Friday, December 24, 2010

One last recipe and Seasons Greetings

The shopping is done and the children have left out some Tunisian Orange cake and a glass of milk for Santa.
I love this night in all its special silence and the excited anticipation of the children coming out in their every action.  The snow lies frozen to the ground in Dublin and thankfully the house is warm and cosy.  All is quiet, just like it should be.

I am here simply because I realised that I did not give you the red cabbage recipe as promised.
I am completely sure that all you out there cooking the Christmas dinner tomorrow will be well prepared already and in no need of another recipe, but I said I will give it to you so here it is.

It is very loosely based on Delia Smiths Red Cabbage and Apple but without the exact amount of ingredients and a good dollop of something sweet.

1 small red cabbage, finely shredded
3 small onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 bramley cooking apples, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
3 wine vinegar
3 tblsps brown sugar
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
10g butter salt and pepper to taste

In a large casserole dish, place one layer of red cabbage and season with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle with onion, garlic and apple and then a little of the spices and brown sugar.  Follow with another layer of red cabbage, seasoned and then another layer of onion, apple, garlic and spices.  Continue until it is all used up.
Add the vinegar and if you have some, a dash of port.

Dot the top with butter and place the lid on.
Place in the oven for 21/2 to 3 hours.  At half hourly intervals, remove the dish and stir the ingredients gently to ensure that everything is combined.

When it is fully cooked, take off the heat and taste it.  Delia Smith recommends leaving it as is at this point, but I feel that it tastes a little bitter.  At this point I usually add 2 tblsps of blackcurrant jelly but redcurrant jelly, cranberry sauce or another sweet jam would also do.  Sweeten to your own taste.

This is a delicious accompaniment to turkey but also pork, duck or some meaty sausages.

So go forth and eat all the hand made delights you have been given.
Wishing you all a very happy Christmas and peaceful New Year.

WheelerandCompany will be off line for a well earned break until the 8th January 2011
and remember to help with the washing up!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Holidays in Glenariff

Christmas in Bethlehem (ok it's Glenariff)

I am sorry for the unexplained absence and I am sure you are all sick with worry that I have been snowed in or stranded and having to sleep in an international travel hub in Europe somewhere , but no, I have been safely tucked up in beautiful Glenariff suffering from a heavy cold and being well looked after by my parents.  I have cooked precisely nothing for a week with the minor exception of my red cabbage for my Christmas dinner.  Granny Rosie excelled herself once again with Boeuf Bourgignon, fish pie, butternut squash risotto, Christmas cake, meringues, wine, brandy and rather a lot of hot port with lemon and cloves.  It was a week of pure laziness in front of the fire, and I argue, was well needed.  The snow lay soft and deep all over the Glen which prompted my sister and I to hunt out some old turf bags (no fancy sleighs here) and head for the brays for some high speed fun and to admire the beauty of it all.
You can see the Mull of Kintyre 21 miles across the sea
 Granny Rosie is taking orders for cute cable-knit children's beanies!
I love wrapping
I picked up my turkey and ham from Donal Kearney's this morning!
The view from Granny Rosie's new top window - fantastic
Avoid the Scenic Route in this weather
Proof of the temperature, although an incorrect date!
The M1 travelling south today, to be avoided at all costs

I will post up the red cabbage and apple recipe tomorrow as we have only just arrived back to Dublin and the house is freezing - it actually painful to write and the truth of it is I may need another hot port. 
It took about 3 hours to slow cook the cabbage last last night and it filled the whole house with the smell of vinegar, cloves and nutmeg ... it is mouth-wateringly delicious and I am looking forward to it as an accompaniment to our Christmas day  turkey but also perhaps some pork or duck before then.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cranberry Sauce and a lovely pan-fried duck breast

I am writing this evening to extol the virtues of home-made cranberry sauce and how delicious that it can be with a pan fried duck breast.  I have just about finished it, except for some midnight pickings and it was absolutely delicious in every way.

Make you own home-made cranberry sauce to accompany your goose, duck or turkey next week, you will not be disappointed and you will probably never buy a jar again! 

I used the following, to serve 6:

300g fresh cranberries
5 tblsps orange or clementine juice
2 tblsps Port
125g golden caster sugar
Place the cranberries, juice and port into a saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer for about 5 minutes - you will hear the cranberries pop.  Take off the heat, add the sugar and stir well to ensure that the sugar has fully melted.  Serve immediately warm or cold or place in the fridge where it will keep for about 14 days.

