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.