Friday, 6 March 2015

Getting to know the Blue Book Family
Introducing Martina Delaney - Sommelier at l'Ecrivain Restaurant 

Martina started in l’Ecrivain Restaurant in 1994 as assistant manager, and as her interest was in wines, she soon became assistant Sommelier and then progressed to the wonderful Sommelier she is today. Her knowledge of wines in Ireland is second to none.  She has won numerous Sommelier of the Year Awards over the last 15 years for example most recently Food and Wine Sommelier of the Year 2011. Martina  became a member of the Champagne Academy in 2001. The wine industry is her passion, and her hobby. 

l’Ecrivain is open Monday to Saturday for dinner and on Thursdays and Fridays for lunch.
Every day is a different service and a different challenge. People like informed choices and Martina loves nothing better than to introduce a new wine or producer to the customers.

l’Ecrivain do a tasting menu and part of Martina’s job is to match wines to the  menu. Also, Martina is a firm believer is training other members of Team l’Ecrivain on the wines on offer. 
Now that Ireland is such a purveyor of fine wines, there are various wine merchants and  producers visiting  Dublin almost every week.  They love to call in on Martina to tell her of their latest harvest, or the newest product they have added to their portfolio.  They include Paddy Borthwick from New Zealand, Luc Lapeyre from Minervois, Catherine Leonard from Henriot Champagne,  Jan Petterson from Fernando de Castilla Shery House to name a few.

l’Ecrivain host many wine dinners which are organised in conjunction with the suppliers :Tindal Wines, Wines Direct, Grace Campbell Wines, Wine Mason, Morgans Wine Merchants, Wicklow Wine Company, Tender Shoots, Approach Trade, Taste of Italy and the Gleeson Group among others.

For more information see   

Monday, 16 February 2015

Happy Pancake Tuesday!

Sweet and Savoury Pancake Ideas From Some of the Blue Book Houses

Kevin Dundon’s Wild Mushroom and Chicken Crepe Bake

Serves 4
Chicken & Mushroom Sauce - 1 onion, finely chopped, 400g sliced wild mushrooms, 1 glass of white wine, 125ml  fresh cream, 100ml chicken stock, 2 chicken breasts, Salt & Pepper to season. 
Mornay Sauce - 250ml milk, 30g butter, 15g plain flour, 50g grated cheddar, 1 egg yolk, salt and pepper
Crepe/Pancake Batter - 150g flour, 2 eggs, 2 tbsp sunflower oil, 50g melted butter, pinch salt, 350ml milk

To make the crepes, firstly sift the flour into a bowl and make a well in the centre. Add all the other batter ingredients and whisk well with to remove any lumps. Let the batter rest in the fridge for at least an hour before making the crepes to allow the mixture to settle.
To cook the crêpes, heat a little butter in a 9 inch crêpe pan.
Ladle a little batter into the centre of the pan, tilting the pan so that the batter covers the surface thinly and evenly. Cook on both sides until lightly browned. Slide it out of the pan onto a warmed plate and keep warm as you prepare the rest.
In the meantime, prepare to the sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat and when just as it starts to sizzle, add the flour.  Cook the roux for 1- 2 minutes taking care not to let it brown.   Pour the milk into the roux and bring to the boil, stir continuously. The white sauce will begin to thicken. When the sauce coats the back of a wooden spoon, remove from the heat. Add the egg yolk, then add the grated cheese and season with a little salt and pepper. Set side until required.
To prepare the filling, heat some oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add onion. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until softened. Add mushrooms and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes until the mushrooms are tender and all liquid has evaporated.  Add the white wine, cream and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer. Add chicken. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until slightly thickened and chicken is cooked through. Remove from heat. Set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Spoon 2 tbsp chicken and mushroom mixture into the centre of a crepe and roll to enclose the filling. Place in a ovenproof dish. Repeat with remaining crepes. Spoon over any unused sauce. Sprinkle with additional cheese if desired.
Place dish under grill for approximately 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Stand for a few minutes before serving. 

