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Savour Kilkenny

Vegetable Garden

Pumpkin Art – Time For Something Different?

October 25, 2014
Pumpkin Art - Are You Ready For Something Different?

“Green Man” Pumpkin

It never occurred to me to decorate a pumpkin at Halloween any other way than carving it, but Melissa from the Empress of Dirt blog recently published a post calling for entries to a pumpkin decorating competition where pumpkins are embellished rather than sculptured and it seems such a great idea.

Pumpkin Art - Are You Ready For Something Different?If you’ve ever carved pumpkins you’ll have noticed how quickly they go mouldy inside, yet when they’re left in one piece they’ll last for months, which is great if you’re wondering what you can cook up after the festive season that’s cheap, cheerful and healthy.

We usually carve one or two pumpkins at Halloween to hold tea lights on the windowsills, but I’ve friends and neighbours with several dotted around their homes and gardens. That’s a lot of pumpkin flesh to use up or freeze at a busy time of year. Embellishing the pumpkins can give you the best of both worlds – a decorated squash in October that you can eat at Christmas.

If you like the idea of creating a piece of pumpkin art and trying something different this year, Melissa has lots of examples that you can find here to give you some ideas.

Pumpkin Art - Are You Ready For Something Different?I opted for a natural, ‘green man’ look with the giant community garden squash that will be on display at Savour Kilkenny (using a glue gun to stick everything to the pumpkin).

If you’re in Kilkenny this weekend and would like to see it, the Kilkenny Community Garden Network will have a stand in the Leader Partnership marquee on Sunday, where we’ll be selling this seasons chutneys and jams, made by the gardeners from produce mostly sown and grown in Callan community garden this year.

I was planning to make an autumn door wreath but haven’t managed to, yet this seems to make up for it. Our eldest daughter wasn’t so keen on my ‘green’ pumpkin as she couldn’t see its orange skin behind the leaves but Mr G loved it as he’s always been a Green Man fan.

What do you think? Could you be persuaded to hang on to your pumpkin a bit longer, embellish it and perhaps make a soup from its flesh or roast the seeds in a couple of months time, or are you a carving traditionalist, something that was after all, supposed to have originated in Ireland?

Food & Drink

5 Cucumber Recipes (and a Slug Deterrent)

October 6, 2014

5 cucumber recipes

How many recipes can you come up with that use cucumber as the main ingredient (not counting cucumber sandwiches and salad)?

As a result of an almost overwhelming glut of cucumbers in Callan community garden (we’ve been averaging around six to ten for the past few weeks), I set the group the challenge of coming up with some different cucumber recipes. After a bit of homework, here’s what they arrived with on our Monday morning session.

5 Cucumber Soup Recipes1. Cucumber Soup

Maureen arrived with a tub of freshly made soup. We were a bit skeptical at the thought of eating cucumber flavoured soup as it’s something we tend to associate with cool dishes. Having tried the recipe that Maureen found in a Myrtle Allan cookbook, we all agreed, we’d think again. This was a surprisingly tasty vegetable soup! It basically contained some potato, carrot, stock, seasoning and cucumber and I’m looking forward to surprising my family and seeing if they can guess what the flavour is.

2. Sweet Cucumber Pickle

If sweet chutney is your thing then you’d love this recipe. Joan brought along a very tasty sample of a sweet cucumber pickle she made which we all enjoyed with some crackers. I didn’t manage to get the recipe from Joan on this occasion but Margaret from A Year in Redwood shares one over on her blog.

