Catherine Fulvio: 'I know what it is like to miss that taste of home'

The TV chef has been visiting the Irish abroad to help them recreate their family favourites

Fiona Kennedy lives in San Sebastian. Catherine Fulvio cooked her a fish pie with smoked fish and mussels, a Kennedy family favourite.

Fiona Kennedy lives in San Sebastian. Catherine Fulvio cooked her a fish pie with smoked fish and mussels, a Kennedy family favourite.

 

Catherine Fulvio is a TV chef, food writer and owner of Ballyknocken House and Cookery School in Co Wicklow. She also presents Tastes Like Home, a cookery series that works with Irish emigrants to help them recreate a taste of home, wherever they may be.

Fulvio meets families around Ireland to learn how to make a favourite dish in their household. She then visits the family member living abroad and tried to recreate that familiar taste with them. 

Here the chef explains why Irish family favourites mean so much to emigrants living overseas:

I grew up in a household where there were always large gatherings around the kitchen table; whether it was family visitors, tourists, or farm help. Now I am married to an Italian and food continues to play an important role in my life, and I get great enjoyment from sitting around the table at home or in the cookery school sharing recipes and food experiences.

So many of my childhood memories revolve around food, whether it was collecting the eggs in the morning to stirring the Christmas pudding with my mother, so when I was approached to present a cookery series about the Irish abroad, I was delighted, as it is right up my street. I am used to replicating dishes that have been passed down through the generations for our visitors here at Ballyknocken House and Cookery School, and I look forward to seeing what dishes taste like home to families abroad today.

Michael Maher (right, in Barcelona with Alex Cordona and Catherine Fulvio) missed his mother’s Fricassee Chicken with Basmati Rice, which she used to cook for him at home in Ennis, Co Clare, after his cross-country races.
Michael Maher (right, in Barcelona with Alex Cordona and Catherine Fulvio) missed his mother’s Fricassee Chicken with Basmati Rice, which she used to cook for him at home in Ennis, Co Clare, after his cross-country races.

Having lived in Germany for a year myself, I know what it is like to miss that taste of home. For me then it was the taste of Irish butter and Irish tea. The first series of Tastes Like Home, which aired on RTÉ in November, turned out to be far more emotional than we had expected with some wonderful food and really heartfelt moments.

Donegal to Canada

For instance Mark Bradley in Canada left Donegal 25 years ago, but still longs for saltwater scallops cooked over an open peat fire, and his brother-in-laws fresh-caught lobster and crabs. Surprisingly we had great difficulty finding fresh lobster in Canada to cook for him.

It’s funny how a recipe represents a family, a place and a time. Taste is the most evocative of all senses, and can transport us back to our childhoods, to a memorable meal or special moment. I have no doubt that the second series, which we are preparing for now, is really going to resonate and connect with the viewers at home and abroad.

In series one, every destination we visited had something unique to offer: the amazing maple syrup from Tinytown in Canada; the pintxos bars of San Sebastian; my very own personalised Tastes Like Home doughnut courtesy of Voodoo Doughnut in Portand.

Jacinta Baille (left, with her daughter Emily) cooked Catherine Fulvio the ultimate traditional Irish breakfast in Dublin; Catherine then travelled to Portland, Oregon, to teach Jacinta’s sister Savina and her family how to make their own Irish sausages and to cure their own bacon.
Jacinta Baille (left, with her daughter Emily) cooked Catherine Fulvio the ultimate traditional Irish breakfast in Dublin; Catherine then travelled to Portland, Oregon, to teach Jacinta’s sister Savina and her family how to make their own Irish sausages and to cure their own bacon.

But what stood out most were those tastes of home that made up the six episodes; the tastes the Irish diaspora were missing most. It was no great surprise to find a full Irish breakfast in there alongside a delicious fish pie, a nettle soup, and brown bread. Some other dishes, including medallions of pork and a chicken fricassee, also represented how the Irish palate is shifting towards more international flavours.

Whistle-stop tour

For me, Tastes Like Home is more than a food show, it is a format that will strike a chord with every Irish family and take you on a whistle-stop tour of your loved one’s home away from home. I am looking forward to discovering the unmistakable taste of home with six more Irish living abroad in the next series.

So if you live abroad, miss that quintessential taste of home, and have an all-time favourite recipe you would love to have cooked for you, you can apply to take part at tasteslikehome.ie, or ask a friend or relative to collect an application from their local Londis store. The closing date is Sunday March 19th.

Here I share a traditional Irish recipe perfect for St Patrick’s Day, whether you are in Ireland or overseas, from my latest cookbook A Taste of Home.

Beef and Stout Pies with Potato Pastry Topping

Makes about 6, depending on the size

FOR THE FILLING
Rapeseed oil, for sautéing
100g smoked bacon, sliced into lardons
1kg round steak stewing beef, diced
Plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
1 large onion, thinly sliced
500ml stout
1 red pepper, diced
400g tinned diced tomatoes
1½ tbsp tomato purée
2 tsp sugar
¾ tsp English mustard powder
Bouquet garni (4 to 5 parsley sprigs, 1 fresh thyme sprig and 1 bay leaf, tied together)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

FOR THE PASTRY
170g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
½ tsp salt
115g chilled butter, diced
¾ tsp baking powder
150g steamed potatoes, pressed through a ricer
Cold water (about 3 tbsp), to bind egg wash
200g chestnut (or any of your favourite) mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 tbsp butter

Heat some oil in a casserole dish over a medium heat. Add the bacon and sauté until crispy. Transfer to a clean plate and set aside.

Toss the diced beef in the seasoned flour and dust off the excess. Add a little more oil to the casserole dish and fry the beef in batches until browned on all sides. Place the seared beef pieces on the clean plate with the bacon and set aside.

Add a little more oil to the casserole dish and gently sauté the onion until just softened but not browned. Deglaze the pan with some stout.

Return the beef, bacon and their juices to the casserole dish and stir in the red pepper, tomatoes, tomato purée, sugar, mustard and bouquet garni and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Add the rest of the stout. Bring to the boil, cover, reduce the heat and then simmer over a low heat for about 1½ hours or until the meat is tender and the sauce thick, stirring from time to time.

Meanwhile, prepare the pastry. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Add the diced butter and rub with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the baking powder and mix well. Stir in the potatoes and pour in just enough cold water to form a soft dough. Turn it out on a floured surface and knead very lightly. Wrap in clingfilm and leave to rest for 30 minutes in the fridge. (The pastry can also be made several hours in advance and stored in the fridge until you are ready to use it.)

During the last 10 minutes of the filling’s cooking time, heat a medium frying pan with a little butter, add the mushrooms with some salt and freshly ground black pepper and sauté for about 4 to 5 minutes. Then add to the casserole and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. Check the seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if required. When you are ready to make the pies, remove the bouquet garni from the beef.

Choose 6 ramekins (or more, depending on their size). Preheat the oven to 210°C/fan 190°C/gas 7.

Carefully roll out the pastry on a floured surface – it shouldn’t be too thin. Using a large cutter, cut out 6 or more discs 2cm larger than the ramekins. Spoon the beef into the bowls, brush the edges with egg wash and place the pastry discs on top. Crimp the edges.

Re-roll the pastry trimmings and use to cut out leaves. Attach these to the top of the pies with egg wash. Make a small hole in the top of each disc for the steam to escape. Leave in the fridge to rest for about 20 minutes.

Then brush the pastry with egg wash and transfer the ramekins to the oven for about 18 to 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden and baked.

Leave the ramekins to rest for about five minutes before serving with a fresh garden salad.

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