Archive for ‘meat’

July 10, 2011

Kanaviilokki – Finnish Chicken Curry With Blackcurrant Jam

by Ciaran Burke


Next week I will be visiting Finland. Each year my wife and I visit her homeland and her family and friends. I like Finland, in the summer the nights are long, the weather better than Ireland and in the winter the deep snow and cold crisp weather is refreshing. The Finns are nice people, polite and pleasant, direct and honest.

When you visit foreign places, you look for similarities, you also notice differences. The people you meet treat you as an exotic, they too look for similarities between our cultures and also observe the differences. Sometimes both can create amusing situations. A simple act on my part, a common place action in my home land can create amusement and people might make remarks. A straight forward act such as putting jam on your bread in the morning, a good example. Finns eat bread for their breakfast, they also eat jam, but the two do not meet. No, black currant jam does not get spread on their leipä, instead they eat their black currant hillo with meat. A popular home made dish is Kanaviilokki, a chicken curry and it is always served with jam, black currant jam. Imagine sitting down at the local Indian curry house, the waiter has served you your tandori chicken and asks you if there is anything else he can get you, to which you reply, “may I have a side order of black currant jam to go with this please?”. I am tempted to try it. Well until I get that opportunity I decided to give it ago at home. Hanna supplied the recipe, just like Finnish mums have been making it for decades, but with a few slight variations.

You can’t get whole chikens in the shop in Finland, you can only get portions or what they call broiler meat. We used a large breast and two thighs which we had cut up into portions when we bought our organic chiken from Irish Organic meats at Boyle farmers market, Hanna ground up the curry spices fresh, and the chicken stock came from our freezer, made from the carcass of an organic chicken after portioning it up. We use brown basmati rice.




  • 500g of chicken, cut into pieces
  • 1 large onion, chopped coarsely
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 3 teaspoons of curry powder (depending on which mix you use, add less at first and add more as it cooks if you think it needs it)
  • Butter for frying
  • cornflower for thikening
  • Black Currant Jam for serving
  • Brown Basmati Rice


  1. Melt a large knob of butter in a large sauce pan. I add a little rape seed oil to help stop the butter burning. Use a medium to low heat.
  2. Add the onion and saute until it starts to soften.
  3. Add curry powder and continue to cook until the onion softens and turns golden. Be careful not to let the onion burn and don’t let it stick to the pan, keep it moving around.
  4. Chicken can now be added, turn up the heat a little and stir around until the meat is sealed.
  5. Pour in the chicken stock, turn up the heat until the liquid boils and then lower the heat and cover the pot.
  6. Let the mixture simmer for 40 minutes, stirring every now and again to prevent it sticking
  7. Put a couple of tea spoons of corn flower in a cup and add a little water, stir to make a paste.
  8. Add a little of the cornflower at a time and stir until the curry starts to thicken, cook for another few minutes, stirring frequently.
  9. Serve the curry with boiled rice and a side dish of black currant jam.



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June 22, 2011

Snails for dinner! L’Escargot With Onion and Pinhead Oatmeal

by Ciaran Burke

Snails in galic butter served on fried pinhead oats and onion

Snails, slime trails and munched leaves, hosta holes and devoured delphiniums, the ever-present threat, the garden terrorists. Innocent plant species, fresh from the secure haven of the nursery are easy targets for these ruthless slimy beings.

How often have we gardeners gone to our gardens full of enthusiasm and optimism only to have our day ruined by the murder scene of slime tracks, the evidence of the crime orgy of leaf munching perpetrated by these garden thugs?  Newly planted vegetables raised with care , coaxed from from their embryonic slumber by our efforts, these babies of ours are destroyed while we sleep. Some of my lettuce plants were devoured by the nocturnal activity of snails. It was time for revenge, to fight fire with fire, an eye for an eye. I decided to eat those that ate my plants!

Snails and slugs are molluscs, a zoological family that includes sea animals such as squid and octopus. The common garden snail with the large brown swirling patterned shell is Helix aspera and in common with octopus and squid it is quite a delicacy in some European countries; l’escargot. The idea of eating snails seems to turn most Irish people green, but lets face it, it not any worse than eating oysters, at least you cook snails. Oysters enjoy a place of privilege in the culinary world, yet what could be more natural than eating snails from the garden; home grown food,  raised in an organic garden, zero carbon footprint and no food miles.

