Category: Archive

The thankful feast (First in a series)

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Visits to farmers markets are now part of a shopper’s weekly schedule, and food producers from artisan bakers to cheese makers and salmon smokers are fast-becoming household names. For many, wine has replaced Guinness as the drink of choice, and restaurant reservations are becoming a “must” for weekend dinners and Sunday lunch.
So what’s next on the Irish culinary scene? I’m happy to report that it’s cookery schools — where in a single day or weekend course you can learn to boil an egg or bake some bread, master the art of making sausage or boning a duck, study the fundamentals of fusion, vegetarian, or modern Irish cookery, or get some helpful hints on holiday meal and party planning.
If you visit Ireland, enrolling in one of these courses is a great addition to your itinerary. But short of a visit, chefs from some of Ireland’s leading cookery schools will be sharing their recipes with Irish Echo readers over the next few weeks to help you bring a touch of Ireland to your own holiday table.

The newest of these schools opens in February at Castle Leslie in Co. Monaghan. For the last eighteen months, the quirky, family-owned country house has been involved in an extensive restoration program including complete refurbishment of the Long Gallery wing, the addition of six new bedrooms, and the establishment of a Cookery School in the former basement kitchens.
The reputation for fabulous food is one of the reasons guests keep returning, so the addition of a cookery school is an obvious outcome.
Under the direction of Executive Head Chef Noel McMeel, the school will begin with five weekend courses scheduled through January and eventually expand to offer a wide range of one and two-day courses in 2006.
In addition to his role in Sir Paul McCartney’s wedding at Castle Leslie, Chef McMeel is recognized internationally for his dedication to the use of locally grown natural and organic ingredients, and his firm belief is that a great chef glorifies natural elements and uses them in such a way that enhances their essence.
Chef McMeel will, in turn, pass along the experience and philosophy he’s gained from his involvement in a number of renowned restaurants in both Ireland and abroad to his students.
Some of the courses to be offered, such as Food and Erotica, and Theatre of Food, will examine traditional recipes to discover how fresh, innovative ingredients can be used to transform them into the creative dishes for which Ireland is rapidly becoming famous.
McMeel will specialize in what he calls “the sheer indulgent Victorian cookery the castle is noted for,” which means dishes like venison, beef fillet, ox cheek, and lots of chocolate.
For your holiday entertaining, Noel offers a delicious turkey recipe and two of his favorite desserts: White Chocolate Soup and Pecan Biscotti.

Castle Leslie’s Roast Turkey with Herb Butter and Caramelized Red Onion Gravy

Onion Base for Gravy
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
4 large red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
4 tablespoons honey

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 20 to 22-pound turkey, neck, heart, and gizzard reserved
Salt and pepper to taste
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
5 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 large fresh rosemary sprigs
2 large fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
4 tablespoons all purpose flour

To make the gravy: Melt the butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and saut

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