What do you get if you put 6 camera wielding food bloggers in an orchard on a fine autumn day?
Well I shall tell you, good sirs! A very nice tour, that’s what.
I’m a real joker me.
But all joking aside, having had a chat with Michal from Bord Bia pre cookalong organisation, we organised a wee tour to Stagrennan farm in Drogheda. Why you ask? Well firstly – A day in an orchard (the apples! Think of the apples!) was just much too good an opportunity to miss out on so I vowed to set aside the books for a few hours. Secondly, as if you even need another reason, we (the Irish, not you and I personally) grow 1/3 of the worlds supply of Bramleys. Yeah! Bet you never knew that. Neither did I, but I now have a factsheet and with it comes power to teach facts! Want another one? The Brehon laws (originating between 2000 and 1000BC) stipulated that anyone cutting down an apple tree would be subject to a severe penalty; namely a fine of five cows. Even removing a limb or branch warranted a fine of some sort…
I really like that one.
So, back to it. Orchard tour. After a miserable day of rain on the Friday (I know, shocking. Rain. In Ireland.. Who’d have thunk it?), I packed myself some wellingtons (fine pink specimens as you can see in the background) and many layers of rainproof material only to step out into a clear but crisp day! Perfect apple testing weather in my humble opinion. Well wasting no time, myself, Joanna, Deirdre, Kristin, Ashling (eventually, and with a brand spanking new camera – see below!) and Michal set out for a thoroughly lavely morning.
We were greeted at the door of a rather charming bungalow (part of a courtyard that I must have in my house) by the lovely Fiona who ushered us in to a cosy little office with a small kitchen area and a family atmosphere. Halloween decorations were up and really impressive!
After a brief chat she disappeared off and reappeared almost immediately with a tray of tea, coffee, a delicious looking upside down apple cake and a gluten free apple, sloe and blueberry crumble. A hearty breakfast let me tell you.
Well after we’d all eaten our fill we set off with Olan to see the farm, him in his skinny tractor and us in the scarily modern jeeps! I think they actually did the washing up and cooked dinner when you pressed a button on the dash.
They grow mostly bramley apples at Stagrennan, and very nice ones they are too! Olan filled us in on growing, picking and maintaining tips!
Bramleys are great for cooking, they’re big and plump and they don’t sink down as others do (Say no to flat apple pies! I thought it best to go for pie and not tart there…). Bord bia have some nice information on them I thoroughly approve of their use in making scrumptious cakes and tarts and pies and anything apple based! Here are some nice appley pics. They are not Bramleys mind you but they’re lovely to eat!
Most of them had been harvested at this stage, but we went to see the pollinators (a few different kinds of apples that flower at different times- see below pic) and took a detour by the Cox’s orange pippin apples that were utterly delicious picked straight off the trees.
As if the tour, the apple tasting, apple growing info sessions and generally lovely walk/drive wasn’t enough, we arrived back at the office to meet Tara from The Tasty Tart, a Cordon bleu trained chef that gave us a smashing cookery demo using the apples and some other prime produce.
After another tasting session including pork and apple bake; Apple, bacon and blue cheese toasted sourdough sandwich, and an Apple, raspberry, pineapple and banana smoothie. To top it off we were sent home with a massive box choc full of apples and with a few tester samples of the upcoming stagrennan produce. More on that when we do some tasting tests! When we have time. I will keep you duly updated of course. In the meantime, here’s one apple and pork recipe I made earlier. Or actually, watched Tara make and it was nyommy.
Pork and apple bake courtesy of the wonderful as always Bord Bia.
Pork and Bramley Bake
And one of Bord Bias beautiful pics:
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 35 – 40 minutes
This one-pot supper is perfect for families. The magical combination of pork and Bramley turns a simple supper into a real treat. Plus, using only one pot reduces the washing up, so everyone should be happy!
450g/1lb washed potatoes cut into wedges
2 small red onions, sliced into wedges
4-8 whole cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 tbsp olive oil 450g/1lb (approx 3)
Bramley apples, cored and sliced into wedges (I’d use 2 cos I love em!)
4 lean pork steaks
1 tbsp fresh sage leaves or 1 tsp dried sage
1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC/Fan 180ºC/400ºF/ Gas Mark 6. Place the potatoes, onion, garlic and oil in a large roasting tray or dish. Toss together and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bake for 20 minutes.
2. Remove from the oven, then stir in the Bramley slices and lay the pork steaks on top. Season and sprinkle over the sage and then return to the oven and bake for a further 20 minutes or until the pork is golden and the Bramleys and vegetables are tender.
3. Serve with green vegetables.
SO EASY. So lovely. So make it.
AND Tara gave us this brill recipe for yummy yummy simple and gorgeous gravy
1 tbsp flour
75ml chicken stock (low salt if you don’t make your own. Think of your blood pressure!)
small drop of soy sauce
Melt the butter in the saucepan and add the flour to make a roux. Cook it for a few mins until the flour has cooked enough!
Add the cider, chicken stock and soy, stirring until smooth
Simmer until the flavour has intensified sufficiently – about 15 mins.