Snail farm otherwise known as "death row"

In May I decided to rear my first meat from our garden. Hanna and I went out to the garden in the evening and looking down amongst the leaves of herbaceous perennials such as Libertia grandiflora, Kniphofia, red hot pokers and under the foliage of wall trained climbers and lifting flat stones we gathered over the course of three evenings twenty one nice big specimens of garden snails.

Carefully they were gathered, the gardeners’ instinct to crush the enemy was subdued and with tenderness they were carried to their temporary residence of white and red; a recycled bucket which once held mayonnaise. Into its red lid numerous ventilation holes were made with a knife. Cleaned thoroughly two lids from jam jars provided the buffet for the new occupants. One carried cool clear water, the other, bran flakes. We had tried feeding snails on other cereals, oats, whole grain spelt flour, but wheat bran is their favourite.

Snails in bucket

When preparing snails for eating, they require about seven to ten days of feeding to clear out grit from their digestive systems followed by forty eight hours of water only. The purging period is essential in order to clear their digestive systems; you never know what else they have been eating. Throughout this period the bucket was kept in our shed, cool, dry and dark. After a few days I placed a good pinch of calcium carbonate, ground limestone, for the snails to eat. This helps prevent their shells from going soft and breaking.

Every evening the snails were removed for cleaning of the accommodation. Most of the snails were either eating from the food or hanging upside down on the inside of the lid. They were removed and placed in another bucket while I wiped out their excreta and washed the box. Some of the snails were sometimes a bit messy so they also got a quick wash. Luckily they are not fast movers and although some wake up they did not seem in a hurry to rush away, perhaps they were getting used to the convenience food and water supplies of their bucket home, little did they know that their plastic home was not a holiday village, but death row. Each day though they were treated with care, fed and supplied with clean water and their quarters cleaned and their welfare checked, it was no Guantanamo, their rights were respected. After their ten-day detention period including the 48 hours fasting had finished it was time for them to be cooked.

Snails in water with onion and herbs from the garden

I had help to prepare them for the table; Hanna’s brother Mika and his partner Heidi were visiting from Helsinki. Both are enthusiastic foodies and were keen to take part in our meal of vengeance.

Cooking garden snails

  1. Remove the snails from the bucket and wash each snail under cold running water
  2. Drop the snails into boiling water and remove after 5 minutes. Some froth is produced as mucus is released from the snails’ bodies.
  3. The snails are removed from their shells using small forks. This is easy to do; a quick flick of the wrist imparts the swirled flesh from the shell.
  4. The snails release a little green mucus, and may release more. To remove mucus the snail flesh is washed a number of times in diluted vinegar. Repeat until no more mucus is released.
  5. Next cook the snails in stock or with water with herbs, there are many variations of this, we used fresh herbs from the garden including oregano, lovage and parsley and added some chopped onion to the water seasoned with salt and ground black pepper.
  6. After 30 minutes the snails were removed and then fried in butter with garlic and parsley.

Mika and Ciaran with the snails

Snail meat

We served the snails on a bed of pinhead oatmeal sautéed with friend onion. The snails were judges to be a great success, both Mika and Heidi enjoyed them, and I did too. While in Ireland they had both dined in some really fine restaurants but Heidi reckoned that the culinary highlight of their trip to Ireland was the preparation and eating of the snails. They were very tasty, in fact, never has revenge for garden damage tasted so good.

Heidi enjoying our home grown l'escargot

Heidi writes a blog about cakes (in Finnish) LINK

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May 1, 2011

Leg of Lamb With Coffee Sauce

by Ciaran Burke


For Easter Sunday last weekend, we bought a half leg of lamb from the Irish Organic Meats stall at Boyle market in Co. Roscommon. I wanted to do something a little different. Hanna suggested cooking it with coffee. This is a traditional Easter lamb dish in Hanna’ family which here grandmother always cooked back in Helsinki, Finland. Hanna phoned her Mum to get the recipe, which she had close to hand, as she was preparing the same dish.


