Big Bake Winner is Apprentice of Award Winning Chef Gary

This week we share a blog post from Cuisine Genie blogger, Laoise Casey.  The Age Action Big Bake Winner 2012, Laoise has followed her culinary dream since winning the competition last September which was sponsored by Bluebird Care. Since then we have kept an eye on Laoise’s travels as she now develops her career as a chef.

We have to say a big congratulations to our resident food blogger Gary O’Hanlon, Head Chef at Viewmount House Restaurant in Co. Longford who scooped three Irish Restaurant Awards last week. Gary won Best Chef, Best Hotel Restaurant and Best Customer Service in Longford.  He now goes forward to the national finals in June and we wish him the best of luck.


Apprentice Chef, Laoise Casey pictured with Award Winning Chef Gary O'Hanlon in Viewmount House's Restaurant Kitchen last weekend

Apprentice Chef, Laoise Casey pictured with Award Winning Chef Gary O’Hanlon in Viewmount House’s Restaurant Kitchen last weekend

Last week Laoise got a sample of a live kitchen by spending a day with our very own Award-winning Chef Gary O’Hanlon who is our resident food blogger. Below we get a glimpse into that culinary day in Viewmount House in Co. Longford.

Blog post written by Laoise Casey aka, Cuisine Genie:

Last weekend I went home to experience my very first Irish kitchen.
I had the fortune of getting to know talented Head Chef, Gary O’Hanlon last year. Gary is the man responsible for the award winning Viewmount House restaurant in Longford. You might also have seen him on RTE’s ‘The Restaurant‘ and he just recently won theBest Chef in Longford Award. His encouragement has kept me motivated on this crazy journey.
So when he invited me to spend a weekend working with him I jumped up and down at the chance. A dignified jumping up and down of course. After landing in Dublin on Friday night I jetted across to Longford early on Saturday morning.
Going into a new kitchen is a terrifying fun-filled experience. Finding out where everything is, praying you won’t embarass yourself (too much) and wanting to learn everything you can. Gary showed me around and set me to work on prep. His energy is contagious and you can see straight away how much he loves the restaurant.
His menu highlights local produce and his main focus is that it must always taste fabulous. He got that one right anyway. It not only tastes fabulous but looks beautiful too. Throughout the day he explained each dish and why they were doing things a certain way. The emphasis is always on developing flavours and doing it the best way possible.
Professional kitchens are always fast paced, but right before service it gets turned up a notch. On Saturday night in Viewmount it was like someone twisted a speed dial that tightens the atmosphere and you literally can feel it quicken.
During service I stood by Gary and Sous Chef Daniel at the pass and tried to take everything in. It’s impossible to take it all in: Gary shouting out orders, Daniel plating up, waitresses coming in and out. Roasting hot stoves, 10 pans on the go, 15 dishes being worked on at once. It’s a buzz like no other and there are a thousand little things happening at the same time. Watching four Chefs dart in around each other, plating up dishes is a spine tingling experience. Each dish must taste and look perfect. As Gary put it – ‘If it’s on a plate I’m happy with it‘.
Then I had the honour of eating my way though the menu. Standing at the pass eating beside the roaring Chef who created the dishes is perhaps not the most relaxing meal, but one of the best. Like pork cheeks that fall apart in your mouth, quail leg confit, mussels, nettle risotto…and the list went on… Each dish has a combination of flavours that sing a little song in your mouth and make you feel happy. Pure happiness. In response to roars of ‘Did you enjoy that Laoise?’ I struggled to find the words to describe it properly.
Later on I got to experience the pastry kitchen and help Pastry Chef Sam plate up desserts like peanut butter parfait and crème caramel with black carrot cake (coloured with squid ink). Away from the main kitchen it’s a little cooler, but the intense pace is still there.
That night I lay awake running through the day in my head, wishing it was time to do it all over again. Then it was. Having won The Georgina Campbell Guide’s Sunday Lunch of the year 2012, Viewmount is always booked out on Sundays.
After working on prep Gary told me I’d be plating up the ham hock terrine I’d made with him the day before and would be responsible for it during service.
Cue heart racing and sweaty, shaky hands. There were quenelles involved. Oh dear.
I tried to look calm. This is what my dreams are made of and no words can do justice to how I felt plating up and handing the dishes over to the pass…SERVICE! It’s these type of moments that make all the work and sleepless nights worth it.
My first terrine plated up at the pass.
So that’s it, 36 hours in Longford. What a 36 hours. To complete the experience Gary kindly let me accompany him during his demonstration at the Gourmet Greystones festival on Sunday evening.
Phew. I fell onto the plane back to London, tired but oh so happy.
Of course there’re also some details that Gary promised to keep secret. Like broadbeangate. But that’s a whole other story and sure you don’t want to hear about that now do you? There were broad beans and a lot of peeling going on. Let’s just leave it at that.
Thank you to Gary for letting me into his amazing kitchen and Daniel, Sam, Woijtek and Mateus for making me feel so welcome.  And to the friendliest hosts, Beryl and James for their hospitality. If you’re looking for a weekend away in Ireland in gorgeous surroundings with exquisite food, don’t look any further. I can’t wait to see when Viewmount has a star hanging over its front door.

A Savoury Easter Recipe from Chef Gary

Chef Gary provides us with a special “Savory Easter” treat for this Easter Sunday.  The Head Chef at Viewmount House in Longford got rave reivews from Luncinda O’Sullivan in today’s Sunday Indpendent.

A Savoury Easter

Getting sick, stuffed belly and passing out in front of an Indiana Jones movie. Just some of my memories of Easter Sunday.