Longueville Pancakes

Ingredients: 100g plain flour, 2 eggs, 300ml milk, 1 teasp rapeseed oil, plus little extra for frying, pinch salt
Sieve the flour and a pinch of salt (allowing plenty of air in) into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the centre.
Crack the eggs into the middle, then pour in 50ml milk and 1 tbsp oil. Start whisking from the centre, gradually drawing the flour into the eggs, milk and oil. Once all the flour is utilised, beat the mixture until you have a smooth, thick paste. Add a little more milk if it is too stiff to beat.
Add a good splash of milk and whisk to loosen the thick batter. While still whisking, pour in a steady stream of the remaining milk. Continue pouring and whisking until you have the right consistency - slightly thick single cream.
Best if mixture is left in fridge for an hour before cooking or even overnight.

Serve with maple syrup, dusting of caster sugar & lemon juice or your favourite chocolate spread!

Micheal's Pancake Recipe 

Pancake Recipe Ingredients: 100g / 4oz plain or self-raising flour, large pinch of salt
1 standard egg, 250ml / ½ pint Milk, 1 tablespoon melted Butter

Mix salt and flour into the bowl. Beat to a creamy smooth batter with unbeaten egg and half the milk and melted butter. Mix in the remaining milk and use as required.
Lightly brush the base of a 20 or 22cm frying pan with the melted butter.
Heat the pan to get the butter hot when hot pour in 3 tablespoon of the batter mixture just enough to cover the base of the pan. Fry till they are a golden brown colour and do this both sides. To turn you can flip or use a spatula.Repeat with the rest of the batter mixture.

Dunbrody House American Style Pancakes

Ingredients- 300g unbleached plain flour, 1tsp Baking Powder, 3 Medium Free-Range Eggs, 400ml Buttermilk, 30g Irish Creamery Butter melted, 1tbsp Sunflower Oil for frying, 1 pinch Salt
Method - Mix together the flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Beat the eggs with the milk, make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and whisk in the milk to make a thick smooth batter. Beat in the melted butter. Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Drop a tablespoon of the batter per pancake into the pan to make pancakes approx 7.5cm/3" across. Make 3 pancakes at a time and cook for about 2 1/2 minutes over a medium heat until small bubbles appear on the surface of each pancake, then turn and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Cover with kitchen paper to keep warm while you use the rest of the batter. Serve with some maple syrup, or berry compote or both! Delicious with a scoop of Vanilla ice-cream.

Hayfield Manor Famous Crepe Suzette

For the crêpes
110g/4oz plain flour, sifted, pinch of salt, 2 eggs, 200ml/7fl oz milk mixed with 75ml/3fl oz water
50g/2oz butter, 1 medium orange - grated zest only, 1 tea spoon of caster sugar

For the sauce
150ml/5fl oz orange juice (from 3-4 medium oranges), 1 medium orange, grated zest only, 1 small, lemon, grated rind and juice, 1 tea spoon of caster sugar, 3 tea spoons of Cointreau, 50g/2oz unsalted butter, a little extra Cointreau, for flaming

For the presentation
Orange & grapefruit segments, brown Sugar, additional Cointreau for fuller flavour

Preparation method
Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre of the flour and break the eggs into it. Then begin whisking the eggs.

Gradually add small quantities of the milk and water mixture, whilst still whisking. Whisk until the batter is smooth at the consistency of thin cream. Melt 50g/2oz of butter in a pan. Spoon 2 teaspoons of it into the batter and whisk it in, then pour the rest into a bowl. Stir the orange zest and caster sugar into the batter.

Get the pan really hot, then turn the heat down to medium. The crepes are to be thinner than the traditional pancake so just use ½ tea spoon of batter at a time in a 18cm/7in pan. As soon as the batter hits the hot pan, tip it around from side to side to get the base evenly coated with batter. It should take only half a minute or so to cook.

For the sauce, mix all the ingredients - with the exception of the butter - in a bowl. At the same time warm the plates on which the crêpes are going to be served. Melt the butter in the frying pan, pour in the sauce and allow it to heat very gently. Then place the first crêpes in the pan and give it time to warm through before folding it in half and then in half again to make a triangular shape. Slide this onto the very edge of the pan, tilt the pan slightly so the sauce runs back into the centre.

Flame the frying pan at this stage. Heat a ladle by holding it over a gas flame or by resting it on the edge of a hotplate, then, away from the heat, pour a little Cointreau into it, return it to the heat to warm the spirit, then set light to it. Carry the flaming ladle to the table over the pan and pour the flames over the crêpes before serving on the warmed plates.

