I’m turning into the kind of person who will go to great lengths for a good meal. Last month I drove 3 hours north to Inishowen just to eat at Harrys Restaurant in Co. Donegal, and 2 weeks ago I drove 3 hours south to Dungarvan to go to the Waterford Festival of Food. I was only there for 24 hours, lured down by plans for dinner at the O’Brien Chop House and a bus tour to a microbrewery and oyster farm, but I managed to fit in a lot of good food.
I arrived late to Food Camp on the Friday, but still in time to sample some of Brock’s coffee from his boutique artisan coffee roasting business, Badger & Dodo, followed by lunch, where Niamh couldn’t resist making a classic Irish sandwich — Tayto crisps on a buttered Waterford blaa (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!). After a lively panel discussion on routes to market for artisan Irish food, a group of about 20 people made their way to nearby Lismore for dinner at the O’Brien Chop House, where the rhubarb and apple Bellini was worth the 3-hour drive alone.
After a gourmet breakfast at Powersfield House B&B (the owner, Eunice Power, is a caterer), it was an early start after a late night the next day for a bus tour to Dungarvan Brewing Company to hear about how their microbrew beers are made and have a sample (at 10:30 in the morning? why not!). After that we went across the bay to Dungarvan Shellfish, where Jim Harty proudly told us about his thriving family-run oyster farm, with yet more samples, this time of fresh Irish oysters, brown bread and a glass of white wine at the slightly more respectable hour of 11 a.m. The last stop on the Bus Bia tour was a fish cooking demo in a parish hall in the Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking region), which finished with tea, coffee and cakes made by the local Irish Countrywomen’s Association. When we arrived back in Dungarvan, a group of 9 of us bloggers headed straight for the best restaurant in town for lunch — The Tannery — not really expecting to get a table but delighted when we did, where almost all of us ordered their signature starter, the crab creme brulée. By then I was starting to regret not staying for the second night (which I definitely did regret the next day when reading everyone’s tweets about the fantastic farmers’ market on the Sunday), but I was happy to have The Daily Spud for company this time on the long drive back, talking about food all the way.
When I go to a restaurant, I always like to order something from the menu that I don’t or can’t make at home, and when I saw that O’Brien’s hanger steak was being served with a side of bone marrow, not to mention Béarnaise sauce, which I’m a sucker for, I practically stopped reading the menu right there. Justin and Richard were fantastic hosts for our group of 20, and if you’re in County Waterford, this restaurant is not to be missed. I’m already planning on bringing the whole family to the festival next year, but in the meantime, I can recreate the meal from O’Brien’s at home with Darina Allen’s recipes.
adapted from Forgotten Skills of Cooking by Darina Allen
Darina Allen recommends using a heavy-ridged cast iron grill pan for cooking steaks. She also says that rubbing the steaks with a clove of garlic intensifies their beefy flavor. It goes without saying to serve this with chips/wedges. For a blow-out dinner like this that’s all about the meat, I’d say a vegetable is pretty much optional. Get your five a day at breakfast and lunch instead.
4 x 6 oz (175 g) sirloin or fillet steaks
1 garlic clove
salt and freshly ground black pepper
About 1 hour before you want to cook your steaks, remove them from the fridge. Cut the garlic clove in half and rub it on both sides of each steak. Grind over some black pepper and sprinkle with a few drops of olive oil (don’t put salt on the steaks at this point, since it will leach out moisture and make the steaks dry and tough). Turn the steaks in the oil and set aside to allow them to come to room temperature. If using sirloin steaks, score the fat at 1-inch intervals.
Heat the grill pan, season the steaks with a little salt and put them into the hot pan. Cook to your liking (if using sirloin steak, cook the fatty side as well for 3 or 4 minutes until it’s nice and crispy). For rare, cook a sirloin for 2 minutes and a fillet for 5 minutes; for medium-rare, cook a sirloin for 3 minutes and a fillet for 6 minutes; for medium, cook a sirloin for 4 minutes and a fillet for 7 minutes; and for well done (but please don’t ruin a good steak by cooking it well done!), cook a sirloin for 5 minutes and a fillet for 8 or 9 minutes. Make sure you allow the steaks to rest before you serve them. Serve with Béarnaise sauce, oven-roast wedges and a green salad or vegetable of your choice.
adapted from Forgotten Skills of Cooking by Darina Allen
Serves 8 to 10
If the sauce is slow to thicken, it might be because the heat is too low. When making the sauce, you should be able to put your hand on the side of the saucepan at any stage — if it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for the sauce! Keep a bowl of cold water close by that you can plunge the bottom of the saucepan into if it becomes too hot.
4 tablespoons tarragon vinegar (or white wine vinegar plus extra fresh chopped tarragon)
4 tablespoons dry white wine
2 teaspoons finely chopped shallots
pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon cold water
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup (110 g) butter, cubed
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
Boil the vinegar, wine, shallots and a pinch of pepper in a heavy-bottomed stainless steel saucepan until completely reduced and the pan is almost dry but not browned. Immediately add the 1 tablespoon of cold water. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool for 1 or 2 minutes.
Whisk in the egg yolks and add the butter bit by bit over a very low heat, whisking all the time. As soon as one piece of butter melts, add the next piece and the sauce will gradually thicken. If it looks like it’s getting too thick or might scramble, remove the pan from the heat immediately and add a little cold water. Don’t leave the pan or stop whisking until the sauce is made and has reached a thick coating consistency — this isn’t the time to see what’s happening on Facebook. Finally, add the chopped fresh tarragon and taste for seasoning. You can keep the sauce warm in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of hot (but not simmering!) water until you’re ready to serve it.
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