Last week, my taste buds enjoyed a surprise treat – beetroot fudge. It is nothing short of decadently delightful with its buttery, creamy, sweet, and PINK existence. It was a pleasant surprise after a meal at the award-winning now-closed Cork city centre restaurant Fenns Quay, owned and managed by chef Kate Lawlor (Kate’s blog).
Kate began her culinary studies at Cork Institute of Technology in 1998 where she completed her professional cookery certificate in two years and graduated top of her class in 2000. She continued her education with a scholarship to Johnson & Wales in Providence, Rhode Island, for three months. In 2007, Kate returned to college to do her degree in culinary arts, specializing in larder. She admits pastry skills are not her strength but she does enjoy experimenting with desserts. While discussing her restaurant in Cork City Centre, Kate talked about the location. “I love the produce that is on our doorstep in Cork, from craft beers to craft cheeses, we are spoilt for choice. This has led us to come up with a pie day on Fridays, teaming savory pies with craft beers and ciders.” And having eaten one of the special pies at Fenns Quay, I can attest to their being worth a visit (I had the chicken, broccoli and Cashel blue cheese pie with Jerusalem artichoke mash accompanied by a red wine jus, Jan. 2012). The establishment also hosts the Chef du Jour challenge (Nov. 2011 and Feb./Mar. 2012)
In my first months in Ireland, Fenns Quay built up a fondness in my heart for their relaxed pace and welcoming atmosphere (see the related blog post, Sept. 2008). Since then, I’ve grown to appreciate Fenns Quay’s emphasis on fresh ingredients (sourced locally whenever possible), prepared with care. In the mornings, Monday through Saturday, they offer fresh-baked scones and breads, coffee, tea, hot chocolate (they melt chocolate buttons in the tall glass mug), eggs, and omelets to order. Don’t even get me started on their bread. Mmm, their bread. Lunch includes an impressive daily menu of specials, from Castletownbere Scallops to a hot savory pie. Sandwiches, salads, and dishes from the main menu are also possible, but my policy is to always choose from the daily specials if given the choice. Their burger is actually one of the most true to American in terms of how the meat is ground and I love how it is served topped with house-made onion rings alongside chips. No bun! I always felt bread just got in the way of a good piece of meat so doing away with the bun is brilliant. Anyway, dinners at FQ are just as delightful with a cozy warmth that is needed year-round here. The restaurant is sparsely decorated with local art taking second-seat to the more important cuisine. But again the emphasis on ‘local’.
Chef Kate was inspired to create beetroot fudge while attending a cookery demonstration given by Mickael Viljanen, head chef at Gregans Castle Hotel in the Burren. The demo was at the Tannery Cookery School where Viljanen gave Kate, and other attendees, the basic fudge recipe and showed them how to make hickory-smoked fudge. Kate was immediately drawn to the texture of the fudge and once she returned to work she made it in vanilla. Then she considered how it could be done with beetroot, which is popular as a natural sweetener and coloring for brownie recipes. The idea took hold and the rest is a delicious bite of history. She explained the inclusion of the orange blossom water because “beetroot and orange pair well in salads”. Kate admits to loving the color of beetroot and that “its earthy flavor is extremely versatile and handles sweetness very well”. When asked what other unlikely culinary pairings she admires, Kate responded that Rozanne Stevens made a cumin version but Ms. Lawlor is thinking of a chocolate and chilli version for Fenns Quay. She would also like to work with fennel or anise, many other spices that would work well with the texture of fudge. I’m sure we’d all help her taste test, right?
Kate’s Beetroot Fudge
710g castor sugar
Beetroot juice leftover from vac-pack beetroot
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water
1. Place butter, milk, cream, and castor sugar in a pot and whisk continuously until it reaches 115°C.
2. Transfer to mixer and mix with K-blade. Blend for 10 minutes.
3. Add flavoring of beetroot juice, sugar, and orange blossom water. Blend then evenly spread into pan lined with parchment paper an refrigerate to set.
4. Serve chilled.