Monday, May 30, 2011

Easy Amaretto Ice Cream

We have been very garden focused over the past few days with the arrival of a very cute little kitten, now oddly named Molly-Emily by my boys, and the arrival of a little flightless mag-pie which will soon end up as the kitten's dinner... neither kitten nor bird know what to think of one another currently, but I predict a sad end soon for one of them.
The weather in Dublin has been a mixed bag but the high pressure is on its way bringing higher temperatures for the long weekend, so al fresco menu planning should begin in earnest.
I have been dabbling with a few ice cream recipes.  I should say that without an ice cream machine in my possession, this is the laziest ice cream recipe imaginable.  It involves no intermediate whisking during freezing, so if you are as distracted by life as me on a daily basis, this is a recipe for you. 
Put it in the freezer and forget about it until you actually need it.  It is an incredibly rich, smooth textured, a little bit romantic and slightly decadent dessert, the perfect end to an evening meal.

This is a recipe fro Amaretto Ice Cream which I made as a teenager for my mother's dinner parties and I distinctly remember making it in a circular ring mould which had its base sprinkled with toasted almonds and then the whole thing was tipped out whole to a serving plate with the centre filled with strawberries.  So 1990's, but it tasted great.
You could replace the amaretto with calvados and serve it with diced apples softly stewed in a little sugar and a drop of water.

You will need, for 4 servings:

4 egg whites
2 Tblsps caster sugar
400 ml double cream
2-3 Tblsps amaretto (or calvados)
100g toasted almonds

Firstly whisk the egg whites until they are peaky and then fold in the caster sugar.
In a separate bowl, whisk the double cream until light and airy and add the amaretto (calvados) and whisk again lightly to combine.
Simply fold the sweet egg whites into the cream and ensure that they are well combined. 
Sprinkle the top with the almonds, cover with cling film and place in the freezer.
Allow at least ten minutes out of the freezer before serving.

This was delicious served with these  delightful raspberries in brandy with the sweet syrup (alcohol!) spooned over.  It's easy, quick and a great dessert for warm evenings outside.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Chicken with tomato and black olives

I have been using a lot of these amazing pitted, black, wrinkled, glossy, flavoursome olives lately. 
They are great in casseroles or tagine with chicken or lamb or simply sliced finely in a nicoise salad.
They are Moroccan dry-cured olives - originally the ripe Picholine olive variety, they are picked and then layered with salt and left for weeks to cure.  They are then rubbed with oil which gives them the glossy finish.
You might also be familiar with the French variation which is available sometimes with 'herbes de provence'.
At the weekend I roasted a large tray of San Marzano plum tomatoes, baby new Irish potatoes and some Moroccan black olives.  I placed a leg of lamb on the open shelf above and let the juices run off into the vegetables.  The result was amazing, simply a delicious way to cook lamb and the saltiness of the olives provided the perfect accompaniment.

This chicken dish is really simple and is a perfect mid-week meal for two.  If you have any left over sauce, it would be great the following night with spaghetti and some finely grated parmigiano reggiano.
Chicken with tomato and olives

For two, you will need:

2 free-range chicken breasts on the bone, skin on. 

1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tblsp tomato puree
1 sprig fresh marjoram or oregano
half a glass of red wine (optional)
salt and pepper

6-8 very small new potatoes, peeled

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees.
  • Add a knob of butter and a tblsp of olive oil to a warm pan.
  • Season the skin of the chicken breasts well and brown in the pan for about 10 minutes until the skin is golden.
  • In a separate saucepan add a small knob of butter and cook the finely chopped onion and garlic for 10 minutes so that it has softened. 
  • Add the tin of chopped tomatoes, a sprig of oregano or marjoram, tomato puree and a drop of red wine.  Let this simmer away for 10-15 minutes.
  • Stir in the pitted olives.
  • Lay the chicken skin side up in a shallow oven proof dish and pour over the tomato and olive sauce.
  • Nestle in the potatoes around the chicken and cover well with tin foil.
  • Cook in the oven for 45-50 minutes.
  • Serve with chopped parsley.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Raspberries and Brandy Liqueur

Our little country has been under the spotlight for all things good in this last few weeks with Queen Elizabeth II's visit last week and now Obama arriving this morning in Dublin amid high winds and torrential rains.
Weather aside, this is a time for celebration and may I suggest a toast to Ireland with my new favourite tipple.

A glass of chilled prosecco with a brandy soaked raspberry.

