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My Traditional Irish Christmas Cake

Christmas cakes are made in many different ways, but generally they are variations on the classic fruitcake. They can be light, dark, moist, dry, heavy, spongy etc. The cakes are made in many different shapes, with frosting, royal icing, a dusting of icing sugar or simple and plain.

The spices and dried fruits in the cake are supposed to represent the exotic eastern spices brought by the three Wise Men to the newborn King! The fruit is all soaked overnight in the whiskey, in a covered bowl, before use.

I always make three cakes - one for Christmas Day and two to eat every day for tea until then!

My Christmas Cake Ingredients:
150g (5oz) raisins
125g (4½oz) stoned dates
125g (4½oz) sultanas
100g (4oz) glace cherries
100ml (4 fl oz) Irish whiskey
(all of the above are soaked together overnight before making the cake)

225g (8oz) real butter
extra butter for greasing
200g (7oz) caster sugar
4 eggs
grated rind of 1 lemon & 1 orange
2tbls black treacle (or molasses)
225g (8oz) plain (all purpose) flour
½ tsp salt
1 rounded tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
¼ tsp ground clove
50g (2oz) ground almonds
50ml (2 fl oz) extra whiskey 

My Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F), Gas mark 2. Grease a 20cm (8") cake tin and line it with greaseproof paper. Wrap some Newspaper around the outside and tie it with string. This will help the outside of the cake from browning too much during the cooking and prevent it from drying out.

2. Beat together, in a bowl, the sugar & butter until creamy. Gradually add the eggs, dusting a little of the flour in with each egg added. Add the treacle & grated fruit rinds and mix well.

3. Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl of soaked fruit and add the salt, spices and almonds. Stir all of this together, mixing well.

4. Fold the fruit mix into the egg mix, stirring evenly. Spoon the completed mix into the cake tin.

5. Bake in the centre of the oven for 3 hours. If it is browning a little too much cover it loosely with tinfoil. Cook for another ½ hour. The cake is cooked when a fine skewer, inserted into the centre, comes out clean and dry.

Make small holes all over the warm cake with a skewer and spoon the extra 50ml whiskey over the holes until it has all soaked in. Leave the cake to cool in the tin. 

When the cake is cold, remove it from the tin, peel off the lining paper, then wrap it first in clean greaseproof paper and then in foil.

A small amount of brandy, sherry or whiskey (depending on your favourite drink) should be poured onto the cake every week until Christmas. This process is called “feeding the cake”. 

You also should turn the cake over, each week, before you pour another little bit of your favourite drink over it. This ensures that all that lovely alcohol penetrates to the very middle of the Christmas cake and definitely creates that "Yum!" factor on Christmas Day. Enjoy!

Zack

Chef Jean Michel Chevet takes over as Executive Head Chef at The IVY at Dunboyne Castle Hotel

The IVY at Dunboyne Castle Hotel & Spa have announced the arrival of their new Executive Head Chef, Jean Michel Chevet. Dunboyne Castle Hotel is located at Castlefarm, Dunboyne, Co. Meath, just 18 km from Dublin City Centre and 20 km from Dublin Airport.


Jean Michel takes the helm at the award-winning IVY restaurant where he will lead the culinary team and plans to bring Dunboyne Castle’s restaurant offering to new heights. He has designed a new autumn/winter menu that is sure to tempt the taste buds - Click Ivy Menus. Jean Michel’s says his menu is "defined by innovative and wonderfully flavoursome dishes, along with his ability to preserve the original flavours of fresh, local ingredients."

Chef Jean Michel Chevet takes over the kitchen at IVY Restaurant in Dunboyne Castle, County Meath
 French born and classically trained Jean Michel’s food philosophy champions the use of the finest selection of seasonal, Irish produce to create quality cuisine. Having developed his skills in Michelin Star restaurants across the globe as well as in some of Ireland's top establishments like Ballyfin House and Lough Rynn Castle, Jean Michel brings with him over 20 years of experience.

Pan Fried Scallops, Cauliflower Couscous, Bacon Crisps, Juniper, Orange
Some of the gastronomic highlights featured on the brand new á la carte menu includes fresh crabmeat rolls, served with avocado purée, grapefruit and apple or fillet of brill, served with asparagus risotto, brown shrimps in a red wine beurre blanc, along with a selection of mouth-watering desserts including a pistachio and strawberry mille feuille with pistachio sponge and strawberry sauce.

