Monday, November 14, 2011

Roast Cauliflower and Garlic soup with pear chutney


Now that the sunshine has gone and we are back to having to put lights on during the day, I thought you might like a bowl of this bright delicious soup to warm you to your toes.  I also feel on deaths door today and am nursing heavy cold, partly inflicted by a weekend of party fun in Glenariff. and partly from not stopping for a few week! 
Fire on and a bowl of this delicious soup is exactly what the doctor ordered.

I love cauliflower and think that it is completely underrated, along with turnips and parsnips, they seem the lonely forgotten vegetables on our winter stalls.  So in support of cauliflower, you might like to try this or this or even this.
They are a member of the brassica family - turnips are the root from the species, cabbage, the leaves, and brocolli and cauliflower, the obvious flowers.
In this recipe, I roast the cauliflower along with the garlic as this intensifies the flavour and gives it a rich bold flavour but it is possible to just add it to the onion and stock and simmer gently until tender.


You will need:
  • 1 large head of cauliflower
  • 3 large cloves garlic, skin on
  • 10g butter
  • 2 medium yellow onions
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper
  • 500ml home made chicken stock
  • Preheat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade
  • Break the cauliflower into florets and place along with the garlic on a roasting tray.
  • Drizzle with a little olive oil and toss the florets around.
  • Place in the oven for 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, finely chop the onion and add to the butter in a medium sized saucepan.  Place over a medium heat and put the lid on, cooking until the onions are sweet and translucent.
  • Remove the cauliflower and garlic from the oven.  When the garlic has cooled slightly, squeeze out the middle from the skin and add it to the onion.  Add the cauliflower also.
  • Add the stock and the thyme sprigs.
  • Cook slowly on a medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes until the cauliflower is soft.
  • Take out the thyme sprigs and liquidise until you have a fine, velvety soup.

You can stir some finley grated hard cheese to this or perhaps a lump or two of gorgonzola.  I added a little pear chutney which I had in the fridge.  Made from conference pears(skin on) stewed for 10 mins in a little butter with apple chunks, raisins, 50ml of cider vinegar a cinnamon stick and some salt and pepper, this is  delicious, sweet and wintry.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Bramley Apple Tart (with a surprise for Fergus)


It has been over two weeks since I was last here because to be honest there has not been a lot of new or experimental cooking going on here.  The kitchen has been slightly neglected in part due to the Great British Bake-Off, Masterchef, a spot of book publishing, a lot of legal reading interspersed with play dates for the boys and generally trying to make some attempt at keeping everyone fed, the house in order the pile of washing from multiplying as is has been known to do.  Life is sometimes is like that here.

Today though, there was a pot of cauliflower soup in the hob simmering away gently, some spiced pear relish made and a rather good apple tart.  It being the season for apples, the markets are abound with lots of amazing varieties, so having purchased some nice Bramleys, the boys and I set to work.  It seemed like just the thing to do on a dark Autumnal day - light the fire and laze around in the smell of freshly baked apple pie.

I have fond childhood memories of apple tart, my mother making at least one a week.  I especially remember at this time of year she used to wrap up some coins in tin foil and bake them in the tart.  My little brother used to think that this was the most amazing thing in the world.

Most of my memories of him as a brother are pretty nasty and I will admit that my main aim as his (slightly) older sister was to do away with him.  After several unsuccessful attempts, including pushing him as a toddler through the stair banister three metres onto the hall floor beneath (he was winded but survived), I suppose I gave up and resigned myself to the unfair life of having to share my parents with another sibling.

So as a kind of apology for being the most evil sister in the world for a few years during the late 70's and early 80's and out of the many fond childhood memories that I do have of him,  we made apple tart with money in it, for Fergus.



Without my mother's tried and tested recipe to hand I decided to try out a recipe by Rachel Allen.  It was quite difficult to work with the pastry initially and had to refrigerate it several times but the end result was very good.  I also suffer from having a slightly over-hot and unbalanced oven so the edges got a little dark on half of it.  None the less, it was very good, with large chunks of sweet bramley apple in the middle with just a faint hint of clove.  Just watch your teeth on the money and be sure to warn anyone eating it!