5 Cucumber Recipes3. Cucumber and Apple Chutney

Siobhan turned up with a little jar of cucumber and apple chutney that went down a treat and we decided to add it to our chutney range during our joint preserving session with Freshford group. We’ll be showcasing several chutney and jams at Savour Kilkenny Food Festival on the 25th /26th October on The Parade. If you can’t make it to Kilkenny to sample the chutney, Siobhan has generously shared the recipe:

Siobhan’s Cucumber & Apply Chutney Recipe

1 kg cucumber, remove skin, seeds & finely chop
1 kg cooking apples, peeled, cored & finely chopped
650g onions, finely chopped
700mls cider vinegar
500g light brown sugar
125g raisins
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt & Pepper to taste


Cut the cucumber in half lengthways, scoop out the seeds (if a ridge variety, peel the skin off first), cut into small, bite sized pieces and place in a large saucepan with the finely diced apples, onions and vinegar. Bring to the boil then simmer until soft. Add the sugar, raisins, allspice, cayenne and season to taste. Simmer until the mixture is thick. Pour into hot, sterilised jars and seal. Chutney is best after it’s been left unopened for a month or so to allow the flavours to develop.

5 cucumber recipes4. Cucumber Paté

Cucumber strips filled with a mackerel paté was the contribution I offered to the table having spotted a recipe online that came up with a similar combination. If you’d like to try this, peel the cucumber lengthways with a potato peeler and pat the strips dry on a clean tea towel. The bigger and straighter the cucumber the better. Drain the oil from a tin of mackerel fillets, then combine the fish with a small tub of soft cheese. It would be more usual to add a squeeze of lemon to the mixture but as I didn’t have any, added some freshly squeezed orange. Everyone seemed to enjoy it and it would be a really good recipe for anyone on a low-calorie diet looking for a different snack to try.

5. Cucumber Raita

This recipe didn’t turn up on the community garden table but is one I’ve made on several occasions to accompany the curries that Mr G likes to dish up. Just mix a large tub of organic yogurt with half a finely grated cucumber, some chopped fresh mint leaves and chopped chilli pepper to taste. It’s a good idea to grate the cucumber into a clean tea towel and squeeze out the excess water before adding it to the yogurt.

Cucumber Slug Deterrent

Lastly, when I was doing my own research I found this cucumber slug deterrent on the Real Pharmacy website that lists 13 uses for cucumbers. It seemed too good a tip not to share:

Cut up a few slices of cucumber and pop them into small, aluminium pie dishes and leave them scattered around the garden (I’m guessing when it’s dry weather). Apparently the chemicals in the cucumber will react with the tin and give off a scent that will deter slugs from our gardens. Has anyone tried this? Certainly seems worth a go.

What do you think, would you try any of these dishes out or can share any of your own?

Community Gardens

Community education – how measurable is it?

September 20, 2014
Community education – how measurable is it?

This is what happens when you take a couple of weeks off in the summer

We spent a quiet couple of months in the Callan and Freshford community gardens during the summer months with the long, lazy days ensuring we all managed to spend some down time. Now the children are back in school we’re firmly back in action in the gardens and have some exciting plans ahead. Having announced at the end of the 2013 Savour Kilkenny Food Festival that they never wanted to make, preserve and sell home-grown produce ever again, like the memories of childbirth, Callan gardeners seem to have forgotten all the painful bits and have not only announced they want to give Savour another go, they’ve invited the new Freshford gardeners over to the kitchen to help them make this year’s batch of preserves and get involved with the selling of them.

I’ve mentioned before how unique community gardens are with no two alike and the gardens in these two rural Kilkenny villages are no exception. Continue Reading…

Community Gardens

Sunday Snap ~ From Seed to Sale at Savour Kilkenny

October 27, 2013

Feeling very proud of the Kilkenny Community Gardeners this weekend who’ve worked so hard to get this far

Kilkenny Community Gardens Pickles & Preserves

Kilkenny Community Garden Network Pickles & Preserves

Well done to everyone involved in Callan and Goresbridge community gardens who’ve seen their produce grow from seed to sale.

And a big thank you to Savour Kilkenny 2013 and Kilkenny Leadership Partnership for giving us the opportunity to tell our story and allow us all to learn a myriad of valuable lessons.

