Friday, 31 December 2010

New Year Resolution

Three months ago i was encouraged to start writing this blog, at first I was a bit sceptical about the whole thing but boy was i wrong, people have been reading what i write all over the world and now i feel i must blog because i do not want to disappoint anyone.
So my friends I shall continue to put my thoughts about food on the web and hopefully we can grow along with the recipes i will come up with this year.
So after service tonight, the last of many in 2010, I will go for a pint of the black stuff with some of the boys in the kitchen, we will no doubt be talking about food and what our plans are for next year. More exciting dishes, new thoughts and ways of putting the food on plates and hopefully we will discover more artisan producers.
Happy New Year everyone that takes the time to tune in to this blog..........

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Go Red with the cabbage this Christmas.....

Red Cabbage is a unsung hero of mine, cooked properly it will lend itself to almost anything. It cooks quickly and looks fantastic when put into a bowl and served to a hungry hoard of people. I use a bit of ginger and white pepper to give it a little bit of fire.......

1/2 of finely shredded red cabbage
4 cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped up roughly
1 thumb of ginger, peeled and grated finely
1/2 tea cup of golden sultanas
6 tblsp of balsamic vinegar
juice of two oranges
brown sugar
salt and ground white pepper

All you got to do is throw the shredded cabbage into a stainless steel pot with the apples, vinegar, ginger, orange juice, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Now put a lid on it and wait for the apples to explode. Cook over a low heat for a further 15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly. This vegetable will go with Goose, Duck, Pork, Venison or any other fatty meat.

Q. tip; don't over cook the red cabbage you will take the good out of it

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Books where would we be without them.......

Lately i find myself reading cook books obsessively and the funny thing about it is that i have gone back to the old classics. Elizabeth David's stunning descriptions of French country markets and the peasant foods she encounters, the way she describes what she is cooking is some of the best cookery writing I have ever read. Jane Grigson's brilliant book about English Food was written in 1974 and it is as relevant today as it was back then. Classy recipes with no fluff, just the way I like it..
Then there is Margaret Costa's Four Seasons cookery book, first published in 1970, this is a must, beautiful seasonal recipes and huge amounts of knowledge between the covers. I even have found myself reading a old copy of Julia Child's book about French Cooking, (they made a film about this and I must say it is worth watching)again good honest food with simple recipes that you will get to know and love over time.
Another writer worth looking out for is Simon Hopkinson, a brilliant cook and writer who I worked for in the Bibendum restaurant in London many years ago. My Daughter Mollie proudly brought me home menu's from there last month, she even got a photo of herself outside this famous restaurant.
So what i think i am trying to say is that we have allot to learn from those who have gone before us, these people wrote from the heart about food and the simplicity of it. There was no photographs in their books just beautiful passages of descriptive writing.....

So look out for these;

Jane Grigson's English Food
Jane Grigson's Good Things
Jane Grigson's Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery
Elizabeth David French Country Cooking
Elizabeth David Mediterranean Food
Elizabeth David Spice, Salt and Aromatics in the English Kitchen
Margaret Costa's Four Seasons cookery book
Simon Hopkinson Roast Chicken and Other Stories

Friday, 17 December 2010

Coq Au Vin....... a classic

This dish has a mystique aura about it, but just try it and you will have created something well worth the effort. Use a organic or free range chicken for this.
You will need;
1 Chicken
1 onion
1 carrot
sprig of thyme, rosemary and parsley
3/4 bottle of good red wine
2 bay leaves
3 cloves of garlic
175g of button mushrooms
115g of unsmoked streaky bacon
splash of olive oil
55g of good Irish Butter
16 button onions
1 glass of brandy
2 slices of white bread fried in butter
10g flour
15g butter

Cut the chicken into four pieces,(legs and breasts). Make the chicken stock with the carcase, onion, thyme, carrot and water. Pour the red wine into a large wide pan with the bay leaves, thyme and the chopped garlic. Add 1/4 pint of chicken stock. Simmer this for about twenty minutes or until it has reduced by almost half. Add the mushrooms for the last five minutes.
Strain the wine, discard the herbs but keep the mushrooms. Cut the bacon into lardons and put back into the pan with a little oil and butter and fry until crisp, add in the button onions and brown, now add in the chicken skin side down and fry until golden brown. Remove the onions and set aside with the button mushrooms.
Heat the brandy and set it alight and pour over the chicken, now pour in the reduced wine and chicken stock. Add in the rest of the herbs. Cover the pot and cook on a slow heat for 40 minutes. Transfer the chicken, mushrooms, onions and bacon to a hot serving dish and keep warm.
Now fry the bread that has been cut into triangles. Work the flour and butter together and add this to the cooking liquid. Whisk until the sauce becomes a little thick, season with salt and pepper. Pour it over and around the chicken, arrange the fried bread around the dish and serve immediately.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Cheese glorious cheese.......

It is not often that you come across a real artisan producer by chance and when you do the day seems brighter, the air fresher and your excitement levels go up a notch or two.
Well this is exactly what happened to me last week. I found a gem of a cheese maker making raw milk cheese twelve miles away from the castle, and boy is this some cheese. Ann Leveque, a passionate young French cheese maker whose Triskel goats and cows cheese is fantastic. She collects the milk herself while still warm and works her magic to produce some of the best cheese I have eaten in a very long time.
And my friends its up to us to support her and help her to continue to grow. So get yourself into Sheridan's cheese mongers and buy some......
If you can get your hands on the small crottin it makes a fantastc salad with roasted beetroot, toasted walnuts, a few winter leaves, glazed slivers of pear and a honey dressing..
Q. Tip; butter the top of the crottin and grill it for a minute or so before placing on the plate.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Organic Pork, just do it.......

