Cider makes for a great ingredient in dishes.

Cider makes for a great ingredient in dishes.Urban Brewing.

Using alcoholic beverages in food is nothing new - from the odd splash of wine in a sauce to a hefty pouring of stout in a stew - but as Oisin Davis discovers, one particular beverage is a little overlooked. Until now, that is.

There is surely no finer way to celebrate the food and the drink of a region, than by cooking the two of them together. Have we not learned anything from the continued success of the classic Guinness beef stew? It's a perfect taste explosion that merges two of our glorious nation's finest exports.

This is a tradition that needs to be expanded upon. Let us forever keep the beer and bovine in our hearts but look beyond for even more boozy, edible Irish delights. Once you do, it’s so obvious. Irish cider needs greater space on our restaurant's food menus. Not only do we have a fine climate for growing apples but we have a successful series of new producers who are rocking out tremendous ciders that have big variances in flavour and styles. 

READ MORE: Great Irish Drinks: Irish Whiskey & Beer Pairings

Cider can also be worked into all different types of food dishes whilst still retaining its character. So in an effort to further explore how some of our current crop of ciders are being rejoiced in the finest kitchens, I stalked a few chefs and berated them annoyingly until they eventually caved in and shared some superb recipes. Give them a whirl at home or by all means put your twist on them in your own restaurant or pub. Each one utilises a different cider and each dish is totally different from the next. Get on it folks and #cookwithcider. 

Steamed Mussels with Falling Apple Cider

Recipe courtesy of Dan Keane, Head Chef, Urban Brewing, Vault C, CHQ Building, Custom House Quay, Dublin 1

Nestled inside Urban Brewing’s Taps & Tapas menu, you will find this lovely medley of the orchard and sea. The well-travelled head chef, Dan Keane has a big love for using Irish bevvies with equally Irish produce, "Cooking with local drinks allows unique flavour combinations, and underlines our commitment to use local suppliers." With its malic sharpness, his choice of Falling Apple Cider for the mussels is key, "The cider brings acidity and also a fruity element and sweetness to the dish. It works great with Mussels, considering they are known as the Fruit of the Sea, it highlights the flavours in them really well." 

Ingredients for four portions

1,500 g of mussels 
100 g of unsalted butter 
2 cloves of garlic minced
30 g of capers, finely chopped
2 large shallots, finely chopped
1 x 500 ml bottle of Falling Apple Cider
1/3 bunch of finely chopped parsley
1/2 lemon
1 loaf of ciabatta, cut in thick slices 

Wash the mussels in plenty of cold water. Check them for damage; any with a cracked shell should be discarded. Remove any beards or barnacles. Discard any that do not open and cannot close. 

Use a large pot that is big enough to fit all the mussels. Sweat the chopped shallots together with the garlic and the capers. Add the mussels and about the half cider and set over a high heat. As soon as the mussels start to open, turn them and keep the lid on the pan open when doing so. When they have all opened, remove from the heat and add butter, parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice, then allow to rest for 30 seconds. 

Remove all the mussels with a large slotted spoon and divide into four in deep plates. 

Pour almost all of the liquid from the pot over the mussels and serve with the bread. 

Pork Belly with Black Pudding, Apple, Kilahora Johnny Fall Down Cider and Celeriac

Recipe courtesy of Bryan McCarthy, Executive Head Chef and Head of Operations, Greene's Restaurant, 48 MacCurtain Street, Montenotte, Cork.

Bryan McCarthy has been leading the kitchen brigade in Greenes Restaurant & Cask Cocktail Bar for the last seven years and has made it a culinary landmark for Cork city. With an infamous obsession for all things fresh, seasonal and local, he opted for the Demi Sec variety of Johnny Fall Down Cider made in Killahora Orchards. It has a plum like sweetness mixed with a soft spice that is sublime in this pork filled plate of gorgeousness. 


600g pork belly, skin scored
Salt and pepper
300g McCarthy’s ‘Queen-style’ Black Pudding, sliced into four
2 tbsp olive oil
1 Bramley apple, peeled and chopped
35g sugar
3 gelatine leaves
2.5g agar agar powder
750ml Johnny Fall Down Cider Demi Sec
375ml fresh apple juice
100g celeriac, finely grated
15g chopped caper berries
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
1 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp Dijon mustard

Pork belly - method

Preheat the oven to 160°c. Rub the salt and pepper all over the pork, making sure it gets into the cuts in the skin. Place it in a large roasting tin and roast for 1½-2 hours. When tender, remove the pork from the oven and cut away the skin to make crackling.

Scrape away as much fat from the skin as possible and return it to the oven to crisp up. Wrap the meat in greaseproof paper and press it between two trays with a few large tin cans on top until cool. Cut the pork into 4 serving portions.

