22 July 2014


I am Australian. Or Irish. Or Irish-Australian. I guess I hoist a flag of convenience. I have lived in Dublin for eight years, and yet still delight in meeting someone from my part of the world to indulge in the liberal use of the words capsicum and thongs with impunity. It  feels like kicking off shoes that are a tiny bit too small, stretching out my toes. I ache to use the ‘right’ words for things.  That said, I think of myself as a Dubliner. It is my home and the cadence and language of the city are beautiful to me. The extent to which this discordance affects my accent was painfully evident while listening back to a recent podcast recorded with my friend Colin Harmon.

The Munch and Gargle podcasts are the latest in a long line of brave and passionate ideas Colin is responsible for bringing to Dublin.  I am so pleased he asked me to join him and Patrick O’Reilly for the inaugural episode of the series. We chatted for more than an hour about running a food business: the joys and the challenges. It felt like chatting with friends over wine. I am looking forward to listening to the next instalments as they are released over the coming weeks. 

One of my favourite elements of the series is the last ten minutes ‘Blank Canvas Bistro’ where Colin is gathering ideas for his next venture poses the question, What kind of place would  you create if given:

A Willing Backer
30 Seats
Budget No Object

For me there are almost as many answers to this as there days in a month. I will let you listen to the podcast at 73.30 to hear that day’s notion. I mention a pairing that I did with a Nikka Whiskey, Yoichi 10. 

Yoichi one of my favourite whiskeys to pair with food. The gentle elegant smoke of the whiskey is finely balanced with soft vanilla and some delicate fruity and sea brine notes. Each Nikka whiskey I have tried has been very finely crafted, the layers of flavour married seamlessly. Working with them is great fun, trying to unravel the deftly bound flavour profile to come up with a complementary pairing. On a recent occasion, a dinner with the European Nikka brand ambassador I paired Yoichi with a plump Irish queen scallop, seared until the golden crisp exterior contrasted with the texture of the meaty centre, and sweet smoked bacon picking up on the fleeting sweetness of the whiskey. The sea scallop echoes the slight brine of the whiskey, while spiced almond and matcha salt bolstered the soft tannins from the oak casks that held the whiskey for 10 years. 


Yoichi 10

Seared Irish Queen Scallop, Smoked Bacon, Spiced Almond

Ingredients Serves 4 (Amuse Bouche)
1 egg white 0.5teaspoon matcha powder
dash of water Teaspoon Cinnamon
50g almonds Teaspoon Mace
4 smoked streaky rashers Teaspoon Brown Sugar 
8 large fresh scallops 20g course sea salt

Heat oven to 150 Celsius
To make the salt, mix spices, matcha, salt & sugar
& set aside; Whisk water and egg white together 
until frothy. Toss almonds through egg/water mix &
then coat with sugar & spice mix. Bake in oven for
one hour, stirring every 10 minutes. Once cooled 
grind with mortar & pestle. Season with extra salt
if needed. Fry bacon rashers in oil over medium
high heat until crisp, about five minutes each
side. Then sear scallops in the oil left behind
from the bacon, one minute each side. 
Crumble the bacon to form a base for the scallops
& season scallops with lots of almond salt. Serve
with slices of apple or garden peas for colour 
and freshness. We also served a crab bon bon on
the evening.

29 April 2014


Smoke fascinates me. I marvel at its ability to mingle, marry, permeate the substrate, flesh, core of food, intermingling and becoming so inextricably linked to it that no amount of cooking, soaking, curing will remove it. Smoke is permanent, lasting, a keeper.

I am musing about this as my kitchen is this very moment perfumed by the fog of a home smoking effort gone awry. My smoke alarm is intermittently chirping its protest and any hope of me having a future as a distillery kilnsman looks in grave doubt. 

We are fortunate at Mulligan’s to be supplied by the much more experienced smoker and butcher TJ Crowe. His smoke profile, born of local wood chips is rough hewn, earthy, guttural. It doesn’t mess about. No elegant whisps or hints of ephemeral char here. It is punchy, delicious and in your face. I soften it to pair with Monkey Shoulder by turning it into a jam studded with crushed plums, their citrus tartness balances the sweet prevailing smoke and echo the soft citrus of the whiskey. 

