The Taste of Dublin with Stuart O’Keeffe

Reviews

With this year’s The Taste of Dublin just around the corner, I decided to catch up with fellow Tipperary native Chef Stuart O’Keeffe. Stuart is amongst a whole host of culinary creators at this year’s event who are bringing the “Flavours of the World” to Ireland. Live demonstrations include the likes of Robin Gill from The Dairy in London, Gill Meller from River Cottage and closer to home, Aoife Noonan, Enda McEvoy and Clodagh McKenna are only a few of the names from over thirty leading world class chefs.

Chef Stuart O'Keeffe, Delalicious, interview

From Tipperary to West Hollywood, how did it all begin?

Stuart credits both his mother and aunt as catalysts for his cooking career and feels that we all should start cooking from a young age. “Both my mother and aunt are and were so passionate about cooking which made me love it even more. Looking back now, I am so glad I got involved. I make better choices cooking now and know what I am talking about.”

As Stuart’s recipes focus on wholesome and simple ingredients he feels that; “It’s so important for parents to cook for their kids at a young age, even if it’s just simple things. You don’t have to be a professional to cook for your family.”

For anyone who’s not read or flicked through Stuart’s first cookbook “The Quick Six Fix”. The recipes are incredibly wholesome and I was intrigued to find out where Stuart draws his inspiration from. “I get inspiration from everywhere, magazines, restaurants and sometimes just playing around in the kitchen with what I have at hand. I guess it’s a love for what I do and thankfully recipe ideas come fast for me.”

Chef Stuart O'Keeffe, Delalicious, interview, cookbook

The variety of life!

Life as a chef can be very varied and Stuart’s most definetly has been so far. Cooking live on TV, as a private chef for celebrities, working in restaurants and publishing cookbooks are just a few of what his career has entailed so far. What I wanted to know was which is his favourite area to work in and you just have to love his answer!! “My favourite aspect of what I do is definitely doing the live TV segments. You always feel a bit on edge and you’re kinda half shitting yourself with fear of something going wrong. Thankfully it always works out in the end.”

Working and living on the west coast of America is obviously the dream for many but there must be aspects of life, food and culture in Ireland that Stuart misses. Guess what he misses most? “I miss the heartiness of food that we have back home in Ireland. I TRULY miss the breakfasts at home, you just can’t compete with a full Irish. For me, it’s my favourite meal of the day!”

For anyone with travels plans to Stuart’s adopted home in America this summer. Here are his favourite places to eat in West Hollywood. “I love to eat at Cecconi’s (which is also a good star spotting place) and I also do love Jar. Make sure to check these two out.”

What does the future hold for Chef Stuart?

As his food series “Stuart’s Kitchen” with both TV3 and American TV channels are such a success and not to mention a bestselling cookbook, I wondered what the future had in store for Chef Stuart. Would be coming home to start any new ventures in Ireland any time soon? “All those things are always on the cards. I will keep on pitching new ideas for TV shows and would love to do a combo show highlighting Ireland and America in a series. I will be home for The Taste of Dublin event in the Iveagh Gardens this month and am really looking forward to meeting up with everyone during my demo’s. I’m also really excited to reveal that I’m currently at the initial stages for cookbook number two!!”Chef Stuart O'Keeffe, Delalicious, interview So another cookbook to add to the ever expanding collection!! As his first cookbook focuses on the simplicity of cooking with accessible ingredients. I wondered if Stuart would have any tips for someone new to cooking and slightly petrified at the thought of being in the kitchen. Here are his top three tips:

  1. Purchase a cast-iron skillet pan, it will be reward your investment and become your new best friend.
  2. Do your grocery shopping the day before you want to cook. This will make it SO much easier for when you arrive home from work the following day.
  3. Remember, just do one thing at a time.

The Taste of Dublin

Finally, for everyone attending this year’s The Taste of Dublin this is what Stuart has in store for you. “I will be at the Dublin Cookery School interactive cooking stand on Friday and Saturday so please come along and cook with me. I have this wonderful one pot meal recipe for everyone to try that is perfect for midweek dinners. Over on the main stage, I’ll be doing a Californian Inspired Taco recipe.” I love Tacos so I’m very jealous of everyone getting to sample that recipe!!

