Archive for May, 2010

Profile of Evan Doyle

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Evan Doyle opened his first restaurant in Clifden, Co. Galway in 1985, before heading down to Kerry to open the original Strawberry Tree Restaurant in Killarney in 1988.

In September 1992 the Strawberry Tree became the first restaurant in Ireland to publicly announce its commitment to sourcing only free range, organic and wild foods for its menu.

In 1999, together with his two brothers, Evan opened The BrookLodge Hotel in Macreddin Village, Co. Wicklow and it is here that The Strawberry Tree, under the guidance of Evan, has continued to develop as one of Ireland’s showcases for artisan and locally produced organic foods. In 2004 The Strawberry Tree became the first and only certified organic restaurant in Ireland

Evan is a member of Eurotoques and has hosted the National Food Forum for the last five years. He has been strongly connected with The Slow Food Movement in Ireland and is a founding member of The South Dublin/Wicklow Convivium. Evan is Chairperson of The Taste Council of Ireland and is a Director of The Organic Trust.

‘ON THE PIGS BACK’

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

‘ON THE PIGS BACK’

The Players
Mark Winterbotham and Alan Pierce own Gold River Farm, just down from us in Aughrim. Their Organic Licence enables them to grow delicious vegetables for us. This year Mark introduced Organic Pigs. The pigs are continually given fresh pastures around The Farm; in return they have a fab life and provide a weather resistant, income for our Organic Crop Farmers. Gold River Farm has just got better!

Ed Hick is a fourth generation pork butcher. His shop, in Dun Laoghaire, has recently attained a full organic licence. His traditional pork products, including the famous Hicks sausages, cured rashers, black and white puddings are now being made for us using the Organic ingredients from Gold River Farm. Breakfast in Macreddin has just got better!


Alex Weigold has been with The Strawberry Tree for yonks. All our chefs’ ingredients are curtailed (more than in any other kitchen in Ireland) to what is organically available. He continues to astound our guests with his finished dishes. But his DNA contribution(!) when it comes to presenting original ideas for Gold River Farm Pork has not gone unnoticed. Dinner in the Strawberry Tree has just got better!

The produce
Here in the kitchens of the Strawberry Tree restaurant, we had always found it difficult to source Irish organic pork in sufficient quantities. My good friend Ed, had not yet obtained his organic licence, and couldn’t supply to us because of this. Meanwhile, a few miles down the road on Gold River Farm, Mark and Alan had been growing beautiful natural organic vegetables, fresh fruit and herbs for us since 1999. Gold River has grown massively since then, supplying their produce all over Wicklow and Dublin.

In one of those light bulb moments, we decided to combine our talents, and establish our own private piggy network. The concept was simple, to the point of blindingly obvious. Mark rears the pigs in luxurious free-range digs on the Farm, spoiling them with loads of TLC and organic goodies. Ed uses the resulting top-quality pork meat to produce spicy puddings, fat juicy sausages, and smoky rashers, as well as succulent pork fillets. These artisan foods then come back to Macreddin, for use in our Breakfasts and the Strawberry Tree, putting smiles on our customers’ faces and completing a full circle in organic production and consumption.

Back on the farm, the porkers have heaps of grassy space to amble contentedly around. They are relocated to a different area every couple of weeks. They welcome the move, trotting behind Mark as he leads them to their new quarters across the fields. The pigs are also the proud owners of little piggy houses (no, seriously), variously constructed of straw, wood and brick (okay, I made that part up.)

With each move, they root and dig their noses in, munching up any roots and creepy-crawlies they can snuffle out. This is an age-old method of rotivation. When it’s time for them to move on, they leave behind tilled, aerated soil, rich, and two very happy farmers.

In return, they are fed on the yummy organic veg. At the end of a hard day, they go to bed with full bellies; safe that no one will be huff and puff their houses down. We believe this natural, mutually beneficial relationship is a clear testament to why organic farming is better for everyone: farmers, butchers, chefs, customers, and yes, the piggies too.

Evan
Spring 2010

‘THE ORCHARD CAFÉ VINES’

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

‘THE ORCHARD CAFÉ VINES’

The Players
David Llewellyn is the proud owner of Fruit of the Vine Farm in Lusk, North County Dublin. The apples used in his sandpaper-dry cider (as well as juices and cider vinegars) are grown alongside his very own vines, which range from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to Gewürtztraminer and Rondo. David’s Lusca wine range is produced organically without the use of those pesky fungicides or pesticides.

Tim Daly is the Head Chef of the Strawberry Tree, of The BrookLodge and of The BrookHall at Macreddin Village, and is (unbeknownst to himself) Irelands newest Vigneron. He and his team’s relentless experimentation with the wild, the wonderful and the organic that our country has to offer is responsible for loads of fantastic recipes and a lot of food fun.

Seán-Óg Doyle is the resident Green Thumb, The Gardener and The Landscaper in Macreddin. Our herb garden and orchard and grounds have been under his tender loving care for quite some time, and his parenting skills have now been extended to our lovely grapes. We’re delighted to leave them in his very capable hands.

