around grasping a shovel and working potatoes.


New potato at Knocknaheeny Community Garden. Photo by Caitlyn McGuire


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A heavenly match: Cafe Paradiso and vegetables

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Denis Cotter, chef, author, and owner of Cafe Paradiso, at Gort na Nain Farm. Photo by Maria Kalaitzandanokes

By Morgan Gunnels

CORK, Ireland – If you took a look at a typical Irishman’s diet there would most likely be a hearty amount of meat. Vegetarianism has an almost taboo-like quality in Ireland but Denis Cotter has been working to change that since the 1993 opening of his restaurant, Cafe Paradiso. This wonderful vegetarian eatery may have been a rarity at the time, but it has since become iconic to the city.

“I was really trying to invent a new cuisine in my own style,” Cotter said.

Cotter, who has also written “For the Love of Food” as well as three other cookbooks, describes the menu at Café Paradiso as ingredient-focused instead of recipe- focused. This allows for flexibility in the dishes to accommodate the vegetables that are growing especially well at the time.

Cotter is strongly influenced by local producers of vegetables and cheese. He has built a strong relationship with two in particular, Ultan Walsh and Lucy Stewart of Gort na Nain Farm. They met for the first time when Walsh visited the restaurant and offered to sell vegetables he had grown on a rented plot of land. Since then, Walsh and Stewart have moved to a new house on their own farm and Café Paradiso is their biggest customer.

“I only buy vegetables from people I like” Cotter said.

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Ultan Walsh of Gort na Nain Farm in one of his 10 polytunnels. The farm also has four outdoor vegetable fields and an orchard. Photo by Maria Kalaitzandokes

The trio of Walsh, Stewart, and Cotter work hard to bring the finest ingredients to the plate. Their dedication to quality doesn’t go unnoticed by their patrons. According to Regina Sexton, food historian and adult education course coordinator at University College Cork, the local joke is that the food at Café Paradiso is so good that you don’t even notice the meat is missing.

After an evening meal at Cafe Paradiso I can see the validity behind that statement. My three-course dinner consisted of a Macroom buffalo mozzarella appetizer, wild garlic tortellini with asparagus and peas, and a dark chocolate mousse with raspberries for desert.  I would describe myself as a meat enthusiast, but for one night I had no regrets leaving it behind.

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A meal at Cafe Paradiso in Cork featuring Macroom buffalo mozzarella and grilled peaches. Photo by Morgan Gunnels

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Hollywood and heck: movie making meets Irish fishermen

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Filming site of Star Wars Episode VIII recreating a 6th century monastic site just off the coast of the Dingle Peninsula, Ireland. Photo from

By: Caitlyn McGuire

DINGLE, Ireland – On a secluded island off the Dingle Peninsula – where traditionally the only sounds are the crashing waves of the wild Atlantic Ocean – Hollywood has made its mark.

Filming continues in Ireland for the next episode of the Star Wars sequel trilogy. The first episode, The Force Awakens, featured the beautiful island of Skellig Michael. Movie goers were left with the final scene of Rey finding Jedi Master Luke Skywalker on this Irish isle.

The quiet headland on the Dingle Peninsula named Ceann Sibéal is Hollywood’s current fascination. Here, they are recreating the 6th century monastic site for Episode VIII in an attempt to match the original monastery on Skellig Michael.


Fenced off area for The Force Awakens lost in Irish mist. Photo by Caitlyn McGuire

Hollywood, currently leaving its physical mark on Dingle, limits access to the headland. In the past, it affected the fishing community of Skellig Michael in this way during the filming of The Force Awakens.

The tale is this: Fishermen, in their daily routine, would boat out to the island in the hopes of snatching up their daily catch. Hollywood found this to be a disruption, however, and asked the fishermen to stay clear of the area.

The men grunted and groaned; just how were they supposed to make a living?

Hollywood found an easy solution, 1000 euros to the men not able to fish in their spot. The fishermen found no way to argue with that logic, and happily avoided the island and populated the local pub.

I, however, find a bit of room for argument. After tasting the fresh, beer-battered heck that the Atlantic Ocean provides near the Dingle Peninsula, there needs to be as many people out there as possible catching this delicacy to fill my tummy.

Being the Star Wars fan I am, though, I suppose I’ll let this one slide.

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Caitlyn McGuire, MU food writer, as Princess Leila on Dingle Peninsula. Photo by Tori Lock

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Broccoli caper: Calabrese masquerades as broccoli, few know

By Morgan Gunnels

CORK, Ireland – Brace yourselves because I’m about to drop a truth bomb on you. I feel like my life has been one big lie after learning today that what we identify as broccoli, isn’t actually broccoli at all.

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Calabrese. Photo from

The typical green leafy plant is actually calabrese, named after the town Calabria, Italy. The name translates from Italian to sprouting broccoli in English, only adding to the confusion.

According to, supermarkets have helped to confuse these two plants because they use their names interchangeably. Most of what is sold in groceries is actually calabrese not broccoli, and there is a noticeable difference between the two. Broccoli has smaller heads, which mature slowly while calabrese are smaller plants that produce a larger crown. Broccoli is harvested from late winter to late spring while calabrese is harvested between mid-summer and mid-autumn.

Ultan Walsh of Gort Na Nain Farm pointed out this difference as we walked through his property. There, he grows the purple sprouting broccoli, which he claims is the real broccoli. True to its name it is purple in color and grows to about the size of your thumb, Walsh said.

I can’t help but feel bad for the purple sprouting broccoli. Its identity has been stolen and it has been cast into the shadows of the garden. But the truth is out, and now maybe the purple sprouting broccoli will get the recognition it deserves.

The purple sprouting broccoli has smaller heads which mature slowly compared to Calabrese. Photo from

The real McCoy: purple sprouting broccoli. Photo from


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