Cider jelly - method

Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water until soft. Place the cider juice, agar agar, and sugar in a saucepan and blend with a hand blender over medium to high heat. Bring to the boil and reduce to 400ml  and whisk in the softened gelatine. Pour into a mould and refrigerate until set. Cut into small cubes.

Apple purée - method

Place the apple and 20g of the sugar in a saucepan over medium heat with a tablespoon of water. Simmer until the apple is soft and then purée with a hand blender.

Make a celeriac remoulade by combining the grated celeriac, lemon juice and zest, mayonnaise, mustard, Capers and parsley in a bowl. Chill until ready to serve.

To finish, sear the pork pieces and black pudding pieces in a pan, finish in the oven for four minutes, arrange in a neat line on the plate. They should be on top of small spoons of apple purée with quenelles of celeriac remoulade in between and either side of the pork and black pudding as shown in the picture above. Cut the cider jelly into small pieces and arrange around the pork and black pudding.

Pear Belle Helene Made with Stonewell Cider Poached Pear, Almonds, Vanilla Ice-cream, Chocolate Salted Caramel

Recipe courtesy of Tony Schwarz, Head Chef, Number 35 Restaurant, 35 Main Street, Kenmare, Co. Kerry

Restaurant Number 35 has as much love from Kenmare's locals as it does from the year-round tourists it gets. At the helm in the kitchen, you'll find industry stalwart Tony Schwarz. "Like the French use white wine, from several regions, we at Number 35 prefer to use Irish C=cider, specifically Stonewell from Carrigaline Co Cork. The taste profiles are an incredible, intense sweet apple with citrus and wood." He is equally enamoured with the classics as he is with using local producers. No surprise then that Stonewell Cider fits in so well with his Pear Belle Helene. And it's been a big hit with the punters for a long time, "We have tried to take this beautiful dish off the menu, but near started a revolution." 

Ingredients for poached pear 

4 pears, ripe, peeled and cored with stalks left on
1 lemon, juiced 
800ml Stonewell cider
250g caster sugar
2 star anise
1 vanilla pod
1 cinnamon stick

Ingredients for chocolate salted caramel

175 g chocolate 70% calets 
120ml water 
200g granulated sugar 
1 teaspoon salt 
240ml heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
100g toasted flaked almonds
120g vanilla ice cream
Biscuit crumb 


To start the poached pears, peel and core the pears. Combine the cider and lemon juices, caster sugar, star anise, cinnamon stick and vanilla in a large, heavy-based saucepan and place over a low heat, stirring gently for 3-4 minutes, until the sugar dissolves. Add the pears to the saucepan and cover with a disc of crumbled greaseproof paper, then the lid. Bring to the boil and simmer for no more than 5 minutes - a little longer if not ripe. You should be able to skewer the pears easily with a little give. Remove the pan from the heat and leave the pears in the liquid until they are completely cool. Store in fridge for at least 12 hours before use. 

For the chocolate salted caramel

Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl, and heat at 20 second intervals, stirring after each one, until melted and smooth. Set aside.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add the water, sugar, and salt. Bring to the boil, stirring constantly to dissolve the sugar.

Turn the heat down to medium and allow the mixture to come to a rich, deep amber colour without stirring. Instead, swirl the pan around occasionally to make sure the mixture caramelises evenly. (Be patient as this does take some time, do not under any circumstance turn up the heat!)

Remove from the heat and gradually pour in the heavy cream, stirring constantly until combined. Be careful, as the caramel will bubble vigorously whilst you're adding the cream. Stir in the vanilla.

Put back on the heat, add the melted chocolate, and stir until completely smooth and combined.

Pour the chocolate caramel into a heat-proof container and allow to cool completely before using.

The caramel sauce will thicken as it cools, and when refrigerated. This caramel can be stored in a jar in the fridge for up to two weeks. Warm up to reach desired consistency before use.

Avoid doubling or tripling this recipe. Make in batches instead.

For plating, dip the stem of the pear you're using stem into warm salted chocolate caramel until sauce covers half the pear. Now place the pear on a plate and sprinkle toasted flaked almonds. Add a little extra chocolate sauce then place some crushed biscuit crumb next to pear. Scoop vanilla ice-cream and place on top of crumb and finally add a sprig of mint to the pear. Serve immediately. 

Oisin Davis works on a global level as an Irish drinks evangelist and producer. He is the founder of nationwide drinks festivals that celebrate Irish spirits in the best bars and restaurant in the 32 counties and to top it off he is co-owner of Poacher's Premium Beverages, Ireland's only all-natural mixer company. F&W is delighted that Oisin has joined our contributing team with his column "Great Irish Drinks." 

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