This is just the beginning…


Food & Drink, Travel

Two Squash Soup & Kilkenny Food Camp

October 28, 2012
Thanksgiving Cornbread from Ron Wise at Savour Kilkenny

Thanksgiving Cornbread from Ron Wise at Savour Kilkenny

Kilkenny is buzzing this week with the sixth year of the annual food extravaganza that is Savour Kilkenny currently taking place. There’s so much happening in the Marble City – from cooking demonstrations  competitions, foraging and markets, tasting, talks and tasty tweet ups – every year the programme looks better and better.

Unfortunately I’ve yet to spend time at more than the atmospheric weekend market or for the third year running, Food Camp, but maybe next year we’ll make it to one of the evening meals instead of watching them unfold on twitter from the comfort of the sofa.

Blight Resistant Potatoes

Blight Resistant Potatoes on the Parade

I’m a big fan of the Food Camp which I’ve written about before and would encourage anyone who hasn’t yet been to one to make a date for next year.

Food Camp is a place where anyone with an interest in food is encouraged to talk about it. This sharing of passion sends you home motivated, worried, excited and above all more informed about aspects of the food world than you were four hours previously (or seven if you’re there for the day). This year was no exception. It can be difficult to choose which topic you want to sit in on as three run at the same time, but I wasn’t disappointed listening to Sarah Baker share her passion for teaching children of all ages about where food comes from and how to cook it, William Despard of The Bretzel Bakery confused that parents would sooner buy fancy buns than decent bread or Natasha Czopar share her knowledge and enthusiasm for raw food.

Savour Kilkenny 2012

Savour Kilkenny 2012

The last topic of the morning that sent me home uncomfortable about our future however, was from journalist Suzanne Campbell when she talked about sky rocketing global food prices that haven’t quite filtered down to us but soon will do.

Make no mistake, next year we’ll see food prices rise higher and higher, and they won’t be coming down in the foreseeable future either so we’re going to have to get used to paying a lot more for our weekly shopping. The global weather conditions – including droughts in the US to the long wet summers in Ireland and the UK will impact heavily. With our weekly or monthly housekeeping already stretched (and that’s before the November budget) surely it makes more sense than ever for people to grow their own food? Anything we can do to help keep our food bills at manageable levels has to be good and I for one will be planning to sow and grow more for my family next year.

In the meantime, this year we’ve had lots of squash growing in the polytunnel so when thinking about what to cook for the Food Camp lunch, given the event that it was, choosing to take a seasonal recipe along to the pot luck lunch seemed obvious. Slight confession here in that I didn’t use one of the several large winter squash growing here as my children had pestered my to buy some bright orange pumpkins for carving and we didn’t grow any this year. I did however, add some courgettes to the saucepan giving this a slight twist on the usual pumpkin soup. This recipe could easily be spiced up with the addition of some chilli or even a touch of five spice for a Far Eastern twist.

Winter squash harvest

Winter squash harvest


Diced flesh from a medium pumpkin
Medium Courgette, diced
4 medium potatoes, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1.5 ltrs vegetable stock
25g (1oz) butter
finely grated nutmeg
freshly ground salt & pepper
150ml milk

Carefully cut the top from the pumpkin and scoop out the contents. Place the empty pumpkin to one side. Discard the seeds (or clean and roast) and spread out the pumpkin flesh on a roasting tray. Bake in the oven at 175ºC for about an hour.

Once roasted, melt the butter and cook the onion gently for 5 minutes in a covered saucepan, without colouring.  Add the potato, roasted pumpkin, courgette, carrots and vegetable stock.  Cover, bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 20 mins until the vegetables are tender.  Cool a little, then purée in a liquidiser.  Return to a clean saucepan and stir in the milk, grated nutmeg and season to taste.

To serve, empty the hot soup into the empty pumpkin and grate a little more nutmeg onto the top.

