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Springing into Action This Season with Some of Ireland’s Best Chefs

Spring is the season of new beginnings. We slowly but surely say farewell to sleepy Winter, and the world around us comes to life again. Flowers begin to bloom, the bare trees start to regain there leaves and some of our favourite crops make an appearance.

To celebrate the Spring season we asked some of the countries finest chefs what they are looking forward this season and ingredients we should be on the lookout for.

Rob Krawczyk, Restaurant Chestnut
What ingredients do you like using in spring?
I love to use Rhubarb, it is so versatile. It can be sweet or savoury.

Do you change suppliers during spring and why?
My suppliers are with me for the year which is great. There would be just one addition in spring to our supplier list which is our Asparagus grower, Gra Farm, as we have the asparagus for such a short period.

Will there be any menu changes?
I design our menus around ingredients that are seasonally best so the menu will change with the months and I am really excited to work with springs ingredients.

What is your favourite thing about being a chef during this season?
I love that the landscape is alive again with more colours and textures, everything is growing and in bloom and it is an inspiring time after the darkness of the winter months.

Any tips for domestic cooks who are cooking at home this spring?
Pick one ingredient that is seasonal to now and keep it simple, don’t over complicate it.

What can we expect from Chesnut this spring season?
We have been closed from January 6th and we are really excited for our second season. We have lots of exciting things planned, that you will have to experience in person so come visit us in Ballydehob!

Gareth Smith, Michael’s
What ingredients do you like using in spring?
My favourite part of the new year the brief overlap of wild garlic and asparagus season, this signifies the start of the new year

Do you change suppliers during spring and why?
We use lots of small producers throughout the year, we definitely get more active with the farmers and growers as they start harvesting, a trip to Ballykenny and Drummond House on the cards and time to take the fishermen for a few pints after a barren winter and rekindle the relationship as they start catching again, seafood sales will increase hugely from March to September.

Will there be any menu changes?
There definitely will be menu changes. Gravies and cream sauces are replaced with dressings and salsas, we drop a meat course for light seafood dishes. An extra vegetarian dish for sure, people tend to eat later and lighter as spring kicks in, so we accommodate that.

What is your favourite thing about being a chef during this season?
I always get giddy through spring, lambs appear, lush greenery returns, everybody seems chipper, it’s a lovely time of year. The chefs come up with new ideas and seem invigorated.

Any tips for domestic cooks who are cooking at home this spring?
Domestic cooks, it seems cheesy but you should go and pick some wild garlic, watercress, nettles etc. It’s growing everywhere and it brings a connection back to your cooking

What can we expect from Michaels this spring season?
We’re trying to secure Blasket island Lamb direct from Gabi’s grandfather in Dingle, he has lamb there so I’m trying to convince him to give us a few. We’ll start seeing more seafood direct from boats, lobsters caught that morning and more line-caught fish.

Chad Byrne, Danu at The Brehon
What ingredients do you like using in spring?
My favourite herb to use would be sorrel, it adds great acidity to dishes. I love radish, purple sprouting broccoli and nettles. If you’re making French onion soup with onions this season are probably they sweetest onions you’ll taste, there’s just so underrated.

Do you change suppliers during spring and why?
We keep our core suppliers for our meats and main products but for specialist produce we change suppliers. We have a great relationship with them and they will always get in touch with us when they have new stuff in.

Will there be any menu changes?
The whole menu always rotates. Although I never change it fully, I change one or two dishes every couple of weeks. It makes the team much more confident with the dishes and allows the menu to work more cohesively.

What is your favourite thing about being a chef during this season?
It’s the season of life. Everything is at a tender stage and the fruit and vegetables are much more delicate and flavoursome.

Any tips for domestic cooks who are cooking at home this spring?
Get out of your comfort zone and experiment with flavours. I went vegan for the month of January and it really opened my eyes to a whole new world of flavours.

What can we expect from Danu this spring season?
We currently have a big emphasis on vegan dishes as this is something I’ve become really passionate about and it’s something I want to encourage. We ever use five or six different meats but there are thousands and thousands of grains to use instead.

Bryan McCarthy, Greenes
Springing into ActionWhat ingredients do you like using in spring?
Wild garlic for sure. You know its spring when the wild garlic is growing.

