Author Archives: Danette

Heuvos (Erica’s) con Gubbeen Chorizo, Knockdrinna Meadow Cheese,Patatas and Fajita Salsa- The Perfect Brunch or Supper

DSC_0330It’s Sunday….pajamas and dressing gown are donned for longer and the whole atmosphere is chill-out.  Then suddenly, from nowhere the hunger pangs set in, stronger than any other day of the week when breaking the fast happens with regular  accuracy.  More carbs are called for and one requires a feast, rather than just a little something to get their bodies going.  Especially when we’ve just lost an hour off our clocks.

It’s Fajita week this week, so I was lucky enough to have an extra pot in the fridge with no one’s name on it (Allelujia….not such a frequent occurence these days.  I know, I shouldn’t complain, but I am an advocate of my own solution(s), so do appreciate having the convenience of my own sauces to hand).  I also had some of Erica’s eggs…no she didn’t lay them herself, she’s not a hen, but a lovely woman and friend who supplies us weekly with wonderful, free-range eggs.  If you don’t keep hens yourself, make sure to find a good supplier or friend who does because no one on this planet should be eating eggs from battery hens.  They are awful and the hens are treated terribly.  If you’re buying free-range eggs from a shop, the price isn’t that different, and it’s worth it.  Also, in the fridge, I had some of Fingal Fergusson’s lovely fresh chorizo, which I bought in The Little Green Grocer while delivering on Friday, and I also had my favourite Knockdrinna Meadow Cheese in the cheesebox.  This sheep’s cheese goes so wonderfully well with chorizo, and even more so with Fingal’s.  I think the reason I’m so partial to Meadow cheese is somewhere in the magic of this cheese there lies a hint of West Cork.  I know it’s not from the milk, because the milk isn’t from there…..maybe it’s all in my imagination.  Doesn’t really matter, because it works ;-).

Because I left it so late to start cooking , I made a grated potato cake to accompany the eggs.  Usually I would just lightly scramble the eggs with the juices that emanate from the chorizo, and then wrap that in a warm tortilla (preferrably corn, which ,by the way, one can easily get in Ireland now by going online to www.mymexicanshop.ie ) , but it was nearly lunchtime, this was brunch and it required potatoes!!  I used to make these potatoes for some children who insisted on having chips in Danette’s Feast restaurant (as I didn’t do deep-fried anything), and they always thought these potatoes were nicer than chips.  I caved on the ketchup front, but that’s because I can have a weakness on that front myself. It’s simple to make, very tasty and has all the textural requirements to satisfy the ‘carb-fest’ mood! For two to 3 people: Peel 3 medium sized potatoes and grate them.  Squeeze out any excess starch.  Heat 3 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (no it doesn’t mean it absolutely has never, ever had sex….just that it’s a first cold pressing), or Rapeseed oil (won’t even go there…what did I start?!!), over a medium-high heat in a ceramic or non-stick skillet. When hot, distribute 2/3rds of the grated potato over the bottom of the pan, then chop and add 1/2 a medium sized onion.  Season with sea salt and black pepper.DSC_0320Immediately top with the remainder of the grated potato and press down with the back of a spatula.  Allow this to cook until the underside is golden brown (you can lift the edge with the spatula and have a wee peek 😉 ).  With great confidence, give the potato cake a confident flip …don’t pussyfoot around…it’s like animals, food knows when you’re scared.  If it falls apart a bit, just stick it back together…no tears, etc.

DSC_0323looking good, no?DSC_0324crunchy on the outside…..allow the other side to crisp up to the same level then transfer to a baking tray and keep warm in a hot oven, if you’re like me and you like to cut-down on the washing-up (I’m going to use the same pan for the eggs, which only take a couple of minutes).

I used about 65 grams of the Chorizo (one of the sausages, two come in a pack).  I sliced it and put it directly into the pan over a medium-low heat.  Meanwhile, whisk about 4 eggs and chop the meadow cheese (about 50 grams….I say ‘about’ because I’d say I start with 60-75 grams, but by the time it makes it into the pan on top of the eggs , there’s usually only about 50 grams left!….we must have a foodgeist, I don’t know, but the cheese definitely lessens.)DSC_0332Turn the heat down to low (the pan will retain the higher heat for a few minutes,enough to seal the eggs, but not overcook them… burnt eggs aren’t nice). , add your whisked eggs, then the cubes of cheese and wait until that is set around the edges of the pan before folding the eggs ontop of themselves GENTLY! (Eggs also aren’t nice abused and battered).  DSC_0335Small warning that the eggs will take on the colour of the oils that ooze out of the chorizo, so not the prettiest picture, but the TASTE?….not a problem.

Almost forgot my own product, before I started the eggs I emptied half a container of the Fajita sauce into a small saucepan and heated that through.  I don’t own a microwave, but if you do, you can heat the sauce in the container provided, but with just the two of us we only needed half anyway.

I garnished the eggs with some freshly chopped coriander and served with wedges of the potatoes (you can use a pizza slicer to cut the potato cake for handiness) and the fajita sauce.  DSC_0340

Suffice to say, after editing the photos, transferring them and writing this blog….I’m still full.  Happy Days :-).  Gluten-Free Bliss. This meal would make a perfect supper too!DSC_0338Oh yeah, my picture has just reminded me that a slice of lime is lovely with this.  Squeeze over the eggs and the sauce.  (The sauce already has lime in it, but it just lifts it all very nicely indeed.)

 

 

A Monk with a Magic Style for St. Patrick’s Day- (Magic Fish and Chips)

DSC_0263Irish food has become incredibly exciting since I first landed on these shores in 1979.  In those days, the choice for St.Patrick’s Day dinner was an uncontested one.  It would’ve been Bacon and Cabbage, not a bad dish if cooked properly, but then it would have been highly over-cooked cabbage served in a puddle of its own water as a sauce. Thankfully, it would be difficult to find that same dish now. I used to find it difficult to find exciting food ingredients when I first arrived, now I find it difficult to restrain myself to a few ingredients when I visit good food shops (thankfully, of which there are many).  The stockists of my sauces are delighted to see me coming for two reasons:  delivery and my shopping!!

I’ve been listening to the radio this week, while cooking, and was upset to hear that the image of Irish food is still not being fully portrayed to people who have yet to visit the Emerald Isle.  In a conversation on Drive Time, they were saying that the image is still one of bacon and cabbage, and it isn’t until people visit that they are pleasantly surprised at the standard of our food.  Despite the good work of our food journalists, and the many exhibitions by Bord Bia in foreign lands…we still have more to do…more to shout about, because Irish food is worth shouting about.

I want to personally dispel the notion that Bacon and Cabbage is the only option for St. Patrick’s Day, so here’s my bit, and like my unrestrained shopping (let’s be honest, I’m not good at holding back), I’m going to do several recipes using good Irish ingredients, (so watch this space for the rest of the month of March…at least), because we have THE BEST ingredients, made by the best foodie people.  One of the great things about living in a small country is we know each other, or at the very least we know of each other, because someone we know, knows someone else!  It’s personal and you can’t beat personal…there’s a real person (or several) behind the production of a particular ingredient and that in itself is exciting.  The fact that one can usually meet that person by going to the local market, or bump into them within the foodie world makes it even better.  That’s when we get to have the fun foodie conversations, exchange ideas and come up with exciting new ones.

I will start with my own ingredients (why not?!!), because customers have been asking me what to do with my tapenade other than dip into it with a breadstick, or spread it onto some olive bread- which I often provide.  Tapenade wouldn’t be as popular as Pesto….yet. To be honest, I prefer it.  I adore olives and there are both green and black in mine as well as sundried tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic and balsamic vinegar.  It’s intense and balanced and it makes the back of my tongue tingle….(love that back-of-the-tongue tingle !!!) And it marries well with SO many staples other than bread.  Lamb (grill a chop, deglaze the pan with balsamic vinegar and pour those juices over the lamb chop and spread some tapendade over it before allowing the meat to rest in a warm place), chicken (fill a chicken breast with tapenade and mozarella cheese and wrap it up in parma ham , then parchment, then foil and bake), Steak (see lamb idea) and pork.  It’s highly versatile and it won’t overpower, it will just grab your main course choice by the arm and accompany it, gracefully, all the way to your mouth…happily!