If you haven’t already bought your ticket to this year’s event then keep an eye on my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts this week for more details about the chance to win two Sunday tickets!!

Taste Of Dublin, Delalicious, Chef Stuart O'Keeffe

The Argentine Experience Review

Reviews

As I am lucky enough to be travelling across the world at the moment, it is undoubtedly a luxury. Not only to have the time to do it but a luxury to discover new places, meet new people and experience new flavours. The Argentine Experience is a unique dinner party which may appear on the outside like a fine dining venture but actually is a very relaxed dinner where you get to meet like-minded people in a very informal and fun setting. They offer two venues in Buenos Aires and Iguazú Falls. As I was travelling to both areas of Argentina, I chose the Iguazú Falls venue as it had just opened and it offered a more intimate space compared to the larger Buenos Aires venue. The kitchen endeavours to showcase some of the finest Argentinian national dishes including empanadas, chimichurri, dulce de leche and of the course the famous asado steak paired with a glass or two of Malbec wine so this was an experience I was really looking forward to and it didn’t disappoint. 15826060_381499625532637_8219063446784551646_n.pngFrom the minute you arrive to the dinner party venue, you are aware that this will be a very unique experience. One of our hosts for the night Tatiana greeted us in the venue entrance which has a few surprises that distracts your mind from the everyday and immediately excites your sense of curiosity. The other great beginning to the night is a beautiful cocktail in the form of a chilled Malbeca expertly created by Richard, our bartender for the night, which combines Malbec wine, apple juice, lime and Pisco….you need to try it!

As I love to cook and of course eat, this dinner marries the two uniquely as once you are seated each diner gets their own apron and chef’s hat which is perfect for the empanada making class and to protect your clothes in the case of messy eaters!! The dining room can accommodate a maximum of 20 diners but on my night there was only eight – which was a comfortable number to get to chat to everyone and share travelling stories and tips.15991515_10211757782005902_1763687935_oNext our second host, Paola – talked us through the eight-course mouth-watering menu from our welcome cocktail right through to the traditional Mate to finish. To kick start the eating we were served a beautiful fish ceviche which married a local fish called Sarubi (similar to trout), lime, red onion and passion fruit – a firework of flavours which was served with a white wine – Zuccardi Serie A Torrontes.

Now it was time to roll up our sleeves and flex our creativity for the empanada making master class. Empanadas can be found on every street corner in Argentina and like anything that is plentiful, quality wavers dramatically and there are many possible pitfalls from the contents to the pastry. We used the thinnest puff pastry sheets to provide crisp, flaky pastry once cooked with beautiful fillings of marinated slow-cooked beef, spiced fish and a caprese mix of slow roasted cherry tomatoes, herbs and mozzarella. Empanadas have a unique folding technique depending on the filling so we learned how to master each with some teething issues along the way. After the trial run, things heated up as now it was time for the empanada making competition. I had looked at the Empanada Wall of Fame a few days previous and you should see some of the creations….my butterfly didn’t quite make it to the wall of fame but it tasted spectacular!!

Argentina is famous for their Asado – which is basically a barbeque but takes hours to not only prepare but also to cook and typically don’t kick off until 11pm if you are attending one….my advice would be to eat well earlier in the day. Thankfully The Argentine Experience don’t make you wait that long for your main course but they also provide a beautiful Picado as means of a starter. Our picado, a mezze style starter course, included: lightly toasted country farmhouse bread, Spanish style chorizo in onions and cider, baked provolone cheese, slow-cooked pork belly, blood sausage rolls, black olive tapenade rolls and salsa criolla (red and green pepper, onion, parsley, white wine vinegar and olive oil) all paired with a light red – Zuccardi Brazos de los Andes Blend.15991918_10211757713364186_600478239_oWhilst we digested all that beautiful food, Paolo taught us some of the famous Argentinian hand gestures not all polite but great fun!! This may come in useful when taxi-drivers go the wrong way. We also learned how to order our cooking preference for the much awaited steak…believe it or not Argentinians like their steak cooked well done or “Bien Cocido”! Lomo – tenderloin was the steak cut we were served, all cooked to perfection with some guacho-style roast vegetables (carrot, red onion, potato, sweet potato and pumpkin) drizzled in a rosemary and garlic alioli …… food heaven!! The meat was so tender and juicy that the much-adorned chimichurri and salsa criolla were left untouched. The non-meat lovers amongst you need not worry as The Argentine Experience also offer salmon served with a zesty lime and salt crumb or a roast vegetable stack. Needless to say, not a morsel was left on my plate and it was nicely washed down with a Zuccardi Q Malbec.