The IVY Restaurant at Dunboyne Castle, County Meath
The IVY at Dunboyne Castle Hotel & Spa prides itself in producing an exquisite menu and pushes the boundaries to deliver an experience like no other. Having showcased its enticing menus throughout the years, the restaurant was awarded 2 AA Rosettes in 2013 and has since retained the coveted accolades that recognise culinary excellence. Dunboyne Castle also boasts 145 luxury rooms, along with an exclusive spa where guests can relax and rejuvenate.

Rhubarb Parfait, Brioche Crumb, Roasted Apricots, Raspberry Coulis
Speaking at Dunboyne Castle Hotel & Spa, Gráinne Ross, Managing Director, commented, “We are thrilled to welcome Jean Michel Chevet to Dunboyne Castle Hotel & Spa as our new Executive Head Chef. His culinary skills and passion for food are unparalleled. Our guests are at the heart of our business and we are delighted to treat them to an experience that is sure to warm their stomachs and hearts, throughout the winter months and beyond.”

Commenting on his new position Chef Jean Michel Chevet said, “The IVY at Dunboyne Castle has a superb reputation and I'm excited to come on board in the role of Executive Head Chef here. I hope not only to uphold the quality of the IVY offering but also to give it my own personal touch and take it to a new level that will really wow guests of the hotel and diners at The IVY.”

For more details and bookings see: www.dunboynecastlehotel.com and
you can Follow Dunboyne Castle on Twitter here:


Zack

Food On The Edge calls for Food to be a compulsory subject in all Irish Schools

The two-day international food symposium Food On The Edge finished up in Galway on Tuesday last, the 10th of October. More than 400 people attended on each day of Food On The Edge, Social Media Hashtag #FOTE2017, which was held in the Black Box theatre in Galway city. More than 50 of the world’s best international and Irish chefs and food leaders took to the stage to share their food stories and debate topics. Over 70 Irish food producers showcased their produce, to some of the world's best chefs, in the Artisan Food Village at the event over the two days.



The major theme of Food On The Edge 2017 was Action & Reaction and a number of speakers presented personal stories about how they have been inspired to take action in reaction to issues spoken about in previous years at Food On The Edge.

The actions that high-profile chefs have taken to address Hunger and Nutrition was a key theme, with Daniel Burns of Torst and Luksus in Brooklyn saying, “As chefs we can influence social change, act locally and spread the word globally.”  South African chef Margot Janse, founder of the Isabelo charity, and Spanish chef Quique Dacosta (Quique Dacosta Restaurant), ambassador for Action Against Hunger, also devoted their food stories to the topic of hunger and nutrition. 

CEO of Concern Worldwide, Dominic MacSorley, opened this year’s Food On The Edge with a talk on the topic of Reaching Zero Hunger.

The Food On The Edge team: (L-R) Edel McMahon, Event Administrator & Graphic Design,
Ruth Hegarty, Sponsorship Manager, JP McMahon, Symposium Director, Drigin Gaffey, Event Co-Ordinator
and Olivia Collins, Communications Manager, at Food On The Edge 2017
Tuesday the 10th of October was also World Mental Health Day and Mental Health in the Hospitality Services was another key theme. It was addressed by Irish-born, London-based chef Anna Haugh (Bob Bob Ricard), North American writer & author Kat Kinsman (Chefs With Issues) and North American chef Elise Kornack (from the former Brooklyn restaurant Take Root).

Another key theme was Work-Life Balance in the life of the chef and restaurateur, which was addressed by Norwegian chef Esben Holmboe Bang (Maaemo), who spoke about how he is taking steps towards creating a more healthy work environment for chefs and staff by having introduced a three-and-a-half day week followed by a four-day week.

Magnus Nilsson of Faviken, Sweden, said he believes that innovation and creativity can be increased by time out from work. “No one in the team should be indispensible and everyone should want to be there and not to have to be there,” said Nilsson and he encourages a policy of five weeks’ holidays per year and a healthy work-life balance.

“Head chefs forget to look after themselves,” said Nicolai Norregaard (Kadeau, Copenhagen) who also advocated for a better work-life balance in the industry.