Do you change suppliers during spring and why?
Yes, we do we finish using venison from Ballinwillin Farm and start using lamb from Twomeys. With most other suppliers we are changing what we use rather than the supplier. All our growers are seasonal and what they grow dictates our menu.

Will there be any menu changes?
Thee will be yes, but the changes are always gradual and depending on what seasonal produce is available.

What is your favourite thing about being a chef during this season?
As we move from winter when what’s available is very sparse, and then you get an explosion of produce in spring which gets the creative process going for creating new dishes.

Any tips for domestic cooks who are cooking at home this spring?
Buy the best produce in your local market. If you start with good quality ingredients and keep it simple and you can’t go wrong.

What can we expect from Greenes this spring season?
Lots of ingredients like lamb, morels, wild garlic and rhubarb

Niall Sabongi, The Seafood Café & Klaw

What ingredients do you like using in spring?
I love using flavours and wild garlic would be a fav song with Red mullet which just comes into season around now. We do a dish every spring with wild garlic aioli, wild spring mushrooms and red mullet

Do you change suppliers during spring and why?
No we stay with our suppliers all year, they all have differed things to offer at different times of the year but with our seafood, some suppliers only come on during the spring, like our fisherman in Donegal that catches and sells us our live prawns.

Will there be any menu changes in your restaurants?
Yes, we have about 8 changes a year. At the moment we are just moving into the Early Spring menu.

What is your favourite thing about being a chef during this season?
Everything is bright and young, so many new flavours to work with as we creep towards the summer.

Any tips for domestic cooks who are cooking at home this spring?
Find some wild garlic growing on the hedgerow and dig it up and transplant into your garden, it will come back every year and give you a healthy crop of deliciousness.

What can we expect from Klaw/The Seafood Cafe this spring season?
Lots of new prawn, lobster and crab dishes along with a huge array of springtime fish like red mullet and Gurnard.

Karan Mittal, Ananda
What ingredients do you like using in spring?
My favourite ingredients in spring are wild garlic, stinging nettles, borage and fennel flowers, fresh morels & the super special Spring Lamb.

Do you change suppliers during spring and why?
We don’t change the suppliers as they provide us with the freshest seasonal produce all year round. We add a few small artisan producers and our suppliers are very accommodating ensuring that they manage their logistics so it’s a win-win for all.

Will there be any menu changes?
Yes. We add and tweak the menu every two months. For HOLI (Indian festival of colour marking the onset of spring). We’ll have a 7 course vegetarian tasting menu featuring festive dishes and our amazing local spring vegetables. What’s special is that each dish has been put on by a different chef on the team. We shall also put an Ash Smoked Spring Lamb dish on the a la carte menu.

What is your favourite thing about being a chef during this season?
It’s the amazing quality of spring herbs, flowers and vegetables that is very exciting to use as a chef. It allows us to present the vivid colours and tastes of spring on the plate.

Any tips for domestic cooks who are cooking at home this spring?
Use more of seasonal fresh vegetables like asparagus, purple sprouting broccoli, radishes to name a few in their cooking.
Spring is about deft touch and simplicity. Less is more and should any home cook want to add a spice or two; stick to the golden rule – use the spice as a seasoning as one would use salt or pepper.

What can we expect from Ananda this spring season?
Like any spring feast which signifies rebirth, renewal, resurrection – Holi for us is about colour signifying diversity and rejuvenation bringing joy. Our Festive Tasting Menu in March showcases this depth of knowledge and experience. I sense tremendous excitement ahead as there’s a spring in everyone’s step.

Michelle Wickham, Two Pups

What ingredients do you like using in spring?
We’re excited to be using new season rhubarb, wild garlic, blood oranges, purple sprouting broccoli and lots more. I’m really into foraging so I will be going out on my days off to search for three-cornered leeks, alexanders. sea spinach and rock samphire. we’re doing a lot of fermentation and playing around with different ingredients, it’s really interesting and a bit of a learning curve for us all.

Do you change suppliers during spring and why?
We don’t tend to change suppliers during spring as we get amazing vegetables from McNally’s farm and we are always excited to see what Jenny has available for the coming months. we tend to base our small plates on their veggies as they deserve their own platform. For example, our new purple sprouting broccoli small plate with whipped feta and shaved walnut, last summers fermented gooseberries and lemon rapeseed oil dressing. We try to keep it very simple and fresh. You don’t need to mess around too much with their produce as they’re beautiful as it is.

