Wild About Food

Friday, July 31, 2015


Cliodhna Prendergast has been roaming the fields and forests in the wilds of Connemara on the west coast of Ireland since her parents opened a country house hotel there when she was five.  She learned the skills of foraging, hunting, fishing and gardening out of necessity as the family's hotel was situated in a rural area where deliveries from cities were scarce and chefs depended on local and wild produce to keep meals healthy and bountiful.  She grew up in a bustling kitchen where extra hands were always welcomed, and, by the age of 7, she was making all the ice cream for hotel guests.  She says that without realizing it, her future was sealed then and she "never really left the food life behind."

After studying arts in University, then working as a trained chef for 20 years, eleven of which she spent as the head chef at the stunning Delphi Lodge in County Galway, Cliodhna realized what she wanted most was to concentrate on raising her young family. The respect of local, wildly sourced and fresh food, along with its preparation, had always been an important part of her life, and she wanted to pass along that love to her three children.  From this passion, Breaking Eggs was hatched.

Jake, Iseult and Milo - the three littles.
Filmed in the raw and beautiful coastal countryside of Connemara, Breaking Eggs is a series of short programs where children and parents are introduced to "where our food grows, who cultivates it, collects and prepares it."  Prendergast then brings the ingredients back to her kitchen where she and her children work together to "create some great family food." 


Cliodhna and neighboring friend and fisherman, John Sullivan.  Click here to view video.
A girls' sleepover resulted in these little sweets prepared by Iseult and a friend for breakfast. 
After school egg-gathering duties.
A weekend spent collecting gorse in the countryside. This will be used to make syrup for pancakes, lemonade and ice cream.
Cliodhna left a career as an accomplished chef to spend time with these three, teaching them the values of living off the land and sea. 
Adding freshly gathered pine tips to shortbread dough and pine syrup.
Making the most of a school holiday by rolling out pine shortbread.
Now there's a lot of arms!  Fresh octopus for dinner.
Octopus spaghetti - it's not as unusual as you think if you live by the sea.

Husband and Dad, Patrick, happy with his wild salmon caught on the Ballynahinch River.
Cliodhna hosted a Kinfolk Gathering this year. Guests were rowed to a secret lunch location in the wilds of Connemara. 
Sheep graze in pastures clustered with purple flowering thyme along a beautiful coast.
Within minutes of where she spent her childhood, Cliodhna and her family live on the grounds of Ballynahinch Castle Hotel where husband, Patrick O'Flaherty, is general manager.  
All hands on deck.
Tasks for small hands...
Following are some ideas from Cliodhna on how to let your little ones help in the kitchen:

Snapping peas/beans

Measuring

Pouring

Cracking eggs

Separating egg yolks

Scrubbing vegetables

Tearing lettuce

Toss salad

Peel hard-boiled eggs

Kneading dough

Cutting shapes in pastry/cookie dough etc.

Whisking

Supervised blending – let them press the buttons under supervision (never when the contents are hot)

Preparing skewered food for barbecues

Mixing dry ingredients in a bowl

Painting egg wash on tarts, breads etc

Oiling cake/bread tins with a pastry brush

Rolling out pizza dough

Mashing soft fruit with a fork

A prize harvest of rock samphire for the Kinfolk Gathering dinner.
Cliodhna's website, Breaking Eggs, features short, engaging videos for parents and children showing how to create meals together as a family.  She strongly believes that "cooking good food at home as a family helps to provide the building blocks for healthy, confident and well-adjusted children," and one can see by perusing her blog that this is more than just words. It is a lifestyle.

Prendergast is also a co-host of Lens and Larder workshops with Imen McDonnell, from Farmette, where culinary enthusiasts gather to engage their senses by practicing photography, food styling, foraging and cooking in the Irish countryside. (To view a former post on Farmette, go here: From City Streets to Cow Paths.)

Recipes...
Easy Peesy Chicken Stock
Easy Peesy Chicken Stock

Ingredients

1 chicken Carcass (cooked from a roast chicken or raw)
1 Onion

Method

Put the carcass/bones in a medium pot cover generously with cold water, slice an onion in two add to the pot.
Bring to the boil and simmer slowly for 1 to 1 ½ hours. ( or once it has reached boiling point cover and place in the oven gas mark 2 for 2 hours).
Strain through a fine sieve.

DaaDaa!! That was easy!

Tip: the slower you can simmer the better, if it is too fast the fat gets mixed right in and the stock will not be clear. This way the fat rises to the top and can be skimmed off easily

You can add vegetables to chicken but sometimes it can be a little too sweet, or the vegetable taste takes over.


