Tuesday, April 19, 2011

quick, before it's over! Irish Craft Portfolio @ NCG

Last Friday I revisited the National Craft Gallery for another little stroll around this year's Irish Craft Portfolio exhibition. This is the fifth edition of the programme showcasing the best in Irish craftsmanship putting Ireland yet again on the map for International Contemporary Craft.

This year, as ever, the quality of the work and skill involved is truly captivating, the connection to nature and landscape ever so visible. Various media from wood and porcelain through glass, black diamonds and precious metals to discarded plastic bags reflect great consideration for the material and appreciation of the making process. The pieces live each their own life and tell their own story, and at the same time converse with each other in a quiet language of passion, skill and patience. Every time I visit the NCG I find myself enchanted by the beauty of their timeless form, it makes me want to touch them and feel their warmth. I can smell the sea, feel the breeze on my face, run my fingers through the grass and hug the trees. The mood created by these objects and their energy are for me the ultimate proof that the border between arts and crafts has long disappeared. Craft can be equally challenging and exhilarating. 

It would be impossible to chose my personal favourite, but I am very inspired by Jack Doherty's soda fired porcelain pieces. Using his One clay, one colouring, one firing process, Jack chooses  to present the material which we associate with lightness and delicacy in such strong, robust form whilst still managing to capture its simplicity and elegance. The contrast within his own work is wonderful, and his work gains another dimension once put into perspective with other pieces, like f.e. Frances Lambe's Sea-Life forms or Nuala O'Donovans work.
My personal favourite of the Portfolio 2011 Jack Doherty

The participants of the Irish Craft Portfolio are selected annually by an international jury of gallerists, curators and experts and their work is promoted nationally and internationally through exhibitions and publications. The exhibition is accompanied by the elegant issue of Irish Crafts Portfolio Catalogue.

Complex porcelain piece by Nuala O'Donovan
You can visit this exhibition at the NCG until 11th May and I cannot recommend highly enoug htheir monthly Late Date (an informal tour of the exhibitions-every last Friday of the month). On Friday 29th April @ 6pm you will have the pleasure of a tour with Rhythm and Roots Festival Director John Cleere with musical assistance from Hans Chew. Do check it out!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Chocolate Overdose Cake for my Irish Foodies Cookalong

If you have recently decided to live healthy and avoid chocolate, sweets and work on your cholesterol level you should probably stop reading now....

This month's  Irish Foodies Cookalong theme was "chocolate", there could not be a better theme for my very first cookalong. I decided to go the traditional route and to make a Chocolate Cake. A decadent (1lb of chocolate...), moist, melt-in-your-mouth-succulent cake, which wont take hours of slaving in the kitchen... I think this 3 ingredients (no flour :)) Chocolate Overdose Cake will please even the biggest Chocaholic, and it's so simple to make.

  • 450g Chocolate (broken into pieces - I used half dark/half milk- It's down to your own preference
  • 225g Butter (cut into pieces)
  • 8 large eggs (cold)

Grease an 8inch round cake tin and preheat your oven to 160degrees.

Whisk the eggs until they're very, very fluffy, about 5mins. Melt the butter and chocolate together .
Slowly fold in the melted butter-chocolate mix into the whisked eggs, trying to keep as much air in as possible
(If you feel that your batter is too runny at this stage you can add a bit of cocoa or flour, but I didn't need to).
Scrape the mixture into the  prepared form, fill a roasting tin with water and place your cake tin in the water bad. Bake for approx 25-27mins, the cake should have a crust like a brownie, but still look quite wobbly in the middle. Leave it in the tin to cool, once cool cover it and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. 
Take the cake out of the fridge 30mins before serving. Sprinkle with icing sugar. 

This cake is so decadent, I dare you to ask for another piece... Enjoy!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

lazy sunday breakfast...

I know there might be people who call it blasphemy calling something that contains flour "an omelette" but I could not come up with a better description for my little recipe. It might seem like a pancake but since it doesn't contain milk or butter milk it's technically not a pancake either... Whatever you want to call it, here's a little recipe for a quick (flour) omelette with rhubarb-raspberry compote drizzled with Highbank Orchard Syrup

Makes 2 omelettes (approx 10inch pan)
For the compote
2-3 rhubarb stalks- chopped
1 cup raspberries
4 tbs sugar
Combine all in a pan and simmer until soft. The rhubarb will release enough juices so no extra liquid necessary. You might feel it needs an extra bit of sugar...go for it if you feel so...set aside.

For the omelette
4 eggs (whites and yolks separated)
4 tbs plain raising flour (or any other flour)
2 tbs sugar
1 pinch salt
Whisk the egg whites with sugar and salt until stiff. Gently fold in the yolks and flour. Heat a bit of oil in a frying pan and bake the omelettes (moderate heat-be careful, my first one was a disaster...) for approx 2 mins each side, until golden brown.

Serve drizzled with orchard syrup and compote. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

ooohh charity shops, how I love thee...

I just found this lovely vintage jewellery box in Enable Ireland Charity Shop EUR 2.35!!!! It's beautiful velvet in navy colour, the pictures don't do it justice... LOVIN IT!

What was your best charity shop find?

Friday, April 1, 2011

out and about on Trail Kilkenny with KETTOW

I spent yesterday out and about with the KETTOW group of Ladies exploring the food and craft businesses around Trail Kilkenny. Trail Kilkenny is an organisation which develops, maintains and promotes a range of leisure trails around the beautiful County Kilkenny. From cycling and walking trails, through food to craft, there is something for everyone; tourists and residents alike.

We started our "road trip" with a visit to the Jerpoint Glass This family run studio has been producing beautiful glass pieces of excellent quality for over 30 years. You may also have a chance to watch the glass blowers in action as the workshop itself is open to visitors. Adjacent to the studio is the Jerpoint shop and gallery where you can see their whole collection of skillfully crafted glass as well as paintings and pottery work by other artists. The visit to this picturesque place is truly a unique experience.

Next stop was Thomastown and Blackberry cafe - an award winning eatery owned by Jackie Hoyne located in a beautifully restored 18th century building. Jackie is very passionate about local food produce and traditional recipes, which can easily be seen in Blackberry's menu- we loved the freshly baked scones and tarts she welcomed us with and will definitely be back for more!

Just across the road from Blackberry Cafe is the Design Studio and Gallery of Karen Morgan an amazing ceramist renowned for her distinctive hand thrown porcelain work. I have been admiring Karen's work for several years and it was great to finally meet her in person.
I was also so absorbed talking to Karen that I forgot to take a picy of the new Gallery, so here at least an image of her work (taken from here)

It wouldn't have been a perfect trip without chocolate and cheese, therefore we made a little stop at Truffle Fairy to taste their fine truffles and fudge (tequila, salt and lemon praline. Yum!) before we headed off to Knockdrinna Cheese - producers of award winning farmhouse cheeses from cow's, goat's and ewe's milk. We got a mini-tour of the farm by the owner Helen Finnegan and made new friends

The latest addition to the farm is the Farm Cafe serving great food prepared using mainly the own farm produce- see the Knockdrinna Goat's Cheese and sundried tomato tart below. You should taste it yourself at Knockdrinna Farm in Stoneyford!

Followed the lavish food and truffles we had no choice but to join Eoin Hogan from Trail Kilkenny for a brisk walk along one of many Kilkenny trails.
The day was truly inspiring and another showcase of how lucky we are living in this beautiful county full of scenic walks, amazing crafts and great food. For all those who think that "the grass is always greener" and travel the world in search of beautiful things, I highly recommend a walk alongside River Nore followed by a cup of coffee at the Blackberry Cafe....mmmmm....