In this case, I married it with fish, the wonderful, meaty, lobster-like monkfish. It is perfect with white fish …the tapenade doesn’t overpower its delicate flavour, rather makes it come to life…somehow, magically (!), it highlights the taste of the sea and satisfies in a way you mightn’t have known possible.  I had business in Cloughjordan, and so diverted into Nenagh afterwards (as you do), and landed in Daly’s Seafood Shop.  There, laying on the ice chips before me, were the most divine looking monkfish tails….they just had to be had.  Large, fresh and screaming my name.

I got some fresh bulb fennel from Paddy Cunningham’s vegetable shop.  I sliced that thickly, brushed it with olive oil, cooked it on the grill pan then put it in a heat-proof dish with some vegetable stock, white wine and a good squeeze of lemon juice (simplicity to die for btw).

And this week is Tomato and Fresh Basil sauce week, so I brought that into the equation too…it also served well to give me my Irish colours on the plate, and the juices of the monkfish and the tapenade blended into the nicest swirl of flavours.

I flattened some streaky rashers between 2 sheets of  baking parchment (you can use greaseproof paper) with a rolling pin until they were twice the size I started with.  I spread tapenade over the monkfish and then laid fresh basil leaves on top of the tapenade and then wrapped the rashers around the fish to cover it completely.DSC_0255

Then I tied it securely with butcher’s twine.DSC_0260…well almost completely.  I left either end uncovered, mostly so I could gauge the cooking time.  I then placed the magic monk parcels on a hot grill pan and cooked the parcels , turning to make sure the rashers were cooked all the way around, evenly.DSC_0261Magically, this is also when the monkfish is JUST cooked.  I adore my fish, and one thing I detest is over-cooked fish.  This method worked perfectly with the thinned rashers, but you have to mind it and turn them regularly…you will see the centre of the fish being just not done….well that’s when it IS done!( are you with me?!)  It will continue to cook while it’s resting in a warm place, and the juices will flow and the tastebuds will tingle.

I served this with home-made garlic, rosemary and thyme chips (Don’t peel some small potatoes, slice them into bite-size pieces and toss them in heated olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.  Bake at 200 C until starting to go brown.  At this point, add some thick slivers of fresh garlic, some fresh thyme leaves and some fresh rosemary.  Toss all that into the potatoes and return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes.)

I also had purchased my favourite vegetable in The Little Green Grocers, grown by Sinead…thank-you Sinead, and please keep it coming…purple sprouting broccoli. Simply the definition of Springtime.  I lightly steamed that and served just as it is, because you needn’t do anything to it…it’s wonderful.DSC_0262

So, after your fish has rested (there will be a lot of juices in the pan), remove the twine, and slice into thick rounds.  Place on a couple spoonfuls of heated Tomato & Fresh Basil sauce, with the chips, broccoli and grilled fennel and enjoy the taste of modern Ireland  DSC_0264 Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you all!…now I’m off to make a calzone with Goatsbridge Trout, and my  ranch dressing….stay tuned!

 

Elegant Cheese Blintzes -(My Mother’s Favourite Pancake)

Cheese Blintzes with Apple Sauce, Highbank Orchard Syrup and Pecan Praline

Cheese Blintzes with Apple Sauce, Highbank Orchard Syrup and Pecan Praline

I decided I had better include a sweet pancake recipe to just to keep my sweet-toothed friends happy, though I have to say these aren’t particularly sweet…just enough, and they make a perfect breakfast.  (I know because I decided I had to have one if I was going to blog about them.  It’s hard work, this blogging, makes one very hungry cropping photos and smelling applesauce in the kitchen, etc.)

Cheese Blintzes are a Jewish crepe-like pancake filled with cheese, that are then sauteed in butter (very gently) creating a lovely outer texture on the pancake.  They can be filled with sweet or savoury fillings, and also freeze well…just in case you want to make lots.  Just make the recipe up to the point of filling them with the curd cheese, and leave the sauteeing bit for after you defrost them.

I use to make these for my mother round about when I was 15 or 16 years old (just a few years ago!!!), and she liked them topped with sour cream and preserves.  I’ve developed them a bit since then, though, it has to be said it has been a long time since I’ve made them, so I really, really enjoyed the one I had for breakfast.  DSC_0242I also used to use cottage cheese (does that make them ‘on a diet’ friendly?…maybe), but now use ricotta cheese with a bit of mascarpone cheese put into the mix, as this makes them delectably creamy when coming out of the pan which balances very nicely with the other textures of the sauteed pancake and the crunchy nuts (praline I used in this case because I happened to have some left from another recipe in an airtight container).

We are blessed to have a most wonderful product in Kilkenny, namely Highbank’s Organic Orchard Syrup which I use in sweet and savoury dishes all the time.  The best thing about it after the flavour and its versatility, is the list of ingredients : Irish Organic Apples.  That’s it!  Boom!  Well done to Rod and Julie Calder-Potts, I take my hat off to you.  I have used their syrup in the cheese filling, in the apple sauce and also drizzled on top of the pancake itself.  I’m getting over a cold….I needed extra apple!!  You can, of course, substitute maple syrup, but be careful…maple syrup is very sweet comparatively….maybe very sweet is what you want!!

The most predominant flavour of the cheese filling though is cardamon.  Such an elegant and exotic tasty spice.  I adore it.  Every time I eat it, I wonder why I don’t use it more often….so if you see it mysteriously appear here with more frequency that is why.  It fills your mouth with undeniable individuality of spiciness to start and then leaves your mouth feeling refreshed and clean.  Love it.

This is the best I can do for you at the moment Mom…give you the recipe…unless I win the lotto this week- in which case, see you very soon xoxoxo

For the filling:  100grams Mascarpone, 250grams Ricotta cheese, 3 Tablespoons brown sugar, 5 cardamon pods, split and then seeds ground in mortar/pestle, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg, 1 free range egg (small-medium will do), 2 teaspoons Highbank Organic Apple syrup.DSC_0218 Mix it all togetherDSC_0229cover with clingfilm, and refrigerate while you make the applesauce and pancake batter.

For the Applesauce:  Make extra….it’s great on top of porridge.  2 large cooking apples, 2 Tablespoons water, 2 teaspoons Highbank Organic Apple Syrup . (optional ** brown sugar to taste)

Peel and chop the apples, place in saucepan with the water, cover and allow to cook over medium heat until the apples go fluffy…easy peasy…I’ve never understood why people buy applesauce.  Sweeten with Apple Syrup and brown sugar if it’s not sweet enough for you.  I am not going to give exact measurements, simply because the taste of apples varies so much, you’ll just have to ‘wing it’.

For the Blintzes:  4 large free-range eggs, (don’t ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever [hear Matt Lucas in the ‘Wind in the Willows’ here] use a battery hen egg…just bloody well don’t)., 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup whole milk (specified the’ whole’ there just in case any of you are drinking water disguised as milk by drinking skim milk), 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 cup flour.

Whisk the eggs with the water and the milk, then whisk in the dry ingredients until all the lumps are gone and it’s light and fluffy.  Let it sit for a couple of minutes.

You will also need some butter (Listen up….ONLY BUTTER), for sauteeing the blintzes.

Make the pancakes by rubbing a pancake skillet with oil such as rapeseed.  Rub it in with a brush or kitchen towel (you need to do this between each pancake).  Wait for the pan to be smoking hot (if it means you have to do something entirely different like make a cup of tea or coffee, then do that.  First pancakes don’t have to be a disaster, it’s only because people don’t wait long enough).  When the pan is smoking hot, ladle in enough batter to coat the bottom of the pan and quickly swirl it around.  When those little bubbles begin to appear on the top, flip or turn the pancake over.DSC_0232Continue making the pancakes (stacking them on a plate), until you’ve used all the batter.

To make the blintzes, place a spoonful of the cheese filling in the centre of each pancake, fold over two sides to encase the filling, then roll up (same as a burrito) and set aside while you do them all this way.

Now melt some butter over a medium-low heat in the same skillet (cut down on the washing up ;-)) and add the blintzesDSC_0234, a few at a time DSC_0235That wee one in the centre is the ‘have to make sure it’s ok’ one…;-)

The fun part is getting closer…Transfer to a plate (In this case, my plate is from Rosemarie Durr Pottery in the Estate Yard in Castlecomer Discovery Park….thank-you Rosemary there’s a couple of blintzes on their way to you.).

Top with the applesauce, which should still be warm, a wee dollop of mascarpone (or sour cream), some chopped pecan nuts (or nuts of your choice, or indeed pecan praline), and drizzle with the heavenly apple syrup.

