It seems every time I put up a post on a breakfast dish, I harp on about how much I love breakfast etc. Instead in this post I will harp on about how much I love West Cork. I took some time off last week to go home, chill out, meet friends and of course… Eat good food! Every time I arrive at my parent’s home in West Cork, I instantly feel relaxed. Of course it helps that I have no internet coverage, our house is in the middle of a load of fields. Every morning when I wake up before breakfast, I like to pick some bright flowers of all colours and varieties that grow around our house to brighten up the kitchen table. Our house is surrounded by trees and when you look out the window as you drink your tea, or sit in the garden, reading your book, you can watch all the little rabbits emerge from their burren and hop along our garden. How could you not chill out here, right?
Add to this mix that West Cork has the best food produce in the country (sorry, I know I’m probably biased, but it’s true). So when we head down we either stop in Supervalu in Clonakilty (which is really just like an indoor version of the English Market that sells the most delicious artisan and local foods that were produced honestly) and when we’re down there we stock up on local meat, fish, veg, and pick up sweet treats and cheesy delights at the local farmers markets. That’s before even mentioning the batches of food we make when picking Wild Garlic when it’s in season, or the blackberries that grow wild on all the hedgerows.
All of this leaves me craving my trips to West Cork so I can leave well rested and well fed as usual. The last time I was down, I decided to make an easy and delicious breakfast that used some of Cork’s best ingredients. You can easily replicate this with whatever food you have local to you, and the best part is that this takes pretty much no time or effort, but tastes amazing.
Ingredients (Serves 2):
4 Slices of good quality bread (I used Arbutus Bakery’s Medieval bread- a fruit and nut spelt bread)
1 tub ricotta cheese (I used Toonsbridge Dairy buffalo ricotta)
2 tsp runny honey (try Youghal honey… amazing!)
4 figs/ apricots or other soft fruits
Toast your bread until just crisp and generously smear with ricotta.
Slice your fruit and lay it on top of your toast. Then drizzle with some honey.
If you have been following my blog recently, you will know that I under took a bread making course at Arbutus Bread Company in Cork last month. It was such a fun experience, but as I’m living in Dublin, I had to commute home to Cork once a week to do the course and get back up to Dublin at the crack of dawn the following morning to get back to Dublin for work. It was a bit mad in retrospect, but we all do mad things to follow our passions!
Arbutus Breads was set up by Declan Ryan, the first Michelen star chef in Ireland who became famous with Arbutus Lodge. I can’t remember being there unfortunately despite the fact that it was a stones throw away from the first house my family lived in, as Declan retired and sold Arbutus many years ago when I was still a child, but my parents have great memories of the place. When Declan retired, he set up Arbutus breads, initially as a hobby, but it soon grew into a well established artisan bakery supplying Cork’s best markets, delis and shops. The bakery has a bit of a cult following at this point, as it really is the best bakery in the country.
As the course in Arbutus drew to an end, Declan offered us all the opportunity to witness how a bakery operates on a busy night, to which I of course jumped at! Their busiest night is Friday night, to meet the weekend demand on Saturdays. I was told to arrive at midnight and I would work through the night until all loaves were pulled from the ovens. Having been personally used to taking a full weekend afternoon to make one loaf of bread, I was intrigued to see how an artisan bakery committed to the traditional methods of bread making handles such large orders of almost 40 different types of bread in the space of 8 short hours.
I arrived 20 minutes early (I am an eager beaver), and though very excited, I wasn’t sure if I would be getting stuck in or just weighing flour and making tea. Darragh (Declan’s son, and a great baker at Arbutus) arrived and got me to work straight away, and thankfully I was straight away getting elbow deep in flour. I started off decorating some white yeast breads with creme fraiche, basil, tomatoes and herbs which was quite fun and strangely therapeutic. Then I got stuck into making a type of light brioche infused with saffron and filled with almond paste, this was probably my favourite one to help prepare as I love sweet things and it looked so pretty that it was quite enjoyable to make. I even got to make my own massive custard brioche to take home with me! Ivers ,who is a baker at Arbutus, specialises in all the Rye breads, and thankfully took me through each stage of the process of making his rye breads. My favourite is his Latvian Rye which is a sweet and sour rye with caraway seeds, which give it the most beautiful tangy flavour. He also let me get stuck into kneading the doughs and showed me some cool and unusual ways of shaping them. I was really impressed with how generous the bakers were with their time for me, as I’m sure showing me how to do things was slowing them down. I also wondered were they worried that I would be making more “rustic” looking loaves than they were used to, however, they were really encouraging and taught me so much.
