Monthly Archives: May 2013

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:


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.


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