Kitchen Reporter: Penilyn’s Wee Irish Cafe
Since Penilyn’s Wee Irish Cafe opened earlier this year, owner and chef Lynda Robinson has been giving Carlisle a taste of traditional Irish cuisine and curing our hangovers with her Sunday Ulster Fries. But Lyn’s cooking is just one reason to love her.
How long have you been a chef?
Since I opened up the doors this May.
What did you do before Penilyn’s?
I was a registered nurse working full time at the Cumberland Infirmary, on the respiratory ward. I left that to for this new venture, to open an Irish cafe and let people sample traditional Irish cooking.
What is your first memory of the kitchen?
Coming in from school to find my mother baking soda farls and treacle farls (traditional Irish bread) on a griddle.
What does food mean to you?
Cooking nutritional food from natural, fresh ingredients is really important to me. I like to use goods from the farm in my food such as proper butter, proper milk and nothing processed. I think people enjoy the kind of food that I’m producing, it’s home baking that is hearty and comforting. I’m reverting back to traditional ways of cooking.
What is your favourite ingredient to cook with and why?
Buttermilk is my favourite ingredient. If I have a lot of double cream I’ll even make my own butter and have been known to use the milk from the butter to make soda farls. Wheaten bread is another good one because it’s plain, wholesome food and the main ingredient is just porridge. I’m trying to make people realise how easy it is to make good food.
What’s your signature dish?
My soda farls for the Ulster Fry, I’m up at 5am to make them fresh every day. But if you’re looking for a sweet dish, everybody likes my lemon meringue pie or my chocolate and Guinness cake.
Where do you get your inspiration for your menu?
Memories. My mother and uncles have their own bakeries back in Belfast, so if I’m not sure about something I will ask a member of the family for the recipe. It took me a long time to get soda farls right, I had to ring up my uncle to find out what I was doing wrong. I was working with it too much, after that it was perfect.
Do you have a favourite cuisine?
I do like Kenyan food, I volunteer out there. A lot of their food is an acquired taste but Ugali is amazing and how they prepare the cabbage with all the greens, it’s just a unique flavour and texture.
If you weren’t a chef what would you be doing?
I would probably still be working in the hospital and doing my voluntary work in Kenya. When I was out there I taught the locals how to bake and cook and how to feed large quantities of people on very little. Everything they do is in a frying pan, believe it or not, or a big wok with oil, I tried to teach them how to be economical with ingredients.
Who would be your fantasy dinner party guests?
The violinist, André Rieu, I would love to have dinner with that gentleman. I go and see him in Belfast every year and his orchestra and his whole demeanour is just amazing. That man can tell a story with his eyes. He brings happiness to a whole lot of people, through his music.
How do you unwind?
When I’m not in the cafe, I’m usually doing an extra shift back at the hospital. I also do voluntary work in the community. I get pleasure out of doing things with others that they wouldn’t be able to do otherwise.