Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Shellfish, its fast to cook, sometimes free and delicious to eat

This is the fast food of the sea and we are surrounded by it. The next time you are walking by the coast keep an eye out for, mussels, cockles, whelks, periwinkles and crab. It’s all there all you have to do is find it, bring it home, cook it and eat it. Or if you are lucky, and see a small day boat coming ashore ask the rosy cheeked fisherman if he would sell you a lobster, shrimp or a brown crab. This, my friends is the way to obtain fresh shellfish.
At the Castle I have being using the best of suppliers for years and Martin Simpson is right up there with them, his lobster and shrimp are second to none, they are the best I can get my hands on. He is a true artisan, a man who goes to sea on his own while most of us are tucked up in bed fast asleep. When he arrives back to the pier in Dunmore East he has caught some of the finest shellfish money can buy.
As a nation we export 90% of the shellfish caught off our shores, you will see the best of Irish crab and lobster in the markets in Paris and Barcelona, this is a crime in my book. We should be using our own natural produce in our kitchens. Yes it might cost a little bit extra, but isn’t it worth it?
Like most of our produce it is sought after abroad, people from Europe know what they are looking for and know how to cook it, so it is time for us to embrace our own food and learn to cook and enjoy it.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Classic Beef Bourguignon, a must have for the weekend....

This is a classic dish first served in Burgundy, but now known all over the world. As ever you must get the best ingredients you can afford for this dish, ask your butcher for well hung shin of beef. This is a cheap cut of meat but when cooked slowly it is delicious.
Serves 6
1.3kg of shin of beef or stewing beef cut into small cubes
185g of streaky bacon
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 onions sliced
500ml Red wine
400ml of beef stock
1 tblsp of tomato puree
200g of chopped tin tomatoes
Sprig of thyme
1 bay leaf
3 cloves of garlic
1 strip of orange peel
Salt and cracked black pepper
Juice of ½ orange
20 small onions (this is optional)
450g of button mushrooms

Cut the bacon into ½ inch cubes and fry in a pan with a little olive oil until nice and crisp, transfer to a casserole. In the same pan fry the beef in batches until nice and brown on all sides. Toss in the carrots and onions into the pan and remove to the casserole. De-glaze the frying pan with the wine, scraping the little bits of meat from the base of the frying pan, bring to the boil and add to the meat.
Bring the casserole to the boil and add in the tomato puree, stock, tin tomatoes, thyme, bay leaf, orange peel, orange juice and garlic. Season with salt and black pepper, cover and gently simmer for 1 ½ - 2 ½ hours on the stove top or in a low oven (170 or gas 3) depending on the meat used. Add the peeled onions and mushrooms 20 minutes before the dish is ready to serve.
When the meat is tender pour everything into a strainer placed over a saucepan. Remove the fat from the liquid and if the sauce is too thin reduce for a few minutes, pour in the meat and vegetables back into the sauce pan and serve at once.
This is fantastic served with creamy mashed potatoes or brown rice.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Melt my cheese my dear.....

Anna Leveque’s cow’s ash raclette with Tom Cleary’s winter greens

This is a traditional dish from the Alps, eaten with potatoes and salad. I am using Anna’s cheese as it is fantastically rich and melts with ease.
Serves 6
500g – 700g of cow ash cheese or raclette cheese
1-12 boiled potatoes
Crisp lettuce
Pickled onions and gherkins
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the cheese in a hot oven for 8-10 minutes, when it starts to melt take it out and cut it in half, spoon it on the sliced boiled potatoes, sprinkle with sea salt, black pepper and eat at once, how simple is that…..

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Strong blue cheese with sweet poached pear......

Crozier blue cheese, poached pear in red wine, spinach, walnuts and honey dressing

This is a striking good looking salad, the red of the pear, white of the cheese and the green spinach all come together with ease. And the best thing of all it eats so well.
Crozier is a blue sheep's milk cheese that is made by the Grubb family in Co. Tipperary; it is a strong salty cheese that is addictive.
Serves 6
3 pears
400ml of red wine
1 cinnamon stick
2tblsp of sugar
300g crozier blue
120g baby spinach
60g walnuts
1 tblsp of Dijon mustard
1 tblsp of honey
1 tblsp of white wine vinegar
100ml of olive oil

Peel the pears and core them, poach in the red wine, sugar and cinnamon until they are just cooked and have taken on a deep red colour.
Now make the dressing by combining the honey, mustard and vinegar in a bowl, whisk in the olive oil slowly until it comes together.
To bring the salad together slice the pears in six length ways, crumble the cheese and arrange on a plate with the spinach and the walnuts, drizzle the dressing over the salad and enjoy..