The Produce
Once upon a time (well, nine years ago) we had a desire to grow vines and make wines (as well as loads of other homegrown goodies!) in the hope that our guests might sit outside on one of those rare hot Irish summer days in Macreddin Village and savour the terroir of Wicklow, in a wine made right here in the Garden of Ireland. Excited by the prospect, we sought some vines and some guidance from a very helpful friend. It was David that advised us that no, it was not possible to grow the vines outside because we were far too high above sea level.

Vines don’t like that. He later observed that the vines were not exactly prospering in the Waterside Lounge conservatory. Apparently they didn’t like it there either. Luckily for us, and what was quickly becoming a wistful pipe dream, David finally assured us that the vines would be far happier in our Orchard Café, newly enclosed, four years ago, with a glass roof. Fast forward, and there they hang contentedly in the greenhouse warmth, dangling drowsily above the heads of customers and pints alike.

Tim likes to make unusual drinks out of whatever he can get his hands on. Tim makes drinks from elderflowers, elderberries, elder-whatever-looks-good, and loads more besides. Tim watched the vines settle into their new home and decided it was time to turn his hand to winemaking. A few years passed, and the vines weren’t ready to give us the volume or quality of fruit we begged them for. However, Tim is a very determined man, and was undeterred. Finally, this year looks promising, and (green fingers crossed!) will prove third time lucky.

In the meantime, Seán-Óg has voluntarily taken on the task of looking after our vines. Seán-Óg, it seems, has started to mammy them, cuddle them and (we suspect) reads them bedroom stories. The vines were carefully pruned back this winter to encourage a steady growth, and now there are heaps of lovely grapes waiting to make what will hopefully be our first true batch of Macreddin Vino. This month, Seán-Óg is culling the grapes further, cutting almost half of them off so that the remaining fruits, fearing for their lives, will swell into fat juicy beads by the end of August. And in the spring of next year, once the wine (white, or maybe a rosy blush) has been made and matured, we will be able to offer our guests an exclusive supply of handmade Wicklow wine; just in case we ever get that hot summer’s day.

Evan,
Spring 2010

‘THE WILD GARLIC HARVEST’

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

‘THE WILD GARLIC HARVEST’

THE PLAYERS

For more than twenty-five years Biddy White Lennon has been a full time freelance journalist specialising in food, hospitality and tourism. She has published eleven books about traditional Irish food, its history, its seasonal and festive significances, its recipes its ingredients, giving her, it seems very little time to sleep.

Twenty years ago now The Strawberry Tree Restaurant produced its first Wild Garlic Pesto and has been doing so ever since. Tim Daly and James Kavanagh unwittingly inherited this mantle (and indeed the recipe) a goodly number of years ago, and indeed it is they that organise the Crew for the annual forage every April to gather our Wild Garlic.

Lorna Doyle has been running our Store Rooms Shop in Macreddin Village since, well since, forever! Its Lorna that keeps the Store Rooms brimming with stock and its Lorna that takes the pre-orders from guests anxiously staking their claim for their annual pesto-stock-up every year well before the Wild Garlic has even appeared.

THE PRODUCE

My acquaintance with wild garlic began, on boyhood camping trips to Powerscourt, Co. Wicklow. There was a wooded pathway there with a green carpet and the evocative name of Onion Dell that every spring yielded a heady scent of garlic and onions.

But it was the ever eccentric Gerard M. King from Connemara, way back in the eighties that imparted, during foraging walks, his extensive, infectious knowledge on the culinary uses of wild herbs, wild greens and indeed wild garlic that still affects the menu in The Strawberry Tree to this day.

When The Strawberry Tree originally opened its doors in Killarney back in 1988, we were astounded at the sheer quantity of wild garlic sprouting nearby, particularly in the Killarney National Park. It was only a matter of months before our punchy Strawberry Tree Wild Garlic Pesto was born, years before everyone else hopped on the bandwagon, and thanks to our secret recipe it was soon irrevocably linked with the restaurant. It’s a serious pesto; a pesto with attitude, a pesto that will slap you in the face with the unmistakably strong taste of wild natural garlic and its lush woodland dwellings, and our recipe has barely changed in the years since.

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When we relocated The Strawberry Tree to Macreddin Village in 1999 our good friend Biddy, who had a ready supply of garlic growing on her own land in Enniskerry, came to our rescue. Biddy’s generosity in sharing her hoard, in addition to the supplies we gathered from a number of other secret spots we stumbled upon, allowed us to continue to make our pesto. As a thank-you, a fat hamper from The Strawberry Tree found its way to Biddy’s doorstep each year. Five years ago, when Biddy sold her house in search of greener pastures, the new owners were carefully instructed that the restaurant would inherit the wild garlic rights; and, in return, the annual hamper continues to appear on their doorstep!

Being late spring, Tim, James and The Crew have been gathering the garlic in massive amounts, picking the shiny green blades in their thousands and hauling them back to the Macreddin kitchens in as many bags and baskets as we can find. Tim and James still guard our recipe jealously, along with our clandestine gathering spots hidden in the deep vales of Wicklow. Our pantry will soon be packed to the brim with our dark, glossy green pesto. And Lorna has once more, on the shelves in The Store Rooms, the vintage 2010 Wild Garlic Pesto. Lorna, although she strenuously denies it, also has a hidden hoard of pre-ordered Pesto for certain customers…..you know who you are!

Evan,

Spring 2010