Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Whats in the Pot? .........

Some days you come to work and have two few hours to get through your workload but you just put your head down and plough through it. Well today there were pot loads of pig's heads to boil, well hung cows tails to braize the spiky sea urchin to crack open.
What a mixture eh. I love it, all the messy bits and bobs that are so often overlooked have made their way onto the dining room table at the castle. The new season has arrived and the menu will reflect that, light, airy and colourful......

Beauty contest in the kitchen

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The men behind the kitchen wall.........

The boys that make it possible
Last night we received an award from the Restaurant Association of Ireland for the best hotel restaurant. This is fantastic news, all the hard work and sweat behind the scenes have paid off, and I know this means alot to the boys that work so hard to keep the standards high at the Castle.
The Kitchen crew has changed shape over the years, some amazing chefs have come and gone, they walk through the door raw and hungry to learn and leave with an understanding of what good local food is all about.
It is not fair to single out one particular chef for mention but my Sous Chef David Larkin a local lad with buckets of drive and determination deserves credit here. He started work on the Island many moons ago as a young raw talent.I once told him he could not cook a egg but boy can he cook now.
He stayed with me for four years and grew into what he is now before setting out for the bright lights of London to work with some of the best chefs there. After coming back home he worked in Dublin and slowly the draw of the Castle took hold and I am proud to say he is my right hand man. He inspires the rest of the crew with his stories of hard work and hard play and without Chefs like him the kitchens of this world would be a very dull place...

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Mr Lobster is here to stay for the spring/summer season

They arrived today in a big yellow bucket, straight from the sea at Dunmore East. A true sign the weather gods are looking down on us favourably. Thanks to Martin Simpson who catches these fine creatures they are back on the menu.....

Braised lamb shanks with garlic, rosemary, root veg and chick peas.......

As a chef this is one of the most exciting times of the year, we are done with the dark days of winter, the lack of colourful produce and heavy food. Now that there is more light in the sky, we crave for new and exciting in season foods to put on our menu’s. And Lamb is one of these. I have being watching them being born for the last month as I drive to work, so here is a good recipe for one of the cheaper cuts of lamb.
This dish is truly delicious so give it a go and serve it up for your friends or family……..

Serves 4.
4 lamb shanks (ask for fore end shanks)
8 sprigs of rosemary
8 slivers of garlic
Salt and pepper

Braising ingredients
Splash of olive oil
2 carrots roughly chopped
2 celery stalks roughly chopped
1 onion roughly chopped
1 head of garlic
½ bottle of red wine
150ml of chicken stock
Sprig of thyme
Bay leaves
2 strips of orange peel

Splash of olive oil
110g streaky bacon
110g of finely chopped carrot
110g finely chopped celery
110g finely chopped onion
110g leek finely chopped
6 cloves of garlic
1 small tin of chopped tomatoes
2 sprigs of thyme
3 sprigs of tarragon
1 tblsp of chopped rosemary
1 tin of chick peas drained
150ml of chicken stock.

Make two deep incisions in each of the lamb shanks and insert in each a sprig of rosemary and sliver of garlic. Season the meat with salt and pepper. Heat some olive oil in a heavy sauté pan and brown the meat on all sides. Remove the meat and add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic and cook over a high heat until well browned. Add the red wine and bring to the boil, add the stock, herbs and orange peel, then place the lamb shanks on top. Cover and cook in the oven for 2 hours at 150c.
Meanwhile, make the sauce; heat the olive oil in a saucepan and brown the bacon in it. Then reduce the heat and add the carrot, celery, leek, onion and garlic and cook for about 8 minutes or until the vegetables have softened. Add the tomatoes, herbs, chick peas and enough stock to half cover the beans. Cover and simmer on a low heat for 1 hour.
When the lamb has finished cooking, remove the thyme, bay leaf and orange peel. Taste and correct the seasoning. And serve with the sauce around the meat.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Curried parsnip soup

Curried parsnip soup is one of those soups that you either love or hate. But if you are into it here is a simple recipe for you to try. It is a warm,sweet soup worth the effort.....

50g of good Irish butter
110g onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
375g of parsnip, peeled and chopped
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon of good curry powder
1.2 litres of chicken stock
150ml cream

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan; add the onion, garlic and parsnip, season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook over a gentle heat until soft and tender. Stir in the curry powder and incorporate the stock. Simmer until the the parsnips is fully cooked, liquidise. Correct the seasoning and add the cream. As easy as that......

Monday, 7 March 2011

The mighty Leek.......

They are the national symbol for Wales, they are loved by the French, the English pour thick béchamel sauce over them, us Irish use them sparingly and the Scotch stew them for hours. So since it is rugby season and the might leek is in abundance and at its best, here is a recipe I want to share with you.
I first saw this being made in a famous London restaurant run by the great Simon Hopkinson. He believed that the leek was the “softy of the onion family” and they made the finest quiche.
Please do not be put off by the word quiche, if made with due care and with the right ingredients it is one of the most wonderful things to eat and share around a dining table with family or friends. So give it a go and you will have a lot of happy campers in your home.
The secret of a good leek tart is to sweat the leeks in plenty of butter for as long as possible until they are completely soft and wilted….

