Wild & Wicklow at Macreddin

As promised a blog on Saturdays’ Annual Wild and Wicklow Dinner held at the gorgeous Brooklodge in Macreddin.
The day started with a wild food workshop which was well attended with people of all ages from 2 months old to, well, I daren’t ask!
Evan, Tim, Anne and Ed went through the years’ events showing us samples of the foodstuffs gathered and prepared which included:

  • wild and wicklowGarlic pesto
    made with cashew nuts and mature cheese, they also explained how to dry the leaves, how to use the flowers and  the seed heads which apparently are great to pickle and taste like capers!
  • Elderflower – used to make cordial great to use in sauces and as a refreshing summer drink, also used to make vinegar.
    We also went through some samples of how to use Elderberry eg syrups, liquors or used for game dishes (gypsy raisens) and desserts/ mulled wine. Again you can dry the berries for long term use – in a heated oven with the oven door open or in a hotpress. One tip was to pre-freeze the berry bunches so that you can then easily pop off the berries from the stalks using a fork – less messy 🙂
  • wild and wicklowMushrooms:
    The old favourite- Ceps were given special mention (no gills, sponge underneath) along with St George, Field mushroom and chanterelles. We were advised to always dry mushrooms even if using within 4 days. Ed also mentioned his favourite tool to use when drying mushrooms was a hawthorn sprig as each thorn apparently lies at a 90 degree angle making them ideal for mushroom drying – no chance of them collapsing onto one another and rotting.
  • Rowan berry:
    Like sloes the rowan berry is high in ascorbic acid so pre freezing them for 24 hours is advised as this reduces the bitter taste somewhat. I have a load of sloes in my freezer for the past 3 weeks and this is apparently fine- plus if they burst it saves me having to prick them – Ed also mentioned a top tip of using a nutmeg grater instead of pin/fork to get a load of sloes/rowans pricked quickly. Other uses for the Rowans included making schnapps and Jelly.
  • Sloes:
    wild and wicklowWe all know about sloe gin but the top tip from this workshop was to instead try Sloe Whiskey – Oisin Davis – Potion Master of Dublins’ Damson Diner had prepared samples of this where he used an American cocktail method that incorporated the use of boiling the whiskey and sloes together to speed up the process. I am not 100% on the method but it went something like this:
    Using Jameson Reserve whiskey – empty bottle. fill third with sloes, top up with whiskey – leave for two days. Somewhere along the way he boiled it in a bain-marie type way then emptied it into a large bucket. To this he added a sugar mix of lemon zest,sugar syrup and wild alexander seeds to give a peppery taste, mixing in some highbank organic orchard syrup. This was served in slim jims and my god – was delicious – and rather lethal!
  • Game:
    wild and wicklowThe guys then took us through the various game that was on display and included Duck, Pheasant, Snipe, Wood pigeon, Grouse, Partridge, Rabbit, Hare and Venison with Mick Healy of Wild Irish Game taking us through much of the background of each – Mick provides year round game to the Brooklodge and many other outlets including Donnybrook Fair in Dublin from his base in Glenmalure.
  • Salmon:
    Evan mentioned a scheme that has been very successful in restocking wild salmon in the river Nore and where Salmon fishing is done using snap nets.

All in all it as a wonderful workshop with so many tips to remember – I am so glad I brought my notebook!
The Dinner:
wild and wicklowThe dinner was lovely (although I could not get myself to eat the Snipe – it was so small and smelt too strong for my taste) with long tables set out in a very Harry Potter banquet style!
Wine was included with the meal which featured wild smoked venison, cured wild salmon, wild rabbit loin, crab apple sorbet with Beech bark booze (yummy!) wild game consomme (skipped that), lobster (from Arklow harbour),  wild snipe (see above) wild berry soda and a wild blackberry poitin tart.
I loved the way we were given an information sheet with how the food was sourced from the past year for the feast with month by month breakdown making it a real 360 degree experience, one example of which:
June – We came upon some fabulous Saddle Mushrooms up at the horse field which we dried and powdered just to go with tonight’s Wild Rabbit and Wild Cep.
Oh yes, and the Rugby was fun at Actons bar too!
For more photos of the day visit our Facebook Album Here >>