For some reason, I don’t think I have to tell you what to do next ;-).  Hope you enjoy them as much as I do/did/will !!!

DSC_0244Happy Pacake Tuesday!!

 

 

 

A Modern Pancake- Chickpea Pancakes with Moroccan Gold and Marinated Aubergines

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It’s at least 32 years since I devised my first savoury pancake.  I remember it well.  Living in the foothills of the Dublin mountains at the time, it was one of those dishes that was created out of what was in the house and growing in the garden.  It has always been my experience that those are the best dishes (i.e. here’s your box of ingredients – ‘Go cook’ ). It’s when good ‘magic’ happens best. Obviously, they weren’t in a box, (!) and it has to be said there were plenty of ingredients to hand.  I had left-over chicken from a roast, I had spinach growing in the garden, there were some mushrooms in the fridge and some Emmental cheese in the cheese box, and plenty of store cupboard ingredients.  I will blog that recipe at some future date, as it’s one of my ‘classics’, but that’s not the recipe I’m going to blog today.

With Pancake Tuesday approaching this week, the notion of that first savoury pancake I made has me thinking of how much things have changed in the same amount of time. (Thankfully, quite a lot on most counts!).  For those of you old enough to remember those days, can you remember many people being diagnosed as coeliacs?  How many Vegans or Vegetarians did you know in 1982?  Did people request meals at your house excluding the use of wheat, gluten, dairy, meat?  There were a few, but not many.  This is a topic I would like to discuss more in the future, but for now I challenged myself to something for Pancake Tuesday.  Also, if you aren’t on a wheat-free or gluten-free diet, have you ever taken the time to think how difficult things like holidays, special occassions and gatherings are for these people?  Today I have, and will give you my version of a chickpea flour pancake (chickpea flour is highly nutritious with a high protein content and is also known as Gram flour or Besan flour). It’s widely available- most good delicatessens and health food stores stock it. Most people don’t know they are eating it when they consume the delectable onion bahjee, as gram flour constitutes its base.(That, by the way, would be because the bahjees are deep fried and quite wicked by the time they’re consumed!! People with serious gluten-free conditions wouldn’t be able to avail of these in the typical ‘take-away’ conditions, either, as even the tiniest amount of gluten can make them very, very ill- so a restaurant would have to have separate cooking utensils and deep-fat fryers just for them…quite a risk to take.)

I’m killing two birds here, as this recipe was also in response to a question from a customer who said she always opens a pot of my Moroccan Gold hummus and finishes it in one go.  (She’s not the first person to say this to me… thankfully!)  Anyway, she wanted to know if I ever did anything else with the hummus, or had recipes using it, and to be honest I hadn’t up to today, other than combining it with different dippables and meats- it being a fairly comprehensive product in itself,  but she got me thinking.  Friday is a good day for me to think about these things, as I drive from shop to shop delivering my sauces,  so for the last two Fridays I’ve put my mind to conjuring up a recipe to suit Vegans, Coeliacs, and most importantly, my tastebuds.  Because I simply don’t make food that doesn’t taste good (she says modestly)!  And there in lies the rub really, because I think there is a huge prejudice that if you want to eat healthily, it can’t taste good, or if something is ‘gluten-free’ and you’re not on a gluten-free diet, well then you couldn’t possibly eat that.  You might be missing out on something. Rubbish….and in fact, in this case, and many others, you’d be missing out if you didn’t have these little gems which David and I scrummed down without any difficulty whatsoever.  But I did cheat a little bit….just on one pancake, though they were all fine….but it was kind of screaming for feta cheese, so I just added a teensy, weensy (delightful crumbly) bit to one pancake (sorry my vegan friends), but the non-feta cheese ones were delicious too.DSC_0211

OK, so I’ll start telling you what to do now!!  I REALLY hope some of you try this and please let me know what you think, how you got on, any problems or revelations, etc.

First you’ll need a pot of my Moroccan Gold hummus…if you’re living abroad, visit Ireland, specifically the Kilkenny region 😉 .1387481008705You won’t need all those pots…just one!! And by the way, one pot will do at least four people for a change in this instance as chickpea flour is incredibly filling, as is the hummus, albeit addictive.  I stripe- peeled an Aubergine (with a vegetable peeler, peel lengthwise down the aubergine), but you needn’t peel it at all.DSC_0191I then brushed the aubergines with olive oil (Mind those, they are the definition of ‘lushes’ when it comes to olive oil.  An aubergine will drink as much olive oil as you put in front of it!!) and grilled them until they were golden. I made a dressing of Olive oil, raspberry wine vinegar, Pomegranate molasses (now there’s one of my favourite things, but I’ll keep going), chopped garlic, honey , sea salt and black pepper.  When the aubergines were cooked, I put them straight into this dressing, and let them marinate while I got on with the pancakes.

DSC_0194Isn’t it gorgeous?  OK, now I do have to deviate because that dish is made by Andrew Ludick who makes such wonderful ceramics down in the Discovery Park at the bottom of our road in Castlecomer. (www.andrewludick.blogspot.com) I LOVE his work…we have some of it, and I just can’t see how this dish is going to make it’s way back to him , so we will now own more of his work.  Thank-you Andy for the use of the dishes…you’re a  true wizard of an artist, and I’m quite simply BUYING this one!!! (BTW, my kitchen, as well as my labels, are purple…need I say more?)

A chickpea pancake is an Indian thing, and they use them as a bread for mopping things up.  They are very nice with just the flour, salt, gluten-free baking powder, garlic, maybe some spices and  water.  On this occasion, I also added some finely chopped vegetables and chilli which, honestly, weren’t necessary, but were lovely and made the dish more substantial…that being my aim.  So, experiment with what you have…just chop it finely.  I used half a chilli, a stick of celery, a bit of red and yellow sweet peppers, very thinly sliced and then chopped, (slightly under-ripe) mango, scallions, garlic and flat-leaf parsely.DSC_0196I put gram flour, ground coriander, cumin,gluten-free baking powder, a pinch of cayenne and some black pepper into another bowl.DSC_0197   DSC_0198 DSC_0199 Basically, the ratio is 1 to 1 so This was one cup of gram flour to one cup of water and I added a splash of lemon juice as well.  Add the liquid slowly to the batter, or lumps will form, and whisk it until it’s light and frothy, then add the vegetables. Heat your pancake skillet until really hot, then add a good dollop of olive oil and swirl it around.  Immediately ladle in some batter and swirl it around. Like any pancake, wait until those little bubbles start to form and then flip it (it’s a sticky, batter, so you will need the help of a spatula) and cook for another 2 minutes.  Transfer the pancake to a plate then spread Moroccan Gold hummus on top, including the Middle Eastern onions that come on the top of the pot, then some of the aubergines (and feta cheese crumbled, if you’re cheating!) DSC_0203Then roll it up DSC_0205and slice it into rounds.DSC_0206I’ve interspersedDSC_0213the rolls here on another one of Andy’s amazing plates, with more of the marinated aubergines, which are a delight in themselves, and some red onions in wine vinegar I had left over from the Fish Taco blog I also cooked and photographed this weekend.  (Watch out for that one….coming soon, and clearly not one for the Vegans, but I will be doing more Vegan, so stay tuned!).

For the Aubergine marinade:  2 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive oil (don’t forget they’ve absorbed quite a lot in the grilling process), 2 teaspoons raspberry wine vinegar, 1 Tablespoon pomegranate molasses, 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped, 3 teaspoons honey, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt flakes, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.  Mix  all the ingredients together and place in shallow dish.  Add grilled aubergines while still hot. Let marinate.

For The Chickpea Pancake Batter:  1 Cup (8 fl. oz) Gram flour, 1/2 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, pinch of cayenne, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 cup water and a dessertspoon of lemon juice.

**If you’re going to make a chickpea pancake without the chopped vegetables, then I would suggest at least chopping some scallions, parsley or coriander and garlic.

