Sunday, November 09, 2014

Cooking at Kalbarri

With the extraordinary number of food-related TV shows cramming the schedules, it might seem that there'd be little time for people to actually go along to someone's home for a demonstration, writes Brian Byrne.

But a new big red sign 'Kalbarri Cookery' near Carnalway has in a very short time become a magnet for people who want to get tips on all kinds of real-world cooking from Siobhan Murphy, more familiar to most Kilcullen people from her performances on the stage with Kilcullen Drama Group as Siobhan Patterson.

Her cookery demonstrations are to smaller audiences, of course, with around a dozen participants seated into a country house kitchen for her now-weekly sessions. Generally women, 'though we had a couple of men at a recent one'.

Even for somebody who doesn't cook very much, it's a fun couple of hours to observe, learn, and have a bit of social get-togethering. "It's a great way for someone new to the area to get to know some new people, too," Siobhan adds.

The evening is almost like a TV show ... except better. You can smell the cooking, the fresh ingredients, ask questions. And know that at the end, it's not the TV crews that are going to get to eat, but everyone there. Because each session cooks for a dozen or so, with an apparent ease that, of course, all comes from preparation and experience. Still, it shows just how much can be done in a couple of hours by somebody who knows what they're at, even in an ordinary kitchen.

Of course, it couldn't work so smoothly without help, and Siobhan's sister Marie quietly works around her, putting the ingredients required for the moment on the island unit where Siobhan does the work, clearing dishes, plates, pans as needed, watching the cashew nuts roast for the salad, and generally leaving the 'stage' clear for Siobhan to move seamlessly from item to item, with a constant chat about what she's doing.

And then, completely unseen, her husband Tom handles the washing up in a room off the kitchen. Between himself and Marie, no wonder things never build up to a clutter.

"I always cooked," Siobhan says while the rest of us eat soup and brown bread, roast chicken and trimmings, a new take on cheesecake for dessert, and some lemon drizzle cake for variety. All done on the evening, along with some 7-Up scones 'for a bit of fun'. "I originally did a Bakery Management & Food Production course in Kevin Street in Dublin, which became a foundation for much more."

That much more included a stint in America, where she worked for a Jewish couple in their business, an experience she recalls as 'amazing'. "I also worked for years with Malones Bakery and Cake Shop in Naas, a family operation which were perfectionists at their craft. I have been so lucky to have trained with the best."

Siobhan is now passing on all that experience not just to adults on Thursday evenings, but to children people from the age of six upwards in a Saturday mornings 'I Can Cook' series, and she is also beginning one focussed to Transition Year boys from the end of this week.

A special Christmas Cooking series is already fully booked. "A number of groups are using these as a form of reunion event." But there will be another local opportunity before them, with a special demonstration evening in the McMahon Centre in Kilcullen in aid of KARE, which runs the Centre ... that's on 20 November, with doors opening at 7pm.

Will we eventually see Siobhan move from the Town Hall Theatre stage to the national small screen? 'Kalbarri Cookery' already has a good ring to it as a programme title, doesn't it?

This article was first published on the Kilcullen Page of the Kildare Nationalist.