“You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food.” – Paul Prudhomme
While there are many unique experiences to be had on the Emerald Isle, there’s no better way to immerse yourself in Irish culture and traditions than preparing, cooking and then sharing a home cooked meal in the Irish countryside.
Traveling Spoon, a new experiential food and travel website, connects travelers and locals, so visitors to Ireland can have the opportunity to both learn a new skill and share a meal in an Irish home.
One of the experiences on offer right now is the chance to forage with a French Chef in the midlands! Aymar Gourdet, otherwise known as “The Skinny Chef”, is an energetic and chatty Frenchman who has called Ireland his home for almost two decades. He now welcomes Traveling Spoon guests into his home to cook up a storm using only locally sourced ingredients.
Before the cooking even commences, Aymar takes guests into the small woods near his home to go foraging. You will set off into the woods with a basket to see what goodies you can find in the wild.
For Aymar food isn’t just his job or something we eat to survive, good food for him is a celebration of life and all its goodness.
After about an hour of foraging in the woods, and learning all about what is edible and what is not, your basket will be delightfully full, and depending on the season might contain wild garlic, wild mushrooms, nettles or even some wild berries, as well as a selection of wild flowers which Aymar says are great for the garnish on soups and desserts and are 100% edible.
Once you’ve explored the woods, filled your basket, and had your fill of fresh country air, head back to Aymar’s home where the real magic happens. Aymar is an absolute wizard in the kitchen, quickly and skillfully chopping and preparing an assortment of ingredients that together form the most delicious dishes.
You can check out his small garden at the front of his house, where he grows a small selection of herbs and vegetables to use in his kitchen. If anything is needed, he will take you out to pick some with him, be it rhubarb or fresh mint.
Next, you will be put to work in the kitchen, everyone working side by side, preparing and cooking a mouth-watering three course meal.
It’s the most incredible experience to eat what will feel like Michelin Star restaurant food in someone’s own home. Aymar worked as a professional chef and owned his own restaurant in Ireland for over 16 years, so getting to learn the tricks of the trade from such an experienced chef is invaluable.
Eating soup made from foraged nettles and homegrown leeks and chicken cooked on a bed of wild garlic and mushrooms, you’ll sit around the dining room table with Aymar, sipping on some French wine and feeling like you’re having dinner with an old friend.
Having a chef as talented and experienced as Aymar teaching you the simplest cooking tricks, such as how to brown your chicken but keep it moist, is something money can’t pay for.
You will learn there are so many fresh ingredients in the wild, that are not only free but will make a meal taste a million times tastier. You’ll learn how to make one of the quickest, most simple desserts you’ve ever heard of, yet one that will most definitely impress at a dinner party. And you will learn that one does not have to be Irish to show true Irish hospitality!
If foraging isn’t to your liking, or you would prefer to watch a cooking demonstration instead of participating yourself, then Traveling Spoon also offers a Cooking Demonstration experience outside of Kilkenny. Here you can spend a morning in an enormous, old Irish country home, learning how to cook traditional Irish food from Cordon Bleu chef Racinda and her welcoming husband Michael.
Their home, Eden Hall, is the stuff of old fairy tales and having the opportunity to look around it and enjoy tea and cake in their majestic Drawing Room is one you won’t be forgetting.
Once Racinda and Michael have welcomed you in and fed you tea (it’s Ireland, you never say no to tea!) you’ll be brought down to Racinda’s kitchen at the back of their home, where your mouth may drop when you see the size of it. Located in the same room where the kitchen would have been 100 years ago, this new and super modern kitchen is where Racinda now spends her days giving cooking demonstrations.
A cooking demo with Racinda is like no other. She’s so calm and collected despite preparing about 9 dishes at once, and engages you in meaningful conversation as if you’re an old friend, while simultaneously explaining what she’s doing with the ingredients how you can do the same!
She makes cooking looks so easy and her ability to remember to take a tart out of the oven while stirring a sauce and preparing a fresh salad at the same time is admirable.
While Racinda’s cooking demonstrations are different each and every day, and the menu changes depending on who’s coming and where they’re from, you’re sure to learn how to make some very traditional Irish meals such as Bacon and Cabbage or Rhubarb Crumble, as well as more unusual ones such as Moussaka or melt-in-the-mouth Lemon Roulade.
Once everything is ready, you’ll get to enjoy a delicious home cooked meal with Racinda and her husband, served up with freshly made elderflower cordial that is made my Michael.
Be sure to have a small breakfast that morning as this lunch will fill you up for the day. You won’t just leave with a belly full of Irish cuisine, but also with memories to last a lifetime and some new friends in County Kilkenny!
While Traveling Spoon pens itself as a “site that helps you book private meals and cooking classes around the world”, it’s not really about the food. Traveling Spoon experiences are an insight into another person’s life.
They take you inside someone’s home and allow you to experience a cultural exchange like no other: cooking, helping, chatting, laughing and eating, elements that make up the foundations of the perfect meal and an unforgettable travel experience.
(This is a syndicated article which first appeared on Blogilicious).