I used this recipe at a recent pairing in London at Whisky Live. We also serve it on the menu at L. Mulligan. Grocer and plan to sell it in our grocery section on a Friday and Saturday. It was also published in a recent article I wrote for Whisky Magazine

Bacon and Plum Jam

You can omit the plums as they are not yet in season, or use rehydrated light prunes as I did recently and perhaps add a drop of water to make up for the lost liquid. I also use Plum Jam from the store cupboard sometimes, half a cup, reducing the brown sugar in the recipe by half. I imagine without the plums it would pair beautifully with Auchentoshan Valinch, Teeling Single Grain or Glenmorangie Lasanta. Or you can wait for the end of May when plums start to appear in the market. Alternatively, you can forego the whole recipe and try one of the commercially available varieties with your next fruity dram. A final option could be to add a dram into the jam itself, at the last fifteen minutes which would take it in a whole different direction. Lots of options.  

This makes quite a lot, you could halve the recipe, but I recommend making the whole recipe and sharing with friends in little jars. You will be popular.

Sharp Knife
Chopping Board
2L pot (bigger is fine, smaller will result in an unholy mess)
Food processor (optional)

2 plums
500g Smoked bacon
1 small onion, the ones we get from the fruit market are monsters, about 300g is plenty
5 cloves of garlic
100g (1/2 cup) brown sugar 
125mL coffee (I use french press but instant is grand also)
20mL (4 teaspoons) honey
15mL (3 teaspoons) balsamic vinegar
15mL (3 teaspoons) dijon mustard

Dice the bacon and cook it in a heavy pot over medium heat until cooked through, but not crispy. 

In the meantime dice the onions finely, and mince the garlic. It is fine to use a microplane grater for the garlic if you like. It can be our wee secret. Don’t bother with a garlic press, they are useless and you lose half your clove. 

Transfer the cooked bacon to a bowl using a slotted spoon, draining off most of the drippings. 

Saute the onion and garlic cloves in the remaining drippings for 15-25 minutes, until soft and starting to turn golden. Do not scrimp on the onion cooking time, it takes time and is adding flavour. Keep an eye on them and turn down the heat if the edges are turning brown too quickly. We are aiming for gold, not char. 

In the meantime stone and dice the plums and set aside. Have a dram, the onions are probably still softening. 

Once the onions and garlic are a beautiful burnished gold, return the bacon to the pan, along with the diced plums.

Add the brown sugar, coffee, honey, vinegar and mustard and give everything a good old mix with a wooden spoon.  

Cook over medium heat for half an hour, or until deep golden and thickened to the consistency of jam.

Remove from heat and cool, at this stage you can pulse it in the food processor, or leave it chunky. Do not over process. It should retain a reassuring bacon appearance. 

Serve cold on toast, or warm with a fried egg, or as I eat it with Vanilla Sugar on Toast and with a healthy glug of Monkey Shoulder on the side. 

18 April 2014

(Title to be read in the tone of a hang wringing marketing executive)

I love whiskey. I love the soft smoke of Bowmore, reminiscent of the embers of a bonfire on the beach. Sometimes I am in the mood for the prickle and spice of Hudson Rye and others, the hot rich smoke of Balcones Brimstone, the tannic finish leaving me with the feeling that I have just left a particularly arid sauna.

Yet, so many of the whiskeys I love publicly tell me not to love them, they say I am just not their type. Whiskey advertisements are becoming a cliche; a love story between a man and his malt. It is lazy marketing, tired and weak. Worse, it is reductive and offensive: women are objectified, belittled and excluded. The rich legacy of women in whiskey production is wilfully ignored. Bothersome also is that this well worn tableaux of the lads and their spirit, of the brotherhood, the mates, the well heeled chaps with exquisite taste in liquor, women and waistcoats is alienating half the drinking population, perpetuating the myth that whiskey is a man's drink, for drinking by your father, your granda and other men, presumably while engaging in manly pursuits like arm wrestling or whittling a hunting knife from a bough of oak. 