Today in the kitchen i was preparing loin of pork for the menu tonight, the rind was being scored carefully (that's what gives the crackling)seasoned with roasted fennel seeds, celery salt, fresh thyme, garlic and massaged with olive oil. And the one thing that was going through my mind was, why do we as chefs not cook pork anymore?
Well the answer I am afraid to say is simple. Most pork you get now is intensively rared and tastes of nothing. So my friends get your hands on home rared or organic pork.
You cannot compare the two, the colour of the meat, the thickness of the fat and of course the flavour is totally different.
There is a growing number of people that are rearing their own pigs to eat and this in my opinion is the way to go. They are easy to keep, they grow quickly and you will have great fun rearing them.

So back the pork loin:
Keep the rind on and score it with a sharp Stanley knife, rub salt, chopped garlic, toasted fennel seeds, fresh thyme and olive into it. Place in a roasting tray and cling film the meat for at least four hours or even better overnight. This will help the meat soak up the flavours of your marinade. Now all you have to do is remove the clingfilm and cook the pork for an hour at 180.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Brussels sprouts

These little green gems are every where at the moment, people will tell you they either hate them or love them. Well I love them or at least I love them when they are cooked simply with Irish butter and a little water. I hate them when you have to prepair them for boiling whole. Or should I say boiling all the goodness out of them.
So my friends this is simple, get hold of a bag of your now favourite vegetable, cut them in half straight through the stalk, place the flat part on the chopping board and as finely as you can slice them.
Now put your shredded sprouts into a sauce pan with a knob of butter, salt, pepper and a little bit of water, put them on a high heat and cook until the butter melts. Two minutes no more, Eat at once.
So now that should take the burden out of cooking Brussels sprouts..

Q. tip: When I say a little bit of water that is exactly what I mean.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Pot Roast Half Pig's Head.......

This quote i have to share with you, after coming home the other night, deep snow outside, serious chill in the air, I picked up a cook book infront of the fire and read;

'I say only half a head, as it is a perfect romanitc supper for two. Imagine gazing into the eyes of your loved one over a golden pig's cheek, ear and snout'

All i can say is show me the woman who you would eat this with..........

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Butterscotch Sauce

Just make it and keep it in a jar in your fridge, pour over ice cream, gingerbread pudding or anything else you can think of......

110g of good Irish butter
170g dark soft brown Barbados sugar
110g of granulated sugar
285g golden syrup
225g cream
1/4 tsp of vanilla essence

Put the butter, sugars and golden syrup into a saucepan and melt over a low heat. Simmer for five minutes so that the sugar dissolves into the butter. Remove from the heat and add the cream and vanilla essence. Put back on the heat and stir or three minutes or until the sauce is absolutely smooth.

Gingerbread Pudding

This my friends is a beautiful pudding and congers up so many memories. The recipe is taken from Fergus Henderson and Justin Piers Gellatley fantastic book Beyond Nose To Tail. For those who do not know who Henderson is look up St. John's Restaurant, Smithfield, London. Or even better, book yourself in and just taste what this genius is cooking.

serves 8

90g stale white bread
175g plain flour
90g ground almonds
175g fresh minced beef suet

25g baking powder
a pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground mixed spice
2 large eggs
175g stem ginger in syrup
2 tblsp grate fresh root ginger
3 tblsp grated apple
180g golden syrup
180g black treacle
150ml full fat milk

Cut the crusts off the bread, then rip it into 2cm pieces and place in a large mixing bowl. Sift the flour over the bread, then add all the rest of the ingredients. Stir together for about 4 minutes until thoroughly combined.
Butter and flour a 2.3 litre pudding basin and spoon in the mixture; the basin should be about three-quarters full. Cover the mixture with a circle of baking parchment, then place a piece of foil over the basin and secure with string. Put the basin in a deep roasting tin and pour enough hot water into the tin to come half way up the sides of the basin. Steam in an oven preheated to 160 c for 1 1/2 hours (remember to keep the water topped up). Turn out on to a serving dish and cover with hot Butterscotch Sauce. Serve some Vanilla Ice Cream.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Orange Liqueur....for that feel good factor

For many years I have been making Sloe Gin, (with the proper stuff), fantastic in very small amounts, mind blowing if you over do it. So when I came across this recipe I thought, great you can have a glass or two and I won't start singing rebel songs.
This is fantastic for Christmas time and you have the added satisfaction that you made it yourself. So you will need;

6 large oranges
1 litre bottle of brandy
400g of sugar
1/2 teaspoons of coriander seed
1 stick of cinnamon

Peel the oranges very thinly, leave the white pity on the orange because this is very bitter and will spoil your booze. Cut the peel into thin strips, squeeze the oranges and add the strained juice to the peel, coriander seed, cinnamon and brandy. Put into bottles or jars and cover tightly. Put this away for a month or so. Serve to good friends and yourself of course.........

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Venison en croute...........

