Asturias and Cantabria, Northern Spain

A traditional shepherd’s dwelling in Los Picos de Europa, Asturias, Spain

The Swashbuachaill has been off on yet another skite to his beloved Spain. He has more than a few dear Spanish friends and has long held the view that they are closer in temperament to the Irish than most other peoples of Europe. For years, his Spanish meanderings were concentrated in the South, most particularly, Andalucia, other than a few trips to Barcelona but more recent visits to the Basque Country, La Rioja and now Asturias and Cantabria have revealed a whole other dimension to the country: the wonderful welcome and hospitality are the same, maybe even better, but the landscape is entirely different; lush, green and an Atlantic coastline that is quite different from that seen on the ‘Costas’ down South. Driving along the Asturian coastline, a body could as easily be in Ireland as in Northern Spain, albeit on the finest Irish summer’s day imaginable. Here’s a link to a recent piece I wrote about my trip for the Irish Examiner. (Do please excuse the sub-editor who decided that Asturias and Cantabria are actually the neighbouring region, Basque or Basque Country!)  Continue reading

Ballymaloe Litfest of Food & Wine 2014

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For the weekend that’s in it, here’s four of my most recent articles, all previewing the 2nd Ballymaloe Litfest. Last year’s inaugural event defied all expectations, even those of the organisers, and I’m gearing up for yet another splendid weekend even if my own schedule (including a 9.30am interview on Sunday morning with one of Ireland’s Queens of Cheese, the magnificent Giana Ferguson of Gubbeen, which The Swashbuachaill shall conduct in an entirely somnolent state) appears to have been planned with the sole intention of  putting manners on The Swashbuachaill’s innate ability to party for Ireland. If you get the chance, do visit what will be the premier culinary gathering anywhere on the globe this weekend.  Continue reading

My Culinary Hero – Myrtle Allen at 90, Ballymaloe at 50

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From left: Rory O’Connell, (Myrtle’s daughter) Tash Harty, (Myrtle’s son) Rory Allen, Joe Cronin, Colm McCan, Darina Allen, Rachel Allen, Myrtle Allen, Hazel Allen in the Drawing Room at Ballymaloe House. (Pic: Denis Scannell/Irish Examiner)

Contrary to popular opinion, The Swashbuachaill is not a callous sort though it may well appear so, such is the lack of attention or care devoted to this poor old site. But in fact, The Swashbuachaill is writing all the time, churning out the paid-for stuff that foots the bills, so will endeavour to regularly post links to aforementioned scribblings until such time as his carefully wrought investment strategies* come to fruition enabling him to retire entirely from the world of hard labour and solely dedicate himself to his dear, dear reader/s.

(*occasional scratchcards, half-baked notions of pursuing poorly thought-out business ideas at some ill-defined time in the future, a rather misguided notion of karma)

Which brings me to the cover story in last Saturday’s Irish Examiner Weekend magazine, a feature I wrote about my great culinary hero, Myrtle Allen, who is 90 years of age on March 13, in this year, the 50th anniversary of Ballymaloe House as a restaurant. Imagine, a farmer’s wife, 40 years old with six children, the youngest just three, and she decides to open a restaurant in her front room with no formal culinary training save a series of night classes in the Cork College of Commerce. Just over a decade later, she has a Michelin star  but, without doubt, the even greater achievement was introducing and standing by her culinary philosophy, whereby she saw it as  a chef’s duty to use the very finest of local, seasonal produce and, dispensing with ego and the panoply of ‘cheffy’ tricks and techniques that so often disguise inferior ingredients, to allow this food the star turn on the plate. It is a philosophy that the late Chef Gerry Galvin, dubbed ‘revolutionary’ at the time but is now accepted best practice the world over and, in the culinary world, her renown—very rightly!—is global. Happy Birthday, Myrtle!

A Christmas Present

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As always, the end of year is truly heralded for The Swashbuachaill with a great, great feast on Christmas Day, a glorious over-indulgence in the finest of food and wines and there is invariably a large mob of family and friends at the table to do battle with The Swashbuachaill’s culinary strivings.

This year, though, was different. As always, Dear Old Sainted Mother Swashbuachaill was there but her usual chauffeur and one of the finest eaters this world has ever known, my youngest brother, Kevin, was not. Continue reading

More Than Just a Cheap Cut

Panfried Calves Liver, Beetroot Mousse and Braised Lentils - €4 for four people

Panfried Calves Liver, Beetroot Mousse and Braised Lentils

Along with almost every other journo in Grub Street, I have been asked to write about ‘cheap eating’ and have just written an article (published in today’s Irish Examiner) about saving money on food shopping for the family, specifically, how to buy meat for less. Continue reading

Self-empowerment Begins At Home

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Shop-owner Jerry Twomey, Sullivan’s Quay, Cork (Pic: Denis Scannell/Irish Examiner)

As we sift through the wreckage of yet another blundering budget courtesy of an impotent and creatively bankrupt Government, the feelings of anger, despair and, worst of all, powerlessness amongst ordinary citizens are only too palpable. The scant few measures aimed at supporting SMEs (Small to Medium Enterprises – which covers the bulk of the local, Irish food sector) were aimed at those targetting export markets; those who rely on the domestic market alone were ignored. Actually, not ignored but hammered even further, for example, the €1 tax increase on a bottle of wine is very wounding indeed to local independent wine retailers and also to small restaurant and cafe businesses who offer wine on their menus. Continue reading