Sukru, the baker who taught me to make his Turkish Pide bread the week before let me watch him make his fragrant breads. He was also in charge of making the Brown Soda breads, and made over 60 during the night! I didn’t help out much with the pastries, as the dough needs to be made 18 hours in advance, but I happily egg washed them and watched them rise into sweet, buttery, crusty beauties!
The main thing that struck me about the place was the time that is taken to create each loaf. I always support local and artisan food companies wherever possible and justify the slightly increased cost by the superior taste and quality, and the fact that I am supporting Irish jobs. However, one thing I have always taken for granted is the time that these artisans take to craft their food. I mean, despite thousands of loaves being made that night, each was crafted by hand. As I was delicately filling the saffron brioche dough with almond paste and plaited them into pretty little circles, I wondered would the person who bought and ate the loaf the next day appreciate that I had been up at 5am making it? Would it cross their mind that a passionate food groupie like myself had been up at 6am the previous day for a run, worked a full day, got a 3 hour bus to Cork to get to the bakery, and worked through the night to learn and help create these amazing loaves all for the love of food? They probably enjoyed every last crumb as I did the next morning when I took a loaf home, however the bakers who work through the night as we sleep soundly in our beds often get forgotton. The thing that struck me about my night in Arbutus is the time and care that goes into the production of artisan food, and I’m going to endeavour to remember that each time I pour some Flynn’s kitchen basil oil on my bread, or Llewellyn Apple Syrup on my porridge, Gubbeen chorizo on my pasta and certainly each time I take a bite of Arbutus Bread.
History of Bread Making in Ireland:
In Ireland we don’t have a history of artisan yeast or levain breads, being a nation of devoted soda bread eaters (not that I’m knocking my beloved soda breads). Apparently the reason behind this is actually scientific. Our breads are low in protein and gluten (damn the Irish weather) and so it doesn’t rise with yeast, which is why we traditionally relied on raising our breads with bread soda and buttermilk. The French and Italians have very fine flours which make the most beautiful yeast breads, and that is why boulangeries are a part of the French and Italian cultures that are missing in Ireland. However, with delicious sodas and limited travel across Europe many generations ago, most people didn’t know what they were missing, and so no-one really minded.
Atrisan bakers will cite the invention of the Chorleywood process of bread making as the demise of quality bread making and standards. This process was invented during World War 2 in an attempt to cheaply and quickly feed those who were affected by food shortages. Unlike traditional breads that take hours to prove and use only water, flour and maybe yeast, these loaves were pumped with fat, sugar and other nasties that only took 5 minutes to prove. Apparently it is because of this process of bread making that we see an increase in the amount of intolerances to bread. When I asked Declan why he decided to start up a bakery after retiring from Arbutus Lodge, he replied “the sliced pan”! He was referring to the unhealthy bread we had become accustomed to as a nation, but alas, Declan is redeeming our lack of bread making notoriety as a nation one loaf at a time!
Last night was my last night of the Arbutus Bread Course 😦 And I have to say despite having to travel down to Cork from Dublin late Tuesday night every week and getting the 5am bus back to Dublin every Thursday morning, I am quite sorry to see it end. In fact the 5am bus ride was almost enjoyable when it was accompanied with a little flask of hot tea and a some of the fresh bread (generously buttered and slathered with jam) that I had made the night before at Arbutus!
This week was great as two of the breads we did, Latvian Rye and Brown Soda, would be the breads I would eat the most on a day to day basis. The Latvian Rye would be the bread I would buy from Arbutus the most, and luckily we had the pleasure of learning to make it from Ivers, the baker responsible for this loaf being on the Arbutus shelves. He also refers to it as sweet and sour rye bread, it has a really distinct flavour from the sugar, salt, and carraway seeds that they add to the mix. It is delicious.