Amongst the offensive (Dewar's,  Maker's Mark) and the exclusionary (Chivas Band of Brotherhood, Bushmills Brothers), Woodford Reserve's latest offering is simply bizarre. The copy reads like it was written by a lovelorn teenager, one who has a tentative grasp on applied mathematics. I tried to inbed the clip but my technical ineptitude prevented that, so you can watch it in all it's lomo-tastic glory here. 

When I see a man drinking bourbon,
I expect him to be the kind of man who could build me a bookshelf.
But not in the way that one builds a ready-made bookshelf.
He will already know where the lumberyard is.
He’ll get the right amount of wood without having to do math.
He’ll let me use the saw,
and not find it cute that I don’t know how to use the saw.

Heavens to Be(t)sie! Apparently drinking bourbon gifts you with the ability to divine how much chip board is required for a set of book shelves and scant need for a street directory. The woman's role in all this seems to be to simperingly gaze on while her chap gets on with the testosterone fuelled business of shelf building and bourbon swilling. 

Heretofore, I liked Woodford Reserve. It is warming with a hint of leather, smoke and butterscotch. It tastes of the grains it was made with and the wood that it laid in. It was a firm favourite, neat, with spiced almonds or in a savage old fashioned. Please stop telling me the liquid I love is not for me. 

World wide 25% of whiskey drinkers are women. Whiskey companies, please hear this: one in four drinkers of whiskey could be drinking your whiskey, if only you didn't keep dismissing us, telling us your whiskey isn't for us, it is only for the bros.  

17 March 2014


The days are starting to stretch out, unfurling themselves from the chill and darkness of the last months. It is St Patrick’s Day, the first bank holiday of the year, and a promise hangs in the air: of spring, new potatoes, wild garlic, and the first lamb of the season. It is all a little too early yet, so I content myself by playing with Oysters on the menu: dousing them in Poitin and Preserved Lemon, the prickle of Tabasco livening the pairing; or with a splosh of Stout and a fleck of Horseradish.  

Despite the lengthening of the days, the light still eludes me, our building burrows into the shadows, slumbering, hesitant to embrace the spring and this makes capturing oysters glistening in their salty shells all but impossible. I am planning a jaunt to the sea soon with a hip flask of peaty whiskey, a loaf of dulse bread and a plan to photograph and eat well a brace of native oysters. 

Here, I have paired Carlingford Oysters with Brown Paper Bag Project’s Pleasant Porter. I used the pairing for some filming with a Chinese TV program during the week. The hostess and I sat, laughing as we slurped down oysters for the camera, language no barrier for the joy of sharing fresh shellfish and dark beer. The  silky bitterness of the porter dominates at first and then the brine of the oyster washes in. The tiniest amount of grated horseradish binds the two together: salty, bitter, spicy and sweet. 

Oyster and Stout Shots

Six Oysters Shucked (Youtube to the rescue!)

One Bottle of Dry Irish Stout (there will be some left over for sipping)
A 2cm piece of Fresh Horseradish (you won’t need all of it, but any less and I have a tendency to microplane my fingers) or the tiniest amount of creamed horseradish

Six glasses, chilled
Sturdy knife for shucking
A grater, preferably microplane

When shucking, be careful to preserve the ‘water’ of the oyster. 
Plop the oyster, water and all from its shell into the glass.
Top with 30mL of stout and a few ‘grates’ of horseradish. If you are using creamed horseradish, I recommend whisking together with the stout to avoid a nasty shock. 

Serve along side the rest of the stout.

1 March 2014


I feel as though I have been gazing at the wooden box of heritage carrots before me for most of my days. Perhaps it wasn’t this box, perhaps it was another. Winter seems to be creeping along this year, infesting the air with its squall and hail and seeping into the seams of the pub. The damp is everywhere. All that comes in from the vegetable markets are scrubby, gnarled root vegetables, sodden soil hanging from them, hairy and knotted, bringing the smell of soil and rain into the kitchen. Root vegetables feature strongly on our menu at this time of year. We puree carrots, roast parsnips sprinkled with maple and miso, tuck turnips beneath a crumb of black pudding, and dunk celariac into a melting gratin. These carrots are going to be washed and then pan roasted, seared over a medium heat with some smoked bacon and then they will get good and cosy over a low heat in a lidded pan until they are cooked through and tender, roasted on the outside and melting in the middle, about thirty minutes. 