Today I sent a jar to my in-laws in Cork along with a Christmas Pudding so that we can be there in some part for their Christmas dinner. 
Tonight I used the remainder in a cranberry and ginger sauce to serve with a pan-fried duck breast.  It was delicious and I would recommend that if you cook duck as rarely as I, to do it more often, I know I will after this evening.

For the ginger and garlic sauce:

grate 1 garlic clove finely
grate the same amount in ginger
8 tblsps red wine vinegar
50g golden caster sugar
100g fresh cranberry sauce (as above)

Place the garlic, ginger, sugar and vinegar in a small saucepan and simmer until the liquid reduces by about half.  Your house will smell very strongly of vinegar and do not sniff it closely!  When the liquid has reduced, add the cranberry sauce and stir well to combine.  This is now ready to serve but set aside until just about ready to serve the duck.

To cook the duck breasts:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees

Score the skin of the each duck breast and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and sea salt.
Heat an oven-proof frying pan to a high-ish heat on the hob and place the breasts pan-side down. 
Cook for approximately 15 minutes until they no longer stick to the pan and the skin has taken on a golden brown colour.

Drain the excess fat in the pan off and reserve.

Pour in 1 wine glass full of cognac around the breasts and place in the oven, cooking for a further 10-15 minutes. 
I like it served with a crispy skin and a slightly pink middle, some like it left a little longer to ensure that there is no pink.  I would advise taking it out of the oven and cutting into one breast to see how it is done after about 12 minutes - replace if you would like it a little better cooked.
I sliced some left over cooked potatoes and fried them in the excess duck fat and served this with warmed cranberry and ginger sauce. 
It was all completely delicious and quite perfect for a dinner party, even if ti was only the two of us. 
The cranberry sauce tastes home-made and nothing like anything you will buy - it is quick, easy and well worth making yourself to serve with your turkey or any gamey bird or terrine.

And while I am here, have a look at my really lovely new napkins which arrived today.  I am thrilled that a parcel from South Africa arrives to little old me in Dublin just filled with goodies from Skinny laMinx.  Watch out for these in all my future blog posts!

Monday, December 13, 2010

If you don't like Christmas Pudding ... try this

When I was a little girl I used to ask my Dada what he would like for Christmas. His reply was always the same, he asked for peace and quiet, every year without fail. And do you know what, I have finally realised what he meant, 30 odd years later!
My two boys are wonderful, full of life and energy and on some days louder then a flock of seagulls at the back of an abundantly stocked fishing boat.  It is rare that there is a quiet five minutes in our house during the hours of 7am and 8pm with a constant chattering, shrieking, laughing, and the odd bout of crying. I am not complaining in the slightest as some people would give anything to fill their homes with such a sound, but it really does get to me sometimes. I spent the weekend not in tip-top condition, feeling like I have been fighting something invisible. Part of me shrunk away from the world and blocked out the rush that we all seem to be in, going where, will someone tell me?

I did stray out on Saturday briefly to visit a toy store (myself and a million others it seems) and again on Sunday to Farmleigh House to a food market. While the market was nothing really to write home about, (everyone seemed to be selling and eating hot dogs) I did manage to seek out a really nice pie from people called PieIrish. However there were free horse and cart rides, carol singing and a large amount of Christmas cheer to help things along.

My rescue came on Sunday afternoon when our Superhero friend stepped in looking for a certain two boys to help cut out gingerbread decorations. This allowed me a blissfull walk through St Anne's Park and then along the beach to Bull Island where there was a peaceful silence except for the cold breeze blowing in from the east.  This well needed break in the fresh air has given me the appetite for life for another few weeks.

I found some really sweet, quite delicious apples from Tipperary and I also discovered a new French bakery on Moore Street called Paris Bakery.  It looks really interesting and a further investigation of its wares is required but I did come away with a great Brioche. So these two purchases led to a super pudding which I think would be a great alternative for those who do not like Christmas pudding. It is rich and delicious without being too heavy. It is a regular bread and butter pudding except that I added a few layers of cinnamon buttered apples and toasted almonds, you could also add raisins or chopped dates perhaps.  You could also leave all the added extras if you want a plaing bread and butter pudding.

