Archive | Ireland

Recipe | Kind of revithada with chicken

A roast by any other name…

As expected my latest job was a total fast, furious and fun weekend. Having flown across the Irish sea ( I will never be persuaded to travel on it) I headed down to county Carlow.  I was to cook for a mass clan gathering to celebrate their chiefs 70th birthday.   As soon as I entered the house I could tell this crowd was ready to party. Thoughtful touches of welcome packs for the guests sat waiting in each of the bedrooms, giant balloons floated around downstairs, bright banners had been strung up, big bunches of daffodils had been placed on every ledge, there were enough candles to light up the entire country and a bottle or two of wine sat ready waiting to be opened.

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Recipe | Hunters Delight

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An accent waiting to happen.

I just can’t help myself. Whenever I hear an accent I naturally seem to try and copy it. Last week I was in Dublin giving a cookery class and whipping up a birthday supper for a group of friends and family. Having spent a fair bit of time in an around Dublin (and having spent much of my childhood larking around on the stage) I found myself all too quickly slipping back into the lyrical accent and starting to use numerous fun expressions the Irish are so fond of.  This of course is fine except I find the Irish accent (or my version of one) particularly sticks with me for a couple of weeks after exposure so when I returned home my sister, who has some training in sociolinguistics, instantly picked up that I had been in Ireland. Though in a way I was pleased, as at least she didn’t ask from the way I spoke if I had just returned from Wales

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The cookery class was for a group of 10 female friends who were all rather experienced in the kitchen and were mostly looking for new inspiration. Throughout the day we whizzed up many dishes and talked through various techniques. This was in-between everyone chipping in with stories and catching up on news. I had forgotten how many conversations begin with,

“ You know your man….” And then proceed really speedily with the story.

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Of course if you don’t know whom ‘ your man’ is referring to, one can feel rather lost. Also if there are about 6 stories about various “man’s “ going on, pretty much simultaneously, you can feel completely bewildered, as I did about half way through the day. However we were all having a good time and the cooking was going ‘grand’ so I decided not to worry.

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The birthday dinner, which was the take place in the same kitchen, was to be a relaxed affair. Canapés and cocktails to start then a sharing main course and dessert to finish. The cocktail, this postcards recipe, is my current favourite and I totally urge you to give it a go, especially as we swing into the festive party season.

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No sooner though had I felt myself getting back into the Dublin vibe it was time to pack my bags, hop back across the Irish Sea and begin the journey north to Perthshire.

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This week

Every home should have: a boiling water tap.

Times ‘T’anks a million’s “ was said : a million

Candles blown out: too discreet to say.

I’m reading: I am Malala

Creatures I have been compared to: an octopus and a panther (!?).

 

Hunters delight – Mezcal, gin hibiscus, lime and fizz cocktail

A friend who has just returned form Mexico bearing gifts is the inspiration for this new party piece. Mezcal is similar to tequila but has a wonderful smoky flavour. The hibiscus flowers are mostly used to make lemonade out there but as she handed them to me with a twinkle in her eye she suggested I would probably think of something else to do with them…

300ml Mezcal or tequila chilled

300ml Gin chilled

1 x bottle Prosecco or cava chilled

1 small handful of dried Hibiscus flowers

300g White Sugar

200ml water

5 x Limes, zest and juice. Plus 6 thin round slices.

Serve 6 coups (or 2 with guaranteed top ups)

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In a pan heat the sugar, water, the lime zest and hibiscus flowers, bring to a simmer and cook for 5 mins. Leave to cool then strain (keep the flowers for decoration) and pop in the fridge till chilled. Once cool stir in the lime juice.

To serve mix equal parts gin, mescal and the lime/hibiscus syrup and fill the coups 1/3 full.

Top with prosecco and decorate with a hibiscus flower and slice of lime.

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Next postcard from Perth’s weekend pheasant shoot..

 

 

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Recipe | Rice crispy Cakes with salted chocolate

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The sweet life…

Having spent the last few days helping a family prepare for the excitement of Easter I don’t mind saying I have learnt a thing or two.