You will need:
  • 175g butter, softened
  • 50g caster sugar ( I used exactly this and it was a little sweet and would use 40-45g in future)
  • 2 organic, free-range eggs
  • 250g plain flour
  • 4 large bramley apples, peeled and cored
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 large oven proof plate, lightly greased with butter.
  • Cream the butter and sugar together in an electric mixer until it is pale and fluffy.  
  • Add one egg and continue to beat.
  • Beat the second egg in a separate bowl, pour half of it into the butter/sugar mix and set the other half aside for glazing the pastry.
  • Stir in the flour to the butter/sugar mix and using a dough hook, combine until you have a soft dough.
  • Tip onto a lightly floured surface and knead a little before dividing in two.
  • Shape each into a flat round just bigger than your hand.
  • Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for an hour.
  • Lightly butter your tin/plate and place each piece of pastry on a floured surface.
  • Roll out the pastry so that the plate fits easily in the middle with a little overlap.
  • Place the bottom layer on the plate.
  • Quickly slice the apples into chunks and toss in the sugar.  Fill the pie.
  • Toss over the cloves, a sprinkling of cinnamon and the tin-foil clad monies.
  • Roll out the top layer and using your rolling pin, drape the top over the bumpy apple filling.
  • Press down the two layers to seal and brush the top with the remaining half beaten egg.
  • Cut out a little v-shape in the top to let out steam.
Bake in the oven at 180 degrees (Gas 4) for 45 minutes until golden and delicious.  Serve warm with freshly whipped cream or my husband's favourite, vanilla ice-cream.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Green Tomato Chutney


The impatient gardener, although to be fair, I should say the only gardener in the house (clearly not me) arrived in with over a kilo of tomatoes last week of varying sizes and colours, ranging from a sort of granny smith green through to a peach and a dark velvety red. 
To be honest the last thing I had time for was chutney making, however we were heading north for the weekend so that I could do this crazy thing, so actually the task of chutney making made my rest day not so tedious after all and it also took my mind off the impending pain.  
So with the green tomatoes in the boot with the cunning kit, off we set.

Now I am afraid that I did not very exact amounts which resulted in a lot of liquid which had to be sieved and reduced but the end result is a sticky, sweet and sour jammy chutney which would be great with some baked ham or cold chicken.  i have tailored the recipe in the hope that this will not happen to you, but there is plan b if you keep reading.


You will need for 6 x 200ml jars:
  • 1.2kg multi-coloured tomatoes, make sure there are some red ones
  • 400g onions, roughly chopped
  • 100g raisins
  • 300g light muscovado sugar
  • 1 small hot red chilli, chopped finely
  • pinch salt
  • 350g white wine vinegar
  • Cut the tomatoes in half and separate the green and orange from the ripe red ones. 
  • Set aside the red tomatoes and place everything into the pan with the green and orange tomatoes. 
  • Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and leave to simmer for an hour, giving the occasional stir to reduce the risk of the chutney sticking. 
  • After about half and hour, add the ripe red tomatoes and continue to simmer until sticky and reduced - this should take another half hour.  
Plan B
  • If it doesn't look like it is thickening and is as jammy as you might like,  remove the fruit out with a slotted spoon and place it in a clean bowl.  
  • Bring the remaining syrup up to the boil and let it reduce and thicken for five or ten minutes.
  • Then return the fruit to the jammy liquid and then spoon into sterilized jars and seal.
Enjoy with cold meats or I think that a tablespoon or two of this might be a good addition to a beef stew or a big bowl of chilli.  Enjoy and better luck next year with the gardening! 

