Lilliput Trading Co Balsamic & Olive Oil

When I lived in Spain, salads were always simply dressed with Olive Oil, Vinegar and Salt and Pepper. There was never a need for anything else. They generally use Wine or Sherry Vinegar in Spain but Balsamic works as well. The better the quality of the Oil and Vinegar used, the less you have to use and of course, the better the flavour.
This Sicilian Extra Virgin Olive Oil and 12 year old Balsamic Vinegar from the Lilliput Trading Company dress my salads these days and they are beautiful together. Only a small amount of the vinegar is needed because it really dense (1.32 density which is pretty dense in Balsamic terms) and it will overpower everything else if you use too much. The Olive Oil Cold pressed and is Single Origin so it really holds its fruity flavour.

 

The Village Dairy

We have found a real gem here. This is real milk. This is how I remember milk tasting when I was growing up. The Village Dairy is a small dairy in Carlow that doesn't compromise on quality for the sake of a few cents. Their award winning Jersey milk is the creamiest I've tasted and comes from Woodstown Abbott farm in Co Meath who have the oldest Jersey herd in Ireland.
At the moment they have around 12 local farmers supplying their Organic and Non Organic milk. The milk is pasteurised and homogenised but they tamper with it as little as possible to maintain its great natural flavour. 
And for the coffee lovers out there The Village Dairy Organic Milk, which was a 2016 Blas na hÉireann finalist, is quickly becoming the choice milk for baristas around the country because of the silky smooths results and sweet taste it produces.
We have their Organic Milk, Jersey Milk, Low fat and Full fat, and their Organic Cream. They also have Goats milk which we will stock if there is demand. Let us know.

Pumpkins, Squashes and Gourds

In Ireland pumpkins have pretty much always only been grown for carving at Halloween. We've never really done squashes or pumpkins for cooking like the English or our other European friends and I think we've been missing out. The first time I tasted pumpkin was when I was working on a sheep farm in New Zealand. The farmer and his wife roasted a beautiful leg of lamb with roast pumpkin, roast potatoes and fresh mint sauce and as a poor student living on spaghetti alla ketchup for most of the winter, I can safely say it was the best meal I had there. But I couldn't get over how delicious the pumpkin was. I had never tasted any pumpkin or squash before that and I was a fan straight away. Since then I have tried a few different types and while they all have a similar squashy taste, they can very quite a lot in sweetness, strength of flavour and texture. 
Butternut Squash has been readily available in Ireland for a good few years now but here are a few other varieties starting to make an appearance when the season starts, which is around now. These are generally brought in from France where they have made a huge effort to revive these and other "legume d'antan" (forgotten vegetables).

Potimarron. Aka the "Hokkiado" or "Red Kuri" are small round squashes with a beautiful deep orange colour. They are in season from early Autumn through the winter. They have a slight chestnut flavour and are lovely for making soups, but the best thing about them is that the skins are edible! This makes them much easier and quicker to cook rather than the butternuts that can take and age to prepare. Just chop them up, roast them in the oven and voila! the perfect accompaniment to roast lamb!

 
 

Patidou. Aka "Carnival Squash". This squash has a wonderful range of colours on their skin. Cut them in half and scoop out the seeds and you can stuff them with whatever filling tickles your fancy. Or you can cut the top off, roast them whole, serve soup in them or even a bake an egg in them.

Spaghetti Squash. This is a really interesting one. It gets its name because when you cook it and scoop it away from the skin, it comes away in spaghetti like strands. It tastes like squash with a light nutty flavour but it's not that strong which is actually good because it is mainly used as a replacement for pasta or noodles and absorbs the flavours of the sauces / ingredients it is cooked with.

Jack be Little. These little fellas are great for display around Halloween but are edible and quite tasty too. They are perfect for roasting whole or stuffing but I wouldn't recommend peeling and chopping them because they would be too fiddly.

 
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Apart from these edible pumpkins, there are loads of cool display squashes and gourds as well. These are brilliant for Halloween and some of them are really ugly. There are also some prettier ones though and if you grow really attached to them you can dry them out and keep them as ornaments! It takes a few months though so you have to be patient. Choose a dry, well ventilated spot out of direct sunlight and make sure to turn them every week or so. The skin will become hard and the inside hollow. The seeds will harden up as well and you'll know they're ready when you shake them and the seeds rattle around inside.