For presentation purposes, serve with a little brown sugar, orange and grapefruit segments and for a fuller flavour, pour in a little addition of Cointreau to the cooked pancakes.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Looking over the beauty of St Stephen's Green this ivy clad house is an intimate and serene setting in the heart of Dublin city.
Under the expert guidance of award winning Chef Graham Neville, Restaurant FortyOne has flourished in the last three years. Graham and his team create delicate, elegant dishes using the finest ingredients from their very own garden in Kenah Hill, Killiney, Co. Dublin.
This venue was once a private house and one can imagine restaurant guests gathered in the hall downstairs with top hats being removed by butlers before the grand parade up the stairs.
The restaurant itself is on the first floor with three lavish rooms interlinking, and one with views out over the parkland.
Graham Neville’s culinary expertise make for beautiful, satisfying and engaging eating, right from the off, when a amuse plate of langoustine, mushroom tortellini and truffle broth ushers you into the warm, sensual concoction of dishes that is his signature style.

10 Facts you didn't know about Restaurant FortyOne

1. The welcoming team are proud to have recently hosted US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on her visit to Dublin. They now await your visit.

2. The beautiful private dining rooms provide the perfect venue for up to 10 people in each room for that special occasion

3. For larger parties, the main dining room can seat up to 60 people and has hosted some noteworthy events.

4. Head Chef Graham Neville spent a number of years working in the United States primarily in     Chicago where he designed progressive French cuisine at both Tru and Les Nomades, two of the   city's finest restaurants

5. On his return to Ireland Graham worked for seven years at Thornton's Restaurant.

6. Graham's food sourcing ethos has led to his development of Residence's own organic kitchen    garden on the hills overlooking the Irish Sea just outside the city centre.

7. Sommelier Victor Nedelea provides a breathtaking, world-class wine list, including rare wine   and small wine producers

8. Food and Wine Magazine Award 2014 - Best Restaurant in Dublin, Best Chef in Dublin and Best Chef overall in Ireland

9. The Irish Times describes the menu as "splendid, impeccable, elegant, perfect"

10. The Irish Independent praises the restaurant's "air of luxury and comfort" and the "beautifully presented, perfect" food.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Another generation adds to the charm of Coopershill House.

Having travelled the world in his youth, Simon O’Hara is well placed to know there’s no place like home, particularly when home is Coopershill House, the luxury country house hotel in Co Sligo.
Now 45, he began his career working in the City of London only to discover he hated being cooped up indoors. When a friend suggested he apply for a job as a safari guide in Nairobi, he jumped at it, “much to my parents’ concern, what with leaving a steady job and all”.
He spent the next five years driving across Africa, leading overland tours of up to 20 adventurous souls at a time, each looking to get up close and personal with African wildlife. It was, he says, the best job in the world. It was also custom made for him.
“I love open spaces, which is why I hated being in an office. As a safari guide I was driving across the Sahara, with no roads, no tracks, only a compass to guide me and it was terrific fun.”
From there he moved to Mexico, where he set up his own travel business, sending Mexicans on African safari honeymoons and bringing UK tourists on Mayan tours.

He returned to Sligo in 2005, taking over the running of Coopershill House from his parents a year later.
Generational handovers are notoriously difficult but not in this case. “It was actually a very easy transition and, because my parents moved into another house on the property, it was great to be able to ask questions such as ‘Why is this chimney smoking?’ and ‘Why might that light be flashing?’,” he said.
Now in their 70s, his parents went on to set up a thriving venison business on the estate, the end product of which is now on the menu at Coopershill.
The house has been in his family since it was built. “Coopershill is filled with happy childhood memories for me – my grandparents taught me to ride here – and I think what guests appreciate is that, unlike some other big old houses which can be like staying in a cold church, it’s a lovely warm home.”
The atmosphere is warm too. “We get an awful lot of repeat visitors, some of whom have been coming since my grandparents’ time, and what we are told time and again is that, more than a hotel, it is like visiting friends in the country who happen to have a big house,” said O’Hara.
“When you think about it, the place is full of lovely old crystal, antiques and silverware and the fact that no one has ever taken so much as an 18th century silver salt cellar is a testament to that fact – you don’t steal from friends.”