The second bread we did was the classic Irish Brown Soda Bread. This is probably the quickest and easiest bread anyone can make, and every Irish family seems to have their own variation. However, the Arbutus brown was so good I will have to ditch my usual recipe and make this one going forward. It’s so soft and flavoursome, with the most amazing thick crust on the outside. What is even better is that there is no kneading, proving and knocking back involved so if you’re new to bread making, this is the recipe for you. Apparently the taste varies depending on whether you make it in the crossed cake shape (like pictured) or in a tin, with the round cake shape being preferable. This is the bread that cheered me up at 5am yesterday morning with a nice spoon of Flynn’s Kitchen raspberry jam on the long road back to Dublin.
Ingredients (For 2 loaves):
1 kg of course brown flour (Howards One Way or Odlums work well)
360g White Flour
25g Bread Soda
25g Cream of Tartar
75g Macroom Oatmeal (Or other stoneground or steel cut oatmeal)
1.5 litre Buttermilk (a little soured if possible)
50ml Sour Cream
Few handfuls of Extra Course Brown Flour for coating the loaf (Howards Extra Strong)
1. Mix all the dry ingredients together apart from the oats. Mix these together well by fluffing the ingredients up from underneath (this also adds some air into the mix and takes away the density of the loaf.)
2. Mix all the wet ingredients and add the oats to soften out for about 20 to 30 minutes. Mix the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix together well, again by fluffing the ingredients up with your hands.
3. Sprinkle your work surface with the extra coarse flour and place the dough on top, shape into a round with your hand and carefully flip it upside down to coat the other side (it’s a very soft wet dough, so be careful not to put your hand through it.
4. When your dough it nicely coated with the coarse flour let it sit for 10 minutes, then cut a cross on top and pop into an oven heated to 240C for about 40 minutes. When it’s done it should have a hollow sounds when tapped on the bottom, also when you press down on the top the bread should hold its shape and not sink down.
5. Enjoy this with pretty much anything! I love a piece hot from the oven with butter and jam, but it’s also perfect with soups and for sandwiches.
Another week, another night in Arbutus Breads learning all their secrets to the tastiest breads in Ireland! This week we made two breads that were definitely my favourites so far. We made a Turkish Pide bread, and also a Saffron & Almond sweet bread (will blog this later). These were both so good that I ate both loaves in their entirety on my own over the following two days.. I know, I’m a greedy guts!
The Turkish Pide was absolutely delicious. We were taught how to make this bread from Sukru, a third generation Turkish baker that has worked at Arbutus for over ten years. This guy is amazing… he was kneading dough two at a time.. one in each hand!
This recipe makes three loaves and is perfect for tear and share, great for parties with dips. The Turks often stuff these as well. I think I will try stuffing one of mine with a minced lamb mixture and drizzle it with mint yoghurt. They are also great toasted with cheese and other treats in the centre.
Apparently this delicious bread is traditionally eaten at the end of Ramadan sprinkled with sesame and sweet onion seeds. Bakers from outside of Istanbul travel to the capital for the month and earn three times their usual salary to supply the demand! People will queue for hours to make sure that they get a loaf. Honestly, I can’t imagine a better way to break a fast than with a torn piece of this delicious flat bread.
Ingredients (3 loaves):
1 kilo white bread flour
100g fresh yeast if proving for just 1 hour (You only need 50g fresh yeast if proving for three hours which is preferable)
50g butter melted (or 100g melted butter if you don’t use the sourdough starter listed below)
50g sourdough starter
500g fresh whole milk
18g salt (add at end of mixing)
1. Mix all ingredients in a food mixer (or bowl if working by hand) for four minutes on a low speed and then four minutes on a high speed. If mixing and kneading by hand, knead gently for about 10 to 15 minutes until it all comes together.
2. Leave it to rest for 1 hour in a bowl covered with a towel before cutting and shaping. After resting, cut the dough into three equal pieces. Knead very lightly of a minute or two using the palm of your hand until the dough comes together to form a nice little ball. Leave rest for another 10 minutes.
