Some very good friends kindly gave us a voucher for Gortnanain Vegetarian Guesthouse and Organic Farm, which we used last weekend. This guesthouse is situated in the rolling countryside just outside Kinsale in Co. Cork and consists of the small guesthouse itself and around 9 acres of land given over to growing a staggering array of vegetables and to a lesser, but increasing, extent fruit. The bulk of this produce is used to supply a handful of restaurants in Cork city, including one of the world’s great vegetarian restaurants – Dennis Cotter’s Cafe Paradiso.
Not only do Lucy and Ultan tend the crops, they also do a great job as hosts and chefs for dinner and breakfast. After arriving, we were given a nice cup of tea and had a great chat. We also got to meet the house’s other permanent residents, Snapple and Bramble – head rabbit catchers on the farm. There was one other couple staying that night: Michael and Lorna from NYC. Everyone – guests and hosts alike – sits around the big kitchen table for dinner.
The dinner menu is fixed, but Lucy did ask when we booked, whether we had any preferences or allergies; and they work out the menu based on that information and whatever is available in the garden. Gortnanain has no wine licence but provides a glass or two on the house and you can, of course, bring your own. Dinner was excellent, especially the tomato salad, which completely changed my views on the merits of beefsteak tomatoes. These were ripe to perfection and bursting with flavour. The conversation was great and continued after we retired to the lounge for tea and coffee. Lucy and Ultan’s take on organic was very refreshing. They are committed to local organic food because being near, it’s in peak condition, and organic farming is so much better for the environment. They made no claims that it’s necessarily better for you: for that they’d rather wait for conclusive scientific evidence. Mind you, I think it’s obvious that they believe it.
Next day, after a delicious breakfast, Ultan gave a tour of the farm. It was quite astonishing, what could be produced from a small plot. As we wandered up and and down drills of various vegetables in glorious sunshine, with Ultan weeding as we went, it was quite obvious the amount of work that goes into producing such great vegetables. You must need huge commitment to be doing this on the many rainy days we have.
I can’t recommend Gortnanain highly enough and would urge you to spend a night or two if you’re ever in the area. I know we’re looking forward to our next visit.
I recently posted a recipe for a fantastic quiche using fresh garlic. This was delicious but unfortunately the season for fresh garlic is pretty short. So, I was on the lookout for a similar recipe that I could make all year round. While perusing the Irish Times a few weeks ago, I came across this tart/quiche in Domini Kemp’s column. She presents a recipe adapted from one by Yotam Ottolenghi, which I, in turn, have adapted slightly to suit the flan dishes I had available. The results were great and I look forward to being able to enjoy this tart throughout the year. Ottolenghi’s recipe uses less balsamic, which I would do next time too, as it keeps the garlic more golden than dark.
This recipe is for a 20cm dish. Just double the quantities for 28cm. You can of course make your own puff pastry if you’re that way inclined but I used Jus-Rol. I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t use shortcrust, in which case there’s less excuse not to make it yourself!
There’s a little bit of work involved but you can do each stage separately; so don’t let that put you off trying this great dish.
Makes: 4 portions
Preparation: 10 mins + 20 mins
Cooking: 30 mins + 20 mins + 30 mins
|Puff pastry (defrosted but still cold)
Garlic (cloves separated and peeled)
Chopped fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, etc)
Goat’s cheese (mix hard and soft if you can)
Large eggs (the best you can get)
20cm quiche dish about 3cm deep
Baking beans or similar
First we need to make the pastry base, which can be be done ahead of time. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface so that it is big enough to line the base and sides of the quiche dish with a margin to allow for shrinkage. Prick the base all over with a fork. If you have time place in the fridge for 20 minutes of so. Trim the excess pastry. Line the pastry with greaseproof paper and pour in the baking beans. Use as many as will fit, as otherwise the base will rise. Place into the preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the greaseproof paper and baking beans and continue to bake for a further 5 minutes to let the base crisp up. Set aside to cool. Don’t worry if the base has risen a little: you can carefully trim around the edge and press it down gently later.
When you’re ready to finish off the dish, set the oven to warm at 160°C. Put the olive oil in a small frying pan over a low heat and add the garlic cloves. Let them gently sweat for about 10 minutes. Move them around the pan to stop them colouring. Then add the sugar, balsamic and water. Increase the heat and let the mixture reduce. After about 10 minutes add the chopped herbs and season with a little salt and pepper. When the liquid has turned syrupy, the garlic should be soft and have a nice dark colour from the balsamic. In the meantime, dice the cheese and sprinkle over the pastry base. Crack the eggs and mix with the crème fraîche to form a sort of custard. Sprinkle the garlic cloves evenly over the cheese along with a little of the pan syrup. Move the dish to near the oven and pour in the eggs and crème fraîche. Transfer to the oven and bake for about 30 minutes or until the custard has set.
Let cool a little before serving, as this gives the flavour a chance to develop. Enjoy with a green salad.
Pimientos de Padron are a delicious speciality from Galicia. These thumb-sized chillies are completely without the usual fire. To prepare just fry, with the stalks still attached, in hot olive oil until blistered, use kitchen towel to remove excess oil and sprinkle liberally with flakes of sea salt. They may not make the world’s most attractive dish but they are absolutely scrumptious. If you find these in your local greengrocer’s, I urge you to give them a try. You won’t be disappointed.