Monday, 14 November 2011

Simple Fish Pie

There is nothing like a fish pie to warm the cockles of the heart on a winters evening and this is a simple recipe for you to follow, served with a nice glass of white some salad and crusty bread, you will be in sea food heaven
Serves 6-8

1.1kg fillets of cod, haddock, ling, salmon, Pollock as a mixture. Use up to 225g of un-dyed smoked haddock.
20 mussels
Salt and white pepper
BĂ©chamel Sauce made with full fat milk
1 onion
25g butter
225g of button mushrooms sliced finely
600ml of milk
Roux made with 25g butter and 25g plain flour
Bay leaf
2 tablespoons of chopped parsley
3 tablespoon of chopped tarragon
900 g champ potato
Grated parmesan cheese

Cut the fish in 1inch cubes after carefully removing the skin and any bones, season with salt and white pepper. Wash the mussels and remove the beards. Put them in a shallow pan with a splash of white wine, cover and cook until the shells open, 3-4 minutes and cool.
Chop the onion finely and sweat in the butter, do not colour. Remove to a bowl, in the same saucepan increase the heat and sauté the mushrooms season with salt and pepper and add to the onions. Put the fish in a large pot and cover with the milk and bay leaf, simmer gently until the fish is just cooked, no more than 2 minutes. Remove the fish with a slotted spoon. Bring the liquid to the boil and thicken with the roux, add the parsley, tarragon, mushrooms, fish and mussels. Taste and correct the seasoning. Spoon into one large dish or 6-8 smaller dishes and pipe the champ potato on top. Let the pies go cold. They can be frozen at this stage if you are not going to eat them.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Simple tips for cooking and preparing fish...

Fish cookery is simple, it really is.
The scaling, gutting and all the messy jobs are done by your fishmonger, so you should not have to worry about anything but the cooking.
Fish is forgiving; it will not go from undercooked to overcooked at a blink of an eye. It will wait in a warm place for a few minutes while you finish your sauce or vegetables; but it does not like being left under a hot grill for two long.
Fish like cod, hake and haddock, with soft large flakes is better roasted or baked, the less you mess around with it the better, it will break up if over handled.
Firmer fish like monkfish, turbot, brill, mackerel and tuna are more robust and stand up to a bit of handling and a fierce grilling.
Try and use the oven when cooking fish. I almost always start cooking fish in a pan but once it has become golden brown on one side I turn it over and pop it into a pre heated oven.
Fillets of Haddock, Cod, Pollock, Turbot, Brill and John Dory can be browned in a pan first. Heat some ground nut oil until smoking hot (a cold pan will cause the fish to stick). Put the fish in the pan, cook for 4-5 minutes, then turn it over when it is nicely coloured. Put the pan in the oven or transfer the fish to a roasting tray and finish it off in the hot oven. This method is used by almost all chefs and in my opinion it produces the best results. And it is simple once you get the knack of it.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Warm winter salad of pickled beetroot, artichoke, quinoa, spinach, orange segments and honey dressing

This is a simple winter salad which should be eaten while the different components are hot. The quinoa used is a so called modern super food; however the Inca people of 5000 years ago were eating this grain to the benefit of their health.

Serves 6
200g of quinoa
3 medium beetroot
12 artichokes
500g of baby spinach
1 lemon
2 oranges
100ml of good olive oil
25ml of white wine vinegar
1 tblsp of Dijon mustard
2tblsp of honey
Salt and pepper

Put the quinoa in a saucepan with plenty of water, bring it to the boil and simmer for 8 minutes. Drain in a fine sieve, rinse under cold water and leave to dry.
Wash the beetroot and season with salt and pepper and wrap in tinfoil, bake in a hot oven for 40 minutes or until the beetroot is cooked.
Peel the artichokes and put into lemon water to stop them from oxidising, cook for five minutes in boiling salted water, set aside.
Peel the orange with a knife removing all the pith and segment it, set these aside. Now make the dressing by whisking the vinegar with the mustard and honey, pour in the olive oil very slowly until the dressing comes together.
Now peel the warm beetroot and cut into cubes, slice the artichokes and assemble on a plate with the orange segments, crumble the quinoa over this and drizzle with the dressing, eat at once…

Tuesday, 8 November 2011


Alice Waters, the famous American Chef wrote in her book about vegetables that, ‘’The finest food is produced and grown in ways that are ecologically sound. We try to make decisions about cooking and eating that support the kind of agriculture that takes care of the land, land we hold in trust for future generations.’’
This sums up cooking for me, the principal of sourcing the best food you can afford, that has been grown locally by local farmers who care about their land and the job of work they do. And we are so lucky to be living in Ireland; to me this is a country of pure land, pure water and pure food.
We have come a long way since the humble spud and the odd bit of cabbage that was the only vegetables we might see on a dining table. Today people are growing their own vegetables and always on the lookout for something new and exciting to plant. Supermarkets have tapped into this but unfortunately most of these are importing most of what they sell from the far corners of the globe.
Now more than ever we need to source locally produced food that is in season. It will cost less, be a lot kinder to the environment, support local farmers and the most important thing of all it will taste fantastic with the minimal effort in cooking..