Bone Broth with Seawood and Noodles
Bone Broth with Seaweed and Noodles

Serves 4

4 portions of noodles

1 ½ Lt of bone broth base

200 g of sliced leftover chicken

1 thumb sized piece of ginger* peeled and grated

A handful or dried seaweed, I use a mix

15 mls of light soy sauce

10 mls of fish sauce

1 tsp soybean paste

1 handfull of fresh coriander chopped

1 handfull of finely sliced scallions/spring onions

Method

After the bones have been picked from your roast chicken and any leftover chicken saved, put everything, skin, bones and juices in a pot ( all the bones, even the bones that have been on the plates, its boiled for hours, perfectly hygienic) that fits cover with water

Add an onion, cut in half with skin on bring to gentle simmer
The longer and more gently you can simmer the bones the better. It takes some time before the bones break down and allow the really good stuff out. I put mine in the slow cooker of the Aga over night. A covered pot in any cooker set at 100C and left overnight would be perfect

Strain the liquid into another pot to reveal the base of a lovely clear bone broth

Cook the noodles and set aside

Put the clear broth on the heat, do not boil (this would mix in the fats and it will become cloudy) and add the seaweed, soy sauce, fish sauce, soybean paste, ginger

Check for seasoning, it may need a splash of soy sauce or a little bit more ginger to your suit your taste

When it comes to a simmer remove from the heat, and add the coriander and scallions

Divide the noodles between 4 bowls, pour over the broth and top with sliced chicken.

Tips:  just a few little tips if you are making this your own: The flavour of the broth will be somewhat diluted when you add it to the noodles so keep this in mind when you are tasting it for seasoning

If your kids don’t like huge amounts of green or seaweed like mine, just strain the broth over the noodles, the ingredients will have given their flavour and most of their nutrition.

Keep ginger in the freezer, it keeps perfectly so always on hand when you need it but also makes for much easier grating when frozen.

Jelly and Yoghurt Panna Cotta
Rhubarb and Strawberry Jelly with Sweet Geranium & Yoghurt Panna Cotta
To fill 8 small juice glasses

7 oz Rhubarb (red part of stalks)
4 oz sugar
A squeeze of lemon juice
6 oz Strawberries

Jelly
5 oz sugar
5 fl oz Water
1 tbsp of crème de casis
½ lemon juiced
1 ½ Tsps. powered gelatine
3 Tbsp water for the gelatine

First to the Rhubarb.
Use only the nice red parts of the rhubarb and slice the stalks up in ¼ inch pieces.
Place in a pot with the sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Put on a moderate to high heat, stir until sugar is dissolved and cover with a lid.
Cook for about 5 minutes, remove and cool on a tray and set aside.

Next the syrup
Put the sugar and water in a pot and stir on the heat until sugar is dissolved.
Bring to a rolling boil and then simmer for 3 minutes or so.
Remove and allow to cool
When cooled add the lemon juice and crème de casis.

Wash and cut the strawberries in half or quarters depending on the size

When everything has cooled put the gelatine in a bowl and mix in the water.
Put the bowl in a pot of hot water until the gelatine has become liquid and clear.
Add the syrup to the gelatine (the order is important, do to add the gelatine to the syrup or it will be lumpy)

Then add the strawberries and the rhubarb to the jelly syrup and mix in.
Fill 8 small juice glasses about ¾ full with the jelly and place in the fridge to set.

Yoghurt and Sweet Geranium Panna Cotta

8oz of Natural Yoghurt
4floz Milk
3 ½ floz cream
2oz sugar
4 sweet geranium leaves (or 8 fresh lemon verbena leaves)
½ tsp lime zest
1 ½ tsp gelatine

Put the milk, cream and sugar in a pot and place on the heat stiring until the sugar is dissolved; add the leaves and the lime zest and remove from the heat to cool.
When cool, put the gelatine in a bowl and mix in the water, put the bowl in a pot of hot water until the gelatine has turned to liquid and cool.
Strain the leaves from the milk mixture and add it to the gelatine, again, in that order to avoid lumps.
Then mix in the yoghurt until smooth.
Pour this panna cotta mixture into the glasses on top of the set jelly.
Return to the fridge until ready to serve with a little sweet geranium or verbena leaf on top of each.

If you have neither sweet geranium or verbena you could up the lime zest, not as good but still very nice!


Photographs courtesy of Cliodhna Prendergast and Julia Dunin. Used with permission.

3 comments:

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  2. Another wonderful post, Naomi! I find your Friday features so inspiring, I grew up on a farm where we produced nearly all of our own fruit and veg, had chickens for eggs, etc. and I would love to get back to that way of living in the not-too-distant future. However, I've been reminded by your beautiful blog of the power of starting small and I'm going to start growning more veg in our tiny London garden. The ladies you feature have such big, beautiful stories to tell and yet I find that they inspire me to do more with what I have! Esther xx

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    1. Essie, thanks so much for your comment. Growing vegetables and herbs in pots works for city gardens, too! Small steps toward change are better than no steps at all, right?

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