  • Wash a large 500g punnet of raspberries (unblemished) gently and place them in a sterilised jar.
  • Put 8 tablespoons of caster sugar and 4 tablespoons of water into a saucepan and warm to dissolve the sugar.  Add 200ml of good-quailty brandy, although not necessarily an expensive one.  I used Martell (VS) as that was all there was in the house.
  • Pour the sweet brandy over the raspberries and ensure that they are covered completely - they will float a little until all the air pockets have been filled with liquid.
  • Allow to cool and place the closed jar in the fridge.
  • The raspberries impart a lovely pinkish colour to the brandy, so ensure to add a teaspoon of it to the prosecco along with the raspberry.
Enjoy the sunshine if you can and have a toast to President Obama in Ireland.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Coffee Love Part II

As I sit here at my computer, wrapped up in blankets as winter has decided to return to Ireland, I am trying to write about a recent 'coffee industry gathering' in 3FE on Middle Abbey Street.  It really has taken me a few days to digest all the information gleaned from these coffee scientists as they gathered to present to other coffee scientists and coffee lovers what they know and love about all things coffee.

TamperTantrum Live 2011

The presentation which struck a cord with me was that delivered by Colin Harmon, proprietor of 3FE.    Armed with a passion for good coffee, a lot of common sense and some clever psychology, Mr Harmon delivered a 20 minute presentation entitled 'What I know about running a coffee shop'.  In brief these are the points he made:
  • Get a Job - don't go into 3FE and announce that you want to open a coffee shop when you have never worked in one yourself (which is exactly what I did).  Do go and get a job for a year and learn how to make good coffee.
  • Pick your Fights - What or who is your competition, Starbucks? Insomnia?  These large cash-rich organisations will outshine any novice organisation through their clever marketing and ability to win the customer, thus squeezing your small business out of the market.  Make your own competition, do something that they are not doing, carve out a niche which presents you as a viable individual.
  • Location : Convenience v Quality - A successful business serving poor quality coffee will probably survive in a good location.  A successful business serving excellent coffee will survive in any location, good or not so good - people will find you if you are doing something better than everyone else.
  • 1. Knowledge 2. Coffee 3. Equipment
  • As Harmon rightly points out, most coffee shops in Dublin are being led by their equipment, which is quite often, more advanced than their operators.  Knowledge is key.
  • Set a trap - think of your shop as bait, who are you trying to attract?  When you are starting off, every single cup counts!
  • Menu - Its easier to add to your menu than take away so give due consideration to what you want to sell and what your ability to sell it is.  Avoid disappointing your customer by having to remove something from the menu.
  • The correlation of nice - if you are nice to your customers, they will be nice to you, if you are not nice to your customers, they will not be nice to you.
  • Import Skills - employ useful people, a plumber, a chef ... use their skills in return for training them
  • Be two faced - Serve coffee to those who want coffee, serve speciality single estate filter coffee if that's what is ordered.  Give your customer what s/he wants.
  • Most importantly have fun.

These are obviously very brief bullet points (the full show was recorded and some of it is here)
I found Harmon's advice really useful and informative and he just makes it sound so goddamn easy. 
The recipe is simple, serve the best coffee and you are a winner. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Tomato Chilli Jam Heaven

I am in Jam heaven.  Tomato Chilli Jam heaven to be exact.
I have been there for a few days now, since late Wednesday afternoon.  This jam has saved me from starvation and from being all consumed by a large paint pot and a bedroom of unloved walls, and has redeemed me in the eyes of my family who have seen no food for the early part of this last week.  I have had  a long drawn out week of picking paint samples, and then some more samples before finally buying a lot of one colour, then painting, painting my hair, my arms and some spots of carpet as well.  With the help of the chilli jam, the wall  are now done and it all looks and tastes rather pleasant.

Tomato & Chilli Jam  
(adapted from a recipe by Peter Gordon)

I took a small half hour out of my paining schedule to make this and I am not lying when I say that it has been included in everything I have eaten since.
It is a lovely spicy mix with rich tomato and Asian flavours.   I have adapted the original recipe to include all the tomatoes which I had, 1 lb of them and I also used the fiery birds eye chillies which really give it quite a kick..  I think that although this tastes great, you could use slightly less sugar than the amount below and I will be experimenting which this batch is finished and more is required.

You will need:

750g / 1lb very ripe tomatoes, washed
2 birds eye red chillies, with seeds
6 cloves garlic, peeled
3-4 thumbs of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
40mls Thai fish sauce, (nam pla)
450g demerara sugar (I used a mix of golden caster and demerara)
150mls red wine vinegar
1 x 500g Le Parfait jar or 2 regular jam jars

  • Mix half the tomatoes with the chillies, garlic, ginger and fish sauce to a fine purée in a blender.
  • Place the puree, sugar and vinegar in a deep saucepan and slowly bring to a boil, stirring continually. When it reaches a boil turn it down to a gentle simmer and add the remaining tomatoes, which should be diced finely. Skim off any foam and cook gently for 30-40 minutes, stirring often to release the solids that settle on the bottom of the pan.
  • Be sure to scrape the sides down during cooking so the jam does not burn at the edges.
  • When the jam is on setting point (has become very syrupy and very thick) - note that this can take at least an hour on a very low simmer.
  • Pour into a sterilised jar and allow to cool.
  • Cover and keep in a cool place; it will keep for several months. Makes 1 x 500g storage jar.