After all that feasting, things began to wind down as we sampled some unusual cheese and sweet offerings of pumpkin and edible wood bark from the Yacaratia tree which tasted similar to fig. Then, it was time to get creative again to make the traditional dulce de leche filled Alfajor cookie and Mate tea. Mate is not just tea to the Argentinians but a way to socialise and share in the laughter, conversation and silences that it evokes. There are numerous rules involved and typically it is drank four times a day, you will encounter people walking down the street sipping from a cup or carrying large flasks of water everywhere they go and I thought the Irish were mad about tea! I am not the biggest tea drinker and not even the numerous health benefits of mate could convince me to convert to the fan club. However, the Alfajores were delicious as the shortbread biscuit was literally melt in your mouth!!15991713_10211757696683769_1409036252_o-1All in all, it costs a bit more than a typical backpacker dinner but compared to a nice dinner out at home in Ireland it is great value and the quality of ingredients, wine and experience that the hosts provide is well worth it!! It is also a brilliant way to round off your trip or adventure, celebrate a special occasion or birthday or just treat yourself to a true Argentinian food experience.16003000_384717305210869_2131124929287486165_n

 

 

 

 

Just Eat – A New Year, A New You

Reviews

Happy New Year everyone!! It’s the beginning of another year and I’m sure you are hoping 2017 will be the one you reach that goal you’ve been dreaming of. No doubt many of your New Year’s resolutions are related to food in some way; be it through fitness, to reduce sugar in your life, change your relationship with food or simply to lay off all the indulgent food over the last month. Food is essential to all of us to optimally fuel our bodies. However, what kind of food you decide on eating is a very personal and individual choice dependent on a large number of factors.

One of the big factors that can decide what you eat is time. Time is always something people say there just isn’t enough of. As a busy person with work, sport and blogging – all things I do of my own choice – I can really relate to this fact. However I find you can be prepared for these busy times and I have discovered Sunday evenings are a great time to prepare ahead and make big batches of food that keep me going for lunch and dinner during the week.

Another great option is to use a food delivery plan and there are a large number of companies providing this service in Ireland. I have come across a number of companies in Ireland offering these services and here I have done the hard work for you and tried and tested each service so you can compare each to find one that best suits your needs. These services ensure you are eating food that is prepared to meet your specific dietary requirements and perfect for those you don’t have time to go shopping for ingredients, let alone cook. I think these services are also perfect for when you are going on holiday or when you’re moving house etc. and you do not want to buy food that more than likely will be thrown away.

LowCal Meals Delivered

LowCal Meals  offer a large menu of choices varying from weight loss to muscle gain plans with a great pick and mix menu too. I chose a variety of breakfast, lunch and dinner options with my favourites being the Cauliflower, Lentils and Chickpea Curry, Salmon Teriyaki and the Sweet Potato Chocolate Brownie. The labeling is lacking any information on ingredients or macros but clearly highlights allergens and cooking instructions.

  • Delivery & Storage: Dublin and surrounding areas, well packaged in sealed containers
  • Food Quality & Flavour: Lacked some flavour
  • Value for Money: Good
  • Rating: 4/5

Gourmet Fuel

Gourmet Fuel offers a bespoke dietary option with an extensive menu for every meal of the day. They also have a number of prepared plans dependent on your dietary needs whilst also allowing you to select individual items to cover whatever meals you like. Your delivery arrives in a large styrofoam box with food still chilled to ensure maximum freshness of your order. All of the items delivered were fresh, filling and really tasty – whilst the portions were very generous! The snack section is also very good, my favourite was the Chickpea Cookie.