They’ve changed dramatically though as these days it generally involves rocking out a guaranteed 150 plus in VM Restaurant for lunch. Not this year though as Wee Netty and I are mid honeymoon and I’ve popped inside to grab a beer and share a few easter recipes with you and at the same time indulge in some cool air. Sorry to rub it in, I hear it’s snowing at home but I don’t get to gloat too often so I’m sure you’ll forgive me.

What else comes to mind when we think of Easter? Bad Chocolate!

It’s a tough one though with easter eggs as you can only eat a certain amount of high quality chocolate. It can be quite rich and then on the opposite side of the scale the lighter more milky chocolate is so easy to eat you end up stuffing your face a tad too much.

I try to go for a happy medium and grab an egg or two that comes with a nice bar of chocolate or a handful of high quality truffles.

It’s hard to pass Lilly O Brien’s or on the cheaper scale a sneaky Toffee Crisp. Netty can have the Egg, I just want the bars! Netty can easily put 4 or 5 eggs away. No Joke.

It wouldn’t be Easter though without the classic Cadbury’s Cream Egg. Those legendary little darlings are what I look forward to most of all. I noticed earlier today a guy spent some time filling up a large Egg with the contents of many small cream eggs to give us a look at what a large one would look like. It’s cheating in my opinion though, Maybe next year, along with the help of my amazing pastry chef Sammie Straume, we’ll create a proper “Adult Version” of this classic. It’ll take a proper chocoholic to devour one of those bad boys.

Aside from choclate the big food must have on Easter Sunday has got to be Roast Lamb.

My favourite has got to be slow cooked shoulder with Boulangere potatoes. That’s just a fancy name for the easiest potato dish you’ll ever make. Trust me, try this dish and you’ll be hooked.

I’ve also thrown in a cracker for all those leftovers you might have. A curry is another option but i’ve gone down the route of a ragout with pasta etc etc.

Do your best to hold back on the chocolate until after you’ve eaten dinner.

You’ll be glad you did.

Happy cooking,

Chef Gary

Slow Cooked Shoulder of Lamb with Candied Swede, Boulangere Potatoes & Bordelaise


1 Lamb Shoulder boned rolled and tied (your butcher will do this for you)

2 sprigs of rosemary

1/4 cup of chopped thyme

5/6 litres chicken stock (6 litres of boiling water with 2 erin chicken stock cubes dissolved in it if you don’t have access to fresh chicken stock)

1/2 bottle of red wine, merlot or shiraz would be ideal

1 parsnip

1 carrot

1 large onion

Salt and pepper to taste

 For Boulangere

6/7  potatoes sliced

1 large onion sliced

1 sprig rosemary chopped finely

4 sprigs of thyme chopped finely

approx 1 litre of chicken stock (reserved from the Lamb ingredients)

2 knobs of butter


Candied Swede

1/2 turnip diced or cut into 3″ rounds with a pastry cutter

4 tsp honey

3/4 small slices of butter



approx 12 pearl onions peeled or 1 large white onion chopped finely

1 cup of red wine

the strained cooking liquor from the lamb

1/2 cup chopped flat parsley


Heat two heavy based frying pans. season the lamb all over and the carrot, onion and parsnip.

Sear the lamb all over to seal in the juices, lightly colour the vegetables. Sprinkle on the herbs.

Place the vegetables onto a deep roasting tray and top with the lamb.

deglaze the two pans with the red wine and pour over the lamb

now add the chicken stock reserving 1 1/2 litres for the boulangere

cover and cook on a low heat for approx 4/5 hours  120 degrees or until the meat is very soft to touch and is breaking away easily when touched with a fork


For Boulangere

Grease a casserole dish with the butter

line with a layer of potatoes

top with onion then some thyme and rosemary

repeat finishing with a layer of potatoes and a little herbs

add stock until you’ve almost reached the top of the potatoes

place into an oven covered in tinfoil at 160 for approx 45 mins

remove the foil for the last 10 mins and raise the temp to 180 to lightly brown and crust the top


For Swede

place your cut up swede on a baking sheet or casserole dish

drizzle with honey and season with a little salt

top with butter

bake at 160 for 45 mins turning half way through



For Bordelaise

Saute the pearl onions

add the red wine and reduce

add 2 cups of the cooking liquor from the lamb and reduce until its at desired consistency

finish with chopped parsley

(classically bordelaise would have bone marrow as an ingredient but its not necessary, a very aquired taste and would be served with steak or beef but works equally well with Lamb)

Penne Pasta with a Ragout of Lamb, Chick Pea, Tomato & Courgette



Chopped up remaining lamb from your roast

8 oz panne pasta cooked, strained and kept warm

1/2 tin chick peas

1/2 courgette diced

1 onion

remaining herbs from the roast

1 tin chopped tomatoes

salt and pepper


Saute the onion without colour and add the chopped tomatoes then the herbs and cook slowly for 30 mins, set aside now, saute the chick peas and courgette without colour, add the lamb and season then add the tomato sauce

Mix slowly and add a little of the  remaining cooking liquor from the roast if needed. Spoon the pasta into serving bowls and top with the ragout alternatively you can add the pasta to the pan and toss all the ingredients together before serving.

Top Tip: use mash potato instead of the boulangere, finely cut up the vetetables from the roasting tray and chop up remaining lamb from the roast  and cook slowly in the remaining cooking liquor for approx an hour on a very low heat, place in a casserole dish, top with remaining mash and bake for 20 mins at 150 for a rich and tasty shepherds pie with a difference.