Chef JP McMahon, Director of Food On The Edge, with Chef Magnus Nilsson, Faviken, Sweden
and Netflix's Chef's Table and Chef Robin Gill, The Dairy, Clapham and Masterchef Ireland
Education was another key theme and JP McMahon shared his “action & reaction” story about his new Education Agenda campaign to get food introduced as a proper subject in schools in Ireland. JP said, “I want to emphasise the importance of food and food education in Ireland. It’s essential to have food as a mandatory subject on the school curriculum. I think it’s really important that we do that. Food education can help combat childhood obesity, poor eating habits and it teaches the importance of Irish food culture.”

Four sixth class children from Galway Educate Together National School (where JP’s two daughters attend) concluded Food On The Edge by going on stage to read out essays they had written on the subject of the future of food.

JP McMahon closed the event by asking each person in attendance to sign a letter he had written to Ireland’s Minister for Education, Mr Richard Bruton, requesting that a Food Subject be made mandatory on the school curriculum.

Over 450 participants at Food On The Edge signed a similar Letter to Minister Bruton

After the two days of talks, the organisers of Food On The Edge took the speakers on a two-day trip to visit Irish food producers. Last year the trip saw the group explore Connemara, while this year they visited The Burren, taking in Kelly’s Oysters, Dunguaire Castle, The Burren Smokehouse and St. Tola Goat Farm, among others.

Super Congratulations to the passionate and dedicated team behind Food On The Edge and I'm certainly not going to miss Food On The Edge 2018! #FOTE2018


New Halloween Mystery Food Tours in Galway

Galway Food Tours is celebrating Halloween in their own unique style, with a series of Mystery Food Tour throughout Galway City.

Galway Food Tours are walking tours of Galway run by Sheena Dignam who brings people to taste produce from some of Galway’s culinary favourites and some hidden gems too!



The Mystery Food Tours will run on Thursday 26th October and Thursday 2nd of November at 6pm and there is a maximum of 20 people per tour so pre-booking is essential!

The four venues you're going to visit will be kept secret until you start the tour, but they will all be within walking distance of Galway City Centre and around the Galway Westend area.

At the four mystery venues, there will be a celebration of local foods and of course there will be Wine
& Cheese tasting, Poitin and Storytelling around an open fire, sampling of signature Drinks and
Desserts, board games and some spooky ghost stories as the Food Tour moves through the dusky streets of Galway.

“Halloween is such a fun holiday and we wanted to celebrate it this year with some spookiness!" said Sheena Dignam, owner of Galway Food Tours. "We have four really cool food venues on board and the Food and Drink pairing (along with some games and goulish stories) will make for a great night out, with a difference, over Halloween!”

Check out Galway Food Tours across all social media platforms..

The Halloween Mystery Food Tour is priced at €55 per person (plus booking fee unless you contact Sheena directly) and will run at at 6pm on Thursday 26th October & 2nd November. Tickets for the Halloween Mystery Food Tour are available on www.galwayfoodtours.com

Sounds of the Afternoon Sea - A Feast of Irish Seafood at Savour Kilkenny

Now in its 11th year, Savour Kilkenny has brought some of Ireland’s finest food producers, chefs and epicureans to the medieval city to enjoy a weekend of culinary delight and innovation. This year, Kilkenny Civic Trust welcomes festival goers to enjoy three unique events taking place as part of the Savour Kilkenny 2018 programme.


From noon to 5pm on Saturday October 28, the Medieval Mile Museum will invite the public to step back in time as craftspeople demonstrate medieval skills including; cooking, leatherwork, coin striking, weaving, arrow making and fletching. This event is free to the public and no booking is necessary.



At 5.30pm on Saturday evening, Executive Chef at Kilkenny’s prestigious Butler House, Ger Dunne, will present a demonstration in culinary skills at the Marble City Stage. Ger is renowned for his respect of local seasonal food and evolving style which creates unique dishes full of flavour, underpinned by a contemporary, less formal approach to fine cuisine. Again, admission to this event is free.

Executive Chef Gerard Dunne, Butler House, Kilkenny

Meanwhile, on Sunday afternoon at 3pm, Butler House will host Sounds of the Afternoon Sea. Conceptualised by Executive Chef Ger Dunne, this dining experience will feature a selection of the finest and most delicious seafood savouries - crabmeat with toasted brioche, lobster with caviar, mini bloody Mary prawn cocktails, Harty Oysters and Irish smoked salmon on Guinness bread - combined with some classic sweet pastries. 


