The Kinneagh Kitchen at Firmount House
Firmount House is a beautiful old house located just outside of Clane, Co. Kildare. Owners Eilín and David have done a magnificent job renovating the downstairs area into several dining rooms and a well equipped kitchen. The house has a long and eclectic history. In the early 20th century it was used as a World War 1 hospital before being converted into a tuberculosis sanatorium. The Department of Defence purchased the property in 1964 and constructed a nuclear bunker in the basement while using the rest of the house as a nuclear tracking control centre. Eilín and David bought the run down house in 2012 and have been slowly restoring its former glory. I first met Eilín in 2016 when I interviewed for the position of chef at the Firmount Cafe. Although it didn’t work out, we stayed in touch and a few months ago she floated the idea of a pop-up of some kind with me. I didn’t need to be asked twice!
The menu for the night came together pretty quickly. With a couple of pigs scheduled for the abattoir not long before the event, Firmount’s pork was always going to be the centrepiece. I had hoped to present a roast pork dish so I was thrilled to be able to use meat produced just a few meters from where it was to be served. I love the idea of sharing plates and giving people lots of different things to try, things they may not normally order when out for a meal. The starter was the perfect place for this and with lots of beautiful ingredients available in August, picking just seven options was the hardest part!
The sharing platter for four went down a storm and although it was a lot of work to prepare and put together, it was definitely worth the time and effort. Homemade focaccia with cherry tomatoes and black olives was joined by an array of Mediterranean inspired delights. The Italian arancini, made from risotto and stuffed with mozzarella were breaded and fried, sat on top of a homemade walnut and basil pesto. Organic Castleruddery tomatoes were marinated with fennel, onion and a red wine vinegar dressing while the fritatta was filled with fried sweet peppers. Firmount courgettes were roasted with za’atar and topped with Anna’s Dairy goat’s milk yoghurt dressing. To make the dressing, I mixed some of my homemade pickles (gherkins and sweet cucumber pickle) into the yoghurt with olive oil and lemon juice. The tabouleh was a twist on a Middle Eastern staple, using fennel as the herb of choice rather than parsley and the organic leaves were dressed with an aged balsamic vinegar in the centre of each platter.
The main course soon followed with stuffed and roasted Firmount pork on a bed of potatoes with peppers and onions, roasted balsamic vegetables, cannellini beans with Gubbeen chorizo and broccoli leaves with garlic and chilli. The pork was stuffed with olives and fresh herbs and topped with hogao sauce. The biggest difficulty with the main course was the presentation of the dish. It can be tricky to make roast pork look good and with rustic potatoes and vegetables also on the plate, keeping things neat proved almost impossible. The broccoli leaves also proved a bit deceptive. I picked two big bags of leaves from my garden but like spinach, broccoli leaves shrink and cook right down and I was left with what I considered, too small a portion for each plate. Buttered baby potatoes, fresh from the garden, were brought out on platters with some Naas Farmers Market sourdough bread.
The Veggie Delight
I had been thinking about the vegetarian option for weeks. Two weeks before the meal, I was doing my usual Saturday morning grocery shop at Naas Farmers Market when I noticed some homegrown pumpkins at Dominic’s stall. I couldn’t believe that pumpkins were an option so early in the year – a consequence of the Irish heatwave! I instantly decided to make one of my favourite dishes – Roast Squash and Goat’s Cheese Salad with Mint Dressing but using pumpkin rather than squash. I added a sprinkling of walnuts and mixed Castleruddery’s salad leaf selection with kale, sorrel and herbs. Anna’s Dairy goat’s cheese was the perfect accompaniment – mild and creamy it allowed the pumpkin to shine through.
Dessert on the night was provided by Eilín’s friend who did a great job with four options to choose from. Gluten free brownies, fresh fruit pavlova and apple tart were joined by the gateau Diane which was transformed into an Eton mess type dish after it didn’t quite work out as planned. It proved to be a blessing however – it was utterly delicious. I whipped up a batch of butterscotch sauce to accompany, “gravy for dessert” as David so eloquently put it! David took tea/coffee duty after dessert but not before I made a little thank you speech with my hands shaking and forehead sweating – public speaking is certainly not my forte!
To Eilín and David at Firmount for allowing me use of their beautiful space and kitchen. They were both enormous help in the build up and on the day; it was an absolute pleasure to work in Firmount and I hope to be back in the not too distant future. Thank you to Matteo and Victor for all of their help in the kitchen on Saturday. They got stuck into everything that was required and even helped with serving and washing up at the end. To Ali for all her help on the night in the kitchen but also in the weeks leading up. Most of all, a massive thank you to our guests and diners who attended – the pop-up wouldn’t have happened without you and I hope you all enjoyed the food and setting.
Thank you to everyone who supplied us with the ingredients on the night. Eilín and David provided the free range pork and many of the vegetables and herbs. Castleruddery Organic Farm provided vegetables including the magnificent pumpkin used for the vegetarian main course (You can read about my visit to the farm last year here). Anna’s Dairy provided the goat’s cheese and yoghurt. I had never tasted goat yoghurt before last week but was blown away when I received a sample of it. With my own sourdough starter (Fred) out of action, Dave at Naas Farmers Market provided the sourdough that came out with the main course while Alt Tab and Firmount supplied the wonderful cordials on arrival.
Keep an eye out for my next pop-up which will take place in Newbridge and will be announced in early September – I hope to see you there.