***Sweet chickpea pancakes can also be made.  Eliminate pepper, cayenne, coriander, cumin and use half the sea salt.  Add ground nutmeg or cinnamon or cloves and sugar (if desired).  Add fruit into the mix and serve with maple syrup and nuts…or….or…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goat’s Cheese, Cranberry and Rosemary Shortbread

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Sounds odd?  I thought it sounded delicious when my facebook friend from Wisconsin, James Frederick Hoober shared this recipe with me this morning, so the bee in my bonnet took hold and I decided to use my ‘time-out’ time to gather the ingredients.  Actually, that’s not totally true because what I really did was spend most of that time in the Carphone Warehouse (AGAIN) because my second Sony Xperia Z1 crashed this morning as a call was coming through from my friend Lucinda.  Not a good advert for Sony, and no one understands why….I’m giving Sony one more chance.   The reason I got the phone in the first place was to take better pictures for my blog, so just in case the third phone caves, I decided a blog was a ‘must do’.  So here goes, and please let me know what you think of the pics.  Bear in mind, I’m much better making in the kitchen than capturing it all in photos, but I’m hoping to learn as time goes on.

These little bikkies turned out lovely, even though I forgot to check the quantities properly before going out the door, so I had to make up the quantity of goat’s cheese with a little bit of cream cheese.  The cream cheese addition wasn’t a problem.  But….I did forget to take a picture of the lovely Knockrinna log before whisking it with the butter, vanilla and icing sugar (in my defense….I’ve been so busy for the last few months and haven’t had a chance to blog that I got out of the habit of snap, snap, snap ).  This is the initial stage of my preparation (/mess in the kitchen ;-)).

Danette starts to make her magic mess in the kitchen!

Danette starts to make her magic mess in the kitchen!

So, I combined 1 cup Knockdrinna soft goat log with 1/2 cup cream cheese, 1/2 cup unsalted butter and 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract.  I whisked that with a hand mixer until it was light and fluffy (start with the ingredients being soft, at room temperature).   I then added 3/4 cup of icing sugar, and blended that well.  To that mixture, I added 1/2 cup finely chopped cranberriesDSC_0002 and then 2 Tablespoons of finely chopped, fresh rosemary.Add the chopped rosemary (Lovely Christmasy colours, don’t you agree?!).   I then, as I almost always do, got a notion, because at this time of year I churn out quite a lot of cranberry and orange relish…..and it just NEEDED some orange, so I grated most of the rind of an orange and added it to the mix.DSC_0006 To this I added the dry ingredients which are 2 cups of flour and 1/2 tsp. baking powder…fold them in with a spatula until it becomes too difficult and then finish off with your hands. (You were given  hands before a spoon, fork or knife.)  Spread the dough into a 7 x 11″ baking dish and bake for 20 minutes. DSC_0007 (The instructions I received were DO NOT OVERBAKE….so I didn’t)….but I have to say while it was cooking the smell in the kitchen was heavenly, and the taste buds were getting ready to try out these these little morsels.  One is supposed to let  them cool completely, (yeah, right….who ever does that???)  then cut into small squares and serve.DSC_0009…..Just one more picture, in case this phone doesn’t survive!!!DSC_0010(As Rosie Gaines sings….’closer than close’) ;-).

They are delicious by the way, only take a few minutes to make.  The initial taste is a sweet tang, then they leave a long, clean finish in the mouth.  Delightful.  Thanks for sharing them James.

Ingredients:  2 cups flour, 1/2 tsp. baking powder, 2 Tablespoons chopped, fresh rosemary, 1/2 cup unsalted butter (at room temp), plus extra for greasing baking dish, 1 & 1/2 cups goats cheese (Knockdrinna Goats log rocks for this) at room temp., 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 3/4 cup icing sugar, 1/2 cup finely chopped cranberries (hello food-processor, life’s too short).

Oven temp. 325 F / Bake 20 minutes./ Allow to cool entirely (ha!)/ Cut into squares and serve.

Yumskie rating…excellent!

Food is made to be shared! – (Helbert comes to dinner)

 

I admit, I have regressed…..it’s been way too long since I posted a blog, but I have been very busy and the weather has been very, very, very good…and hot…..and slightly oppressive in the kitchen, but I AM NOT COMPLAINING!! (merely making excuses, but it’s ok, because I’ve worked out the Wifi and I am now blogging from the garden in the balmy evening atmosphere so I am in a bit of heaven (other than the bugs of course, and I WILL complain about them). All I’m saying is I love bats (outside only), and swallows (ditto, for that matter), but the remaining bugs still find me.  I am like a pot of honey to a bear when it comes to midges and mosquitos (YES WE DO HAVE THEM IN IRELAND- don’t even go there), so I am the best insect repellent you can order by inviting me to your barbeque.  They will all come to me and leave every one else alone–guaranteed.

This food occasion happened when these were in flower:Poppies next to the Astilbe....lovely coloursPoppies in the garden....stunning this year they were. 6th of June to be precise.

Helen (aka Helbert, aka Helbetia), and I have been friends for 34 years…since the week after I arrived to Trinity College on an exchange programme from UCSD.  We have shared the most part of our lives together- and during that time one hell of a lot of dinners, lunches and breakfasts.  We are both foodies, and I know when I put food in front of Helen she is going to appreciate the effort, love and care I have put into it…be it a large amount or small.  She has a great palatte and moans over flavour in all the right places (I have several friends that do this, it’s just that I’ve been doing it with her for the longest span of time hence she gets the blog!).

Food is meant to be shared.  There have been plenty of studies done that tell us people are healthier when they share their food–usually because they have conversations while they eat and perhaps this makes them eat slower (actually, this isn’t true in Helen’s case!  Plenty of conversation, but she eats way too fast…sorry Helen!).  Maybe it’s because they keep in touch with what each are feeling and have an outlet for the same.Or simply that we are social creatures and it suits us to share company at times of nourishment.  Whatever all the various reasons I know instinctively that the  love (magic) that goes into the preparation of food is digested by all present– and that, above everything else, is what keeps us sound and happy.  Ever eat a meal prepared by someone angry, moody or sad?  Your stomach most definitely will have suffered.  If you’re not in the right ‘zone’….don’t cook!

Anyway, here’s the menu:

Gin and Tonic  (!) supported with Tomato and Olive bread topped with Cashew nut Pesto.  Slice the bread, top with pesto or tapenade and have a bit with that Gin and Tonic!

Gin:30

Gin:30

Followed by Barbequed Rib-eye steaks; Mushroom duxelle wrapped in parma ham and roasted ramiro peppers with goats cheese, sundried tomatoes and fresh basil leaves; Steamed green beans with a fresh tomato, garlic, lemon and chilli sauce; foil-wrapped potatoes with onions and garlic, and more of that tomato and olive bread (1st bit didn’t count!)Final plate of BBQ-ed Rib eye, Foil-baked potatoes, steamed green beans with a tomato, chilli and garlic sauce, mushroom duxelle in parma pepper roll and tomato and olive bread with cashew nut pesto (Mega Yum) To finish we had Creme Brulee with fresh fruits in a fresh raspberry coulisSummer berries in raspberry coulis in a Rosemary Durr bowlIt's always wonderful to give it a crack....those opposing textures of smooth and crunchy, the burnt and the sweet.  No wonder it's so popular.  It's real, basic and divine...Magic!….Can’t go wrong really.  Basic, tasty, all the textures and flavours for the beginning of summer anticipation for, hopefully, all good things to come… (and it has– for the first time in Ireland for at least 3 years for Christsake!!!).  Good friends, good food, good wine (Helen brought an exquisite wine from Portugual to accompany this).

Anyway, I started cooking by making the creme brulee.  This really is the easiest dessert to make. People hoohaw over the thing like it’s rocket science or some such. It isn’t –I promise.  Use real cream, vanilla sugar (for those who don’t know, keep a sealed jar of caster sugar with several split vanilla pods in it and you will have the most divine flavoured sugar on hand for puddings such as this) and vanilla pods, good free-range egg yolks….then Bob’s your uncle and Mary’s your aunt, simple as that.  In the winter poach a pear and serve it alongside the creme brulee, in the summer serve it with summer berries in a raspberry coulis.  Or just make the custard….most people really only want that part :-).

Creme Brulee:  . 6 egg yolks, 100grams vanilla sugar, 1 pint cream, 1 or 2 vanilla pods (depending on your budget).