  • Delivery: Nationwide, packaged in vacuum sealed containers with very clear labeling of ingredients and macros, arrived fully chilled with a complementary 2 litre bottle of water
  • Food Quality & Flavour: Gorgeous flavours, extremely fresh and very high quality ingredients
  • Value for Money: Excellent
  • Rating: 5/5

Paleo Meal Deliveries

Here I decided on trying out Paleo Meal’s taster menu which includes a lunch, dinner and snack option. Conor McGregor is a fan of Paleo diets and this company so you can eat like “The Notorious” if you like. Paleo diets as you know are high on meat and this menu certainly didn’t disappoint. My plan included Cream of Broccoli and Parsnip Soup with braised ham, Slow Cooked Brisket with braised red cabbage and sweet potato and swede mash and Banana Muffins. My favourite item were the banana muffins. If you love meat, then you’ll love this meal delivery company.

  • Delivery: Nationwide, well packaged with clear labeling of ingredients used
  • Food Quality & Flavour: Lacked any real flavour
  • Value for Money: Average
  • Rating: 3/5

The Punnet Food Emporium

The Punnet offer two types of meal delivery options via their 3 or 5 Day Juice Cleanse or the Shredded 5 Day Salad Plan. I opted for the salad plan as it also includes juices and some very yummy protein balls!! The juices incorporate a number of super foods whilst the salads all include a protein option ensuring you don’t go hungry or lack any necessary nutrients. The salads also come with these outrageously good pestos too. Each day you receive a different meal delivery which all combine two juices and protein balls with two large salad bowls. I love salads so this option was right up my street. The 

  • Delivery: Dublin city only, adequate packaging
  • Food Quality & Flavour: Excellent, fresh ingredients
  • Value for Money: Very good value for quality of food
  • Rating: 4.5/5

Now you’ve no excuses to kick start your New Year’s resolutions! I would love to hear how you get on with these meal delivery options or your experiences to date using these companies.

JUST EAT – The Alternative Christmas Dinner Party

Reviews

It’s December, you have Christmas party nights coming out of your ears – the usual four course meal, tacky band and entertainment, seated into long tables beside twenty other groups where it’s a military operation to get to the bathroom and you may forget about the bar. You try change things up this year, reserve a restaurant instead and still end up with the typical “Christmas Menu” (there’ll be enough turkey on the 25th – do you really need to be eating it in the run up to the big day?). My Mam does the best Christmas dinner ever so there’s no point in even trying to recreate such a plate in a restaurant as it just will never be the same!

So, instead I’ve decided this year to give my house a quick hoover, set the kitchen table, light a few candles, invite over some of my closest friends, tell them to bring their favourite booze and simply order a festive feast online. You’re going to order them pizza and chips…that’s very festive isn’t it?? Think again, online takeaway food isn’t just all about fast food and there is a wide choice of restaurants also available so read on and you’ll be re-scheduling your Christmas dinner party in no time!the-alternative-christmas

Starters: There’s something about seafood and in particular shell-fish that signifies Christmas and a touch of luxury for me. Crabshack dining is how Klaw like to describe themselves but a shack is far from the standard of food they deliver. They have a wide variety of seafood on offer from oysters, crab, smoked salmon to whole lobster – they are also famed for their lobster rolls so I decided to create a sharing platter for starters. I included Klaw’s Signature Smoked Salmon served with melt in your mouth buttered toast, Atlantic Prawns served with a brandy spiked Marie Rose sauce and of course the Lobster Rolls. I think the picture speaks for itself and of course it didn’t stay looking that way for long, the festive feast was off to a flying start.
Mains: Now I am a farmer’s daughter so the The Farm restaurant is obviously something that pulls on my emotions whilst the food will leave you longing for more. The Farm’s menu is perfect for a Christmas feast as it is filled with plenty of warming, hearty, comfort food incorporating locally sourced and organic ingredients. The restaurant is collection only but it ensures you get the freshest food as they literally cook any protein right there whilst you wait to collect your order. They also carefully separate hot from cold food allowing you to re-assemble your dish which means you don’t have a soggy mess on your hands by the time it reaches your guests. I decided on the Organic Beef Burger, Grilled Organic Irish Salmon served with baby potatoes and a light green pea and pancetta sauce and Organic Chickpea and Quinoa Cakes served with julienned vegetables. Believe it or not the chickpea and quinoa Cakes were the winners among my festive guests with the salmon a close second.img_7182