This one takes a little time to do, there are a few bits and bobs to get right, but i tell you one thing, this recipe has to be tried. It is utterely delicious. Dave Larkin my right hand man or sous chef at the Castle came up with this to go on a venison dish we were putting on the menu. And boy is it a success.
Serves 4

400g of puff pastry (or one sheet of bought puff pastry)
4 loin or rump venison steaks
140g of finely chopped mushrooms
1 large onion finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic
100g of good Irish Butter
1 tsp of chopped tarragon
1/2 tsp of chopped fresh thyme
1 egg yolk
salt and pepper

First make the mushroom duxelle (fancy word for mushroom stuffing), melt the butter in a pot and throw in the onions and garlic, sweat until soft. Turn up the heat and add the chopped mushrooms, cook through for a few minutes and then add the chopped herbs, salt and pepper. This should taste of more, if you know what i mean.
Now roll out the pastry and cut into four oblong pieces large enough to enclose the steaks. Sear the venison for a few minutes in a very hot pan. Now put a spoon of the duxelle in the centre of the pastry and place the meat on top, add more stuffing to the top of meat. Brush the pastry edges with egg yolk and bring them together to form turnovers, brush the top with egg yolk and bake in a hot oven 190 for 10 minutes.
Q. Tip; while they are cooking pour yourself a large glass of red, you deserve it. By the way this goes fantastic with spinach, parsnip puree and some roasted beetroot...

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Irish Stew, comfort food at its best, at least the suits in the EU cannot take this one off us

Irish Stew, you might say that the whole world knows how to make a good old Irish Stew, well here is a simple recipe for one, but remember it tasts so much better the next day after the flaviours get a chance to mature and come out in the sauce. This is major comfort food, and as we are in Winter now is the time to cook a stew
Serves 4-6

1.3kg of diced lamb shoulder 1inch cubed
3 onions sliced
6 carrots
8-12 potatoes (golden wonders or kerr’s pinks)
850ml of lamb stock or water
1 large sprig of fresh thyme
Preheat the oven to 180 C

Heat some olive oil and a tablespoon of butter in a heavy based pot. Peal the onions and slice thinly. Peal the carrots and dice in large pieces. Put the meat in the pot and cook until it takes a nice brown colour. Do this in batches is necessary. Set aside. Now put the onions and carrots in the pot and coat them in the fat left from the meat. Add in the lamb and the stock or water and season with salt and pepper.
Peel the potatoes and lay them on top lamb, so they will steam while the stew cooks. Add the thyme and bring the pot to the boil, cover and transfer to the oven. Cook for 1-2 hours depending on the meat.
When the stew is cooked, pour off the cooking liquid, transfer the meat and vegetables to a clean pan. Reduce the liquid by a 1/3 and pour over the stew. Serve with plenty of brown bread.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Mushrooms made easy............


Serves 6
6 large flat mushrooms
3 cloves of garlic
Fresh thyme
2 shallots
6 tblsp of olive oil
2 oz of butter
Parmesan cheese
White truffle oil
Salt and pepper
This is a dead easy starter or lunch dish, the mushrooms can be prepared ahead of time and warmed up at the last minute, don’t be put off by the use of truffle oil or pancetta, if you don’t have them not to worry good olive oil will be just as nice and bacon will do instead of pancetta.
First take the stem out of the centre of the mushroom and chop finely mix it with the garlic and thyme leaves and the finely chopped shallots, put this mixture back into the mushrooms and sprinkle with olive oil. Season with the salt and pepper and divide the butter between the mushrooms, place the mushrooms onto a baking tray and cover with tin foil and bake in a medium oven (120 c) for 10 to 15 minutes. Grill the pancetta until it is nice and crisp.
All that is left to do now is put the hot mushroom onto a plate and arrange the rocket on top and the crisp pancetta, use a potato peeler to peal nice strips of Parmesan cheese which go around the plate along with a teaspoon of the truffle oil. As simple as that.........

Saturday, 20 November 2010

The most important person in any Kitchen

Yang, our hardworking, honest, funny and reliable kitchen Porter is a star, no job is to big or to small and without these people no kitchen would work.....

Friday, 19 November 2010

Give me Goose only Goose

I know it is a little bit early to be talking about Christmas but unless you get your skates on and order a goose you might be left with the bland meat of a Turkey. Here is a little history of why people eat goose.
The traditional main dish at Christmas was once goose. That was because, like other migratory fowl, geese appeared and disappeared at crucial times in the yearly cycle, so eating them accompanied ceremonial events in the solar and agricultural year. People have linked geese to the changing seasons since antiquity, when different cultures around the world would sacrifice the goose to the gods in thanks for the harvest, then feast on its flesh afterwards. Goose was served at the Celtic Samhain, or Halloween, the Norse Yule and the Christian Michaelmas. In the Middle Ages there was even a festival known as Wayzgoose, a traditional printers' fete. held at around Michaelmas (the autumn equinox) to mark the end of summer and the beginning of working by candlelight. The master printer would hold a feast for the apprentices and journeymen, with roast goose as the main dish.
Interesting, by the way if you are looking for a fantastic free range Goose go no further than Mrs Mary Walsh of Kilkenny. (send me a post if you are looking for her number) but hurry her geese fly out the door..... MARYS NUMBER IS 087 6439979

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

A Winter Soup that is full of gooooooddnessss

Winter Vegetable Soup with spinach pesto and crisp gubeen bacon

Tom Cleary has being supplying me with seasonal vegetables for the past sixteen years. He is a chef’s dream, coming in the back door of the kitchen with his hand grown produce is a pleasure to see and when the seasons change so does his fantastic vegetables.
Serves 8 people

• 200g of smoked Gubeen bacon cut into lardons
• 2 tblsp of olive oil
• 50g of good Irish butter
• 225g of finely diced onion
• 275g of finely diced carrot
• 225g of finely diced potato
• 200g finely diced celery
• 200g finely diced leek
• 200g finely diced turnip
• Salt and pepper
• 1.8 litre of chicken stock
For the spinach pesto you will need:
• 50g of cooked and drained spinach
• 15g of pine nuts
• 1 crushed clove of garlic
• 150ml of olive oil
• Pinch of salt and white pepper
First fry off the gubeen bacon in a dry frying pan until it is nice and crisp, set aside.
In a large pot sweat off the onions in the butter and olive oil, add in the potato, carrot, celery, turnip and cook out for five minutes over a low heat. Now add in the chicken stock and the leeks, bring to the boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.
This soup is more of a broth so there is no need to liquidize it. Tom’s veg are full of flavour so let them speak for themselves.
To make the pesto, put the spinach in a bowl with the pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper and blend together finely using a hand blender.
Pour the soup out into hot bowls, sprinkle the bacon on top and a dollop of pesto and there you have it, Tom’s soup full of goodness…..

