Yes indeed, another year has brought with it another Bloom in the Park.
I do think that Bord Bia‘s five-day long festival of gardens and food in the Phoenix Park just keeps getting better and better, though, granted, I might be marginally biased by the fact that this year’s event included a dedicated potato cookery stand (it being a well-established fact that, to make anything better, you just need to add spuds). Ray Moran from Harry’s Bar & Restaurant in Inishowen was on hand to demo a range of potato recipes – including fish cakes, potatoes with pesto and a potato, chorizo and butternut squash ‘risotto’ – all of which can be found in a booklet brought out by Bord Bia and Potato.ie as part of their grand plan to get spuds back onto the Irish dinner agenda (you can download the booklet here).
Alongside the potato demo area was a small selection of Dave Langford’s heritage potato collection (though, sadly, Dave himself was not there). It’s always with pleasure, and not a little fascination, that I cast my eye over Dave’s wonderful collection of rare, old and unusual spuds.
Of course there were other spud representatives amongst the many food stalls in the artisan food market: Keogh’s Potatoes and Crisps, Sam’s Potatoes, O’Donnells Crisps and the new-to-me Meade Potato Company (and whose sample of new season home guard potatoes was much enjoyed).
And there was, too, the small matter of the Bloom Picnic, where Bord Bia had gathered a gaggle (I think that’s the appropriate term) of bloggers from Ireland, the UK, France and Belgium, and charged them with collecting and styling a picnic from the selection of stalls at the artisan food market. Far more interested in the fact that my picnic team included the very lovely Kavey and Pete, with whom I travelled to Lebanon last year, we managed, nevertheless, along with Joanna, Pascale (who, marvellously, also blogs about potatoes) and Sylvain (whose blog I forgot to note, oops), to cobble together a picnic that was mainly about crisps and beer. In truth, that makes it not dissimilar to picnics I’ve had in the past and, in all likelihood, similar to picnics I will have in the future too.
Burren Smokehouse Fish Cakes
Having watched Ray Moran making fish cakes during his demo at Bloom, and having also gotten my hands on some of Birgitta Curtin’s lovely Burren Smokehouse hot smoked salmon at the same event, I decided that fish cakes would be the order of the day.
Now, there are, of course, many kinds of fish cake but, broadly speaking, they seem to me to fall into one of two categories: they are either fish cakes with potato or potato cakes with fish. Potato lover though I am, I do like my fish cakes to be about fish moreso than potato, and am invariably disappointed if I order the former and what I get is the latter (if, however, I order potato cakes, then that is a different matter entirely).
Certainly, when you’re making fish cakes using something as lovely as Birgitta’s salmon, then the cakes should really be all about the fish, with potato in a supporting role. The salmon I used was Birgitta’s hot smoked salmon with honey, lemon and dill, so it really needed very little else added to it – just some chives and lemon zest, as well as potato and egg to bind. You can, of course, bulk out these fish cakes with more potato if you like and, if you’re using cooked salmon fillet here instead of Birgitta’s hot smoked salmon, you can bump up the flavourings according to your taste.
- 200g hot smoked salmon (or used cooked salmon fillet)
- 200g plain mashed potato
- 2 tsp finely chopped chives
- 2 tsp lemon zest
- coarse salt to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 egg, beaten
- vegetable oil, for frying
You’ll also need:
- A large frying pan
- Flake the salmon and mix it with the mashed potato, chives and lemon zest. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
- Mix in the beaten egg and shape the mixture into small patties. If you like, you can leave these to chill in the fridge, covered, for 20-30 minutes.
- Place your frying pan over a medium heat. When hot, add vegetable oil to coat the pan. Fry the fish cakes for around 5-6 minutes on each side or until golden brown, and serve straightaway with a green salad or whatever else takes your fancy.
- Birgitta’s salmon is so lovely that you really need to add very little to it. Having said that, you can add a little chopped parsley or some additional chopped dill if you like.
- Makes around 8 x 5cm round fish cakes, and serves 2-3, with salad or other accompaniments
Dine in the Dark
Following hot on the heels of Bloom, this year’s Taste of Dublin takes place at the Iveagh Gardens from June 14th to June 17th. One of the more intriguing events happening as part of Taste is the Kanchi Dine in the Dark experience. Whilst immersed in complete darkness (they don’t call it dine in the dark for nothing), and with the aim of challenging perceptions of difference, attendees will find out what it’s like to enjoy a tasting plate, prepared by some of Ireland’s best chefs, and served by legally blind waiting staff. The chefs involved include Ross Lewis, Kevin Thornton and Oliver Dunne.
There will be several sittings each day for both lunch and dinner, with 25 served per sitting. Each sitting will last approximately 30 minutes, after which guests have the opportunity to meet the chef who prepared their food. The cost of entry is eight florins (the Taste of Dublin currency that is available on site). This includes the tasting plate and a glass of wine/non-alcoholic alternative per person. Tickets for Taste of Dublin – at a price of €20 plus booking fee for advance standard tickets – are on sale at www.tasteofdublin.ie or call 0818 30 00 30.
Also getting close is Bloomsday, the day when all of the action took place in James Joyce’s classic tome, Ulysses, and if you fancy having afternoon tea, Ulysses-style, then you can avail of just such a thing in The Atrium Lounge at The Westin, Dublin on Thursday, 14th June, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. There will be tea-time treats and traditional Ulysses fare, featuring chicken liver pâté with Burgundy jam on crusty white bread, cucumber sandwiches, Gorgonzola with Dalkey mustard and cress, Banbury cakes, carrot cake with cream cheese, Dublin Gur cake, and traditional fruit scones with preserves. The highlight of the afternoon will be a special talk from Joyce scholar Gerry Dukes at 4.30p.m. sharp. Bloomsday Afternoon Tea in The Atrium Lounge is €24 per person, inclusive of a glass of Burgundy.
The Westin Dublin’s Exchange Restaurant & Cocktail Bar will also offer a Bloomsday Tasting Menu from Tuesday 12th to Saturday 16th June. A six course tasting menu, inspired by the foods enjoyed by Leopold Bloom, includes thick giblet soup, potted crubeens, grilled kidneys and livers on toast, followed by Banbury cake with hot cocoa tea or coffee. The tasting menu will be available from 12th – 16th June from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., priced at €35 per person
See www.thewestindublin.com or call +353 (0)1 645 1000 to book.