We've been busy exploring the Ashford Estate and foraging for wonderfully fresh ingredients that will appear on our menus when we open once more…


At Ashford Castle, we grow three varieties in our wall garden: curly kale, cavolo nero and purple kale. This ingredient is one of our all-time favourite vegetables and for many reasons. From light to dark green colour, it is packed with goodness in both flavour and nutrients, and while its rough bitterness may be an acquired taste, it will give you great pleasure when cooked correctly, from homemade crisps to soup, raw in salads or juices. It is rich in beta carotene, vitamins A, K and C, and is an exceptional source of chlorophyll, while its iron and calcium is easily absorbed. Kale can help to balance hormones, lower cholesterol and contains Omega 3 fatty acid with strong anti-inflammatory properties.

Morning Boost:

Blend together

  • 100g kale
  • 1 lemon juice
  • 5g fresh ginger
  • 5g fresh turmeric
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • Coconut water
  • Organic pure apple juice
  • 3g chia seed

Kale pesto:

  • 400g kale leaves
  • 300g toasted walnuts
  • 30cl olive oil
  • 50g parmesan

Wild garlic

All around the estate of Ashford Castle, from the start of our spring on St Bridget's Day (1st February), you may start to find some wild garlic leaves. The wild garlic (also known as ramsons) grows in large patches in different parts of the woodland and during the flowering time, you will smell the garlic all around you.

In Irish folklore, ramsons was a metaphor for sharpness or bitterness and were considered an important food in early Ireland. It was forbidden to forage it on private land and incurred a heavy fine if you were caught. In Irish medicine, wild garlic was highly valued as a preventive of infection, as well as a cure of colds, coughs and flu. What is fantastic about this plant is that you can eat absolutely everything, from the bulb (cooked) and the sweet stem (slightly cooked like a fine bean) to the leaves as pesto, the flower in your summer salad and the seed pickle like capers.

Wild garlic pesto to use with pasta, lamb or wild salmon:

  • 30g almond or pine nuts
  • 30g dry cheese like Parmesan (at Ashford we use a local cheese, also dry and full of flavour)
  • 150ml olive oil or avocado oil
  • 100g wild garlic

Blend all together to make a rough paste.

Chicken with mozzarella and wild garlic:

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 mozzarella ball
  • Fresh wild garlic
  1. Butterfly your breast of chicken and lay slices of mozzarella and wild garlic leaves on top.
  2. Roll your chicken breasts to make a kind of sausage and wrap them in tin foil with salt pepper and some olive oil.
  3. Cook in the oven for 20 minutes at 180 degrees.
  4. When cooked, open the tin foil and enjoy the amazing flavour coming through the wild garlic and mozzarella.
  5. Serve with wild garlic leaves sautéed with green asparagus on the side or mash potatoes tossed with the pesto.

Scarlet elf cup mushrooms

These beautiful small red or orange mushrooms can be found on the woodland floor. They look like a cup and have a barely discernible stem, which is attached to the leaf litter or the decaying branch. Because of their appearance as hollow bowl, they were thought to be used by the wood elves to drink the morning dew. They are deliciously pickled, simply enjoyed raw with baby wild garlic leaves or quickly sautéed with a little garlic.

White asparagus

There are three varieties of asparagus - green, violet and white. When you buy asparagus, it is important to make sure that the scales on the head are closed, the stem is white and firm, and the feet are moist. It is a perennial plant and if you look after it well, the plants could give you these young shoots for the next 10 years or so, from the end of February to June. The white asparagus appears on the menu at Ashford Castle in the first week of March and with morels, it is the start of our spring menu.

White asparagus has an earthy bitterness flavour, will hold its place with other vegetables and works amazingly well with truffles and morels especially. Before you steam the asparagus, I recommend peeling it from just below the head to the feet and then cut the feet off by 2cm. Steam it for a couple of minutes and then grill or roast and enjoy with one of these dressings.

Classic French hollandaise:

  • 125g melted butter of a very good quality (check the water percentage) and skim the top to remove the white part
  • 2 organic egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon of white wine vinegar or tarragon vinegar
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon 
  • Pinch cayenne
  • White ground pepper
  1. Put the egg yolk with a splash of water and the vinegar together in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.
  2. Start to whisk over the bain-marie until a pale and thick consistency.
  3. Remove your bowl from the heat and slowly whisk in the melted butter until you get a creamy texture.
  4. Add pepper, cayenne and a squeeze of lemon juice (you could add chopped chive too).

Sheep yoghurt and chilli dressing:

  • 150g sheep yoghurt
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 10cl olive oil
  • 1/4 chopped shallots
  • Chopped chive
  • Little chopped chilli

Mix together and serve it cold.

Balsamic and parmesan:

  • 2 tablespoon balsamic of a very good quality
  • 1 tablespoon organic extra virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Freshly ground parmesan to add on top of your asparagus