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Sally Barnes Smoked Haddock Croquette yummmmmmm

What can I say about Sally Barnes that has not been said already; she is a true artisan food producer and runs the best smoke house in the country. I use her smoked haddock because you cannot get better anywhere else on the planet.
This dish is a simple one and well worth making, if you do not have a deep fat fryer doesn’t panic just make haddock cakes instead and pan fry them.

Makes 4 portions:

• 200g of mashed potato
• 100g of Sally Barnes smoked un-dyed haddock
• 1 tsp of chopped parsley
• 1 tsp of chopped tarragon
• 1 tsp of chopped chives
• 1 tsp of chopped shallot
• 1 tsp of chopped baby capers
• Juice and zest of one lemon
• 20g of grated horseradish
• 4 tblsp of mayonnaise
• 1 free range egg yolk
• 150g of bread crumbs
• 100g flour
• 2 whole free range eggs

In a stainless steel bowl mix the mash potato, with the chopped herbs, juice and zest of the lemon, shallot, capers and egg yolk. Steam the haddock for two minutes and flake the flesh off the skin. Add this to the potato mixture. Form 4-6 balls or cakes depending on how you want to cook them. Flour, egg and bread crumb them. Let this rest for half an hour. Mean while make the mayo by whisking the 2 egg yolks with ½ tsp of mustard, splash of vinegar and 100ml of olive oil. Add in the grated horseradish.
Cook the croquettes until nice and golden and place on a warm plate with a dollop of the mayo, eat at once and let the flavour of Sally’s fish fill your mouth……

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Skeaghanore Duck, look out for this one its got some quack

Roast Skeaghanore Duck breast, rillettes, potato, apple and thyme stuffing and burnt orange sauce

Eugene and Helena Hickey’s Skeaghanore duck is such a wonderful product and a real gem to cook with. I tasted this duck in a restaurant last year and I had to have it on my own menu. The texture and flavour is second to none. This recipe uses all the bird, the breasts for roasting, legs for confit and the carcase for stock.
1 Skeaghanore Duck
500g of duck fat
1 tblsp of chopped flat parsley
1 tsp of chopped capers
1tsp of chopped tarragon
Bay leaf
1 bulb of garlic
Rind of one orange
Few sprigs of thyme

For the stuffing you will need:
250g mashed potato
1 onion finely chopped
1 cooking apple, peeled and cored
Zest and juice of 1 orange
1 tsp of chopped thyme
150g good Irish Butter
Salt and white pepper

For the burnt orange sauce you will need:
100 ml of grand mariner
100 ml of cointreau
100g brown sugar
1 star anise
250ml of orange juice
250ml of duck stock
• First confit the duck legs by melting the duck fat in a small roasting tray, add a bulb of garlic, bay leaf, thyme and orange rind. Cook this in a slow oven 150 c for 1 ½ hours or until the meat comes off the bone without any resistance. Keep the duck fat it is fantastic for roasting potatoes.

• To make the stuffing by sweating off the onion in the butter, add the thyme, apple, zest and juice of the orange, let this reduce a little and fold in the mash potato. The stuffing should have a nice tang to it. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

• For the sauce put the cointerau and grand mariner in a stainless steel saucepan over a high heat and flame to burn off the alcohol, now add the sugar and caramelise. Now add the orange juice, duck stock and star anise, reduce quickly until it becomes a nice coating consistency.

• Heat a frying pan and season the duck breasts. Place skin side down and cook slowly until the skin is nice and golden, turn them over and place in an oven for twelve minutes.

• Now for the rillettes, shred the cooked meat of the duck leg with two forks, you want to break up the meat into stringy pieces, add the chopped parsley, chopped capers and tarragon, season and bind with a little bit of duck fat. This should taste rich but the capers will give a bit of bite to it.

• Now all you have to do is put the whole thing together, put the rillettes into small ramekins and place them on your warm main course plate, add a dollop of the stuffing. Carve the breasts and put the slices beside the stuffing and pour the sauce around the plate. Serve at once…

Friday, 5 November 2010

An Artist Pallet

Friday night @ Waterford Castle, the sauce section full of colour, or as the photo was described by one of the chefs as an artist pallet......

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Porkey Pies eh......

Every Year around his time i end up with allot of pork and bacon on my hands. I suppose that's what happens when you dispatch of your own pigs. Hams for Christmas presents, pork chops for the neighbours, sausages for my breakfast, boiled bacon for my folks and various other cuts handed out to family and friends. Even the head is used to make brawn, which is eaten in the local pub with a few pints of Guinness while the reds struggle to another win.
So this is one of my favourite cuts of the cute pig, Belly of Pork, slow roasted with garlic, rosemary, thyme, ginger, salt and Chinese five spice. This is so good it has to be shared, so invite a few around for dinner and feed them belly of pork, i bet they wont forget it for a long time and a few will be ringing you for the recipe...

