Monday, 29 September 2014

Tomato Consommé and a Great Evening at the AA Ireland Hospitality Awards

I was recently invited to the AA Ireland Hospitality Awards which were held in the iconic Shelbourne Hotel on St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin. These prestigious awards celebrate the very best in the Irish hospitality industry and candidates are tested against a set of rigorous criteria and are also visited by AA Secret Hotel Inspectors. The Maryborough Hotel and Spa, located in Douglas, Cork was presented with the ultimate accolade of AA Ireland Hotel of the Year 2014-2015. Having visited the Maryborough Hotel, I have to say that the award is definitely well deserved.

The event also saw the launch of #AAFoodies with a small number of Irish foodbloggers, including yours truly being invited to the first #AAFoodies event. Before the main awards started we were welcomed into the AA 2 rosette Saddle Room Restaurant in the Shelbourne Hotel and were treated to a fabulous selection of the canapés that would later be served at the awards.

We were introduced to Executive Chef Garry Hughes, who was extremely gracious and answered all the questions we were throwing at him asking about the food we were sampling and what life working in the Shelbourne was like. This was certainly a very different experience to the last time that I had met him which was when I was being put through my paces as part of MasterChef Ireland working a real lunch service to paying customers in the Saddle Room Restaurant. That was a real pressure cooker situation and I found it very stressful albeit great fun. The #AAFoodies event a hugely enjoyable experience and extremely relaxed by comparison to my previous visit!

We also got the chance to meet one of the AA Secret Inspectors and find out more about what the judging involves. It was so interesting hearing about the very detailed inspections that were carried out and the broad range of criteria that were applied when judging. The one question that we all wanted to know the answer to was how one could become an AA Secret Inspector – it sounds like THE dream job!!!

Whilst we were doing all this hobnobbing we were also managing to munch our way through some fabulous canapés which included, Oysters Thermidore, Chilled Tomato Consommé, Seared Scallops, Smoked Salmon and Beetroot Tartare (Garry told us that they carried out the smoking in-house), Beef Daube on Potato Purée,  Duck Rillettes with Plum Jelly plus many other absolutely delicious treats! Being foodbloggers we were all snapping away as these little dishes of were being offered to us.
It’s hard to pick one dish that I preferred above all the rest, because they were all wonderful, but if pushed the chilled Tomato Consommé stood out because of its simplicity, elegance and its cleanness of taste. I left the event, determined to have a stab at making my own and whilst I am in no way suggesting that this version is anywhere near the wondrous heights of the consommé that I tried in the Saddle Room, I am still very pleased with how it turned out!

This is not a difficult dish to make, but it is time consuming. If you want to be assured of a beautiful clear broth, on no account squeeze the muslin bag; just let the tomato juices/water slowly drip through at their own pace. Also, don’t discard the tomato solids that are collected in the muslin. These can be used as the basis for a tasty tomato sauce which you can eat with some pasta or whatever else you choose.

The #AAFoodies event was hugely enjoyable and there are apparently other exciting events in the pipeline. If you are interested in signing up to the #AAFoodies you can do so here.


750g ripe flavoursome tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 large clove garlic, roughly chopped
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 or 3 drops of Tabasco
1 large bunch of basil
Pinch of sugar
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
To finish:
100g cherry tomatoes
A few small sprigs of dill
A few small leaves of basil
A little extra virgin olive oil


1. Place all the ingredients in a large bowl and using a hand held blender, process until the tomatoes and other ingredients have been roughly puréed.
2. Line a large sieve over a clean bowl with a double thickness of muslin. Pour the purée into the muslin and draw up the edges and tie with string to create a ‘sack’. Remove the sieve and suspend the sack over the bowl and allow the contents to drip slowly through for at least 12 hours, but if you can leave it for a day, all the better. I suspended my sack using the handle of a large wooden spoon balanced between two large pots. On no account, squeeze the muslin bag or the resulting consommé will be cloudy.
3. Once the juices have all dripped through, place them in a covered container and refrigerate until well chilled.
To finish:
4. Skin the cherry tomatoes by nicking a small cross in the bottom of each tomato. Pour over boiling water and leave for 10 seconds before removing the tomatoes with a slotted spoon and immediately plunging them into a bowl filled with iced water. Use the tip of a small knife to remove the skins which should come away easily. Halve the skinned cherry tomatoes and set aside.
5. Pour the chilled tomato consommé in little glass bowls and float 2 or 3 halved cherries tomatoes in each bowl. Garnish with little sprigs of dill, a few small leaves of basil and a drop or two of extra virgin olive oil.
Serves 8.