Put the egg yolks and vanilla sugar in a large bowl and whisk until light and fluffy (I do this with a hand whisk which is sufficient).  Pour the cream into a saucepan.  Split the vanilla pods with a sharp knife and scrape out all the seeds with the back of the knife and add the lot (including the scraped pods)  to the saucepan.  Place over a VERY gentle heat and go have a cup of tea or coffee.  When the vanilla pod/cream mixture is hot, but not boiling, pour onto the whisked egg yolk/vanilla sugar mixture while whisking at the same time to incorporate. Have ready a 1 litre oven-proof dish (large deep round yoke is best, or several small ramekins.) Sieve the mixture into the dish (or into a pouring container if you are going to fill ramekins) to catch the vanilla pods and any lumps that may have occured. Place the dish or ramekins in a baking tray and then pour water into the roasting tray to come up half way up the sides and place in a preheated oven (150 C/300 F Gas Mark 2) and bake for 1 – 1&1/4 hrs. for the large container or 35-40 mins. for ramekins.  It will be cooked when the custard is set but still a wee bit wobbly (not a lot a bit wobbly, just a weensy bit wobbly)!  Take the roasting tray out of the oven.  Allow the custard to cool, then refrigerate until cold.

I then made a raspberry coulis.  Portion amounts of this will obviously vary depending on how many people are present and how much fruit you want to cover.  It’s nice to have some of this fruit left over for breakfast the next day, but it isn’t really very nice long after that because soft fruits need to be eaten fresh…it’s what makes them special…and seasonal and summer and real.

Just take a punnet of raspberries and whisk with an electric hand whisk in a tall container (so it doesn’t splash all over you).  Add a few teaspoons of lemon juice and some caster sugar to taste.  Pour this over your fruit and let it macerate until pudding time:

Adding fruit coulis to the fresh berries

Adding fruit coulis to the fresh berries

I poured it over blueberries and some early strawberries. (Cameras are amazing these days….I’ve just noticed that you can actually see the magic going into the bowl….see it?)

Then I made the tomato and olive bread.  In a large bowl I put 500 grams strong white flour (bread flour), 1 sachet (7grams) dry active yeast, 2 teaspoons sea salt and 2 teaspoons of caster sugar.  I added 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves and a bit of chopped fresh oregano.  In a large jug I put 2 Tablespoons sundried tomato puree  (NOW- this is a great ingredient to have at hand so listen up.  It’s useful to have in the fridge and it simply does not go off because of the olive oil in it..  I take 100grams sundried tomatoes, put them in a bowl and pour boiling water over them.  When they are soft, usually 1 hour later, I drain them, put them in the food processor and add 3-4 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar.  I turn on the processor and pour extra virgin olive oil into the chute while the machine is running until I have a thick puree. I then store this is a jar in the fridge and use it in recipes like this.  A bit of that mixture also goes into the mushroom duxelle later so at least we’ve ‘killed two birds’ here),  Back to the bread….so you have 2 Tblsps. of the sundried tomato mixture, another 2 Tblsp. x.v.olive oil, 1/4 pint of white wine and then I put enough hand hot water to bring that mixture up to 12 fl. oz and then I add it to the flour mixture.  Get your hands in there and mix it all up.  Add more water or more flour to get it into a firm dough Kneading tomato and olive breadthen add 75 grams chopped olives (I like green olives, but black work just as well…only they’re different!).  Knead it all together until you have a firm, yet moist dough that’s smooth.  Oil a bowl and rub the dough completely in the oil and cover with clingfilm.  Let rise until double in size then place in the tin you are going to use and allow to rise again.Tomato and Olive bread rising( I’ve lined the tin with baking parchment, as you can see, because it’s a springform tin and I want to catch the oil that I brush on at the end rather than have it seep out the crevices).

Make several depressions in the bread with the tips of your fingers and scatter more olives on top if you like, and maybe some sea salt flakes.  Bake in a hot oven (225 C/450 F) for 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Take out of the oven and immediately brush with more X.V. Olive Oil.  Allow to cool slightly before having with your Gin and Tonic starter!Bake the tomato and olive bread in a hot oven (220 C/450 F) for approx. 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and immediately brush with Extra Virgin Olive Oil(Looks like I put some more herbs on top too!!–can’t remember, it was a long time ago!!!)

Then I made the mushroom duxelle by pulsing 8 oz. mushrooms in the food processor and sauteeing them with some butter and olive oil until they went truffly (let them brown, they taste better).  When they did brown, I added a few chopped cloves of garlic and cooked for a minute or two and then set aside…I Know you’re going to say I’m a psycho, but again, I can see magic in this picture….lots of it (can you?).Sautee finely diced mushrooms  in butter and olive oil.  When browned add finely diced garlicUsing the same pan, I sauteed a few finely chopped shallots in some olive oil over a low heat until golden brown and sweet, I then added those to the mushrooms.Sautee finely chopped shallots over low heat until golden brown and sweet..add to mushrooms I roasted 2 ramiro peppersRoasted Ramiro Peppers (Yum), covered them with cling film after I took them out of the oven, so the skins would easily slip off.  then I de-seeded them, cut them in half and patted the insides dry.Carefully open peppers, deseed and then pat dry (Cut them in half lengthwise) I laid out 4 slices of parma ham onto a work surface and placed the halved peppers on top of each of those.  I divided the mushroom mixture between the 4 peppers ….then I crumbled some goat’s cheese on top of that and put a teaspoon of sundried tomato puree on top of the cheese.  I finely shredded a few fresh basil leaves and put that on top of the cheese and carefully rolled them up into heavenly parcels!Lay a slice of parma ham on a work surface, cover with half a roasted pepper and 1/4 of the mushroom duxelle, then sundried tomato puree , a crumbling of goats cheese, and some shredded basil.  Roll carefully and place on a foil lined baking tray..  Now we’re rocking!  The pics are flying in at a mad rate now!  That’s actually a picture of them after I put them in the oven- after the steaks were cooked!!! So I can skip telling  you that part later!!  But you can have them all prepared on a foil lined baking tray and ready to go (should say ‘pop’ because that’s what all food demonstrators say) in the oven just before eating.

Forgot about the potatoes!  I actually did these before the mushrooms (lol). Sheit and apricots! I’ve somehow managed to switch to italics, but for the life of me can’t figure how to switch it off!!   You’ll just have to bear with (see Penny, we all have our shortcomings!!) These are delicious potatoes that we used to make at home in California, where I grew up, and cooked on the barbeque just to escape turning on the oven in really hot temperatures.  Hot temperatures like we have been having here in Ireland for the last 2 whole, entire weeks.  Yes 2 weeks of sun here is like a different world.  Indeed the last 2 weeks have put me into a world of childhood reminiscense, even melancholia…that’s how hot it has been.  My sister, Diane and I did fry an egg on the footpath one day when we were quite young….just to see if we could!  ….don’t think we ate it though, actually…maybe we did!  We used to spend lots of time in the middle of the day under the mature olive tree in our front garden, ironically enough, searching for 4-leaf clovers, little did I know then that I would end up in the land of shamrocks being my home.  We would wait for the day that our mother would say it was actually hot enough to turn the hose on and  run around the garden in our bathing suits squirting each other. (I actually find that hilarious now.  She was worried we would get colds by having water fun in 80 degree weather!!…best wait for the 90 degree weather?! go figure) We had a lemon bush in the back garden that produced such lovely lemons I would eat them straight from the bush with the warmth of the sun on their flesh.  They tasted best with a sprinkling of salt on them…..a flavour that appealed/s  to me much later in life in the form of a preserved lemon , and indeed was part of my turkish heritage.  But my absolute favourites were the peach tree and the apricot tree.  Both of which I had instances of indigestion from…merely from over-indulging of their sweet, ripe produce.  Yes, you will catch me sniffing punnets of apricots in shops and markets to see if they were picked when ripe.  Potatoes, Danette, tell them about the potatoes!
 So the potatoes:  Very simple.  make parcels for the potatoes by tearing a sheet of foil large enough to hold the potatoes, then a sheet of baking parchment to fit on top of the foil (you can skip the parchment, but the potatoes will stick to the foil and you’ll lose all the crusty bits.).Assembling foil wrapped potatoes Scrub a large potato per person (no need to peel if they’re not thick skinned, but it’s up to you).  Cut the potato into a large dice and place in the centre of the parchment paper.  Chop half an onion per potato and scatter over the top.  Chop a few cloves of garlic and scatter over again.  Then cut a few knobs of butter and scatter over the vegetables evenly.  Season with sea salt and black pepperAdding chopped onions, garlic, salt, pepper and  butter, then fold the parchment tightly into a parcel then fold the foil over that.. Place on a baking tray or an oven dish and  Bake in the oven at 200 C/ 400 F) usually for an hour.  I like crusty bits so I like to wait until they form. My mother used to cook these on the hot coals of the BBQ as mentioned above, to prevent heat in the kitchen.  Problem is they don’t cook evenly and you get too many overly crusty bits!! She also used to say that the flavour of the BBQ was what made them taste so good, but that isn’t true.  How would the flavour penetrate the foil?  What does happen is you contain the flavour of all the ingredients so they are deliciously sweet and gorgeously tender. Sorry Mom, in this instance I’m right and you’re wrong. You, of course can use olive oil instead of butter, but in my case that just means I’d put butter on them after they were cooked!!  The steaks, however, need to be cooked on the barbeque.  I didn’t marinate them on this occasion because we had enough flavour going on on the plate with the parmapeppermush rolls, and I had made a lovely fresh tomato sauce for the beans which I will blog again at another time.  So brush your steaks with olive oil and season with salt and pepper and grill on the BBQ.  Are we getting there?Helen and David having cheers while I take the pic....hmmm..not quite fair now, is it?
We are!  Or they are and having ‘cheers’ without me too!  But I get my own back after the main course and do a Mark Twain on them….convincing them that it’s much more fun to blow-torch your own creme brulee than to watch it being done;-) I get my own back and convince them it's more fun to D.I.Y. your own creme brulee;-)  hmmm...who's having the extra wine then?I get my own back and convince them it's more fun to D.I.Y. your own creme brulee;-)  hmmm...who's having the extra wine then?  Scatter a dessertspoon of caster sugar over the top before blow-torching.  (If you look closely you can see that David is not amused by this game!  And I’m finishing the wine while they play this game!! )
There then comes a point where all present are no longer amused with the fact you have a food blog, that you have been incessantly photographing the meal the entire night and that they have been made finish making their own pudding and now have to wait while you take yet another photograph of them waiting to eat  the dessert which would give you GPFTRR just looking at it! As you can see their faces say it all:  WILL YOU PLEASE SIT DOWN SO WE CAN EAT IT ALREADY?!!
 