If you are not lucky enough to have your own pigs then ask your butcher to leave on the skin of the belly, scored with a sharp knife or Stanley blade. Rub the salt, pepper, Chinese five spice, garlic, grated ginger, chopped thyme and rosemary into the skin and cover with cling film for a few hours. Overnight would be fantastic, this gives the flavours time to get into the meat.
Now put the meat onto a rack over a roasting tray and place into a medium oven 140c for two hours. Just before serving if the crackling is not crisp enough turn up the oven to 180c for a few minutes.
Q. tip; serve with apple sauce and a few roasted root vegetables, fantastic.....

Sunday, 31 October 2010

A Chocolate Sensation

Many years ago this little pot of chocolate magic went onto the menu of a small restaurant in Waterford City, Opus One. Beautifully rich, it was a hit straight away. The secret to this one is to use the best quality chocolate with a high coco content. Please, please do not scrimp on this.
This will make enough for four to six people...

125g of good Irish butter
125g of sugar
1 tea cup of cream
1 free range egg yolk
250g of really good quality chocolate
12 macaroons
good splash of rum
4/6 ramekins

Cream the butter and sugar until they are pale in colour, scald the cream and let it cool, then mix in the egg yolk. Melt the chocolate and stir in the cream and egg mixture and then the butter and sugar. Stir this until it is nice and smooth.
In the ramekins arrange a layer of macaroons soaked in a little rum, pour the chocolate mixture over these until the dishes are full. Cover and place in a fridge for 12 hours.

Q. tip. A perfect dessert that can be made well in advance..

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Spinach, ohh spinach........

Now, being a child and asked to eat spinach. What did you say? Interesting..... This is a simple recipe for our now favourite veg, SPINACH and SULTANAS. This is one of Elizabeth David's creations. A woman way ahead of her time, she left us with a library full of pure, simple recipes. Look her up if you are at all interested in cooking.

1kg of washed spinach
30g of butter
a splash of olive oil
1 clove of garlic
30g of sultanas (soak the sultanas in warm tea for 15 minutes)
30g of pine nuts

Throw the spinach and the salt in a large saucepan, no water please, on a medium heat. Plenty of moisture will come out of the spinach. Drain the liquid and press the spinach with a clean tea towel. In a frying pan warm the butter and the olive oil. Add the spinach, the chopped garlic and the black pepper. Stir the spinach so it does not fry, add the sultanas once the spinach is hot. Now bung in the pine nuts and cook out for at least five minute.

Q. tip. This will go with almost anything, Roast Chicken, White Fish, Polenta and mushrooms

Friday, 29 October 2010

Terra Madre 2010, Turin, Italy

For the past twenty years I have being messing around with food, cooking it, reading about it, eating it and if i am true to myself I have being living it.
So this year I packed my bag and went to Terra Madre in Italy, a huge celebration of the best food and culture the world has to offer.
If i had to sum it up in two words, 'mind blowing', cheese makers, truffle hunters, chocolate makers, vegetable growers, olive oil producers, pig farmers, wine makers, bakers, grapa distillers, and much, much more. Everyone I spoke to had this passion for food, you could see it in their eyes, hear it in their voice, what an inspiration to all.
I was lucky enough to be able to bring a fantastic young chef that is working with me at the moment in the Castle, Paddy Ryan. What an impression this had on him and I think he will carry the flag for good, honest slow food for the rest of his cooking career. We need to encourage young people to see the benefit of good food, teach them how to grow or make traditional foods before they are lost to the multi nationals.
The Slow Food movement is growing all over the world, but in Ireland we have leveled off, Why? one reason in my opinion is the lack of government organisations such as Bord Bia to encourage the youth of this country to get involved in food. The other is the stupid legislation we have by the Food Safety Authority, they make it almost impossible for small producers to set up business. If they can do it in Italy why can we not do it here?
So we must get up off our ass and make a difference, Ireland has a fantastic natural resource, OUR LAND IS PURE, so lets treat it with respect and get involved in Slow Food..........

Saturday, 16 October 2010

The Return of the Pumpkin

Pumpkin risotto, i hear you say. Well if you are a person that cooks in season you better have a few recipes for pumpkins over the next few weeks because they are everywhere. And here is one with a bit of difference.
Don't be afraid to make risotto, most people shy away when they see a recipe for one, be confident and say to yourself i am going to make a tasty dish tonight. As long as you stand over it and stir the rice with a little bit of respect it will work out fine, by the way you will need a glass of wine in your hand while doing so.

Serves 6

1-1.3 litres of light chicken stock or vegetable stock
50g butter
2 tablesp of olive oil
1 onion finely chopped
400g risotto rice
1 glass of white wine
70g of freshly grated Parmesan risotto
6 tblsp of pumpkin puree
6 tblsp of finely dice pumpkin (raw)
2tblsp of chopped sage
Salt and pepper

First bring the stock to the boil. Melt half the butter in a heavy saucepan with the oil and add the onions. Sweat gently for 4 minutes not leaving the onion get any colour. Add the rice and coat in the butter and oil, cook for 1-2 minutes and then add 150ml of the hot stock and the white wine, stir continuously and as soon as the liquid is absorbed add another 150ml of stock. Add in the raw finely diced pumpkin at this stage.
Continue to cook, stirring continuously. The heat should be brisk but not too high. The risotto should take about 25 minutes to cook.
After about fifteen minutes, reduce the additions of stock to about 4 tblsp at a time. The risotto is done when the rice is cooked but still ‘al dente’. It should be soft and creamy and quite loose, rather than thick and dry. At this point stir in the pumpkin puree, the remaining butter and Parmesan cheese, taste for salt and pepper and at the very last moment add the chopped sage. Serve at once.

Q. Tip: This can be served as a main meal with some salad or try it with a little bit of pan fried Cod, delicious.......

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Pick up a Pear......