  • Half leg of lamb, we used shank end weighing 1.5 Kg
  • Salt and Pepper for seasoning
  • 1 bulb of garlic
  • 200ml cream
  • 0.5 Litre of strong coffee – by no means use instant!
  • 2 tablespoons of Muscavado sugar
  • Cream – Hanna’s mum says enough that if looks like what granny used to drink!
Preparing and cooking the lamb


  1. Season with salt and fresh ground black pepper
  2. Cut slits into the lamb fat and push slices of garlic under the fat
  3. Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper
  4. Place into a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees Celcius for 15 minutes
  5. Then lower the temperature to 180 and start to baste the meat with coffee
  6. Spoon coffee over the lamb every fifteen minutes
Lining the tray with baking paper prevents the juices released from the meat from burning. Roast for one hour for the first Kilo and half an hour for every additional kilo.
When the lamb is cooked, pour the juices into a measuring jug, allow to cool a little and then remove fat from top. Keep lamb warm.


Pour into a saucepan and heat. Stir in an equal amount of coffee. If you want a thicker sauce you can thicken with cornflower.
Carve meat and serve with rosemary roast potatoes. Delicious at any time of year, not just Easter!

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April 4, 2011

Cashel House- The Final Day of the Course

by Ciaran Burke


It was raining during the night. When we woke, Hanna pulled back the curtains, the sun light came flooding into the room. Through the branches of the tress in the secret garden it created twisted silhouettes and golden rays. We had just had an excellent night sleep, the quiet of Cashel Bay wraps your sleep in calm. We strolled outside onto the front lawn, the grass was moist and sparkling. The white tulips looked a little dishevelled, as if they had had a hard night, but still beautiful in their white petal gowns.



We walked to the Secret Garden, it was an orchard one hundred years ago. A previous owner had a greater desire for botanical curiosity than for home grown apples and now the low walled garden is a small woodland comprised of exotic specimens. We walked along the path, passing floriferous camellias, under the great Chilean flame tree, Embothrium coccineum, which in May is a blaze of red flowers. A great white Japanese cherry flowers above a rustic wooden bench. The big leaves of the American skunk cabbage, Lysichiton americanum, are growing in the wet, still in the infancy of spring they have not yet reached their dramatic summer size. Their yellow spathe flowers fill the air around the pond with a heavy odour. Further along the  lady’s matle, Alchemilla mollis, lies at the path side still dressed with last nights rain drops. We stop to wonder at the size and beauty of the huge Magnolia x soulangeana, the biggest I have ever seen. From Mary’s Garden you can see it mingle with and rise above other trees. We walk the upper path and see the last flowers and big paddle shaped leaves of Rhododendron macabeanum. We admire the large trunks of the tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipifera, still undressed, the branches not yet concealed with its unusual shaped leaves nor decorated with yellow tulip-like flowers, not till July will the flowers appear. Just before we exit the garden we have to bow as we pass under a stretched out limb of Persian ironwood, Parrotia persica. Another naked tree, the leaves starting to unfurl. The bareness reveals a wonderful structure of twisted and spreading branches. Soon they will be covered in green foliage that will burn red and orange in autumn.



There is nothing like a walk under botanical wonders to give me an appetite, so in we went for breakfast. After eating I set up for the day’s class. We continued the presentation on vegetable gardening. Some people had questions about some of the plants that we had seen on our walks in the garden. I showed them pictures of the plants, someone was curious about how the Embothrium flowers would look in May. Before the lunch we took a short walk through the gardens and I answered the group’s garden questions, there were many!







We sat in the bar which over looks the garden. In comfortable laid back seats we ordered lunch. Once more we were spoilt for choice and the food as always was excellent. I had the lamb for main course while Hanna had the spinach roulade. Once we all had finished our dessert and coffee, we went back outside into the sunshine and walked up through the vegetable garden, pausing on the way to explain the origins of the Irish yew, Taxus baccata ‘Fastigiata’ Our class had been joined by two American guests staying at the hotel, gardeners from Washington D.C. When reaching the vegetable garden I demonstrated pruning, and then we pruned one of the apple trees. I explained the reasons and the method, demonstrating how it was done. The everybody had a go, each member of the party also pruning some branches of the apple trees.

When the day and the course was over we gathered for farewell tea and scones in the drawing room. I had enjoyed the weekend, talking about plants and gardening fills me with enthusiasm. Especially when I meet other people with an eagerness to learn. The weekends of our Cashel House Hotel courses always fly so fast. Its not just the fun of doing the course, the beautiful gardens and the delicious food. We feel that we always make new friends and as somebody from the garden class said, Cashel House is perfect for a gardening course; the garden, the company, the food and the atmosphere.



