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.........