Will there be any menu changes?
We are always tweaking and changing dishes as often as possible to provide a good variety of choices for the customer. we’ve changed our toastie to chorizo, gherkin, house smoked cheese and caper and raisin puree toast and homemade sauerkraut. It’s absolutely delicious! we also have a new blood orange salad with black olives and potato bread coming onto the menu next week!

What is your favourite thing about being a chef during this season?
I always look forward to springtime as I know ill be able to get out more to do some foraging and it also means changing the menu to lighter dishes. I think everyone is a bit fed up of stews and roasted vegetables at this stage. I’m looking forward to seeing what other cafes and restaurants are doing this spring. My girlfriend and I are also holding a pop up in Forest Avenue called Na Séasúir on the first of April as well which will be full of spring vegetables and a lot of offal!

Any tips for domestic cooks who are cooking at home this spring?
Check out the food market in temple bar on Saturday morning and get a haul of Jenny McNally’s vegetables and some goat from Broughgammon farm which is a firm favourite of mine! Experiment with off-cuts of meat instead of prime cuts like spring lamb livers and pork cheeks. discover how simple it is to cook with them and save a lot more money.

What can we expect from Two Pups this Spring season?
We’ll be introducing more salads, working on our ferments and learning more about preserving ingredients so we can use them later on in the year. my head chef Emma O’Loghlen is really passionate about baking as well so expect a lot of new tarts, sweet and savoury, at the weekends we do a special weekend cake that changes every week. we try to not buy in too many pastries and we prefer to make our own. everything is made in house except for the sourdough. we feel the cafe is really evolving as the weeks go by and we are so happy with the feedback we’ve been receiving from our lovely customers lately.

Graeme Dodrill, Peploes
What ingredients do you like using in spring? 
I love when the first colours of spring come in; peas, beans, tomatoes, asparagus and lamb of course

Do you change suppliers during spring and why?
Not at all. We build relationships up all year every year with the same people through every season and work within the season demands with them.

Will there be any menu changes?
The menu is constantly evolving and rolling to what we want and what is the best available and when.
What is your favourite thing about being a chef during this season? The change of colour of the landscape and seeing produce we haven’t seen in a year

Any tips for domestic cooks who are cooking at home this spring?
Keep it light, colourful and simple

What can we expect from Peploes this spring season?
We’re really excited about launching our new Sunday lunch menu at Peploes. You can expect really old school Sundays for the whole family and people looking for a lovely fine well-cooked lunch and big wines no brunch or egg! It will be full of classics like roast duck, beef Wellington, oysters, prawn cocktail and rib of beef and lots of old school favourites. Also, we have our post-theatre supper club Fridays and Saturdays were we go late into the night for drinks, cocktails and food these are what I’m really excited about at the moment.

Ahmet Dede, Mews
What ingredients do you like using in spring?
My favourite is spring asparagus from cape clear amazing.

Will you change suppliers during spring and why?
We only work with farmers and producers of Westcork who have the best seasonal ingredients. We are always looking for new farmers or new sources all the time.

Will there be any menu changes?
This time of the year is always challenging. There’s a bit of a gap as there’s not much growing but we love the challenge. You should expect to see the best available seasonal ingredients at its best conditions and flavours.

Any tips for domestic cooks who are cooking at home this spring?
Domestic cooks should stick with seasonal ingredients try to avoid to use things are not in season and support your local producers.

What can we expect from Mews this spring season?
Guests can expect to have a warm and friendly welcome and something that will stay with you after you leave the mews we want everyone to have a great time have an amazing experience of our way of doing things.

Holly Dalton, Gertrude
What ingredients do you like using in spring?
One ingredient that always heralds the arrival of Spring for me is rhubarb. It’ll be popping up on a lot of menus around Ireland the next few weeks which is definitely a good thing. It’s an incredibly versatile ingredient too. Rhubarb and custard immediately come to mind but its juice is also a fantastic alternative to lemon for finishing fish with. Wild garlic is also a big one. It’s out very early this year but I’ll hold off a few weeks until I go out myself and pick some.