3. On a lightly floured surface flatten the dough with your outstretched fingers until you have a nice disk shape. Then make the pattern on the bread by using your fingers to imprint four lines vertically and horizontally on the loaf. Then join up these lines to create a circular rim. Look at the photos below for guidance. Place the bread over the backs of your hands and give it a little spin (you will feel very cool doing this) like you see people doing in pizzerias.
4. Sprinkle with sesame and sweet onion (or nigella) seeds. You can get these in health shops and they make such a difference, they’re really fragrant and delicious. Mist the dough lightly with a little water. Place in a hot oven preheated to around 220C for about 10 minutes or so, you want it lightly golden on top, but not too crusty as this is meant to be a light soft bread.
I have just finished my second class of the 4 week Arbutus Bread Course and I am really enjoying it, so much so that I’m already disappointed that I’m half way through the course. I want to keep going there every week to eat and learn about bread forever! Its so much fun to go every week to listen and learn from Declan Ryan about the art of making artisan bread. You can see how passionate he is about break making as his face literally lights up when he talks about it and his past experiences in different bakeries across the world.
This week we learnt how to make Sourdough and Brown Yeast Bread. Their Brown Yeast Bread is really amazing and totally unlike any other brown bread you will have tried. Its really moist, have a bit of a chew and is not dense like traditional brown sodas. It also has the most amazing sesame seed crust… delicious! It also only requires one prove and so is probably the speediest yeast bread you can make.
There is a funny history behind this particular loaf, and it seems there is a bit of a debate as to who has the naming rights to it! It was invented by Doris Grant, the wife of a cardiologist who was striving to make a delicious, healthy, fibre filled bread and so is it is also known as a Grant Loaf. However in Ireland it is often referred to as “Ballymaloe Bread”. Myrtle Allen founder of Ballymaloe House was taught this recipe by Stephen Pearce’s (the Irish potter) mother many years ago, and it has become a Ballymaloe staple and so now is known as Ballymaloe Bread in Ireland. Isn’t it interesting to know all the history behind this humble loaf?
I also left the course this week with a mighty goody bag from Arbutus including a pot of their starter, some fresh yeast and French T65 flour. I am totally equipped to recreate this at home this weekend, and a good friend has volunteered to be my guinea pig. I hope that I manage to recreate it well, but honestly I am more worried about killing the pot of Arbutus starter Declan gave me… It’s almost 20 years old and delicious! Keeping a starter has been compared to keeping a pet, and my track record with pets isn’t great, so here’s hoping my starter has a long healthy life!
300g Wholemeal flour (Try Macroom Wholewheat Stoneground)
150g of white flour
360ml water at 40C
7g fresh yeast (or 3g dry yeast)
9g Malt extract or Molasses (You can use honey if stuck but you won’t get the nice brown colour)
Sourdough Starter (around 100ml or a handful click here for recipe of how to make sourdough starter)
1. Dissolve yeast and malt extract in the warm water.
2. Place flour and salt in a bowl making a well in the centre and gradually add the water mixture. Using your hands combine all the ingredients into a dough (which will seem quite wet and very squidgy but this is normal!)
3. Place the dough in a well oiled baking LB tin, cover with a sprinkle of flour and leave it to rise for about an hour at room temperature.
4. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6, bake for 30-40 minutes. The bread should sound hollow when tapped on the base if fully cooked. Return to the oven out of the tin for 5/10 minutes to crisp up the sides and base. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
This week I started a four week bread making course with Arbutus Breads, and it was something I have been looking forward to for ages and ages. Food is one of my favourite things about coming home to Cork, and Arbutus is one of the best artisan food companies around, it’s certainly the best bakery in Ireland. Their Latvian Rye with caraway seeds is my favourite, but all their breads are amazing, you really have to just taste them to understand where are the hype is coming from.
Declan Ryan was the first Michelen star chef in Ireland with his famous Arbutus Lodge restaurant which he ran for many years. After retiring from the restaurant business he started up the Arbutus Bread Company which is now a household name in Cork for the best in artisan bread. He trained with some of the most famous French bakers using traditional methods. The Arbutus Breads course is ran with his son Darragh one night a week for four weeks, and we will be doing a couple of breads a week.