See more information about Cashel House Hotel courses with Ciaran

Book a Course at Cashel House Hotel

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March 30, 2011

Beef Stock and Oven Chips in Beef Dripping

by Ciaran Burke
Copyright Ciaran Burke 2011
Roasted beef bones in roasting tin

Last Saturday we made our weekly visit to the Farmers Market in Boyle, Co. Roscommon. My partner Hanna and I love to  do as much as possible of our week’s grocery shopping at the market. Dealing with stall holders in the grounds of the historic King House is such an uplifting and enjoyable experience, it certainly beats dealing with self service tills at a supermarket, or being ignored by bored uninterested, sometime rude, shop employees discussing their previous night’s social life adventures while mindlessly scanning our purchases. Yes, a friendly hello, a smile, costs nothing but is worth so much. The relaxed atmosphere of the market allows time for a chat, a bit of banter and always a smile and a few laughs. The produce is organic and top quality, and cost wise it is good value as we are dealing direct with the grower, the farmer, the baker the supplier. The packaging is a lot less too, much better for the environment.

There are other perks of having a regular supplier for your meat too. I texted Deirdre from Irish Organic Meats earlier in the week to ask if she could supply us with beef bones for making stock, “no problem ” was the reply. When we arrived at her stall there was the usual cheerful greeting and she had brought two bags of bones. Having your own supply of organic beef stock is a great thing when you want to make sauces, gravy and soups. We store the stock in plasctic boxes in the freezer, so handy to have, as so simple to make.

Copyright Ciaran Burke 2011

Beef bones ready for roasting

On Saturday afternoon we placed the bones in a baking tray and drizzled over a little rapeseed oil. We placed the tray in the oven set at 180 degrees Celcius and let the bones roast for about two hours. The smell was torturously delicious as it wafted from the open kitchen door while we toiled in the garden. We worked until dark which was well after seven. We were starving, a treat was ahead of us though. A great bonus of roasting the bones is that plenty of clear beef fat is released from the roasting bones. When this cools it becomes a cream toffee tinted colour and has the consistency of full fat butter, this is beef dripping.  The treat in store was oven chips roasted in deef dripping.

Copyright Ciaran Burke 2011

Beef fat from roasting the bones

Copyright Ciaran Burke 2011

One spoonful of beef dripping is enough to give a roasting tin full of chips a full flavour










Thick chunky chips, from potatoes that were dug from the garden only two weeks before. These were the last of the previous season’s crop. The varietry was ‘Tibet’, a late maturing variety, the tubers are ready only in October. It makes a tall growing plant with quite attractive dark purple blooms.

Potato 'Tibet' washed and ready to be peeled

Copyright Ciaran Burke 2011

Thick cut potato chips ready for the oven










The tubers were washed of their soil revealing their red skins. After peeling and cutting the potatoes into large chips, a roasting tin with a good dollop of dripping was put in the oven until it was liquified and sizzling. The chips were then tossed in the hot fat and rolled around before being put in the oven. I set the timer for 8 minutes. When the beeps of the timer rang out I took the tin from the oven and moved the chips about making sure none were sticking and that all were coated in fat. Then into the oven they returned. This I repeated another time, the chips were ready in 24 minutes.

Copyright Ciaran Burke 2011

Oven chips cooked in beef dripping, sinfully delicious!

They were delicious sprinkled with salt, perfect food for after a hard day’s work in the garden.

The next day, Sunday, we placed the roasted bones in two large saucepans and covered them well with water, about four litres in each pot. We brought the water to the boil and allowed them to simmer for about six hours while we worked all day in the garden. The water reduced down to below the height  of the bones. After it cooled for a few hours we packed into plastic containers, labelled them with dates and stored them in the freezer. Some we put aside and refrigerated to use the following day to make tomato soup for lunch.

Copyright Ciaran Burke 2011

Beef stock after water has reduced

Copyright Ciaran Burke 2011
Home made beef stock, rich and full of flavour, free from additives.



Beef dripping gives such a rich flavour to the chips and home made beef stock beats anything you can buy in the shops, made from organic produce, free from additives and full of taste. Chicken stock is also easy to make. We always boil the carcass of a chicken and get a couple of litres of rich stock, and the cats get a treat of the left over meat on the bones.



Copyright Ciaran Burke 2011

Beef Dripping will store for many weeks in the refrigerator

Boyle origin farmers market

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