Will you change suppliers during Spring and why?
We won’t be changing suppliers in Gertrude as every supplier’s products and produce change with the seasons. Every supplier has something different to offer depending on the time of year so there’s no real need for us to change our suppliers. The cod’s roe season started recently and I’m curing some I got from Sustainable Seafood Ireland. Really looking forward to getting that onto the menu!

Will there be any menu changes?
Rhubard and custard will make an appearance shortly. We’re still debating whether to have it in tart or choux form. Wild garlic ramen is something I had on the menu in 3fe that I’d like to see make a return at Gertrude. I’m a huge fan of lamb shank braised in cider so that’s only a matter of time too. The game pie will be coming off the menu.

What is your favourite thing about being a chef during this season?
It’s an obvious answer but the diversity of ingredients is fantastic this time of year. My favourite seasons as a chef are Autumn and Summer as a lot of my favourite ingredients come into season around then. Spring is a time of hope and brings the first signs of Summer. Your options are suddenly much greater than apples and root vegetables, even though I love both of those things. It’s a time for plates to start looking a little greener.

Any tips for domestic cooks who are cooking at home this spring?
Go out and pick wild garlic! It grows in forested areas, you can find plenty in the Wicklow mountains and Phoenix Park. It’s a great way to spend a Sunday. Bit of a stroll and you’ll be reaping the rewards for ages. Wild garlic pesto and oil are fantastic additions to any kitchen cupboard, I still have some from last year. Pickle wild garlic buds too and be on the lookout for three corned leek.

What can we expect from Gertrude this spring season?
We’re hoping to add some new favourites to the menu. You’ll be seeing lots of rhubarb, cod’s roe, wild garlic and lamb. Lamb, wild garlic and anchovy has a nice ring to it. Maybe more dinners as the nights get longer. Glasses of wine and nibbles to celebrate that grand stretch in the evening. Plenty of Spring light in the mornings really brings out the best in pancakes!

Conor Spacey, Food Space
Springing into ActionWhat ingredients do you like using in spring?
Spring is my favourite season, food starts to come back to life and in Ireland fantastic colours and smells appear again in the countryside and forests. For me, it’s time to take advantage of early spring greens, from cabbages, long stem broccoli, leeks & in later spring the first of the asparagus.

Do you change suppliers during spring and why?
No. I work with great Irish farmers, growers and producers throughout the year.

You’re very passionate about working with the seasons, any advice to people eating sustainably this season?
Sustainability and seasons go hand in hand, make sure that the food you are buying is seasonal. buying imported food that is not seasonal here has huge effects on the economy, climate and the food chain. Of course, there are exceptions in terms of exotic fruits, spices, legumes, teas and coffees. but everyday food such as vegetables, meat, dairy, cheese, fish, poultry is available . also take the extra steps to support your community. For example, If you know a local vegetable grower or beef farmer in your area, then buy their produce in the local shops. I know supermarkets are convenient, but farmers markets and local shops keep the community alive.

What is your favourite thing about being a chef during this season?
Having an abundance of great Irish ingredients and challenging yourself to use them in a sustainable way that also looks at the waste product of each ingredient and how that can be used.

Any tips for domestic cooks who are cooking at home this spring?
Firstly have fun in your kitchen, plan your meals ahead for the week and base them on the time of year and what is available. Write your shopping list and stick to it. Don’t get caught up in promotions around buy one get one free etc. as this usually leads to more waste at home. Then plan around what you can do with off-cuts, leftovers etc. get involved and look into fermenting, pickling etc. you would be surprised how easy it is and also how satisfying it is not to waste food.

What can we expect from Food Space and yourself this spring season?
As a company we have seen huge growth over the last few years which in turn has led to working with more great Irish farmers, we will now be looking to expand with more people to work with for our ingredients. From a sustainable plan, we did achieve the highest 3-star sustainable rating across all our kitchens from the Sustainable Restaurant Association last year and firstly hoping to retain that this year as well as looking at our entire carbon footprint. Our first part of this is happening now where we are removing all single-use plastic bottles/cartons etc from our business. The total last year was over 1 million bottles that will be eliminated in 2019.