For the leek tart filling you will need;
110g good Irish butter
8 leeks, trimmed, split lengthways, washed and thinly sliced (white part only)
Salt and pepper
4 egg yolks
450ml cream
2 tblsp of chopped fresh tarragon
One 20.5 cm / 8 inch pastry case

For the pastry;
110g of plain flour
50g butter
1 egg yolk
A pinch of salt
First make the pastry, add the butter to the flour and rub in. Add the egg yolk, the salt and enough water to form firm dough. Chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180c. Roll out the pastry as thinly as possible and use to line a 20.5cm / 8 inch tart or flan tin. Prick the bottom with a fork, and bake blind in the oven for 15 minutes or until pale golden brown and cooked through.
Meanwhile melt the butter in a large pan and add the leeks. Season with salt and pepper and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until thoroughly soggy. This could take up to one hour. Cool.
Beat together the egg yolks, cream, tarragon and seasoning and add to the cooled leeks. Stir well. Pour into the pastry case and bake for 20 / 30 minutes or until set and golden brown.
Serve with a nice green salad and enjoy……..

Q. tip. add a few tablespoons of finely grated parmesan cheese to the custard mixture if you want a added dimention....

David Oistrakh, Debussy - Clair de lune

Sometimes the music speaks for itself.....

Friday, 4 March 2011

A Mushroom or is it a Mushroom??

Just a little selection of Mushrooms what we get from Fancy Fungi in Wexford, another great small food business we are lucky to have in the Sunny South East

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Comeragh Mountain Lamb is the best there is.....

Heading west along the Cork Road you first get a glimpse of the beautiful Comeragh Mountains at Carroll's Cross. A haze of purple fills your eyes, as the heather glows in the sunshine. This is a special place for me for many reasons, I know the area like the lines on my hands and I was lucky enough to be shown every nook and cranny by my Grandfather who spent his life living and working among the Mountain. It is also the home of Willie Drohan who runs a farm at the bottom of Mahon Falls. He and his brother in law Aidan Dunwoody have started to market their lamb at Farmers Markets and good Supermarkets around the Waterford area.
“This is not factory lamb, they eat the heather and wild herbs which gives it such a unique flavour” were the words used by Willie, his forefathers have been farming the same land for generations and in my opinion the Lamb coming from this beautiful, unspoilt part of Waterford is the purest Lamb in Ireland.
So now that Easter is coming and Lamb will be in season, please look out for this and cook it simply. Try stuffing a leg with slivers of garlic, anchovies and sprigs of rosemary. The anchovy will disappear in the cooking and leave behind a lovely salty flavour. Or roast a rack until medium rare and serve with wilted spinach, roasted baby carrots and potato gratin. Simple food you will remember for a very long time.

Q. tip; to get your hands on Comeragh Mountain Lamb, try Ardkeen Food Store, Ardkeen Food Market (it is on every second Sunday) or Super Valu in Carrick on Suir.....

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Rhubarb, Rhubarb its all about the Rhubarb........

What is it about the first warm day of the year? It makes me think of the summer and long for the first fruits of the season. Well my friends when I got the first box of beautiful pink rhubarb through the back door of the castle this week I had a big smile on my face and could not wait to cook it.
So keeping to my belief that we should get the best of seasonal ingredients and cook it simply, here is a recipe for Rhubarb for you to try…………….
There is no need to peel the early rhubarb, the shoots are nice and tender and if you cook it carefully you will end up with a fantastic pink colour.
This is a recipe for rhubarb fool with a crunchy top, go for it and enjoy how simple it is to do and how great it tastes....

Serves 4
6 sticks of young rhubarb cut into inch lengths
125g sugar
250ml water
rind of one lemon
1/2 vanilla pod split down the middle
400ml of whipped cream

Hazelnut crumble
150g toasted hazelnuts, crushed
100g flour
150g demerara sugar
150g good Irish butter

First put the sugar, water, lemon rind and the vanilla pod into a stainless steel sauce pan and bring up to the boil, place the rhubarb into the hot liquid, turn off the heat and let the rhubarb in the pan until it becomes cold. Now whip up the cream and set aside.
To make the crumble, mix the toasted hazelnuts with the flour and sugar. Using your fingers, gently work the butter into the dry mixture. The mixture will become quite crumbly. Pour it onto a tray and bake it in a preheated oven at 160 c for fifteen minutes. Allow to cool then break up the mixture into crumbs with your fingertips.
To assemble the dessert gently fold the cooked rhubarb into the whipped cream and place this mixture into nice glassed, sprinkle the crumble on top and eat......