“It’s a huge privilege for us to be involved with a superb Savour Kilkenny programme,” said CEO, Ciaran Conroy, Kilkenny Civic Trust. “We hope all those coming along to the festival take the opportunity to visit the events at Kilkenny Civic Trust properties. Our doors are open to everyone at Butler House and the Medieval Mile Museum and we’d like to wish Savour Kilkenny the best of luck with their enormously successful event.”

Sounds of the Afternoon Sea
Venue: Butler House and Garden
Date: Sunday 29th October
Time: 3pm
Admission: €35 per person. Booking Essential.

To Book, Telephone: +353 (0)56 772 2828 or Email: info@butler.ie


Ennis’ Favourite Dessert 2017 is White Chocolate & Raspberry Cheesecake on an Oreo Base

This recipe for a White Chocolate & Raspberry Cheesecake on an Oreo Base, by Chef Bernie Kelly at The Old Ground Hotel, Ennis, County Clare, was the winner of the Ennis’ Favourite Dessert Competition for this years' Ennis Food Festival.

Chef Bernie Kelly, from the Old Ground Hotel, wanted to share her winning Cheesecake Recipe with you all, so here it is!

Ennis Favourite Food 2017 White Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecake on an Oreo Base recipe Irish Food


White Chocolate & Raspberry Cheesecake on an Oreo Base

Base
250g oreo biscuits crushed
125g melted butter

Filling
500g Cream Cheese
200g caster sugar
4 ½  Gelatine leaves softened
250g White Chocolate melted
650g Cream – lightly whipped
Raspberries

Glaze
300g raspberry puree
3 gelatine leaves softened

Method:
1. Make the base with crushed Oreo biscuits & melted butter and press onto lined 10” base biscuit tin.
2. Beat the cream cheese & sugar together.
3. Heat 200g of the lightly whipped cream until warm only, add the gelatine & mix until melted.
4. Add the melted white chocolate to the gelatine cream mix, then pour onto the beaten cream cheese.
5. Mix together and then fold in the rest of the lightly whipped cream until combined.
6. Finally add in the raspberries, stir and pour onto prepared biscuit base. Pop it in the fridge until completely set.
7. For the glaze, heat raspberry puree and add softened gelatine, pour over the cheesecake  when cool and let the glaze set before serving.


The 2017 Ennis Food Festival takes place this week from the 12th - 15th October with loads of great people cooking and showcasing loads of great Irish Food. Full details are available at www.ennisfoodfestival.com


Fáilte Ireland launches New Taste of Place Food Charter for National Visitor Attractions

Food Tourism is an increasing part of the global tourism industry and Ireland is becoming well positioned to showcase our excellent quality food and build a modern Irish Food Tourism industry.

Tourists and travellers, all over the world, are seeking out locally sourced dishes and the stories of the people and the production behind the food. This growing interest in experiencing local food presents an ideal opportunity for Irish Visitor Attractions to create and deliver more authentic food experiences that are reflective of the area in which they are located.


Fáilte Ireland, is today rolling out a new food innovation programme ‘Taste of Place’ for Ireland’s Visitor Attractions, including sites of historical or cultural interest, museums, national parks, and interpretive centres, to improve and enhance the food and drink on offer at these sites and bring it into line with the standards of modern Irish Food that is being offered in Ireland's best restaurants and hotels.

Modern Irish Food by JP McMahon at Aniar, Galway


This new programme has been developed by Fáilte Ireland, to ensure that visitors to Ireland get a real Taste Of Place at national visitor attractions and it will also help encourage businesses in the Irish Food sector, who's food offering may be lacking Irish Food provenance on their menus, to up their game.


The programme aims to support catering teams at high density attractions in delivering an authentic and quality food and beverage experience that is rooted in place by:

  • Introducing more menu options that reflect the culinary traditions of a local area.
  • Sourcing ingredients from local Irish suppliers.
  • Linking elements of the food offering to the wider destination brands.