 
 !When you involve others in your food blog there comes this moment when they get REALLY FED UP with all the photos.  (Just sit down and let's eat it so!) It was gorgeous!  Just as my two best
friends are 🙂 xoxoxo Happy Cooking and Happy Sharing.
 
 

 

 

Garlic Gooey Chicken and Bulgar with Pomegranate Molasses

Firstly I want to talk a little about Bulgar wheat.  It’s one of my favourite grains to use in cooking as it has a delightful nutty flavour, it’s simple and quick to prepare and its texture is satisfying.  It has a low GI rating so will keep you feeling full for a longer time than other grains.  You can buy bulgar in ‘coarse’ or ‘fine’ sizes. If you use the coarse size, which I prefer because I insist on texture in my food, you should steam or cook like a pilaf as I do in this recipe.  If you are using the finer grain you can prepare it like cous cous, where you cover it with boiling water until the grains have absorbed the liquid and then separate the grains with a good olive oil.  Bulgur is also used in meat dishes in the Middle East such as koftas and Kibbeh (divine, must blog those soon) and is also the main ingredient in Tabbouleh, the salad we often have with parsley, onion, garlic, mint, lemon and olive oil.

Bulgar is a product made by parboiling wheat, then drying it and coarsely grinding it.  The outer layers of bran are then removed by  sprinkling with water and rubbing by hand so the grains crack.

Pomegranate Molasses is another of my favourite ingredients and works perfectly in this dish; adding a unique tanginess and depth to the cooking stocks.  This dish is a meal in itself if you crumble a nice feta cheese over it (not necessary, but VERY tasty), but also works really well alongside my gooey garlicy chicken.

We are very lucky in Castlecomer to have the excellent product of Ring Farm Chickens.  I know, chefs always go on about real chickens, but there is a reason why.  Real chickens are a delight, they are full of flavour, have texture, they don’t exude tons of water into the roasting tin, there’s a tremendous amount of ‘cutting’ in them (even when small, which Ring’s aren’t btw), and the stock you get from boiling the bones is always a good, thick jelly-type stock.  They are more expensive than non-chickens, let’s face it that’s what they should be called, but in reality you are getting more meat and one that tastes good.  When I was teaching the ‘Real Food Class’ in Kilkenny College, we held a blindfold comparative tasting at the final exhibition evening last year and there were only 1 or 2 people out of 80 who didn’t prefer Ring chickens to a factory reared chicken.

This recipe may seem a bit over the top with the garlic quantities, but don’t worry–it isn’t!  (The garlic is parboiled so it softens the edges , and blended with the lemon, wine, mustard, etc. it makes for a delicious final goo!).  Photo1082

For the Garlic & Lemon Marinade: 90grams (unpeeled weight) garlic, 150 mls. extra virgin olive oil (You can use 100 mls. Extra virgin olive oil and 50 mls. of a lemon olive oil if desired), 75 mls. freshly squeezed lemon juice, 50 mls. dry white wine, 2 tsp. dijon mustard, 7 mls. sea salt,lots of freshly ground black pepper and  20 mls. caster sugar,

Separate, but do not peel, the cloves of garlic and place in a small saucepan.  Cover with water and cover the saucepan.  Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer until they are still soft, but still firm (not mushy).Photo1081Drain and allow to cool slightlyPhoto1085.  Squeeze the cooked garlic out of the skins into a handwhisk container thingy-majig (something tall enough to allow you to use an electric handwhisk without the mixture splashing all over you!).  Add the remaining ingredients (Oils, lemon juice, wine, mustard, salt, pepper and sugar) and whiz with an electric mixer until you have a thick puree.  Chop a teaspoon or two of fresh rosemary leaves and stir into the puree or some fresh oregano.

Spatchcock a ‘real’ chicken (see above!).  Now here’s something I learnt today, the word ‘spatchcock‘ is allegedly of Irish origin and comes from cookery books of the 18th and 19th centuries and has, of course been revived now.  Allegedly the word is an abbreviation of ‘dispatch cock’ (I swear, I’m not making it up!).; a phrase used to indicate a summary way of grilling a bird after splitting it down the back and spreading the bird flat out.  You can either use a sharp butcher’s knife or kitchen scissors to either cut out the backbone (I ususally do this and boil the backbone to make chicken stock), or just cut down one side of the backbone and then flatten the chicken out.  Not only does this reduce cooking time, but when you are marinating a bird there is more contact with the meat and the marinade when the bird is laying flat.Photo1084 Take a sharp knife and make gashes into the flesh.  I usually insert a few more slivers of raw garlic into some of the gashes.!!  Rub the marinade into the gashes and all over and under the bird.  Tuck a few sprigs of fresh rosemary or oregano, if using, around the bird Photo1086.  Cover first with baking parchment (the marinade will eat a hole through tin foil), and then with foil.  Place in the fridge for a couple of hours at least or overnight.  Take the bird out of the fridge 20 minutes before cooking to come up to room temperature.  Preheat the oven to 180 C/350 F and bake, covered until the chicken is cooked.  (Usual method for a chicken is 20 minutes to start, then 20 minutes to the pound, but this method of cooking usually takes 10-15 minutes to the pound).  The bird will be quite pale, having been cooked covered, but will also be very moist.  Remove the foil and baking parchment and turn the oven up to 200 C/400 F.  Baste the bird well with the juices in the pan.  Return to the oven and every 10 minutes, take the bird out and baste until it becomes brown like such:Photo1093 Any more and that chicken was toast!  You want the brown bits, but no more than that!. Lift the chicken onto a new baking tray, cover again with the foil and allow to rest in a warm place for at least 15 minutes. The juices around the pan have now turned into a divine, and I do mean divine, goo.  Don’t scrape the pan like you would for a gravy.  Just pour the good bits into a gravy bowl and boom you have gravy; (uh oh….I feel a Barefoot Contessa moment coming on ( N.B. will later be referred to as a BCM) “How easy is that?”…don’t you just LOVE her?).

Oh yeah!  While your chicken was cooking, you made the bulghar!! For that you can use vegetables you have loitering around the kitchen (Hate loitering vegetables, they’re so distracting when you’re trying to cook!), but you should always include some onion and garlic. (of course I’d say that!)

