In this episode of Taste of Ireland, I spend some time around the city of Waterford, a name well-known to lovers of fine crystal. It is here that Slow Food held an international Terre Madre event and in the subsequent four years it has built to become the Waterfood Food Festival. This area is a food basket for Ireland with the sea, pristine rivers, and wonderful farmland all around in the counties that surround Waterford.
Local chef Shane Curtin gave me a guided tour of a farmers’ market in the grounds of the beautiful Athenaeum Hotel. Here I saw organic heritage carrots, rainbow chard and zucchinis pulled from the ground the previous evening – and I also tasted a tipple made from local berries. There was cheese, pork and a wonderful stall with all manner of seafood from monkfish to samphire.
These were my inspiration for cooking a fish not available in Australia, turbot. With the harlequin coloured vegetables and apple cider sauce, cooking turbot as the afternoon sun waned and children played was one of those special times.
It was at the Athenaeum that Executive Chef Jean Baptiste Dubois turned a can of Guinness into a sublime crème brulee and served it with Irish whiskey snaps. It was an Irish alcohol overload … but in a good way!
Next day I was up early to Cappoquin to Barron’s Bakery to learn all about the famous bread bun known as the Waterford blaa. Here is it cooked in a building owned by the same family for 125 years. A white bun, it is cooked in ancient Scotch brick ovens. Then it was on to try real Irish stew in a pub, Geoff’s Bar, which like many was once a grocery store one side and pub the other.
A highlight, was visiting the famed Waterford Crystal visitor centre where I not only had a tour, but a go at blowing my own glass. Everyone there took incredible pride in working for this company and turning out such fine craftsmanship. One of the glass cutters has been there since 1971 and the skilled attention to detail has to be seen to be believed.
Special glass in hand, I then dropped in on the talented Paul Flynn, television chef and owner of The Tannery. Not only does Paul run an award-winning restaurant, but he also manages a cooking school (awarded Cookery School of the Year 2012 by the Restaurant Association of Ireland for the third year running) and a boutique hotel. Paul is renowned for his modern Irish food and the three-dish dessert, Plum and Apple Sundae (pictured above), he cooked for me – and the 14 VIPs he had for dinner that night – didn’t disappoint. It was a layered creation of plum and apple compote, apple and thyme sorbet with apple cider sabayon topped with pistachio praline and local borage flowers. A feast for the eyes as much as the mouth!
If you’ve missed earlier episodes of Taste of Ireland, catch up online.
Lyndey Milan, Australian home cook hero, combines a thirst for life and a sense of fun with a love of good food and sparkling shiraz. A familiar face on television and in print, she been instrumental in changing the way Australians think and feel about food and wine for over twenty-five years.