Pears, there are every where at the moment, all shapes and sizes and here is a beautiful recipe to use them up. This pear tart will keep for a few days and in my opinion it tastes better if you can leave it settle and the flavours develop for a day.

Serves 8-10
200g soft brown sugar
110g butter
175g plain flour
250g castor sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 ¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
150ml sunflower oil
1 pear. Coarsely grated
1 tblsp peeled and grated ginger
4 pears, peeled, cored and cut into 6
1 round tin 23cm (9in) in diameter and 6cm high, a frying pan with a metal handle will do the job wonderfully.
Preheat oven to 180c

Sprinkle brown sugar over the bottom of the cake tin or frying pan. Add the butter to the tin, place the pan in the oven for 5 minutes until the butter melts.
Mix the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder and salt together. Beat in the eggs and oil. Mix in the grated pear and ginger. Remove the cake tin from the oven and whisk the butter and sugar until the sugar dissolves.
Arrange the pear slices in the tin, pour the cake mixture over the pears and bake until the cake is springy to the touch and skewer comes out clean, this takes about one hour.
Allow to cool slightly, loosen the edges of the cake with a knife and turn out onto a plate. Whisk some honey into the mascarpone cheese and serve a dollop with the pear cake.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Its Pumpkin time

Pumpkins, used all over the western world on Halloween to frighten off spirits, well they have another use, in fact several uses, they can be roasted and the flesh eaten with roasted meats, made into ravioli with sage butter or a simple soup that will warm you on a cold Autumn night.
The colour is what gets me, bright orange and to see them in the shops stacked in big piles is fantastic to look at.
So do yourself a favour and pick one up and cook with it, you wont be disappointed.

Pumpkin and chilli soup....

serves six hungry people.
1kg of pumpkin, peeled, de-seeded and cut into cubes
175g of onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic crushed
25g of good Irish butter
2 sprigs of thyme
1 red chilli, de seeded and chopped
450g of ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped (or a tin of good tomatoes)
1.2 litres of chicken stock
pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper to season

Put the pumpkin into a pan with the onion, garlic, butter, thyme and chilli. Cover and sweat over a low heat for ten minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook out for a further ten minutes. Add in the stock, salt, pepper and nutmeg and simmer until the pumpkin is very soft. Blitz the soup, if it is very thick add more stock until smooth. Serve at once with brown bread. And if there is a spirit in your house ask if they would like to join you for some soup....
Q. tip; Butternut squash can be used instead of pumpkin.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Funny fennel

Its one of those vegetables that people always like the look of but rarely know how to cook. In my opinion you should try it, fennell goes really well with fish and roast meats. The easiest way to cook it is to roast it in a hot oven, all you have to do is cut it into quarters lengthways, drizzle a little olive oil onto it and season with salt and pepper, place the fennell into a roasting tray and cook for twenty minutes in a hot oven.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Jammy Quinn

You might wonder what the caption means, well when my Mum, who is a great woman, comes into the kitchen at Waterford Castle with her buckets of home made jam the chefs refer to her fondly as jammy quinn. Of course i am not ment to know about this but then a Head Chef knows everthing that goes on in a small kitchen.
This recipe has to be made, it is fantastic and its the one that my mum has being using for years.

4 lbs of raspberries (fresh or frozen)
4 lbs of granulated sugar
juice of one orange
Place the fruit in a pan, heat gently at first until the juice flows, then simmer until the fruit is tender, about five minutes. Add the sugar and orange juice and stir over a low heat until it has completely dissolved, bring to the boil by increasing the heat and continue boiling for another five minutes, stirring frequently.
Test for setting by putting a spoon of jam on a cold plate, after a few minutes tilt the plate and you should see wrinkles forming. Remove from the heat and leave for 10 -15 minutes, pour into sterilised jars, cover immediately and store in a cool dry dark place.
Q. tip, these jars of jam make fantastic presents, just cover the top with a square of gingham

Thursday, 23 September 2010

A Curry in a Hurry

I was poking about in Ardkeen supermarket last night and wanted something tasty to eat with a bit of spice to it. What will I cook ? was the thought in my head and i am sure that goes through most peoples minds when they go shopping for dinner.
So here is what went into my basket; 1 carrot, tin of good chick peas, 1 onion, a punnet of cherry tomatoes, bulb of garlic, a bag of baby spinach and a packet of Masala Gosht made by that fantastic spice company Green Saffron.
Not much i hear you say....
Well, follow these instructions and see for yourself
Finely dice the onion and carrot, crush the two cloves of garlic and fire them into a pot with a good gulp of olive oil, cook this out over a low heat until the onion is soft, now add half the bag of spices and continue to cook for a further three minutes. Quarter 12 cherry tomatoes and throw them into the pot along with the drained chick peas. It is important to use a low heat because you want the tomatoes to break down and the chick peas to take on board the flavour of the spices. Cook this for a further ten minutes and then chop the spinach roughly and put it into the pot. This will add moisture to the dish. But you might have to add a little water as well. You want a thick consistency not a watery tasteless mess.
Now cook up some rice and he presto dinner is on the table, and it is tasty, very tasty...
Q. tip, if you want a creamy finish to the dish add a tin of coconut milk and some chopped coriander at the end.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Give me chutney and I will give you Cheese

Making Chutney must be one of the most rewarding things to do in a kitchen. I get great joy when the chutney is made and is put away for a few months to mature. Finally the day arrives to open it up and see what it is like. I have yet to be disappointed. So here is a good simple recipe for your own. And by the way, this is the time of year to do it, good Irish apples are required.