You will need, to serve 4:
3/4 of a white loaf - I used a brioche from the Paris bakery (Pannetone is also good)
2 cox's pippin apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 tsp ground cinnamon
25g butter, plus a little extra to grease the dish and to butter the bread slices
300ml whole fat milk
300ml double cream
4 eggs
150g golden caster sugar, plus extra for the top
2 tsp vanilla extract
100g flaked almonds

Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the cinnamon. Add the apple slices and toss the pieces around to ensure that they are well coated.
Cut the crusts of the bread you are using, although if you are using a Pannetone, I would leave them on. I did cut them off the brioche, which in hindsight was unnecessary. Butter each slice on Now place a layer of bread, buttered side up into the buttered oven proof dish. Next add a layer of apple, a layer of bread and a layer of apple, finishing if you can with as much bread as possible on the top.

Now make the custard.
In a large bowl, whisk by hand, 4 eggs with the sugar and the vanilla extract.
Place the milk and cream into a saucepan and heat until just under boiling point. You will know when it forms a slight skin on top and you can see the liquid just starting to agitate underneath the skin.
Very slowly, pour the hot liquid into the egg and sugar mix, whisking the mix slowly with one hand as you pour.

Then gently ladle the creamy liquid over the bread allowing a little time between each ladleful to soak fully into the bread. Continue until all is absorbed or there is physically no room for more.

Sprinkle the flaked almonds generously over the top, cover with cling film and place in the fridge until needed. This can be prepared a day ahead and simply baked in the oven when needed.
To cook, preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Place the oven-proof dish into a larger roasting tray and pour boiling water about half way up its side. Cook for about 45minutes to 1 hour. I had to introduce a foil top after about 35 minutes to prevent the almonds and bread from browning too much.

You can serve this with some custard or simply a little whipped cream.

This is a perfect prepare ahead non-traditional pudding for Christmas day with the cooking time fitting in perfectly with the serving of the main meal.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A day of this and that and these ... oh and this too

It has been a day of this...

and of these ...

but hold on, this also happened ...

OK so the first one is obvious, hot port, delicious and very necessary given the cold weather, the porridge and chocolate cookies, all 25 of them are now in cookie-heaven, but the last little delight, I think upon description it should be discreetly binned for sounding too disgusting to even contemplate eating, but no - I was wrong.  The first was so good, I made another and the second was so good I made another ... and it's all down to my three year old.  Asked what he would like for lunch today, he replied cucumber with egg.  So that we had.  Fine slices of peeled cucumber, topped with a fried egg and drizzled with green Tabasco (that was just me)  inside a warm blanket of Bretzel granary.  The best sandwich I have rustled up for a long, long time.  The crunch of the cold cucumber with the contrast of the warm soft egg and the kick of the Tabasco was inspired, tasteful and elegant(sort-of).
This evening we had a starter of green beans with cucumber, chilli and tarator.  I have student memories of tarator, the name sticking mostly in my head due to sounding more like an adhesive than something edible.  An Bulgarian architect friend of mine used to make a delicious cucumber and bean salad with what I thought was tzatziki but what in fact she called the dressing tarator.  She used to cook the green beans so that they were very soft, loosing their fresh green colour but taking on an deep almost sweet flavour.  I cooked these this evening so that they retained their bright green colour and had a little bite to them. 
Tarator is of Bulgarian or Turkish origin and is a cool dressing made with breadcrumbs, lemon juice, garlic, yogurt and nuts, either almonds or walnuts.  It is a perfect contrast to the thin slivers of chilli.

Green Beans, cucumber and feta with chilli and tarator

This will serve 2 as a supper dish:

For the tarator
1 slice crusty white bread soaked in a large drop of milk for 15 minutes
45g flaked or whole blanched almonds
1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
extra virgin olive oil
lemon juice to taste

Place the above in a small food processor and whizz until all ingredients are combined.  Taste and add more lemon juice, salt and pepper, adjusting the seasoning until you are content.  You can add water to thin it down to your desired consistency.  I like mine quite runny.

The salad
2 large handfuls green beans, topped
1/2 cucumber, peeled, central core removed and sliced longitudinally
100g feta cheese
1 red chilli, de-seeded and thinly sliced
a bunch coriander leaves
a squeeze of lemon juice
extra virgin olive oil

Cook the beans for about 5 minutes in plain boiling water(ie. no salt as this makes the beans tough).
Place these in a serving dish and toss with the cucumber, chilli, coriander, olive oil and feta.  Save some feta for the final topping and drizzle over the tarator.
Eat and enjoy the healthy greens with a little kick of chilli.  Mine was not very tidy in its presentation but you could serve this a small, dainty starter to maybe a chicken and preserved lemon recipe....