Thursday, June 30, 2011


Guys, just a really quick post to tell you that my dear little computer has contracted a nasty virus and has had to be completely rebuilt.  Sorry for the silence, I am in shock at the severity of it all!
I will hopefully be back online after the weekend.
Enjoy the sunshine.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Glenariffe Elderflower Cordial

It is almost the longest day of the year and the evenings are just so bright and seem never-ending.  We have been spending an increasing amount of time in the garden, ignoring the computer, telephone and all other mod cons and it really feels like summer has begun. I love this time of the year, it puts a spring in my step and has me out of bed, sometimes well before six in the morning, baking cakes, oven roasting tomatoes, getting the lunches ready and sometimes having a quiet, peaceful coffee on the rooftop in the cool air when it seems only the birds are awake.
We spent last weekend in Glenariffe where the warm sunshine has brought the whole Glen alive with bees and insects and the Elderflower is out in a riot of white blossom.  Just a few months ago it was the white thorn bushes - evidence that this wonderful season changes everything so quickly.

The first time I tasted this delicious summer drink was in Berlin where my friend Babs and her family had gathered the elder flowers to make this refreshing drink to cool us all on warm days.  You might also be familiar with the supermarket and deli variety from Belvoir Farms ,an expensive bottled version, but making your own is just so much more satisfying and I think it tastes better too.
It can be simply diluted and served with crushed ice or, my current favourite tipple of choice, frozen as an ice cube and dropped into glass of cold Prosecco. Oh and I also found this recipe here for elderflower vinaigrette which sounds lovely.

The Elder tree is very common in Ireland, growing wild in hedgerows but also in gardens. So if you fancy a forage in the countryside this week, go for it, although if you do also spot one in your neighbour's garden, please ask permission and promise them a bottle!  Ensure that the flower heads you pick are unblemished, young and have plenty of pollen.  Also avoid a tree which is adjacent to a road where it will be contaminated by traffic fumes and dust.  The more rural and remote the tree, the better. 

Glens of Antrim Elderflower Cordial
  • about 20 young fresh elder flower heads
  • 1.5kg golden caster sugar
  • 1 lemon quartered
  • 2 oranges, quartered

  • All the elderflower recipes I have encountered advise that you should gently shake the flower heads to remove the bugs. Well I did shake and shake and shake them.  It took a lot of shaking before to get rid of the (millions of) creatures.
  • Bring the water to the boil in a large pan and add the sugar, stirring to dissolve it and simmer for a few minutes.
  • Place the elderflower heads, oranges and lemons in to a large clean bowl, large enough to take the liquid. 
  • Pour over the sugary liquid, cover with a tea towel and leave to soak for 24 hours.
  • The next day, strain the liquid and fruit through a muslin.  Tie a knot in the top and hang it over a bowl from something (I used the cooker extractor hood).  Make sure it is secure and leave it there to drip for a few hours.
  • Pour cordial into a sterilised bottle and keep in a cool dark place until needed.
Enjoy the sunshine and warmth with a glass of this flavoursome and satisfyingly home-made drink, even if it is inbetween the heavy downpours!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Rinderroulade mit Gurke, Zwiebel und Spec

I am not sure where to start here after such a long absence.  I have been entertaining somewhat continuously for the last week or so with a visit from our lovely Russian-German friends who live in Berlin followed by a visit from an infamous Cork historian and his lovely wife.  So there has been a lot of breakfasting, coffees, lunches, picnics, dinners and desserts concocted.
I have since taken refuge in the lovely Glens of Antrim for a few days to recuperate and hence I am getting time to write here.

It is always so nice when someone comes to stay who can and is willing to cook.  Gunnar gave me a lesson in making this very traditional German dish of Beef Roulade.  I think that these are known in Ireland as Beef Olives, except the filling in the middle is slightly different.
In a traditional Rinderroulade, beef or veal is used although there seems to be a school of thought that pork was used in the original version, so experiment by all means.  The cut of beef  I used is round steak - being a longitudinal cut down the rump of the animal which includes topside and silverside.

Our local butcher cut us 6 thin pieces of Round Steak perfectly.  In Germany, it is cut using a slicer thus giving a very thin piece for rolling but Michael Byrnes in Sandymount did an excellent job by hand.

You will need - for 4 adults and 4 children (assuming 1 roulade per person and half for a child):

6 thin slices of rump steak
250g cornichons, finely chopped
200g smoked streaky bacon, finely diced
1 onion, finely chopped
1 200g jar of wholegrain mustard, Maille/Dalkey is fine
1 bottle beer
sea salt and black pepper

  • Place the beef on a work surface and sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  • Finely chop the bacon, cornichons and onion and mix well in a bowl.
  • Smear each piece of beef with mustard and then add a layer of filling.
  • Working from one end, roll the beef tightly.
  • Tie with string or secure well with metal/wooden skewers.

Add a drop of olive oil to a large pan and brown each roulade well on the outside, setting each one aside as you brown the remainder.  When all the roulades have been browned, place into a deep casserole dish, (we used my large le Creuset) and pour in the bottle of beer.  Bring it to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer on a low heat for approximately 1 hour.

When the meat is cooked and feels tender to the tip of a knife, remove all the roulades from the casserole dish and set a side for a few minutes.  

For the sauce:
  • Add a small tub of cream to the cooking liquid in the casserole and stir well (this is optional any can be left out).
  • In a separate saucepan, add 100g butter and melt.  Add 100g plain flour and boil through, stirring for at least 1 minute.
  • Then using a ladle, gradually spoon in the cooking liquid, stirring continuously to remove all lumps.  This roux will thicken the cooking liquid into a really rich, delicious sauce.  Simply return the roulades to the casserole and pour over the sauce, tasting and adding any seasoning if required.

Serve with boiled new potatoes and if you want to stick to German tradition, eat with rotkohl - red cabbage  - and a glass of heady Bordeaux rounds it off perfectly.

As I write this I am thinking that it feels like a very wintry dish but we took the whole pot to the garden and ate outside in the sunshine.  A great lesson on traditional German cooking and very tasty. 

You could experiment with the meat using veal or perhaps pork but it important that you use a cut of meat which is suitable for braising.  Round Steak works well as it is a long  cut which lends itself well to rolling.
It is possible to use a bouillon, stock or wine based braising liquid as a replacement to the beer or you could experiment with different types of beer for different flavours also.  We used a bottle of Heineken for this as its all we had available but I think that you might get a deeper flavour with an amber coloured Irish Ale like O'Haras or Murphy's.