A relative new kid on the Dublin restaurant scene is Platform 61, self-described as “one of Dublin’s best kept secrets” and I can see why! They have a large menu to choose from and as I had a few vegetarians amongst my diners, I chose the Konnyaku Noodles with wild mushrooms, spinach and toasted hazelnuts – it mightn’t sound like much but it was ravaged within seconds (I just about got a picture before my Christmas guests dived in!). It’s a very generous portion too so I’d recommend the regular size unless you want to feed three!! xmas-mains-1They also have a large choice of sides – as it wouldn’t be a Christmas feast without some type of spud, I chose the Roast Baby Potatoes with Chorizo and the Buttered Greens – a perfectly cooked mix of asparagus and tender-stem broccoli.img_7185

Dessert: After all that food, a time-out was called for in true Christmas dinner style and the kettle was put on to boil!! But by the time the kettle started to whistle, the question came “So, what’s for dessert?”. Each of the aforementioned restaurants have plenty of dessert offerings but instead I opted for a Berry Cheesecake from Bread & Bones which was a very adequate portion after all those delights.xmas-dessertI selected a  Cheese Board again from Platform 61, which included a selection of blue, Brie and cheddar with a delicious pear chutney. Similar to the seafood platter, it added a little touch of luxury and a festive feel.xmas-cheese

If you want a bit more of a blow-out Christmas feast or just want some comfort hangover food after your festive night out then I would highly recommend the Monster Kimchi Fries from Bread & Bones. It incorporates french fries, seared steak, BBQ pulled pork, a fried egg and kimchi – a traditional fermented Korean vegetable dish which is sure to help your immune system after all the late Christmas nights.xmas-hangover

As you can see there are plenty of options available online in Ireland for an alternative Christmas party; so get ordering! Be sure and let me know what you think in the comments section below and I hope you all have a very Happy Christmas!

 

 

How to Stay Healthy with JUST EAT

Reviews

JUST EAT have asked me to find the healthy side of takeaways. I will be letting you all in on my discoveries over the next six months so lots of eating on my part and lots of places for you to add to your list of favourite takeaways.justeat_apptile-logo-1As you all know my food blog Delalicious focuses on providing you with healthy, wholesome and easy recipes to make at home. As a sportswoman and Physiotherapist, I’m keen to stay healthy and in shape to ensure I work and play to my potential. Some people might think I never eat out or allow a chip pass my mouth, they do and especially after winning a big football match but it’s not my everyday food choice!! Healthy and takeaway aren’t two words that usually go hand in hand but I’ve discovered that they can; so read on to see how I managed to eat healthily using the JUST EAT app for one week.

What I found the hardest thing about this blog post was actually stopping myself from taking a portion of my curries, fish pies or stews out of the freezer the night before and giving my chopping board and knife a rest for the week….I know how sad but I do love to cook! But I also love to eat so this post was very easy to complete.

Monday: I had a light training session this evening so I decided to try out Chopped. Everybody raves about the place and I can see why, they have a wide array of salad combinations with DIY options and choices specific to meet your training needs. I opted for the Pulled Pork Salad with the Soup of the Day which was Mushroom – not my favourite but it is pot luck. Smoothies are also on the menu – I would highly recommend the Peanut Butter smoothie (it hit the spot after training)!! The best bit was that I when I went to collect my food after ordering online via the app, there was a queue of people a mile long to order but I got to jump straight to the top….waiting would not of been the ideal when your starving after work!!