 – Children + unrestricted access to  chocolate = A big mess

 – You can take the Chocolate out of the kitchen…but the kids will still find it

 – Rice crispies and longhaired dogs don’t mix.

These helpful lessons came about as, having finished my original assignment to do the essential weekend shop e.g. milk , fruit, tonic(lots) and prepare some meals that were suitable for reheating over the Easter weekend, I had some time spare. My client suggested I may like to do some baking with the kids, something chocolaty for Easter perhaps?

“Can we make our own Easter eggs?!” says child 1 (aged 4)

Tempering chocolate with a 4 year old was certainly not in my training manual but not wanting to crush their young ambition and generally enjoying cooking with kids I persuaded them that chocolate covered rice crispy cakes would be just as good, plus we had the ingredients to hand.

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Now, I am no Mary Poppins, I have no formal training in the art of junior crowd control but how hard can making some rice crispy cakes be with 5 under 6 year olds be?

Sadly I think the family dog may have been more successful in keeping things under control, though on the plus side they all seemed to have a great time (apart from the house keeper who had to be drafted in and help clean up the mess).

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Rice crispies flew ALL over the kitchen, toffees disappeared every time I turned my back and tiny chocolate handprints appeared on most surfaces. Slightly mortified at the chaos we had caused I was greatly relieved when the mother swooped in, delighted they were having such fun and then took them out to the garden to hose them down (I made that last bit up but I imagine it would have been the quickest method of cleaning them up).

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The idea of including rice crispy cakes in my blog didn’t impress me at first, extremely simple to whip up and seen as often rain in the weather report. They are not haute cuisine.

BUT (and it’s a big one) on reflexion how many really good ones do you eat? Cafes, including the classy ones, often make them too hard and not to sound too harsh but school fetés and kids parties often dish up a crumbly mess.

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So this postcard recipe gives you the perfect rice crispy cake with a salted chocolate topping , excellent if you want to be the envy of the school bake or take some treats to work (yes I saw you raid the cupboard Mr X).

 Rice Crispy Cakes with salted chocolate

 Makes about 20

150g chewy toffee

150g marshmallows

150g butter

175g fresh rice crispies

200g milk chocolate

50g white chocolate

a sprinkle of good sea salt

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You will need a tray approx. 16 by 20 cm by 2.3 cm deep lined with baking paper.

 

Place the toffee, marshmallow and butter in a large saucepan (trying not to eat any)

Slowly bring to the boil, giving it the occasional whisk.

Once fully melted take off the heat and add the rice crispies. Stir well

Pour into the tin leave to set a little (5 mins) then flatten, you can use a potato masher or another tin.

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Leave to cool for about 15 mins.

Meanwhile melt the chocolates in separate bain maries (bowls set over simmering water).

Pour the melted milk chocolate over the rice crispy mix and spread evenly.

Then in Jackson Pollock style flick over the melted white chocolate (you can drag a wooden kebab stick in lines across the chocolate to create more swirls).

Sprinkle over a pinch of sea salt and leave to set before cutting into pieces – we used this time to pick the rice crispies out of the dog.

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Note

This keeps for about a week if you haven’t eaten it all by then

This is definitely a treat and due to its revolting high sugar and fat content (plus the added salt) I wouldn’t recommend it making a regular appearance in their diet.

 

Next I am heading to Lanarkshire for Easter.

 

 

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Recipe |Scallops, fino and butter with blood orange and chicory salad

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You put your left foot in…..

Left foot, swiftly followed by right foot went onto the plane with moments to spare until they shut the doors and we were zipping along the runway to head to Dublin.

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I was off to cook for a dinner party. The hosts, having only recently moved in, were practically unpacking the china and glasswear as fast as we could use it. The menu for the evening read as follows

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Nibbles

Smoked Irish salmon on crisp bread with sourcream

Chorizo cooked in cider, garlic and parsley

 Starter

Pan fried scallop with fino sherry and butter, chicory, blood orange and parsley salad

 Main

Rare roast fillet of beef with saffron bay potatoes and braised chard

 Dessert

Dark chocolate mouse, hokey pokey, nutmeg crisps and poaches pear in brandy.