Friday, September 30, 2011

Fig Tart


I made this delicious tart a few weeks ago.  It was slightly labour intensive as I was making a starter and main course on top of it all and was in such a hurry to serve and subsequently eat it, that I forgot to photograph it.  So I just had to make it again to share with you! 
Figs are in their second season at the minute although alas in Ireland, it doesn't make them any cheaper as any you see in the shops have been shipped from France and Italy - an expensive and tricky pursuit as they must be picked when perfectly ripe and transported immediately as they do not continue to ripen once they are picked.  So while elsewhere in Europe the market stalls are practically giving them away, in Dublin I am paying 1 euro a piece for a large ripe fig (although apparently Jack Roches on Meath Street has them for less than that).  I have about four figs in the garden which are still the same size and shade of green as the tomatoes - stay tuned for green tomato recipes!


This tart makes a lovely accompaniment to morning coffee or as a light dessert as it's not too creamy or heavy.  It especially appeals to me as a lover of figs and desserts which are not too sweet.

(from a recipe by Skye Gyngell)
Grease a 10" diameter shallow fluted flan tin with removable base.
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees

To make the Pastry base:
250g plain flour, sifted with extra to dust
125g unsalted butter, well chilled 
1 egg yolk
2 tblsps chilled water
  • In a large bowl, rub the butter into the flour until it is the consistency of coarse breadcrumbs.
  • Add the egg yolk and a little of the water until the pastry comes together.  Try not to use all the water as a damp pastry is harder to handle and will shrink more.
  • Bring the pastry together into a ball, wrap tightly in cling film and place in the fridge for 30minutes to rest.
  • Remove from the fridge and roll out (I used cling film below and above the pastry to roll out, see here).
  • Line the flan-tin, using the excess pastry to patch any holes or imperfections.
  • Place it in the fridge again for 30 minutes.
  • Remove from the fridge, line the base with parchment or tinfoil and baking beans.
  • Place the base into the oven and cook for 15 minutes.  Remove the parchment or tinfoil and beans and cook for a further 10 minutes or so until the base is light brown and cooked through.
  • Set aside and allow to cool completely. 
For the crème pâtissière:

320ml whole milk
3 free-range organic egg yolks
2-3 drops of good quality vanilla essence
3 tablespoons caster sugar
3 tablespoons of plain flour
15g chilled, cubed butter 

  • In a large bowl, mix the egg yolks, caster sugar, flour and vanilla essence - I use a hand held whisk to ensure all the ingredients are well combined. 
  • Warm the milk until you can just see steam starting to rise off it.
  • Take the milk off the heat and slowly add it to the sugar/flour etc. mixture in the bowl, whisking well while you are doing so.  When all the milk is incorporated, turn all the mixture back into the saucepan and place over a low heat.  Stir in a figure-of-eight pattern until the custard has thickened.
  • Immediately take off the heat and turn through a sieve to remove any lumps.
  • Using the hand-held whisk, beat in the butter until you have a smooth, sweet egg-yellow custard.
  • Set aside until completely cold.

When both base and mix are completely cold, spoon the
crème pâtissière in an even layer into the base.
Slice the figs evenly in think slices and arrange in a circular pattern working from the outside to the inside.
Brush the figs with some warmed jam or jelly ( I used crab apple jelly) - this will give them a nice shine.

Enjoy in the last sunshine and warmth of the year.



Saturday, September 17, 2011

Irish Soda Farls


I haven't felt much like writing these last few weeks.  I have this deep down feeling that everything is in turmoil out there and I just want to hide in the house. 
I do know that I wrote you a long post on Thursday about all sorts of things and I deleted every last word of it and just gave you a recipe for hake.  I am sure that this left most of you pretty cold but it just sounded too much like a long moan.  I suppose that you could conclude that I was having a bad case of the blues where you feel like life is just running past like one of those really long freight trains in America with the long lonely horn noises - I guess I was just feeling sorry for myself.
I have everything in the world to be thankful for so I will just shut up and get on with it.

On an energetic note, I have been putting in some hours training for the causeway coast marathon which is two weeks tomorrow so there has been a lot of pasta consumed here.  I am hoping that the amazing scenery and a large dose of adrenalin will carry me the distance.