For me and the Chefs Manifesto we are aiming to launch an Irish hub this year where chefs can get involved and highlight the changes needed to fix our food system and collaborate on sustainability and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. You can check out the great work so far at www.chefsmanifesto.com

Keelan Higgs, Variety Jones
Springing into Action
What ingredients do you like using in spring?
In terms of ingredients some of my favourites are kicking about in spring, fresh peas, asparagus and wild garlic are probably too of the list.

Do you change suppliers during spring and why?
I’m constantly trying to add great supplier s to the list so if any other local Irish produce is available I’ll try and get involved.

Will there be any menu changes?
We try and stay as dynamic with our menus as possible so of course, whenever new ingredients come into season we’ll try to get stuck in and change up some dishes.

What is your favourite thing about being a chef during this season?
My favourite thing about being a chef at springtime is the change in scenery, new ingredients, a change in weather, everything starts to brighten up, the food gets lighter and fresher. The Irish winter last about 6 months so it’s kind of the same ingredients throughout which gets a bit boring so spring gives us a chance to use a whole new selection of stuff and gets the brain refired and reinvigorated to cook.

Any tips for domestic cooks who are cooking at home this spring?
My tips for domestic cooks are to get involved with your local vegetable shop and embrace spring. We all tend to eat asparagus and peas etc all year round but my advice is to make the most of these ingredients throughout spring when they’re at their best and then give them a break when the season is done and move on to the next season’s offerings.

What can we expect from Variety Jones this spring season?
Hopefully, we can expect Variety Jones to go from strength to strength. We want to keep doing what we’re doing, offering great food, great wine and a good time. Spring is such a creative time for chef’s, so we aim to embrace that and hopefully do some serious cooking.

Seáneen Sullivan, L.Mulligan Grocer
What ingredients do you like using in spring?
I love Spring in our kitchen. The change in the air is palpable, and after a long season of root vegetables and braising, the produce lightens up and we see the first of the forced rhubarb, wild garlic and scapes arriving. Ballymakenny potatoes, lamb from Clare and beautiful tender baby vegetables from Clonanny farm all start to feature on our menu while in our allotment we are sowing produce for the coming season, a job I love doing, but hate the weeding!

Do you change suppliers during spring and why?
We have some suppliers that we use year-round, such as TJ Crowe in Tipperary and Jack McCarthy but the way we use the produce changes as the whole menu lifts a little. We will serve pork neck from TJ with pea and broad bean champ alongside poached forced rhubarb to cut through the fattiness of the meat. Our black pudding from Jack will be charred lightly and served with a wild garlic oil and herby rosti.

There are some suppliers we use only during the spring, such as the asparagus from Drummond House. It is a long lonely year for them waiting for the asparagus to emerge and we wait excitedly for the fleeting season where we lightly poach it and serve it with a slick of lemony hollandaise and a Gubeen chorizo crumb. It is here so fleetingly, but it is a highlight of the year.

Will there be any menu changes?
Right now, because the weather is a bit ropey, the main fish on our menu is Goatsbridge trout, and it is fantastic. However, whereas in December we served it draped in a rich gribiche sauce, as we move into Spring (even if the weather doesn’t seem to be cooperating!)it will lighten up, being served with a rapeseed oil infused with wild three-corner leek and cockles poached lightly in organic butter and local sea salt. Other new dishes include lamb shank and new vegetables replacing our slow cooked brisket. Cheeses lighten up too, and we use a lot more fresh vegetables and fruit alongside pickled and fermented vegetables. Desserts move away from the rich and indulgent and toward lighter fluffier options, like lemon sponge with forced rhubarb and rosewater. Beer and whiskey wise we lighten up too, stouts and pot stills giving way to pale ales and lighter fruitier drams.

What is your favourite thing about being a chef during this season?
The sense of possibility! Spring is a very optimistic time for me and I love the excitement of the whole kitchen at the first shoots of spring.

Any tips for domestic cooks who are cooking at home this spring?
Go forage for a bit of wild garlic and after washing it thoroughly, blitz or finely chop it and fold it into softened butter with a large pinch of sea salt, roll it back up and keep in the fridge for use on steaks, under the skin of a chicken for roasting or even slathered on homemade soda bread and broiled for an all-Irish version of garlic bread. Wild garlic can be found on many sloped hillsides around the country but don’t over forage, take only a little and leave plenty for wildlife.