1 kg of Irish apples
1 kg of ripe tomatoes
500g of finely chopped onion
3 cloves of garlic chopped finely
250g of sultanas
1 tblsp of mustard seed
500g of demerara sugar
25g salt
3 tsp of curry powder
pinch of cayenne
1 liter of malt vinegar

Peel and core the apples, slice and put in a stainless steel saucepan with a few drops of water, the peeled and slice tomatoes, chopped onion, garlic and sultanas. Add in the mustard seed tied up in a muslin bag. Stir in the salt, curry powder, cayenne and half the malt vinegar. Bring to the boil and simmer until soft, then add the sugar and the remaining vinegar and cook until smooth and thick. Remove the muslin bag and pot at once

Q. tip; try to resist the temptation of opening the chutney to early, the longer you keep it the better it is going to taste.

Hot buttery Lobster

Without Men like Martin Simpson of Dunmore East i doubt there would be any Lobsters left off the Waterford Coast. He is a true artisan, passionate, caring and dam good at what he does. I have being buying lobsters from him for many years now and we have built up a good relationship, he knows what i want and goes out of his way to supply me at the Castle.
Some people might think that Lobster is a luxury food but in my opinion we all deserve something luxurious from time to time. So the next time you are walking the pier in Dunmore look out for the small fishermen, get to know them and they will provide you with some of the best shellfish and fish you are likely to find anywhere.
This recipe was first taught to me by Mrs Allen many years ago and all it requires is good Irish butter, a lemon, a lobster, some white wine, and a few herbs.
You will have to dispatch the lobster first by placing it in a large saucepan of cold salted water. Fit a tight lid and turn it on. The lobster will fall asleep in the water and the meat will remain tender.
Once the colour has changed to a bright pink the lobster is ready to be steamed in the wine and herbs for a few minutes. This is worth doing as it will provide another taste to the finished dish. Now all that is left to do, is to remove the meat from the claws and the tail, cut it into bite size pieces and cook in hot butter. Put the meat back in the shell and pour over the butter and serve with a green salad.

Q. tip: a pound and a half lobster is plenty for two people

Friday, 17 September 2010

Blaa Blaa Blaa........

Well what can i say about the humble blaa, its so unique to Waterford, does not travel well and has to be eaten by lunchtime. Floury or crusty, toasted or not, it still is the best thing to eat for breakfast.
We have come up with a unique way at the Castle of using the blaa for a dessert. My pastry chef Shannon has to be given the credit or this one, '' why not make bread and butter pudding with them '' was her solution. So we took out the butter and added white chocolate and bang it is a winner.
You will need a deep baking tray for this dessert.
10 blaas
200g egg yolk
200g caster sugar
1 1/2 ltr of cream
1 vanilla pod
1/2 glass of Baileys
150g golden raisins
150g white chocolate chopped

First cut the blaa's in half, soak the raisins in hot water to soften them and scald the cream with the split vanilla pod in it. Now whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until it becomes slightly pale. Add 1/3 of the cream to the egg mixture and stir with a wooden spoon. Then add the remaining cream with the baileys to the eggs.
To assemble, layer the blaa's on the baking tray and sprinkle with half the raisins and chocolate, pour over half the custard and leave to soak for ten minutes.
Repeat the process and leave to soak for a further twenty minutes. This in important because the bread will soak up all the moisture and become soft.
Now bake in a oven @ 160c for 35 -40 minutes or until golden brown and firm to the touch.
This will keep for up to four days in a fridge. It is delicious and well worth the effort to make.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

The Bread of Life

This recipe is about a simple soda bread but it means so much to me and has a long connection with my family. It has been handed down from my maternal great grandmother who lived in a beautiful old Irish farm house in Glendaloughlan in the Nire Valley. In the old days the bread was made with separated milk baked in a oven pot on top of the open fire. Red hot coals that covered the pot gave the bread a lovely crunchy crust and a special flavour all of its own.
Now my own daughter Mollie, the fourth generation is making the bread and it tastes as good as ever.

you will need;

1 lb of plain white flour
1/2 lb of Howards one way course brown flour
1 level teaspoon of bread soda
good pinch of salt
1 free range egg
1 1/4 - 1 1/2 pints of buttermilk.

Mix the dry ingredients together, letting the flour fall between your fingers to air ate it, now make a well in the centre and add the beaten egg and most of the buttermilk. Working from the centre mix with your hand and add more milk if necessary. The dough should be soft and floppy. Turn out on a floured surface and knead lightly, shape it into a round, flatten it slightly and mark it with a deep cross and bake in a hot oven at 180c for 30-40 minutes. The bread should sound hollow when tapped.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Marco - episode 1 clip1

Friday night at the Castle

Last Friday night at the castle we held a very special dinner to mark the opening of the Waterford Harvest Food Festival. Here are a few images of what went on in the Kitchen that night.
Each of the dishes we cooked were over one hundred years old. The boys played a stormer, you can see the truffles that we used and the concentration on our faces. Amazing to do and well done to the Chef's in my kitchen