Brown Ale and Roasted Root Vegetables are the perfect partners, the biscuit, malt and caramel flavours of the beer mirroring the rich earthiness of the vegetables and playing up the soft fruitiness of the British hops. Tossed with some quick pickled red onions, rocket and equal parts mustard maple and oil, then sprinkled with crumbled goats cheese, it is the perfect lunch with a bottle of Hunter’s Pheasant Plucker or other nut brown ale. 

26 February 2014

In Memory of the Late, Great David Tiernan

It is a year now since David died. He was a supplier and a friend, a cheese maker and a gentleman. Above all of this, David was a dairy farmer. To listen to David talk about his herd, his farm, his milk was to witness the very essence of what it means to be ‘of the land’. 

The first time I met David, he sat with a wedge of his beautiful Glebe Brethan on the table before him. It was a rich gold, waxy, pocketed with perfectly spherical air bubbles. It seemed like magic the way they had suspended themselves, captured inside the cheese, waiting to be released. The rind looked like stone, hand salted, as it silently matured in the dark, 45 kilo wheels on spruce flats in the cool dairy. Like David, his cheese was of the land. He let me try it. It was good. I told him so. He agreed. It tasted of the earth, the grass, the fields, the herd, almost like sunshine. That was the thing about David, he was quiet, unassuming. He never boasted about his cheese. He didn’t need to. He knew it was good, the best. He knew the value of it. The toil of dawn rises, the times of hardship, the struggles of working the land. There was an honesty about that, an integrity. 

I am using David’s cheese as part of a food and whiskey pairing at Whisky Live London next month. I did last year also, with his permission, and quiet pride. The last time I saw David he was delivering cheese for the pairing. It was a dank and wet Sunday. My day was not going well. As he walked through the door of Mulligan’s I had just unloaded a canon of expletives at the broken glass washer that would have made a sailor with tourette’s blush. He asked how the the pairing was going and we chatted. It cheered me no end. He revealed a wedge of older Glebe Brethan he had saved for me, that he thought would be a better match with the whiskey: ‘I wouldn’t want to let you down’ he said. I marvelled at that, the humility. It was I who was worried about letting him down. 

Glebe Brethan, Brown Bread Cracker, Braeburn Apple, Drizzle of Irish Honey Paired with Tullamore D.E.W 12 Year Old
The sweet earthiness of the brown bread crackers and the crispness of the apple highlight the sweet honey tone in the whiskey and the rich flavour of the malt. The gentle vanilla and rounded freshness of the whiskey leave a lingering finish that lifts the dense flavour of the now 12 month+ cheese off the palate. The cheese has settled into itself with beautiful nutty tones. Drizzle with a small bit of local honey and the sweetness plays off the nutty richness of the cheese. The whiskey brings the whole lot together beautifully. Add a drop of water to the whiskey for a more mellow pairing.  
Glebe Brethan is available at Sheridan’s Cheesemongers, where you can also buy their lovely brown bread crackers. This is the last of David's cheese and it is beautiful in its maturity. Tullamore D.E.W. 12 is available around the corner in the Celtic Whiskey Shop. 
The day we gathered to say goodbye to David, there were so many people. The congregation spilled out into the stone courtyard of the church in Dunleer. As he bravely spoke, David’s brother Seamus summed him up in one perfect sentence: He was an ordinary man who did extraordinary things. 

24 February 2014


I have been dithering about blogging again for months. I log on and pen sorrowful laments of root vegetables and odes to forced rhubarb and then shy away from posting them. It is for the best, the sonnet about swedes was mildly embarrassing and the stanza about heritage carrots practically nonsensical. Then yesterday, I lost a notebook. It contained months of whiskey tasting notes, new menu item schematics and hastily scrawled ratios for the perfect beer marshmallow texture. I was inconsolable. Two strong cups of tea and a handful jar of sea salt candied almonds proved no cure. 

So I find myself blogging again, as writing online strikes me as slightly more permanent than the dog eared pile of index cards I am steadily accumulating since the Great Notebook Loss of 2014. I fancy this more of a kitchen diary than my previous blog, though I am sure it will feature similar periods of inexplicable posting drought. If nothing else, it will serve as a repository for my impressive collection of radish haikus. You have been warned.