Monday, 7 November 2011

Marinade Comeragh Mountain Lamb kebabs with Tzatziki

This dish is simple to prepare, tastes fantastic and can be eaten as a starter or a main course. I use award winning Willies Drohan’s lamb from the Comeragh Mountains in west Waterford. His sheep roam wild on the Mountain and feed on wild heathers, grasses, herbs, wild flowers and drink natural spring water, all free from chemicals and pesticides.
For ten skewers you will need;
500g of diced Lamb
15ml of soya sauce, has to be Kikkoman soya
1tsp of roasted and crushed cumin seed
1tsp of roasted and crushed coriander seed
Juice of half a lemon
1 tblsp of fresh mint chopped
2tsp of local honey
1 tblsp of good olive oil

Place the diced lamb in a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. This must marinade overnight so that the meat will take on the flavours. If using bamboo skewers soak them in water for at least an hour before treading the meat onto them. Cook on a hot bbq or a griddle pan for about four minutes. Serve the skewers homemade Tzatziki.

A beautiful quote from Elizabeth David book ‘spices, salt and aromatics in the English Kitchen’ really explains the cooking technique for this recipe. ‘’ based on the craze for the so called barbecue, which hit the British Isles in the late fifties, a whole new tradition of English grill-cookery is now in the making. It’s most elementary and most delicious manifestation is kebab cookery. This provides something for everybody. No mystique is attached to it. It is simple spit-roasting in miniature. Tender meat and the correct skewers are basic essentials, the rest is a question of practice with the grill’’

Greek Tzatziki

This is a Greek speciality and is delicious with grilled Lamb or roasted Monk fish. It is simple to put together and will last for a few days in a fridge. Use Greek yogurt for this because it is made with sheep’s milk and is beautifully thick and creamy.

1 cucumber, peeled and diced into small pieces
2 cloves of garlic crushed
Juice of half a lemon
425ml of Greek yogurt
2 tblsp of chopped mint
Salt, sugar and pepper to taste

Put the cucumber into a sieve, sprinkle with a little salt and allow to drain for 20 minutes. Dry the cucumber on kitchen paper put into a bowl and mix with all the other ingredients. Stir well and season to taste. That’s it……

Friday, 4 November 2011

Individual venison wellington........

Individual Venison Wellington with spinach, port and redcurrants

This is a beautiful dish and will impress whoever you serve it to; it takes a little time to prepare but cooks quickly. So don’t be put off by the recipe, just go for it...
The one thing to remember while using Venison is that it must be well hung, by this I mean, at least two weeks for a haunch and one week for a loin. This tenderises the meat making it easy to eat and giving it flavour.

7oz or 200g of loin of venison per person
1tblsp of olive oil
35g of good Irish butter
225g of button mushrooms, chopped as finely as possible
Puff pastry (good quality pastry can be bought, so take advantage of it)
1 egg, beaten with 1 tblsp of milk
Good quality black pudding, diced into small cubes
Salt and pepper

First season the venison pieces with salt and pepper and seal in a very hot pan until you get some colour on the meat on all sides. Leave aside to cool
Next make your mushroom stuffing by cooking the finely chopped mushrooms in the butter very quickly, add the chopped garlic, thyme and black pudding that has been diced into small cubes and cook out until all the liquid has evaporated, again let cool and set aside.
Now roll out the puff pastry a little bit and put a teaspoon of stuffing on top, place a piece of venison on this and add more stuffing, carefully wrap this up and egg wash the pastry to seal it. Turn it over and you should have a nice parcel. Again egg wash and leave to rest in a fridge for half an hour. Cook for 8 minutes in a very hot oven at 200 Celsius. Serve it on buttered spinach and a little sauce. Fantastic…

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Couscous, dates, almonds and mint......

Couscous is so easy to prepare and is a great store cupboard ingredient that can be whipped up at the last minute. This recipe uses dates but apricots or raisins can be used instead.
For 6 people, put 500g of medium ground couscous in a bowl, add three tablespoons of olive oil, a good pinch of salt and a little white pepper, rub this in until the oil coats the grains.
Now gradually add 600ml of blood warm water. Leave it stand for ten minutes for the couscous to absorb the water. Break it up until nice and fluffy, that’s it, now all you have to do is add your other ingredients.
75g of chopped and stoned dates
4 tblsp of olive oil
2 large cloves of garlic chopped finely
75g of blanched almonds
2 tblsp of chopped mint
2 tblsp of chopped parsley
Juice and zest of two lemons
Salt and pepper

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Game On.....

Game in season

Not so long ago Irish people included a lot of game in their diet, it connected the city folk with the farming community in many ways. However during the last thirty years this has changed with intensive farming and cheep food. People started to eat a lot of bland chicken, beef, farmed fish and lamb. We almost turned our nose up at wild organic meat that did not come under the control of the multi nationals.
In the last few years this has changed and a lot of people are going back to the old ways of cooking and looking for the tastes of our fore fathers. Books have been written on how to cook Game and Chef’s are including more of it on their menus.
So this is an exciting time of year for a Chef, menu’s change to reflect the season, and we see the likes of Venison, Mallard, Pigeon, Grouse, Pheasant and Partridge all come to the fore. Thanks to good cooks and game dealers this fantastic natural food is becoming more popular.
The most important thing to remember while cooking game is not to overcook it; this dries it out and leaves it tasteless. Another good tip is not to overhang game birds, a day or two for a pheasant is plenty.
In my opinion the less you do to game the better it is, cook it simply with some seasonal vegetables and a little sauce and you have food fit for a King.