Tuesday: After a gym session, I was ravenous and needed something fast. A great little place called Jolin’s Vietnamese Coffee House has popped up near my house and I got some gorgeous Vietnamese Beef Salad and Prawn Fresh Summer Rolls which had me nearly booking a flight to Vietnam they were so good. Jolin took such care in my order, as she cooked the beef right in front of me to ensure maximum freshness and taste.

Wednesday: I was racing around all day between work, football and blog stuff. Green Beards was my saviour as I was passing through Donnybrook and they have such tasty salads, smoothies and protein balls to choose from; I was in heaven! As you know salads can so easily go soggy but Green Beards have mastered this by using glass jars and layering the ingredients ensuring the delicate greens are on top away from any liquids. I opted for their Quinoa, Chickpea, Aubergine & Pomegranate Salad, a Honey Badger smoothie for after training and I picked up a few protein balls too. All their packaging is reusable, which earned them extra brownie points from my inner eco-warrior.

Thursday: Had a half day from work and decided something light and filling was needed to keep my energy levels going. Tolteca was the answer, I literally ordered on the app just as I left work and the delivery guy arrived as I pulled into my house. I opted for their Barbacoa Burrito Bowl with extra guacamole…. you can never have enough!!

Friday: The weekend had finally arrived and Aoki Sushi was my choice. They have a really big selection of all kinds of sushi, sashimi, noodles, ramen, teriyaki…the list goes on but I opted for a chefs special Sushi and Sashimi selection (it’s massive so I had plenty for lunch the next day) and a Teriyaki Salmon with extra vegetables instead of rice. Everything was light, fresh and really filled me up!

Saturday: Brunch is the only answer for Saturdays and Póg answered the sirens from my hungry belly. The Póg breakfast menu has tons of choice so it was tough to whittle down my decision. In the end I went for the Breakfast Parfait (with frozen yoghurt!) and the Nut Butter Toast Breakfast all from the comfort of my bed. The toast is deliciously good, I was there trying to savour each bite of the slice when I discovered a second layer with another slice…let’s just say I was a very happy girl!

Sunday: After a tough match, comfort food was on my mind and Camden Rotisserie answered the call as they know how to create the perfect succulent roast chicken. They have a wide choice of sides, protein only options and salads to choose from. I went for the Butterflied Chicken with a Goats Cheese Salad. All the food was cooked to perfection and full of flavour …. if you haven’t already, you need to experience the chicken! The portions are massive for one person so I had plenty of leftovers for my lunch in work the next day.

So, as you can see there are plenty of healthy options available on JUST EAT; so get ordering! If I’ve left your favourite healthy takeaway option out let me know in the comments below and I’ll try squeezing it into my next review.

Keep an eye out for my next post in December or follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for some more healthy eating inspiration!

Just Eat Jerusalem

Reviews

As part of the upcoming Littlewoods Ireland Blog Awards final, Just Eat the sponsors of the Food & Drink category challenged all the shortlisters to “Discover Something New” from their takeaway menu. €20 to spend on food seemed like a fair deal for such a tough challenge. Particularly after the week I’d had with numerous highs and lows on the football field and supporting the Tipperary hurlers, whilst also organising World Physiotherapy Day in work….it was an emotional and hectic few days and I deserved a night off from the kitchen so this competition couldn’t of been better timed.

Since it was World Physiotherapy Day, I was feeling very international and decided to delve in the wonderful world of middle eastern food and sample what Jerusalem on Camden Street had to offer. Jerusalem is a restaurant more than likely anyone who has ever been out in Dublin has walked past but I had never stepped foot inside and tasted their menu.When I think of Middle Eastern food, hummus, flatbread, chicken shawerma, pistachio baklava, tabbouleh and herb salads come to mind. The Jerusalem menu has plenty on offer and I spent a good half an hour whittling my choices down. Eventually, I ordered a falafel platter, Waraq Enab (stuffed vine leaves), Fatayer El Sabanikh (spinach and herb pastry parcels), halloumi and a mixed char-grill….it wasn’t all for me, my housemate was on the ticket too.