Ron & Mona Wise

Ron & Mona Wise  aka “The Chef & I”

My Savour Kilkenny experience ended by spending a few hours on the parade with two of our three children. Here we munched on the tastiest free range chicken baps, supped on Badger & Dodo lattes and hot chocolate then enjoyed meeting up with twitter friends and listening to Ron and Mona Wise talk and demonstrate how to cook a thanksgiving dinner…. mmmmm is all I can say to that, Ron’s stuffed turkey was something else and what a finish to a lovely couple of days.

The festival runs until Monday, 29th so you still have time to catch some of the events there.  See the website for more details.



GM. A ticking time bomb?

November 22, 2011
GM. A ticking time bomb?

photo credit:

Many people I’m sure, see the initials GM or GMO’s and their eyes glaze over, or worse they ignore them and skip onto something more interesting.

Why is that I wonder? Why aren’t people interested in knowing the origins of what they’re eating? Is playing around with genetics, or DNA,  something that many of us wish wasn’t happening but feel helpless to do anything about, much like battery hens or mass commercial farming?

I’ve thought of writing about genetically modified food (GM) ever since I heard Alfie from Old Farm talking about it at this year’s Food Camp at the Savour Kilkenny festival, but how do you encourage people to read about it with glazed eyes? More importantly, do I know enough myself to write about it accurately? Getting the facts straight is important whenever we write, but the more I’ve delved into the subject of GMO’s over the past few days, the more bogged down by legal documents, political declarations and scientific research I’ve become.

One thing I’m certain about however, is that I’m not happy that my personal choice over whether I wish to eat this contentious food source appears to have been taken away from me. Given that my housekeeping budget doesn’t allow my family to eat a diet made up entirely of organic food, it would seem that we are already eating food that contain GM ingredients, like it or not.

Although I knew scientists have messed around with genetics (cows producing human milk, come on!), it wasn’t until I heard Alfie speak so passionately about it that the dangers of using human beings as living, breathing test tubes for this branch of science, and where it’s potentially headed that it really struck home.

I’ve since brought the topic up in a couple of workshops and it seems that many people just aren’t informed, or have never heard of GM. So, rather than give you a detailed scientific list (which I’m not qualified to do anyway), the following are just a few points that I’ve gathered that we do know about. I’m sure this can be added to, and if you can and wish to, please do so in the comments…

  • Genetically modifying isn’t just another word(s) for plant breeding. Natural breeding occurs when closely related species are reproduced e.g. a tomato and a potato, not by mingling the DNA of different species e.g. a tomato and a monkey.
  • Once created and planted, there’s no going back. Genetically modified plants cannot be recalled, but as living organisms will multiply, passing any traits from generation to generation.We simply don’t know enough about them yet to unleash them to the world.
  • The Irish Doctors Environmental Association are very concerned about the possible health implications of foods containing genetically modified (GM) ingredients. They express serious concerns about the results of animal testing, and the lack of publications of clinical studies on the human health effects of GM food.
  • Food containing genetically modified organisms is already on sale in Irish shops. In a survey of soya based foods undertaken by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland in 2002, over a half of the products tested contained genetically modified ingredients. Such products included baby foods and soya products.Although Ireland does not grow GM crops, we do import animal feeds that contain them, so we are already indirectly consuming products containing them.The labelling laws aren’t strict enough. Milk, eggs and meat from animals that are fed GM food do not currently have to be labelled.
  • The weed-killer Roundup (produced by Monsanto) which is routinely sprayed on GM crops, has been linked to human cell death, birth defects, cancer, miscarriages and environmental damage according to a report released by an international group of scientists in 2011.
  • 90% of genetically modified crops belong to Monsanto. According to WikiLeaks, Monsanto have links with the US government and the US government have been putting Europe under pressure, threatening trade restrictions if they oppose genetically modified crops (just saying…)

This list could go on and on, but it wont. Instead I strongly urge you to watch the four-minute video that Greenpeace Switzerland have created that explains very simply why we should be concerned about genetically modified food – it’s well worth taking a few minutes to view it.

