So many of you enjoyed our pancake recipes that we are thinking about sharing some more of our favourite, simple, recipes for you to try at home when we aren't in the kitchen. If that is something you'd like to see on the blog let us know in the comments (at the very bottom of the page). But this week we all went on holidays (well, sort of)... As we were working on our new Spring takeway menu for The Church, a conversation about travel began. As things have a habit of doing around here, it quickly turned to food.
As we were chatting about how food is often the best part of travelling, Chef Wendy started thinking about her own adventures. For Wendy, food and travel brings thoughts of cherries and Spain. Her favourite restaurant when she visited (and then went to live there) was remote - perched high up on a mountain but worth trekking out of the way for. This time of year made it even more worthwhile when the whole area was suddenly filled with an explosion of cherry blossom. As if that image wasn't wonderful enough, she decided to make her recipe for dark chocolate and cherry torte and give us all a little taste of her special place in Spain.
A little slice of Spain in our Letterkenny kitchen
Food is a wonderful way to get to know a place. Few things speak to the heart of a culture like it!
We don't often think about it, but how we produce our food, how we prepare it and when and how we enjoy it reveals a lot.
It can tell us about the pace of life in an area - are their more "grab and go" cafés and fast-food restaurants than sit-in restaurants?
It speaks to working practices - many farmers in Donegal and across Ireland retain the tradition of having their dinner/main meal earlier in the day than most, having started their day in the first flush of morning.
Fishermen often have a different routine.
Others who work late into the night have their own timings (you may have noticed people in major cities buying fruit and vegetables from stands outside corner shops in the wee hours of the morning).
It can teach us about the make up of a community and how it has changed over time. When people move to an area they often bring new flavours, different cooking techniques and styles with them. When original ingredients aren't available, local ingredients are substituted in. People share recipes. Eventually, over time, an area can develop an entirely unique set of dishes not found anywhere else.
We can also learn the history of a place through food. Just a short walk down the road from the Rockhill House Estate is the Newmills Corn and Flax Mills which dates back to the early nineteenth century - worth visiting when you are out with us.
Food allows us to explore the nature of an area through our plate as well. Roquefort cheese for example must be made from milk of a particular breed of sheep, and matured in natural caves colonised by the fungus penicillium roqueforti near the town of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon in the Aveyron region of France. The wild herbs, grasses and heathers of Connemara are said to give the protected Connemarra Lamb its flavour.
Here in Donegal, our regular rainfall nourishes lush pasture and gives us rich, creamy, milk and award winning cheese (Yeats Country Cheese is a regular feature on our menu). We also have all of the fruits of the Atlantic on our doorstep - keeping us supplied with the likes of mussels, haddock, mackerel and crab. And in Autumn we have Chanterelle mushrooms ripe for picking just a short walk from our kitchen - a dream for a chef!
All of that and Chef Wendy's trip to the mountains of Spain (without leaving our Letterkenny kitchen) has made us curious. What food instantly transports you to another place or time? And what dish says "Donegal" and "Home" more than any other?
Let us know in the comments.
We are back in our kitchen on the Rockhill House Estate on Friday from 5pm - bringing you all your favourites from The Church Restaurant with contactless collection or contactless delivery in Letterkenny. Until then, take good care of yourself...and maybe have some cherries,
The Church Team