There’s another reason why the house has such a happy atmosphere - it also happens to be where O’Hara met his partner, Christina, an award winning, Ballymaloe trained chef.
“Christina came to work for my mother and was here when I returned from my travels. We always joke that we kept her so busy working she never had time to go and meet anyone else, luckily for me – and our 21month old son!”
Food is another huge part of the appeal for guests here. “It is consistently excellent and fresh. All our muesli, bread and yogurts are homemade, we have our own fresh eggs and of course, the venison sausage on the breakfast menu comes from our own farm.”
Above all, it’s the sense of escape that is most highly prized by guests. “Coopershill is all about the peace and quiet. There are no TVs in the bedrooms. Instead, guests enjoy the freedom and solitude of our 500 acre estate.”

He has added new innovations to the Coopershill experience, introducing, most recently, a half hour hawk walk on the estate for guests. But in the main his mission is all about preserving a recipe for hospitality that has been bringing guests back to this beautiful pocket of the Sligo countryside for generations.

“There are incremental improvements I plan to make, such as clearing lawns down to the river to offer boating. But by and large making very few changes to what we are so lucky to already have here is what is most important to us,” he said. 

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Living on the shores of Caragh Lake, Ring of Kerry & welcoming the Wild Atlantic Way

Carrig Country House is a proud member of Ireland's Blue Book. It is hidden away on the shores of Caragh Lake in County Kerry and is run by Frank & Mary Slattery.

When people asked us 18 years ago “Why are you moving to Caragh Lake?” they could not understand trading a bustling social urban town life with the ruggedness and wildness of rural life along the Ring of Kerry. We got it though – we could enjoy the natural etheral beauty of Castlemaine Harbour and Cromane out along the horizon to Dingle Bay capturing the shimmering dunes of Rossbeigh and Inch. We could look out across the harbour to the spine of the Slieve Mish Mountains as they connected with the Brandon Mountains further west along the Dingle Peninsula. We could turn west to enjoy the wooded hills and mountains surrounding the quaint and charming village of Glenbeigh and finally, turn south to feast our eyes on the idyllic tranquillity of Caragh Lake with its majestic backdrop of the Kerry Highlands and MacGillycuddy Reeks.

Being on the Ring of Kerry, we have shared our experiences with so many friends and visitors, whilst always encouraging them and others to slow down and spend more time. With this in mind, we are now thrilled to welcome the Wild Atlantic Way, which has been created and developed to highlight the wonderful communities, destinations and experiences along Ireland’s wild-west coast but also to highlight the hidden gems that have always been here but never quite discovered. We hope, through our blogs, to share our hidden gems with you for as you will discover, Caragh Lake is not just a lake, it is a lake with many untapped treasures…

Carrig Country House is a proud member of Ireland's Blue Book. It is hidden away on the shores of Caragh Lake in County Kerry and is run by Frank & Mary Slattery.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Top 5 Trends in Wedding Themes

Top 5 Trends in Wedding Themes

1)      Vintage is currently the post popular wedding theme. With personalised and homemade décor for the wedding day proving very popular at weddings this year!  

Brooch Bouquets have featured in lots of weddings this season. This is a great way to get the best of both worlds; a beautiful wedding bouquet which you can keep for a lifetime as a centerpiece in your home.

Perhaps enroll in a class to make your own bouquet, a great excuse for a girls day out with your bridesmaids is a “Brooch hunt” at your local vintage fair.

Also Pinterest is a great resource to help create DIY personalised vintage accessories!
Check out Ireland'sBlue Book Weddings on Pinterest

2)      Hollywood Glamour and its sophisticated elegance have remerged as a style favourite throughout weddings at each of our Blue Book houses.  Femininity at its best dressed in satin or silk.

3)      Rustic Weddings are becoming increasingly popular, bringing the best elements of the outdoors “indoors” and incorporating the country style into their décor.  Upon first thought, when you discuss Tree Rings, Mason Jam Jars and rusted birdcages, wedding décor is not immediately what springs to mind!  


However, a recent trend amongst couples is to use Mason jars (sometimes covered in lace) as
Vases as part of their table display, rusted birdcages to display their table plan or using
tree ring slice upon which to display their Wedding Cake!

4)      Ultimate Tea Party Wedding – Reflecting the obsession with all things vintage, couples have been selecting Blue Book Houses as the destination for their wedding because of the classic Country House Style! 