Then please take a look at the Irish GM Moratorium web site where there is a link to a petition urging the Irish Government to put in place a 5-year moratorium on growing GM crops and food in Ireland because not enough is yet known about GM crop effects.

Also take a look at some of the links to the science and research from the web page and make your own minds up.

Whatever you do, please don’t ignore the GM issue in the hope that it will just go away… it wont.


Inspirational Food Camp at Savour Kilkenny and Social Media

October 22, 2010
Lots of empty plates at the ‘picnic’

When I mentioned to friends and neighbours that I was attending a Foodcamp organised by Savour Kilkenny as part of their annual celebration of local food, the first question asked was “what’s a foodcamp”.

Billed on their website as “A day where food professionals (chefs, producers) mix with foodies (journalists, bloggers, consumers) and agency heads (Bord Bia, Bord Iascaigh Mhara)”, and making Ireland more sustainable in its food production as the subject, it certainly lived up to its title. What the organiser’s mightn’t have realised was the inspiration and positivity it would create.

There’s been quite a buzz about it on Twitter and Facebook for the past few days, heightened by the publication of the schedule of speakers.

Spinach & Feta Puff Triangles

Many of the attendees were talking about the ‘picnic lunch’ where we were to bring along some food, and some more to share.

It was with a little trepidation that I placed my tin full of Spinach and Feta Puff Triangles on the long table. Why trepidation? Well I’m not a professional chef, or even an enthusiastic amateur – I just like to cook food at home that we grow in our garden.  The parcels were a bit of an experiment, an adapted recipe that I’ll happily share if anybody enjoyed them enough to want the recipe, but dare I say that it was the first time I’d ever made them (think I broke a golden rule there in a room full of foodies).

Back to the speakers….. there were so many talks to choose from.  In the morning we could pick out three from a potential eleven relevant to us and our industry.

What a tough decision! Do you listen to someone you’re familiar with and admire or something that’s more relevant to your business?  I opted for the later but tried to talk with the first group during the break – putting names to faces.  However, there was nothing to worry about.  They were not ‘talks’ at all, more discussion, questions and interaction. And if we did miss something that later appeared the one ‘not to have missed’ (such as Honey, The Oldest Known Medicine to Mankind by Philip McCabe), it should be available tomorrow from a stream put together by Ken McGuire.

I was delighted to have been at the talk where Caroline Hennessy and Kristin Jensen announced their launch – The Irish Food Bloggers Association. A coming together of foodies blogs with links and advice.

What shouldn’t have surprised me throughout the day was just how many people there were using social media, and the power that social networking has – be it blogs, twitter or facebook.

Personally I’ve only become aware of as many local food producers as I have, including Goatsbridge Trout Farm and Knockdrinna Cheese, through the use of Twitter and Facebook.  When you’re new to networking you tend to look for people to follow, and often start with local people and businesses.  I don’t buy newspapers and I avoid the daily news now whenever possible – its way too negative. So I choose all the news I want to hear through Twitter, and wouldn’t have heard of the food camp at all if it hadn’t been from this media.

As I’ve become aware of these local ‘artisan’ suppliers I actively look out for their products and tell friends and family about them too, suggesting that other friends and contacts follow and look out for them.

There are many more points I could make and lots of scribbles in my notebook too of ideas and observations, but maybe that’s for another day.

In the meantime I want to congratulate the organisers of this festival first of all for the great organisation on the day and choice of venue, and secondly for inspiring me again.

Even with the most positive attitude and the best will in the world, after a while all the doom and gloom seems to filter through, however much you try to avoid it.  Today however was spent with positive people who are actively trying to improve their situations. People who are proud of their products and their food-producing communities and who want to help and work with each other. I hope that other towns and cities throughout Ireland will come up with similar ‘camps’ to get people talking and working together again. Ireland really needs it right now.

And lastly I hope that all this positivity will carry me through the next week of the school holidays, and on throughout the year!