I dotted this inside an omelette, scooped it up using sharp shards of Coolattin cheddar, ate it on toasted ciabatta with goats cheese ... it would be great in a cold pork or chicken open sandwich, maybe with monkfish, the possibilities are really quite endless with this.  I urge you to try it, you will never look back.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Chick Pea and Gubbeen Smokehouse Chorizo Soup with Arbutus Sourdough

Well guess who came back from Midleton farmers market laden with goodies!  I was especially pleased with my bread purchase.  A white sourdough from Declan Ryan at Arbutus Bread. It is (was!) delicious and I am now regretting buying just one.  The crust is chewy and the crumb is light and delicious and I want more.  According to their website, I could get it in Listons on Camden Street if I tried.  A visit will be required, possibly tomorrow, to check if it travels well.

I also bought some of my favourite chorizo from the Gubbeen Smokehouse.  It is true that my fridge is seldom without a packet of this flavoursome Irish ingredient but somehow buying it in Cork made it seem all the more authentically delicious.  I add this to omelettes, salads, pasta, soups or simply served as tapas, pan fried in a very little drop of olive oil with a splash of red wine added after a few minutes.  Serve with a chilled Badajo Rueda from brilliant  Wine Boutique in Ringsend, delicious summer nibbles.  Anyway I added this to a soup this afternoon made of left-over vegetables, a few stalks of celery, a red onion about to reproduce in the vegetable basket and some rosemary and parsley from the garden.

You will need:

1 tblsp olive oil
1 red onion finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, peeled off the tough veins with a vegetable peeler and finely chopped
pinch rosemary needles, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 x 400ml tin cherry tomatoes
1 tblsp tomato puree
250ml chicken/vegetable stock ( I used chicken as I had some frozen)
400g cooked chick peas, if using a tin, drain and rinse well
100g fresh chorizo, peeled and cut into circles
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
parsley, a small bunch finely chopped

Warm the olive oil in a pan and add the onion, garlic, rosemary and celery and cook, stirring, for 8 minutes.
Add the stock, cherry tomatoes,bay, paprika (if using) and tomato puree and cook on a medium heat for a further 8 minutes.
Add the chick peas and then the chorizo and simmer gently for 10 minutes and you are done!

You can omit the chorizo for a vegetarian option but add a small pinch of sweet smoked paprika for that smoky depth of flavour.

Serve with sourdough toasts rubbed with cut garlic and a glass of crisp white wine.
Note if you are using the chorizo, leave out the paprika as it will have too strong a flavour. Similarly if you are eliminating the chorizo, add a little paprika and taste, adding more if you feel it is necessary but I would advise to use sparingly so that there is just the slightest hint of it.

Delicious and nearly all Irish - go visit your local farmers market, it beats the hell out of the supermarket anyday!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Lunches and Laundry

Its been all lunches and laundry here at WheelerandCompany this week and the kitchen has been busy with various things but nothing out of the ordinary to write about.
We are off to Midleton, Co Cork this afternoon to deliver this cake to a very special girl for her Communion
I am brimful of ideas and experiments to try next week in the kitchen and I hope to pick up some delights from the Midleton farmers market tomorrow morning.  So when the dust settles and I have waded through another weekend-sized ball of laundry, I will sit down and write properly.

In the meantime, have a lovely weekend and eat well!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Our Easter Holidays

I am back.  I am sure you are wondering where I went. I will tell you. I have been living in the lap of 'country-house luxury' in Waterford followed by the lap of 'beach-house luxury' in Wexford for the past week.  And long may the Irish sunshine last as never before have I experienced such good weather, good moods and an Ireland full of happy holiday makers.
I didn't do much cooking, it was mostly barbeques, salads and a bowl of spaghetti here and there, but what a welcome break from the school run, the routine of uniforms, homework and school lunches. 
The freckle count is at an all time high and everyone slept well every day after hot sunshine, cool sea breezes and toasted marshmallows by the fire.  Perfect. 
My kitchen re-opens tomorrow with a communion cake required for the weekend and I obtained an amazing carrot cupcake recipe which will have to be tried.
Its good to be back, I hope you are all well.