 

Knowing it would be a big night (the Irish really do know how to party)! I had booked myself on a late flight the following day to the west country where I was to prepare another dinner party, this one in celebration of Robert Burns night.

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The guests were all donning garments of tartan, except one who had mis interpreted my Scottish and thought I said Rabbi Burns (I clearly need to work on my accents).

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There was whisky sours , poetry, song, wild wielding of knives by the host to cut the “great chieftan o’ the puddin’ race ”  (much to the alarm of the guest to his left), explanations of how they make haggis (much to the alarm of the vegetarian guest), and an impressively energetic ceilidh (much to the alarm of the carpet).

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Photo left to right  – caviar and egg, haggis neeps and tatties, vanilla ice cream, turnip sorbet I mean orange and chestnut chocolate cream.

With a playful approach to the 3 courses, the meal was well received although I cant help but feel the best bit is always the next day with haggis potato cakes, fried eggs with a splurge of Tommie K.

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Next …

Fun had, carpet straightened and sporrans back in their boxes I am now heading north into the blizzards of Perthshire for the final pheasant shoot of this season

 

This week

London square meal has named me blogger of the week (thank you thank you!)

https://www.facebook.com/squaremeal.uk

Ive made enough marmalade to feed all of dorset for breakfast every day…till 2017.

Every home should have a copy of ‘the swinging sporran’

Pan fried scallops with fino sherry, blood orange, butter and bitter leaves.

Serves 4 as a starter

4 large scallops

100ml fino sherry

100g butter

 

1 head of chicory

1 blood orange peeled and sliced into small segments..

1 tbs roughly chopped parsley

 

1 tsp. sherry vinegar

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Chicory and orange salad

Mix the sherry vinegar and 2 tsp. olive oil in a bowl.

Separate the leaves if the chicory then toss them through the dressing.

Mix the orange and parsley together.

Arrange the dressed chicory and orange on a serving plate while you cook the scallops.

 

Cooking the scallops

Season the scallops with a pinch of salt

Place a frying pan on a high heat and add the 1 tbs olive oil.

Sear the scallops both sides for about 30 seconds   – they should get a great caramelised brown colour.

Add the fino sherry and butter and shimmy the pan to amalgamate the sauce.

Season with pepper.

Serve straight away with the chicory salad, ladling the fino sauce over the oranges and scallops.

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Recipe |Boxty

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In Dublin’s fair city, there is something delicious for breakfast….

 

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So the conversation went a little like this…..

Me: “Good morning, would you like a fresh juice?”

Guest 1: “What’s in it?”

Me: “Apple, carrot, cabbage, ginger and spinach.”

Guest 1; “CABBAGE?!”

 

Guest 1 went a bit green, it had been a big night…

 

Starter

Lobster Thermidor

Main

Beef Three rib roast  with mashed potato and braised cavolo nero

Dessert

Steamed treacle pudding with clotted cream

Not forgetting the cocktails, much good claret and to finish some round belly glasses filled with armagnac.  He reached for the coffee and sat down quietly.

 

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Then in limped Guest 2

Me: “Fresh Juice?”

Guest 2: “ Sure” takes a big gulp “Jesus! Whats in it? That’s delicious”!

Me, “erm…apple and ginger mostly”

 

Eventually all 12 of the guests, including no. 1 tried the juice and agreed it was surprisingly tasty ( for cabbage juice) and not at all a bad way to recuperate.

 

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Juicing is a great way to get a vitamin fix. It should not replace eating whole fruits and vegetables, as it does not give you much fibre. It is also best drunk soon after making and on an empty stomach. Another advantage of having a juicer is that it’s a great way to use up odd bits of fruit and veg or clear out the fridge before going away.

 

Here are a few juices I whizzed up that weekend for the guests.

 

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Spinach, watercress, cucumber and apple, White cabbage, pear, celery and lemon, Carrot, apple and ginger.

There was another job a few years ago in Ibiza when I was doing heaps of juicing for a group of health conscious and beautifully toned women.  The sun was shining and they were down by the pool, I took a tray of watermelon, lime and strawberry juices out to them with ice and mint sprigs.