I used:  I yellow onion (4 oz. weight, peeled and chopped finely), 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped, 4 fl. oz. each chopped leeks and chopped carrots, 1 large stick of celery de-strung (is that what you call it?  Don’t like the stringy bits sticking in my throat!), and chopped, 1 long red chilli, finely chopped (it’s optional, but this dish can hold the heat of the chilli with the seeds and membrane included).Photo1087I heated 4 Tablespoons Olive oil in a deep frying pan over a medium heat and added the vegetables.  I stirred the contents of the pan regularly until the vegetables were soft.  I measured 6fl. oz. coarse bulgar and added that to the pan, stirring to coat the grains with oil. Photo1088 If you’re preparing this for vegetarians then you will be using vegetable stock at this point, but this time I used chicken stock.  I added 6 fl. oz. chicken stock to the pan and stirred until the bulgar absorbed the liquid (only takes a few minutes).  I then added 2 dessertspoons of Pomegranate Molasses and 1 Tablespoon tomato puree and stirred well.  Then I added a further 6 fl. oz. chicken stock, reduced the heat, covered and allowed to cook for approx. 10 minutes (keep an eye on it in case it dries out ) until all the liquid was absorbed.  Separate the grains with a fork and stir in 2 Tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped  and 1 Tablespoon fresh mint, chopped.  Photo1092  I then sliced the chicken and served with the bulghar and a sprig of rosemary and spooned some of the goo over the chicken.   GPFRR (Goose pimples for the right reasons)!   There was a green salad somewhere too, but hey I’m human….forgot to photograph that!!!

Photo1094The left-overs of this are amazing and there’s lots of it.  The bulghar can be eaten as a cold salad (with some feta crumbled over it makes it into a meal as previously stated) and the chicken makes excellent chicken tacos or wraps as well as delicious sandwiches with some of the goo stirred into a bit of mayonnaise or spread onto bread as is.

Try it, and let us know what you think!

 

 

 

A Delightful Mess !

I’m a late strawberry person….at least I prefer the late strawberries with their incredible sweetness and improving flavour as time goes on.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t continually compare as the season goes on…it just means I’m happier eating them ‘as they come’  later in the season and feel like doing something to them earlier in the season.  So I got the strawberry bug today with the improved weather and decided to make a variation on the theme of ‘Eton Mess’, or is that ‘Eatin’ Mess’?!!

My friend, Regina, made a lovely orange curd- filled meringue roulade for us at a dinner party during the winter.  Since I’ve been making Carbonara sauce for the ‘Danette’s Magic’ range, I also have an abundance of egg whites, so meringue was the obvious choice, and came to mind when I was thinking of what I would do with this punnet of strawberries.  I also had some very ripe fresh peaches to hand and a few fresh raspberries.   A tub of mascarpone was in the fridge, some fresh cream, and some mint in the garden, so this is the concoction I made.  Hit the spot nicely, I have to say.  Any variation goes with a ‘mess’, so feel free to experiment.

For the Meringue:  8 large egg whites, 16 ounces caster sugar

Heat the oven to 125 degrees C fan oven/150 C/300 F/gas mark 2.  Line a Baking Tray with baking parchment and place the egg whites in a large mixing bowl.  Beat with an electric mixer until foamy, add half the sugar and beat until stiff, then gradually add the remaining sugar.  Beat until absolutely erect peaks form!!  Spread into the baking tray and bake in the oven for 1 hour.  Allow to cool.Meringue

For the orange/lemon curd:  (Orange curd would have been too sweet for me, so I did half orange half lemon…the lemon brought out the flavour of the strawberries and provided a tartness greatly needed with all the sugar present in this recipe).

Rind of 1 lemon and 4 fluid ounces of lemon juice; Rind of 1 orange and 4 fl. ounces orange juice. ; 5 ounces caster sugar, 4 large eggs, 4 ounces unsalted butter

Making curd is a bit of a pain, so have a book handy (you’ll read a good few pages whilst stirring the stuff…always seems like a good idea to make curd until you start making it!!).  Lots of recipes will tell you to whisk the eggs with the sugar, then add the juice, etc.  Just toss it all into a heatproof bowl and whisk it together, put it over a pan of simmering water and start stirring until the butter is melted .  Orange/Lemon CurdThen stir frequently or it might curdle (and read your novel).  When it coats the back of a wooden spoon thickly, take the bowl off the pan of water and let it cool.  (Go finish your chapter or book).curd thickening (stir very regularly)

I took 1/3 cup (rougly 2.5 fl. ozs.) of the curd and whisked it with 1/4 cup (2 oz) of mascarpone

I also, separately, took 250 ml. fresh cream (1/2 pint or 10 Fl. oz.) and whipped it with 1 Tablespoon vanilla sugar and the vanilla seeds from 1 vanilla pod.Scrape the seeds out a vanilla pod into the whipped cream

I had 4 small peaches, a handful of fresh raspberries and a handful of strawberries.  I peeled the peaches and removed the stones, then put the peaches with the other fruit  in a hand mixer and pureed with a squeeze of lemon juice.  I will refer to this as coulis.  (You can press this through a sieve if you don’t like raspberry pips sticking in your teeth).  That may also need sugar, but be modest as the meringues basically are sugar…you won’t need it, in fact you’ll want the tartness.Photo1112

If we were having guests, I would layer this in nice martini glasses or a beautiful glass bowl or some such, but we weren’t…in fact, David wasn’t even here, he’s conducting a rehearsal with the Guinness Choir, so he has a treat when he gets home!  So what I did was layer it in a pyrex bread loaf dish.  You can see what I did and it’s grand for us.

So I took the meringue and put a third of it, crumbled in the base of the dish.  I then placed the curd/mascarpone mix on top of that (lovely richness to that layer, by the way), then some sliced strawberries, then some coulis.  Layer the ingredients or just stir them all in a bowl if you preferPhoto1117

I Then put another third of the meringue into the vanilla cream and spread that on top of the strawberries, then a layer of the orange/lemon curd, then more coulis and I finished with fresh strawberries.  (I leave the hulls in the strawberries because I like to eat with my fingers….if the hulls are on, people have license to eat, somewhat, with their fingers!!).  Photo1118

When you present the ‘Mess’  break some more of the remaining meringue onto the bottom of the plate, that way you will still have texture if the rest has gone into total heavenly mush, place a heaped spoon on top of the crumbled meringue and serve with more curd and coulis.  Oh yeah, don’t forget the fresh mint!!Photo1119

 

Why Keep a Dog and do the Barking Yourself?

Ah, well….this blog will be very concise in picture content (sorry to disappoint, but only one photo is needed).  Interesting title, no?  This blog is compliments of my darling, dearest, sweetest husband who, it must be said, is one of the best musicians, conductors, teachers, I have ever met.  He is also my bestest of best friends, is incredibly intelligent, and having been his partner for 26 years I can honestly say I have never tired of him.  He makes me laugh regularly (very important, don’t you think?  Can you smell it coming, hear it maybe?)….oh yes, here it comes…. there is a ‘BUT’ coming.

BUT…two weeks ago, having cooked for an entire week non-stop,( except to Blog about food), I lifted myself from a very comfy chair to create some more ‘magic’ in the kitchen for our supper.  My beloved said to me, “Can I do anything to help?”  To which I responded (unusually by the way), “Yes please. If you wouldn’t mind making the salad.  Could you wash the salad leaves and a tomato for the salad?”  He said “Of course”, and off he went to the back kitchen (where we wash our vegetables) and I heard the tap running and I thought how brilliant, this will all be ready in no time at all, at all and I can get back into the chair with a nice glass of wine, or two.  ..feet up, etc.

Now, you see, he didn’t do anything wrong…..he just only did what was asked.  Here lies the difference between a man and a woman.  As a female, I would hear the first part, (“would you mind making the salad?”),and from there I would probably ridiculously ask, what bowl, how small, dressing?   David, however, heard  (“could you wash the salad leaves and a tomato for the salad?”)  Anyway, here’s what I got brought into me:

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I have to admit it was one of those moments that made me howl with laughter (see above, he’s good at that).  He didn’t know what I was laughing about, until I pointed at the bowl.  Of course, his natural response was “Well, you didn’t ask me to SLICE it”!!