What can we expect from L.Mulligan Grocer this spring season?
We are taking our love of spring outdoors. We have a lovely little hidden beer garden and will be doing some great events, focusing on Irish gin, simple serves of Irish whiskey and continue our beer tastings, taking on a lighter hue! Keep an eye on our Facebook page for upcoming events.

Grainne O’Keffe, Clanbrassil House

What ingredients do you like using in spring?
We use whatever is in season. The seasons have been sporadic the past few years and ingredients like wild garlic have come earlier. I usually ask our suppliers what’s best at the time and use that.

Do you change suppliers during spring and why?
We use a lot of different suppliers all year round no matter the season. We like to have all have seasonal produce and rather than change supplier, the menu changes around what they have and what’s best.

Will there be any menu changes?
Absolutely. We change the menu based on what’s available and of course what’s tasty. We put on specials a lot too so we can trial new ingredients and see what our guests like.

What is your favourite thing about being a chef during this season?
Spring is a great time for ingredients. More vibrant than the winter veg and also a great time to go for walks and see what you can pick up. Our manager Miceál in Clanbrassil House is a forager and is always bringing us lovely produce to work with.

Any tips for domestic cooks who are cooking at home this Spring?
Have a look at your favourite restaurants menus and see what they are using, chances are it’s what is best to eat at this time of year. And send the chefs a message to ask them for advice on what to use/ where to get it.

What can we expect from Clanbrassil House this Spring season?
At the moment we have some beautiful lamb from Kerry on with wild garlic. We also have live langoustines and hopefully some lobster too.

Catherine Fulvio, Ballyknocken House

Catherine Fulvio

What ingredients do you like using in spring?
I’m a Wicklow girl, so naturally I love spring lamb and all the wonderful subtle flavours it offers. But I also love watching the vegetable garden in the cookery school coming back to life and the first thing to be picked is new season rhubarb – simply delicious and we get to work in the kitchen making pot loads of our Ballyknocken Rhubarb and Ginger Jam. I’ll also be using lots of rainbow chard, purple kale, tender stem broccoli and sorrel with are plentiful in here in our garden.

Do you change suppliers during spring and why?
We are lucky to have a fruit, herb and vegetable garden that we invest lots of time and energy into. We also have a polytunnel. So we are self-sufficient in many ways and so don’t need to change suppliers

Will there be any menu changes at Ballyknocken House?
In the farmhouse we serve a set menu that will changes to reflect the fruit and veg in season – so currently sorrel soup is a big hit! And our pan fired rainbow chard with chorizo and garlic goes down a treat. The rhubarb, orange and ginger breakfast compote is delicious with local yogurt.

What is your favourite thing about being a chef during this season?
Moving from winter warming meals to lighter more colourful ingredients. It’s a picture on a plate from now on.

Any tips for domestic cooks who are cooking at home this spring?
My mantra is to eat in season – it is not only better for you it is also cheaper.

What can we expect from Ballyknocken House this spring season?
Lots of fresh farm foods – oh and me J I’m teaching classes at weekends in my Cookery School – so check it all out on the website on www.ballyknocken.ie. As usual we have a great choice of cookery courses to choose from our 7 Nights 7 Meals 1 Plan to Easy Entertaining there is something for everyone and these span across all skill levels from beginner to more advanced. Also another nice feature we will continue to expand is our guests get to go out into the great outdoors to gather some of their ingredients at the start of each class – it’s amazing to see how our herb and kitchen vegetable gardens are growing year on year so there is lots to pick out there from here on in and everyone really enjoys this part of the class. A new addition this year is you can expect a mini masterclass on making your own Limoncello the beginning of our Italian cookery classes which are ever popular.

FEATURE BY SINÉAD SMYTH
Beara Gin

Sinéad is a Culinary Arts graduate from DIT. She is a passionate cook with a love of fine dining and modern Irish cuisine. A gin lover, Sinéad loves seeking out cosy new pubs and sampling a variety of craft beers.

If she’s not dining out, Sinéad loves travelling the world exploring new cultures and cuisines. Working with TheTaste allows Sinéad to fully immerse herself in the Irish food industry.

Sinead Smyth Sinead Smyth

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