One of them took a sip and said

“mmm…you know what would be delicious in this”?

“?”

“Vodka”

 

Back to Ireland, and this postcard’s real recipe, Boxty.

 

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A light and fluffy Irish potato pancake that is SO good smothered in butter for breakfast and was just made for accompanying poached eggs and bacon.  It is also a most welcome sight after a heavy night if green juice is really not your thing.

 

Boxty 

Makes 4 

100g mashed potato (use a floury type like Desiree, Rooster, King Edward or Maris Piper, )

100g raw potato finely grated then squeezed to get rid of as much juice as possible.

50g plain flour 

1 egg

1/2 tsp bicarb

1/2 tsp baking powder

100g buttermilk ( or milk mixed half and half with yogurt) 

salt / pepper/ drizzle  veg oil

50g – 75 g of  butter 

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1)In a mixing bowl whisk the mashed potato, egg and buttermilk till combined.

2)Mix the flour with the bicarb and baking powder then whisk into the egg mix.

3)Stir in the grated potato and season with salt and pepper

4)On a medium to high heat fry blobs of the potato batter ( you only need a drizzle of vegetable oil).  It should take about two minutes on each side.

5)Once cooked take out the pan and smear on some butter

Really delicious when served with poached eggs and crispy bacon. 

 

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Next I am off to cook in the Caribbean…

 

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RECIPE | IRISH SODA BREAD

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The Emerald Isle

I am extremely fond of Irish Soda bread.  Firstly because it tastes so good with butter, and secondly because it saved my arms from looking like the incredible hulks.

Back in my restaurant days I had to make a lot of bread.  I would go to work earlier and earlier to keep up with the demand. I kept telling myself all that kneading was like a free Pilates class sculpting my arms but it is hard to describe the joy after one of my customers  (a retired Vicar) offered to bring his Irish wife in to teach me to make soda bread.   Ten minutes in from them arriving for my master class the loaf was already in the oven and we were sipping our second cup of tea.

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Irish Soda Bread

In a bowl whisk together;

1 cup self raising flour,
1 cup wholemeal  flour,
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of Soda,
1/2 teaspoon of fine salt

then mix in with a wooden spoon 1 cup of buttermilk.

Use your hands to bring together into a loaf shape (  a round is traditional with a cross slashed into the top)

Bake for 30 minutes at 180 c in a fan assisted oven, its done when you tap the bottom and it sounds hollow. 

 

I frequently use this recipe and was not aware of any variations until I was on a recent job in Dublin. I was asked to make afternoon tea for some of the clients relatives who were to pop by later that day. In amongst the cheese scones, coffee eclairs and pots of Barry’s tea I decided to add the Irish Soda bread and serve it with horseradish butter, smoked salmon and lemon wedges, it was surely going to be a hit at this gathering….

Indeed the guests devoured it and as I was clearing away the empty platter and being complemented on the bread recipe the matriarch of the family chipped in that of course she always rolled her soda bread in oats before baking it. That sounds lovely, I thought, and then someone else said they always put caraway seeds in…again I thought that sounds delicious. My favorite idea however was had I tried making it with “the black stuff” …….Guinness, now you’re talking!

Guinness Soda Bread rolled in Oats with Smoked Salmon and Horseradish Butter

Makes 1 small loaf

I use a measuring jug and do it all by volume.

1/2 pint self raising flour
1/2 pint wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoon brown sugar

Tip all these dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and whisk to combine.

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Pour in 1/4 pint of Guinness and 1/4 pint buttermilk.  Bring together into a round loaf, scatter some rolled oats onto a baking tray and roll the bread in them until it is coated all over.  Slash the top with a cross ( legends dictates this lets the evil spirits out  – I think it looks good) and bake for 35 minutes in a preheated 175 c fan assisted oven.

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Cool on a rack then slice, slather it in horseradish butter ( I mix 3 tbsp soft butter with 2 tsp horseradish sauce)   and serve with smoked salmon and lemon wedges.

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Job done! My bags are packed and next I am crossing the Irish Sea and am off to the west country …..

 

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