Once the food arrived, I assembled a mezze from all the dishes in true Middle Eastern style and we dug in. The highlights for me were without doubt the hummus – creamy, moreish and smooth; the falafel – one of my favourites when it’s done well and Jerusalem know how to make falafel; the stuffed vine leaves – bursting with flavour and finally the char-grilled lamb – smoky flavour filled goodness.All in all, it was a great feast and I would certainly order again from Jerusalem. I would probably not order the char-grilled meat as for me it needed reheating and with a take-away you shouldn’t need to do that.

  • Food quality: high excluding the salad garnishes
  • Value for money: filled two hungry people well plus plenty for lunch the next day; the total did exceed the €20 but I happily paid it
  • Temperature: the char-grilled meat was cold to be honest but still full of flavour
  • Highlight: stuffed vine leaves & hummus – could eat them all day
  • Lowlight: halloumi – would benefit from being marinated before grilling

Galgorm Resort & Spa Review

Reviews

The Galgorm?? I hear you say, where is that? What is it? Well I thought the same until a couple of months ago when I received an invite from Scarlett PR to complete a review of the resort and restaurant, after a quick Google, I very gladly accepted the invitation! The Galgorm is in fact the 2016 Northern Ireland Tourism Awards Hotel of the Year. It was my Mam’s birthday a couple of days before the planned trip so what better way to celebrate than accompanying me on this getaway.Little did I think, we would not only get to taste some incredible food from the triple AA rosette awarded restaurant, The River Room, but also get to be pampered whilst enjoying the spa and Ireland’s only outdoor thermal village which only opened earlier this year. The resort has undergone some major redevelopment in the last few months with a new accommodation wing and the aforementioned addition of the outdoor thermal village alongside an extension to the existing spa. These additions exude luxury in a very sympathetic way to the beautiful natural surroundings that the Galgorm is nestled in.

The Galgorm is situated just outside Ballymena in Galgorm village, which is 30 minutes from Belfast and just over 2 hours from Dublin. Once you pass through the gates of the resort you are suddenly cocooned in a tree lined avenue before the hotel comes into view in front of carefully manicured lawns with the River Maine cascading to one side. You are immediately captivated by the natural beauty whilst being whisked far away from your daily life and I felt myself already begin to switch off before I had even checked in. For a hotel a lot of people haven’t heard of, we were greeted by a queue to check-in at reception!! Thankfully, head doorman David welcomes every guest on arrival, he found out we were booked into a deluxe bedroom and we got whisked away to a separate reception to complete our check-in. If you get the chance, I would highly recommend the deluxe rooms, they are beautifully furnished, spacious and provide a great view over the river and thermal village.Once we had settled into the room, it was straight into our robes and direct to the spa to let the pampering begin. They provide you with a map of the thermal village and you really do need it….outdoor and indoor saunas, steam rooms, outdoor jacuzzis and pools, mutliple relaxation areas, two indoor pools and an ice cave (-10°C…..yes it’s very cold) are just some of the things to try. Last but not least are the outdoor wood-fired hot-tubs nestled along the River Maine, one was booked for us to try and they really are a treat, the bottle of champagne and chocolate truffles added just a little to the experience!

All that pampering is tough work so it was no length before hunger had struck and it was dinner time at The River Room for a fabulous four course meal. Chef Jonnie Boyd has lovingly created a small but creative menu offering extensive use of local artisan and seasonal ingredients. To start, we were treated to some snacks of perfectly cooked arancini balls and crab meat on crisped chicken skin alongside some beautifully baked sourdough bread with Abernethy butter.
For my starter, I had local pickled eel, radish and blackened cucumber – a simple dish packed with light and fresh flavours.
Next up were the mains, where I had to go for the beef fillet, brisket, purple sprouting broccoli puree and curly kale – the beef was cooked to perfection and very well presented with some gorgeous onion puree. As a side, I ordered the seasonal greens which for me were just perfection, al dente green beans and mangetout served on a bed of pea purée – I literally could of eaten an entire plate of just them alone!! Then came the dessert, a buttemilk pannacotta with raspberry sorbet, elderflower jelly and honeycomb was my selection whilst my Mam went for a dark chocolate pavé with passionfruit purée and sorbet – both dishes were expertly crafted and displayed, with plenty of subtle flavours that didn’t overpower each other whilst leaving you wanting more.
And more was what we got in the form of handmade chocolate orange truffles and cherry marshmallows. After all that eating, you’d imagine you might be stuffed to the gills but no it was a very well balanced meal that left you feeling content and satisfied.

