We've talked before on the blog about how our food here at The Church is a reflection of us and what we call our 'Spirit of Place' - the particular sense, a feeling, that unique "vibe" we are surrounded by here on The Rockhill Estate.
It can be difficult to explain until you experience it for yourself, but we've found it is shaped by the people, the landscape, the climate and history which all seem to connect in a special way in the hills overlooking Letterkenny.
Well, this weeks blog will give you a delicious taste of what we mean.
And it all begins with the lemon tree...well actually four lemon tress which sit on our warm Letterkenny restaurant terrace.
Seeds of culinary inspiration
We've been busy behind the scenes preparing to welcome you back to the restaurant and the Rockhill House Estate. As many of you will know, our outdoor terrace is an extension of the grounds. In the depths of winter our fairy lights give a cosy glow to the warmed terrace as we watch the dramatic sky roll by and change by second.
In summer, we slide open the glass walls to let the fresh Donegal air in, carrying with it a constant chorus of bird song and the soft fragrance of the herbs and vegetables we grow outside for use in the kitchen.
Over the last few weeks we've been busy sowing and establishing vegetable and herb seeds for the kitchen to create delicious dishes with well into late autumn.
We've also been growing a few surprises for our wheelbarrow planters on the garden terrace which hopefully will happily grow in their homemade newspaper pots and be ready to slip into their new home at the start of June.
A Zest for Life
Growing produce and plants is something many of our team are passionate about. When not in the kitchen, Chef Thomas is usually found farming and Chef Wendy regularly slips off to help in the gardens of the Estate or is busy painting fences and tending plants in her own garden - regularly updating us all via Whatsapp on what is bring her joy this week (at the moment it is a stunning bright pink cherry blossom which is in full show).
This love of the fruits of the earth feeds into our menus, with ingredients being carefully and knowingly chosen throughout the year. But it and our surroundings on the Rockhill House Estate also provide a constant flow of inspiration.
As we were moving the lemon trees - which thrive year round on our outdoor seating area - a lemon dropped off and so began a ripple of culinary inspiration.
First up was a taste test between two different lemon curd recipes. One is a traditional recipe many of you will be familiar with. The second is made with agar and no rind and in theory can be stored longer (though it was gone faster than it was made and lemon curd disappears just as fast in the kitchen usually so we couldn't test that).
Then the mixing bowls and baking trays were brought out as it was decided a true taste test should involve trying the ingredient as part of a full dish. And so ingredients were weighed and mixers started spinning...
The end result?
A heavenly white chocolate and lemon curd roulade topped with crushed pistachio (click the right of the picture to see more).
Light and fluffy, sweet and zesty, with just a gentle hint of pistachio. It was so good we decided it will appear on one of our upcoming summer menus.
But, by the time all this was done the sun was low in the sky and casting a tree dappled glow over our shiny black outdoor tables and we had forgotten about our taste test and drifted off home. But that's ok, it is the magic of our little place, you never quite know how it will shape your day.
P.S The lemon trees are enjoying the cooler spot on the terrace and got a good watering.
That's it for this week on The Church blog.
How does your outdoor space inspire you? Let us know in the comments below.
We are back in our kitchen on the Rockhill House Estate on Friday from 5pm - bringing you all your favourites from The Church Restaurant, Bar and Café to takeaway and enjoy at home with contactless collection or contactless delivery in Letterkenny.
Until then, take good care of yourself...and enjoy the little moments of sunshine as they come,
The Church Team