The first class was really educational and it was so nice to listen to Declan’s stories of how he learn the art of traditional French bread making from great names in baking such as Pierre Nury and Xavier Honorin. He even had an old photo album of pictures of the bakeries he learnt in, the types of bread he made and methods he used which was amazing to get to see.
This week we made Ciabatta which is so handy to have in your repertoire. I think successful bread making at home is all about confidence. It seems really intimidating at first but you just need to keep trying and not be disheartened by the fact that your first attempt may be an epic fail, and the second may not exactly win a beauty pageant. But persevere and you’ll get the knack quickly enough!
420g (approx) T65 or Type 00 flour (Strong white unbleached will do, but try a good deli for some of the T65 or Type 00)
64g sourdough starter (for recipe on how to make starter click here)
4g Fresh yeast (Or 2g dried yeast)
190ml water (tepid)
1. Mix ingredients together in a mixer with a paddle attachment, or by hand for 5 to 10 minutes. It’s a very wet loose mix so don’t worry that it looks a bit sloppy. Declan suggested mixing it until it becomes glossy.
2. When all ingredients are combined put the dough in a large container, cover it and let prove (sit) for around two hours, in a warm area if possible. It should double in size.
3. Take out dough and it knock back on a floured surface. This is as simple as patting down the dough, you can’t knead it again as the loose mixture won’t allow it.
4. You can either leave the dough as is or portion it into smaller pieces for ciabatta buns. Let the dough prove on a floured cloth for another 30 to 60 minutes.
5. Pop into a hot oven at 250C for about 15 minutes or so. Declan said not to get too worried about time, and just go with your gut “When it’s done, it’s done”. It will be done when it sounds hollow when you tap it. You can always make a batch and freeze some smaller individual portions when baked for use when you need.
I wrote this post from my bed surrounded by Kleenex. All the crazy weather this past week has created army of flu infected zombies like myself. As it turns out waiting 45 minutes in the freezing cold and rain for the Cork Dublin bus can induce the flu. As it also turns out, going for a run in the rain the next day won’t help matters either… who knew? I should have known from the ominous grey wet weather when setting out on Saturday morning, but it has become a ritual when I’m home to go for a quick run around the Marina in Blackrock. Alas, as a result I have spent the last 4 days in hibernation drinking hot drinks and eating comforting tasty food.
Yesterday I made chorizo beans on toast for lunch, and it was mighty. Just what the doctor ordered. Beans are so comforting and tasty, and posh beans are popping up in cafes everywhere. I loved the addition of chorizo because it gave the beans some extra flavour, but any chopped sausages, smoky or streaky bacon, or any leftover meat torn up would make a nice addition. Nice bread makes a difference too, I had some leftover Arbutus Rye which was delicious. Arbutus Bread company is an amazing Irish bread company, run by Declan Ryan who used to run the Arbutus Lodge Cork, in fact he was the first Irish chef to receive a Michelin Star. His breads are amazing, and much loved in Cork. You can get them outside of Cork too though, so definitely have a look out for them. Enjoy your beans!
Ingredients (serves 4):
2 cans butter beans (or other type of beans)
1 tin chopped tomatoes
200g chorizo chopped (Gubbeen is my favourite, but any will do)
1 handful cherry tomatoes slighted lengthways
1 slice rye bread per person (or whatever bread)
1 tsp honey
1 tsp salt
1/2 to 1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp mixed allspice
1/2 to 1 tsp cracked black pepper
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp chilli flakes
1. Fry chorizo in a pan lightly, then remove and set aside.
2. Add the tin of chopped tomatoes and beans to the pan you used for the chorizo. (The chorizo oil in the pan will add to the flavour)
3. Add all spices, honey, salt, pepper and tomatoes to pot and reduce. Season to taste, it may need generous extra seasoning so don’t be shy.
4. Toast bread. When sauce is reduced, and it has been seasoned to taste, then serve on the toasted bread and top with the chorizo.