 

Machaca, Marvellous Machaca

Ingredients for Machaca

Ingredients for Machaca

I was blessed to have the Mexican neighbours I did where I grew up in California.  It is partly thanks to them that I have the passion for cooking that I do. I was minded  carefully by mostly the mother of the house, and also by her mother (legend of a woman who not only was one of the best cooks I’ve ever met, but also taught me to play poker!) while my mother first went back to university.  And while I was being minded, I had the privilege to witness some of the best cooking on the planet.  My fingertips were perched on the edge of the chopping board (frequently I was reminded to move them or I may no longer own them),  Their cooking smells infiltrated my whole spirit some days and it was another world from the one I lived in.  I actually have written a short story about that childhood experience and have called it ‘The Country Next Door’  because that actually was exactly what it was to me, and a very big part of my life.  I was also maliciously fed my first very, very tiny chilli pepper there by the daughter (older than myself)…..I don’t actually remember the heat, I just remember how much trouble she got into (ha) and an entire bowl of sugar being emptied down my throat, then a glass of milk, then bread  (lots of adults in an absolute panic…probably because the chilli was hot enough to kill someone my age!)

Anyway, until I get that story published (!), I will reminisce slightly here at the flavours and aromas that occupy a part of my heart when it comes to this dish.  This dish is the epitome of slow food, food prepared with love and some of the most flavour-filled food there is to be had on the earth.  When you read this and look at the process, you will probably say “yeah, right….some day”, but I urge you to try it, because what results in cooking this dish is pure heaven.  You needn’t make it into tacos, or burritos, or serve it with eggs…you need merely taste the final product out of the frying pan to set your eyes rolling back into your head, It is meat that has been cooked so long and in so many ways that the result is a textured sweetness.  I remember clearly one day while cooking this for my restaurant, Danette’s Feast, (yes, I actually cooked this daily for the menu there!!) when Penny Lange of Ballinroan farm came in with a vegetable delivery and smelled the magic from the hallway exclaiming “WHAT are you cooking?!!”…I couldn’t wait to share it with her, knowing she was a true foodie too…(foodies love to share the experience btw)  Luckily, I was at the final stage of stirring in the fresh coriander.  I produced the forks and we produced  the GPFRR (goose pimples for the right reasons!) while eating it. The texture (shredding by hand) is REALLY vital. Most recipes you see will say to shred using two forks….sorry, not the same.  So many people overlook the fact that texture is paramount in eating…it’s part of the satiating process, and because there is the chew element in this produced by using brisket, it WORKS on all foodie levels. (btw, housekeeper’s cut isn’t the same either, it falls apart too much in the cooking and doesn’t retain that slightly stringy texture).  Add to that, if you’re making tacos, the crunch of the fried corn tortilla, and the lighter crunch of the vinegar dressed salad (one of the few times I would use iceberg lettuce is in this salad just for the level of crunch), the fresh tomatoes in the salsa and the drip of the sour cream and onion dip.  No one eats like this every day.  I actually hadn’t made it since the Christmas before last when my brother Dennis, his daughter Kira and her very soon to be husband, Andrew were visiting.  Trust my brother to ask me to make machaca two days after Christmas dinner!  He knew I wouldn’t say no:-).  But I did make a huge amount last Sunday (as you can see from the photo) and I’ve freezed most of the left-overs, so we can eat like this a little more often. (Haven’t forgotten Rosemary and Andy…your name is on some of it!!)   Having it on the restaurant menu did mean I got to share it with a lot of appreciative people.  So for you people, if you have cravings….read on!.. don’t say “no”  and try it for yourself.How terribly sad if you’re vegetarian…just now anyway.

For the Machaca you will need: 5lbs. of Beef Brisket (unrolled, the thicker, the better) btw you can make less and adjust the other ingredients, as I said I was cooking for the freezer too; an Obscene amount of garlic, roughly 15 cloves, peeled and sliced into thick slivers; 2 onions, 2 carrots, 2 bay leaves, celery sprigs and or sticks, 1& 1/2 litres good beef stock., sea salt to taste and black pepper freshly milled.

For Frying Later:  4 Tablespoons sunflower oil, 2 large onions, chopped; 6 cloves of garlic (I know), grated , crushed or finely chopped, 4 Tablespoons fresh coriander, chopped, black pepper and maybe salt (taste first)

Lay the Brisket Beef flat in a deep roasting tray, and stud the brisket with garlic every half inch until all the meat is garlic filled.

Stud the brisket with garlic slivers every half inch

Stud the brisket with garlic slivers every half inch

Photo1031Place the chopped vegetables and bay leaves in the tray and top with beef stock.  Season with pepper and seal tightly with lid or kitchen foil.  Bake in the oven 180 C for 1 hour, then reduce heat to 160 C and bake for a further 4 hours or until the meat easily pulls away from itself, pour off cooking juices and reserve for later use.Photo1032Photo1036Boy, that’s a lot quicker to blog-cook than to cook!  While the meat is slowly cooking, prepare your accompaniments.  For the Salsa Fresca you will need 1 &1/2 lbs. fresh, ripe tomatoes finely chopped (if you can’t find good, sweet tomatoes then use tinned tomatoes), 4-5 scallions, also finely chopped, 2 cloves garlic, grated on microplane or crushed, fresh chillies to your taste (if you don’t like heat you can de-seed them, but I think this dish can take quite a lot of heat so I use 2 chillies with seeds. , 2 Tablespoons fresh coriander, chopped. 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice, a shake or two of red wine vinegar, salt and pepper.  Chop and mix together in a dish.  Leave for at least an hour for flavours to mingle.Photo1034Photo1035For the sour cream and onion dip take 200mls sour cream and combine with 2 teaspoons cider vinegar, 2 chopped scallions, 1 clove garlic, minced salt and pepper.  Also combine in a bowl and let flavours mingle,

For the guacamole, mash a ripe avocado with a fork, add lime juice to taste (avocados vary greatly.  Always try to purchase the Haas variety which has a bumpy skin, it has a nuttier flavour and in fact just has more flavour full stop.  Add a little lime juice at a time until the flavour of the avocado rises).  I like to add 2 Tablespoons of the salsa fresca and a little more coriander, salt and pepper. (forgot to photograph this until the end….sorry).

Prepare a salad using mostly leaves.  (You can chop them, which isn’t usually recommended, just so they will fit into the taco shells).  Also prepare a vinaigrette dressing or buy mine!!!

Shallow fry the soft corn tortillas in sunflower or rapeseed oil until crispy.  I use a tongs to hold the shape of the taco and make the opening half-moon as wide as possible so they will hold as much as possible!Photo1037Drain on kitchen paper/towel and set aside.

Now comes the fun part.  Pour yourself a drink and wrap a kitchen towel or tissue around the glass , or grab a straw. (hehe, no point having a drink slip out of your hand onto the floor).  Telephone a friend(!) and pour them a drink too.  Place newspaper on the table (yes, it is messy) and the baking tray on top of that.  Pull off  a chunk of the cooked brisket  and with thumb and index finger of both hands separate the meat by the strips of its grain.  Have a nice conversation while doing this, because it will take some time.  Photo1039This is when a crowd comes in handy!  The most fun we had doing this was in Los Angeles with Christy,Owen, Kristin, Keith, Pam and “shred”. (I had agreed to make machaca if they shredded…it was finished in no time at all).  Also, there are good shredders and bad shredders.  I am known to frequently say, “that’s too thick, make it thinner”, but I have to say David is the best shredder of all.  He never cheats like my brother Dennis, who always insists what is in his mouth is fat!! (“I swear, that bit was fat”…yeah, right).  When all the meat is shredded place it on a chopping board and cut it into 1” chunks, which makes it easier to eat when in a taco.Photo1041

Heat the oil in a deep frying pan over medium-low heat.  Add the chopped onions, and cook for 5-8 minutes or until soft.  Add the brisket, stir and turn the heat up slightly.  When the meat begins to brown on the bottom of the pan add the cooking stock, ladle at a time to the pan and cook until the liquid is absorbed.

Photo1040Photo1043Photo1045

is used- up. Add the freshly chopped coriander and cook for a further minute or two (don’t overcook at this point or you will lose the flavour of the coriander). Taste and season more if necessary.  Should taste like heaven, if not, adjust!

 

 

Place the tacos on a plate and top with salsa fresca first, then guacamole, then salad and finally sour cream and onion dip.  Grab several napkins or kitchen towels and stretch the mouth to accommodate!  Should be GPFRR!

Making Machaca Tacos with Salsa, Grated cheese, Salad and sour cream and onion dip

Making Machaca Tacos with Salsa, Grated cheese, Salad and sour cream and onion dip