Brides have been known to bring in their own antique floral tea cups in which to serve their arrival drinks.  Whilst  many serve traditional Breakfast Tea, the more adventurous have been know to serve colourful summer cocktails which reflect beautifully the myriad of vibrant floral designs  Although many find hiring the antique cups and easy solution, a way to ensure a more personal touch is to create a collection by borrowing from extended family sets.

5)     Garden Games and activities are a prominent feature of weddings at the Blue Book Houses.  Summer Weddings may feature lawn games such as croquet and boules to entertain guests while the photos are being taken, large paper flowers have been dotted along ancient trees and even the odd Petting Farm has been arranged to entertain the young (and old)!

The Blue Book Tip for March:

To create your own Personal theme (which could be a mishmash of multiple eras), start a mood board and begin collecting.  This will ensure that your day reflects the two of you as a couple!

For more information on Ireland's Blue Book Weddings see

Happy Planning.......

With thanks to our wedding expert at Barberstown Castle, Co.Kildare
Gretchen Ridgeway

Friday, 25 October 2013

Ghostly goings on in Ireland's Blue Book Grand Manors

Ghostly goings on in Ireland's Blue Book Grand Manors
Castle Leslie Estate - Co.Monaghan

In 1914 Norman Leslie was killed on the battlefield of France but weeks after his death he was seen by Lady Marjorie Leslie beside the chest of drawers in the famous Red Room.

He appeared as if in a cloud of light, reading through some of his letters, as if he was searching for one in particular. Lady Marjorie sat up in bed with a start, and said, `Why Norman - what are you doing here?' He simply turned to her and smiled, then faded away. So did the light.

Castle Durrow - Co.Laois

In a field opposite Castle Durrow on the other side of the river stands a monument know locally as the “Obelilsk”.  It is said to mark the spot where a young lady, a follower of the hunt was thrown from her horse and killed.  Remarkable enough though in true Irish traditional style the young lady clad all in white has continued over the years to make occasional brief nocturnal visits to the scene of her fatal accident. 

Barberstown Castle - Co.Kildare

Nicholas Barby built the Castle towards the end of the 13th Century on the land which was originally owned by the Great Norman family the Fitzgeralds.The story goes that for over 700 years people have come to Barberstown Castle, to be both protected and entertained within its walls.  You can take a step back in time and watch the story of Barberstown Castle come alive, hosted by none other than Nicholas Barby.

Medieval banquets are truly haunting with spooky music, wonderful costumes and an authentic insight into local history, teamed with our glowing reputation for good food.  Entertain your guests in the privacy of the original Castle Keep (1288) or in the Elizabethan Room and watch history come alive through Storytelling, Music and Dance.
Rathmullan House - Co.Donegal


Perhaps George Knox, born around 1660, had an uneventful life, but his son Andrew – grandfather of the first owner of Rathmullan House - was caught up in one of the most sensational events of the next century. The tale of ‘Half-Hanged MacNaghten’ is still dusted down regularly today.

Andrew, a long-serving MP for Donegal,  married Honoria Tomkins and they lived in the Priory in Rathmullan before moving to Derry around the mid-1700s when she inherited Prehen House. Andrew gave hospitality at Prehen to an old friend down on his luck, the celebrated gambler and bon viveur John MacNaghten. However, the relationship turned sour when MacNaghten wanted Andrew’s young daughter Mary-Anne to be his wife. After various twists and turns, the entire affair ended in tragedy in 1761 when MacNaghten ambushed the Knox family carriage on its way to Dublin, and Mary-Anne was killed.

MacNaghten was sentenced to death, despite having considerable public sympathy, but at the gallows in Strabane the rope broke three times. This entitled him to escape execution, but he said he didn’t want to be known as ‘Half-Hanged McNaghten’ and died at the fourth attempt. Of course, ‘Half-Hanged MacNaghten’ is what he’s been called ever since.

The oldest tablet in the church in Rathmullan commemorates the death of Andrew Knox in 1774 and also the loss of his only daughter Mary-Anne – ‘Mariana filia obiit November 1761’.

Andrew and Honoria had one other child, George. It was George’s son Andrew, nephew of the ill-fated Mary-Anne, who built Rathmullan House (perhaps it was to have an escape from the ghost of MacNaghten, which was naturally said to haunt Prehen House). 

For more on the Ghostly goings on in Ireland's Blue Book Grand Manors be sure to visit


Happy Halloween