Food Services who commit to the changes outlined in the charter will complete an intensive three day programme with cookery demonstrations from renowned Irish chefs, JP McMahon in Galway, Paul Flynn in Waterford and Domini Kemp in Dublin.  The locations and dates of these Cookery demonstrations are:

  • Wild Atlantic Way: Aniar Restaurant, Galway, October 2, 16 & 23.
  • Ireland’s Ancient East: Tannery Cookery School, Waterford, October 10, 11 & 12.
  • Dublin: Cooks Academy, Wicklow Street, October 11, 18 & 25.


The three-day workshops will include an introduction to how food motivates the tourist with participants discovering the latest tourist trends and culinary concepts together with best practice examples of where local authentic food offerings drive revenue growth in business and enhance value perception.  Participants will also get a variety of cookery demonstrations and take part in working sessions to inspire change and deliver a renewed food and beverage offering.

Modern Irish Food by Colin McKee at Harveys Point, Donegal

"With visitors to Ireland spending some €2.2 billion on food every year,  it is our job as the tourism industry, to ensure we put our best foot forward when it comes to giving them the experiences they want," said Sinead Hennessy, Food Tourism Officer with Fáilte Ireland. 

She added, "From the tourist’s perspective, the food and beverage offered at visitor attractions is a core part of the entire experience and should be viewed as a critical revenue driver and not ancillary to the visit.  This new ‘Taste of Place’ charter is the first step in ensuring that visitors to Ireland’s attractions encounter an enhanced offering that is reflective of Ireland’s growing food reputation.”


To be eligible for the ‘Taste of Place’ charter, participating attractions must:
  • Complete a baseline survey detailing current sourcing practices.
  • Successfully complete Failte Ireland’s Taste of Place development programme.
  • Verify commitment to sourcing 50% of food items from Ireland and/or the local area.
  • Verify commit to sourcing 25% of drink items from Ireland and/or the local area.
  • Identify provenance of local food and drink on the menu.
  • Include one signature dish dedicated to the destination brand on the menu.
  • Undergo an evaluation to verify the commitment.



Participating attractions on the Wild Atlantic Way include:
Kylemore Abbey, Galway
Lisadelle House, Sligo
Glenveigh National Park, Donegal
Westport House, Mayo
Foxford Woolen Mills, Mayo
Glenkeen Farm, Mayo
Bunratty Castle, Clare
Ailwee Caves, Clare
Tralee Bay Wetlands, Kerry
King Johns Castle, Limerick


Participating attractions in Ireland’s Ancient East include:
Wicklow Gaol, Wicklow
Hook Lighthouse, Wexford
Jameson Experience, Cork
Bru Na Boinne, Meath
Waterford Treasures, Waterford
Newbridge Silverware, Kildare
Castlecomer Discovery Park, Kilkenny
House of Waterford Crystal, Waterford


Participating attractions in Dublin include:
National Botanic Gardens
Kilmainham Gaol
Glasnevin Cemetary
Dublin Zoo
Trinity College
Abbey Theatre
National Library
Teelings Irish Whiskey Distillery
GPO - Witness History
Richmond Barracks

This is an excellent step forward by Fáilte Ireland to raise the standard of Irish Food on offer at national Irish Visitor Attractions and to create and deliver more authentic food experiences and food memories for international visitors to Ireland. 

Guests on an Irish Food Tour to Donegal Craft Bakery in Donegal Town

Online images of modern Irish food from these internationally recognised visitor attractions will help change the traditional perceptions that international tourists have of Irish food and will certainly assist the further development of Irish Food Tourism.

Zack

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The Irish Food Guide Blog www.IrishFoodGuide.ie includes news, foodie chat, recipes, award results, links and other general information on the Food & Tourism Industry in Ireland.

It is written & curated by Zack Gallagher, Donegal Town, Co Donegal, Ireland.

“My Blog is a slice of the Irish Food ‘Network’. I’m a Chef with over 27 years experience and also have a background in media. I’m passionate about Irish Food Tourism and I believe that a rising tide really can lift all boats!”

Supporting Irish Food created by passionate producers and encouraging the Irish food & hospitality industry to use modern social media methods to increase their business.

Zack is building an all-Ireland Food Tourism network to assist Tour Operators bringing guests into Ireland to connect easily with artisan Irish food producers, so as they can experience the provenance and personality behind our Irish food Visit www.IrishFoodTours.ie

The Wild Atlantic Way is the world's Longest Coastal Route