After a great nights sleep, it was time for breakfast! This is one of my favourite things about staying in a hotel, both the cold buffet and cooked breakfast provided plenty of selection that you couldn’t be disappointed. We went for salmon gravalax and a Mediterranean chorizo and vegetable tagine which normally is served with baked eggs but I substituted them with some goats cheese. These lovely little fruit and yoghurt pots were the perfect finish.The resort grounds really are naturally beautiful and perfect for a leisurely walk or jog along the river banks. There are also plenty of sightseeing to be done with the Causeway coastline only 30 minutes away with Portush, the Giants Causeway, Bushmills, Ballycastle, Cushendall and Rathlin Island all within reach. If you do venture to Portrush, I came across a lovely little beachside café called Babushka which is well worth a visit.Since, we had made the journey from Tipperary, we decided to add on another’s night stay. This really meant we got to get full value from the spa and the hotel, as it has three dining options including Gillies Bar & Grill and Fratelli Ristorante & Pizzeria, so there is something for all taste-buds and budgets. The resort also has two bars including the Gillies Bar which has nightly music with the Conservatory boasting a gin bar with a selection of over 300 international varieties to choose from, one of the mixologists mentioned that they have to get the shelving extended to showcase the full collection. I’m sure the most keen of G&T drinkers would be spoilt for choice.7baa95ce-22a3-47ad-8c9b-912ccb4a6ed2

In my opinon, I would return to the Galgorm in the morning as it combines the perfect combination of quality food, great service, gorgeous surroundings and needless to say a very relaxing spa and thermal village. It would be a great place to celebrate a special occasion, birthday or simply for anyone in need of a well deserved break. The Galgorm may only be two hours from Dublin but I felt a lot further away from my busy normal routine!

I was invited along to experience the Galgorm Resort & Spa by Scarlettt PR, although all thoughts and opinions shared in this post are entirely my own.

 

Chefs Skills 1 Week Course at Dublin Cookery School

Reviews

What a week it was?? From the unbelievable dishes you got to taste and make every day to the talent of the guest chefs, to the friendly atmosphere and brilliant wisdom of the school!

When I saw this course advertised before Christmas with contributions from both Enda McEvoy from Loam, Galway (newly crowned Irish Chef of the Year) and John Wyer from Forest Avenue, Dublin (newly crowned Dublin Chef of the Year), I knew it was going to be special. Both chefs did one day each during the week which was heavy on both the demonstrating and the tasting; serious tough work for us attendees!!Day 3-5 was where we really got to cut our teeth at plating up like professionals using syphon guns, piping bags, blow torches, foams and the ever present subtlety placed garnish. The recipes varied greatly from sweet to savoury, fine dining to Asian cuisine including a stop off in pasta making & sugar craft spinning along the way.  Fermentation, foraging, seasonality and zero waste were strong influences with both of the guest chefs.

My favourite dishes in no particular order were: Enda McEvoy – Chewy Carrots, Duck & Rose;
John Wyer – Beef Tartare, Comté Angolotti, Roasted Monkfish with Mussle Foam; Tara Livingston – Beef with Roasted Cauliflower, Lemon Tart with Cherry Sorbet;
Richard Gleeson – Chocolate Pistachio Mousse Cake, Salted Cod Asian Salad, Mango Mousse Layer Cake and not to mention the Spinach & Ricotta Malfatti!!
It was great fun and I would highly recommend the school to anyone as they have a wide variety of courses from supper clubs, demonstrations to three month certificate courses. The one week course is a great opportunity for any one who enjoys cooking and wants to flex their creative side whilst getting the opportunity to learn from two of Ireland’s top chefs and not forgetting the very talented Dublin Cookery School owner Lynda Booth and tutors (Reg White, Richard Gleeson, Tara Livingston) who no doubt will be coming back as guest chefs from their own establishments in the future!