Food glorious food

A busy weekend was had by all who were involved in the Waterford Harvest Festival. What a success, the thousands of people that came to talk, taste and be teased by the smells of food being cooked on the South Quays yesterday made me a proud Waterford Man.
There was some fantastic artisan producers selling their wears yesterday, from cheese, sausages, honey, beef, lamb, vegetables and fish. I cooked trout last night and sausages this morning all bought at the market, fantastic no middle man straight from the producer to the table. That in my opinion is the way to go.
Slow Food sent a delegation from Italy and the UK and these passionate people were blown away with what they witnessed in Waterford. I have said this before but we as a country have some of the best food producers in the world. They should be supported and encouraged by all of us.
Now for a simple recipe that involves pan fried trout, roasted beetroot and rocket.
If you can get sea trout from your fishmonger you are in luck otherwise ask him for a couple of fillets of fresh trout. Pick up some raw beetroot and some nice rocket.
The first thing to do is to wash the beetroot, do not remove the root or stalks, this will prevent the colour from draining out of the vegetable. Wrap the beetroot in tinfoil with some sea salt, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Put this into the oven at 170c for at least twenty minutes. While this is going on get your salad together and prep the fish by getting as many bones out of it as possible. A handy tool to do this is a very small long headed pliers or a tweezers.
Season the fish with salt and pepper and pan fry in hot olive oil skin side down first. Just before you turn the fish over add a knob of butter. The fish will cook very quickly so be careful not to overcook it. Now take the beetroot and peel them with your hands slice them and arrange them on a plate length ways, put the trout on top and serve with rocket.
Q. tip: Mackerel can also be used with beetroot and rocket.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

The different shades of autunm

Its exciting heading into a new season as a chef, I love this time of year, the different shades of colour on the trees, the autumn fruit, wild mushrooms,game, oily fish, nuts and the gathering of slows to make slow gin.
For years i have foraged with my two daughters, we collect blackberries from the country lanes, sloes from our secret spot near Woodstown and mushrooms from Brownstown head and apples from a old orchard that was abandoned many years ago.
And all of this reminds me of one dish that we all love, stewed apples with custard, I have fond memories eating this as a kid. So get out there and pick up a few cooking apples either in a shop of over a ditch. Peel core and chop them and throw them into a saucepan with a little sugar and cook over a low heat until the apples start to burst. Now for the custard, you have two ways of doing this, make your own or go the Bird's route either way its up to you. If you are making your own here is a simple method, all you have to be is confident when making it and it won't split on you.
To make a rich custard you need:
250ml cream
250ml milk
vanilla pod split in half
4 large egg yolks
100g caster sugar
Put the cream and milk in a pan with the split vanilla pod (it is so worth using a vanilla pod it makes all the difference) and scald but not boiling.Beat the four egg yolks with the sugar and whisk in the hot cream. Return the custard to the pan over a very low heat and stir constantly until thickens a little.Remove from the heat and stir for a further minute.
Q. tip: Do not boil the milk at all and once you put the custard back on the low heat keep stiring, the custard will split on you if it gets too hot.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

hungry but little time to cook

This is one of the easiest recpies i have got, so easy infact it takes minutes to make. Coming home late and hungry as many people do with the busy lives we lead this one is perfect.
All you need is some wholegrain pasta, chilli (dried or fresh), sea salt, olive oil, couple cloves of garlic and parmesan cheese. Get the pasta boiling in a pot, while this is going on chop the garlic as finely as you can with the chilli. Dont be afraid to use at least two/three cloves of garlic, and the amount of chilli is up to you. When the pasta is cooked, drain it in a colinder and put the empty pot back on the heat minus the water. Add a good gulp of olive oil and throw in the chilli and garlic, do not leave this burn, watch it carefully for a minute or two no more. Now put the pasta into the pot and mix well, add sea salt and a little cracked black pepper. Serve at once and grate lots of parmesan cheese on top.
A tasty bit of food with minimum amount of fuss and one pot and a plate to wash up, cant get easier than that.

Q. tip: spend a little extra on the dried pasta and olive oil, it is worth it and makes all the difference

Monday, 6 September 2010

My food hero, this week

There is alot of talk about food heroes in the press lately, i think Rick Stein coined the phrase a number of years ago. But i am going to localise it to Waterford and the surrounding area, so from now on i will try and find a hero that we can all support each week. And hopefully we can make a difference in keeping these people in business and supplying us with fantastic, nutritious and holesom food.
The star of the show this week has to be Tom Cleary from Wexford. Tom has being supplying me with the best potatoes, broccoli, courgettes, lettuce, herbs, cauliflower, spinach, broad beans, beetroot, kale and nettles for over fourteen years. He is one of a kind, a true gentleman who knows his business so well. Everything he grows is out doors and has true flaviour. You can purchase his fantastic produce at Ardkeen Food Stores or catch him outside Dowers bar in ballymacaw, Dunmore East on Friday evenings.......

Monkfish with uummm

I have been asked to put this one up for all of you to read.... Monkfish the meatiest fish of them all is so so good. And it is so easy to cook.
After coming home the other night early from work I fired up the coals in the bbq, I had four people for dinner and four fillets of monkfish, a few sprigs of rosemary, two lime, splash of good olive oil, ginger and a few cloves of garlic.
Easy, I cut the monkfish into pieces and placed them in a bowl with the juice of the lime, grated ginger, crushed garlic and black pepper and left the fish marinade in the fridge until I was ready to cook, (20 minutes). When the coals were white and full of heat, I used the rosemary sprigs as skewers This does two things, it keeps the fish together while cooking and the most important thing is it transfers the flavour of rosemary to the fish. It took five minutes to cook on the bbq and I served it with a mango, tomato and red onion salsa, brown rice and a bowl of salad leaves. Simple as you like eh

Its a start

Well here we go, I have spent alot of time talking about this and now its time for action. Throughout my career as a working chef i have come across alot of interesting people and i have cooked alot of interesting dishes, my goal by doing this blog to to share my experiences, ideas and recipes. My thoughts on food and how important it is to support local farmers, butchers, fishmongers and green grocers will come across strongly. We live on a fantastic island and we have some of the best produce in the world so its imperative to get the message out there and encourage people to share this natural treasure that i think is being lost because of the closure of small shops and the increasing dependants on supermarkets.