Another thing that cheered me up no end was meeting this nice blogger-ess for an ultra-good coffee at 3FE and you know what? Its really nice that to hear people say nice things about Dublin for a change.  I then came home and in an act of patriotism, made some good old Irish soda farls.  I can say with a hand on my heart that I will never buy these again.  They are so simple to make that I am in shock that I haven't tried it before.
The recipe could not be more easy and I used this one from this nice new book which I will tell you more about in a day or so when I get more of a feel for it.

You will need:

  • 225g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 150ml buttermilk
  • Combine the dry ingredients in a baking bowl and make a well in the centre.  Pour in the buttermilk and working from the inside out, combine to form a sticky dough.  Knead lightly into a ball and flatten out to about 1cm on a lightly floured work surface.  Cut into either quarters or eighths, depending on what size you would prefer.  

  • Heat a heavy bottomed frying pan on a medium heat and sprinkle with a little flour.  Place on each little triangle leaving room at each side for turning.  Cook for about 5 minutes on each side until golden brown.  Set on a wire rack to cool or better still,  serve immediately with (a lot of) butter.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Hake en papillotte with roast tomatoes and basil



Looking for a fish dish to cook recently, I bought some really nice hake from Michael Byrnes in Sandymount.  Supplied by Kish Fish, there is always a good supply of fresh Irish-caught fish.
When I cook fish, I usually turn to Rick Stein's Seafood book for ideas.  I love this book for its encyclopedic information on all fish, the easy recipes and photographic step-by-step guide on preparation.  Taking the easy route, this recipe is so simple and easily prepared in advance.
 Hake has a milder more subtle flavour than cod but has similarly textured sweet white flesh.
This is a great main course to make for a crowd, and prepared in advance, it will take only 15-20 minutes in the oven.  You can also serve it in the little packets if you like, letting everyone cut their open at the table and inhale that magic aroma of fresh fish.

Hake en papillote with oven-roasted tomatoes and tapenade.

For 4, you will need:

750g ripe plum tomatoes
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
2 tablespoons equal mix of sea salt, caster sugar and pepper
Olive oil, for brushing
2 tablespoons shredded basil
4 x 200g hake fillets
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the tapenade:
75g pitted Moroccan black olives
4 boquerones - pickled anchovy fillets
25g capers
3 garlic cloves
75ml olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

For the papillote parcels:
4 sheets 38cm / 15" tin foil
4 sheets 38cm / 15" grease proof paper

Prepare ahead the roast tomatoes and the tapenade.

Firstly, quarter the tomatoes, lay them on a baking tray and sprinkle with sea salt, a little sugar, black pepper and thyme leaves.  Roast the plum tomatoes in the oven at about 130 degrees for 11/2 hours until they have shrivelled to about half their original size.

Make the tapenade buy blitzing the olives, capers, boquerones and garlic in a food processor until smooth and leaving the blade rotating, add the olive oil in a slow trickle until it is all incorporated and you have a dark shiny tapenade.  Season well with black pepper and spoon in to sterilised glass jars, seal and keep in the fridge for up to 3 months.

Turn up the oven to 240 degrees.

Season the hake fillets on both sides generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Lay one square of tin foil on top of one square of grease proof paper.
Brush the lower half of the tinfoil with olive oil and lay on 4 quarters of roasted tomato.  Sprinkle with shredded basil.  The lay on the hake fillet, skin-side up on top of the tomato and basil.

Fold over the foil and grease-proof paper and start securing at the right hand side by folding the edges over on themselves.  Seal all around the edges, ensuring that there are no gaps for the steam to escape.  Finish by giving the folded edge a good bash with a rolling pin.  Now you can either cook it or store it in the fridge until you are ready to do so - just ensure that before you place the fish on the tomatoes and seal up the parcel, the tomatoes are completely cold.

Place the parcels on a baking sheet and bake at 240 degrees for 15 minutes.

The fish cooks in the trapped steam, puffing up the little pillows.  Serve these straight from the oven on a warmed plate and let everyone cut into their own parcel, letting the sweet smells escape over the dinner table.
We ate this with some baby new potatoes, the tapenade and some fresh asparagus.
Delicious and very easy.