Author Archives: 2cubed_admin

Imbibing, Informing & Inspiring in Inishowen

 

I have just returned from the Inishowen Peninsula in Donegal full of enthusiasm & love for my country, its people & the fruits of its land. Donal Doherty, the person behind this event is an inspiration in himself. Championing his restaurant- Harry’s Restaurant in Bridgend, he has managed to live up to a philosophy that many aspire to- that is to source everything locally on the Inishowen peninsula. There are many more experienced bloggers there who have written detailed accounts of the weekend so I am going to keep mine brief and give you what were for me, the top ten highlights of the event:

1.Darren Bradley’s Pizza: because the amazing pizza (my favourite was the potato & rosemary) from his wood fired oven in his garden was delicious but, just as importantly, the warmth of his hospitality was remarkable

2.Linsfort Castle’s Warm & Cosy kitchen: amhránaíocht ar an Sean-nós agus scéatla na seanachaí and a big bowl of venison stew.

3.Ed Hick’s Black Pudding Demonstration: because he himself is a fantastic presenter but also because having had gasps of horror from the audience when he tasted the raw mix, he managed to inspire most to taste it themselves!

4. David Tiernan’s Glebe Brethan Cheese Talk: because he is a passionate artisan producer who spoke from the heart (but also because I love his cheese and he is also from the Wee County :0) )

5. TJ Crowe, Jack McCarthy & Ed Hick’s Pork Curing Hand On: Because I love to get stuck in and because I now have some belly of pork curing in my fridge!

6. Imen McDonnell’s Farmhouse Butter Making: Inspiring ideas for making it, compounding it with other interesting ingredients & presenting it beautifully

7. Harry’s Restaurant Marathon Tasting Menu: Seaweed bread, trio of terrines, breaded langoustine & cognac bisque, prawn scampi, salted cod fishcakes, pork belly, venison carpaccio, chocolate, mint & pistachio black pudding, shin beef ravioli with wild garlic, horseradish & celeriac cream (my favourite!) and whiskey cheesecake. Note:This is not the whole menu, but my personal highlights.

8. The Hard Work and Effort of Kirstin & Caroline from the IFBA: You’ve got to hand it to them. That is all.

9. Meeting all the other Foodies in Person : Great to meet Twitter friends in person and talk about food, eat food and dream food all weekend!

10. Winning a Hamper in the Raffle: because I have never won anything in a raffle before :0)

Great blogs on Inishfood here:
www.icanhascook.wordpress.com
www.irishfoodguide.blogspot.com
www.bestofbridgestone.com
www.clareconway.posterous.com
www.ayearinredwood.wordpress.com
www.woodfiredpizzaoven.blogspot.com

Easy Fish Stew

 

The cold weather and being “snowed in” means I am FINALLY finding some time to get back to blogging. I’m sure I’m not the only one who is quite enjoying being house bound. It’s the perfect excuse to cook some comfort food and get some baking done. Keep an eye on the blog as the bounty of the last few days will be here!

This may look like a complicated dish from the list of ingredients but it’s really not! If you don’t have all the spices, don’t let it put you off, use what you can.The aioli is really an integral part of the dish as it gives a fresh flavour balance. The dish is common to Provence and in particular to Marseille but I made it during the cold, snowy weather and it was really comforting without being too heavy.

Easy Fish Stew with Crostini and Cheats’ Aioli

(Serves 4)

Ingredients:

600 g fish cut into large bite size pieces (I had salmon, monkfish & haddock in my freezer!)
1 teaspoon fennel seeds (If you don’t have seeds, just use pre-ground)
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 bulb of fennel, diced roughly. Fronds reserved
3 cloves of garlic, finely sliced or grated
1/2 a leek, finely sliced
1 stick of celery, finely sliced
1 shallot (or 1/2 an onion), finely diced
1 tablespoon of tomato puree
A dash of white wine
1 tin of tomatoes
100 mls of vegetable stock or water
1 lemon, (1/2 a teaspoon of zest & two tablespoons of juice)
3 tablespoons of mayonnaise
Some olive oil

A couple of bread rolls or ciabatta, sliced

To garnish: some chopped parsley or the fennel fronds (optional)

Method:

1.Dry toast the seeds and place in a pestle & mortar, grind until fine
2.Heat a large, shallow frying pan and add the oil
3.Sauté the shallot (or onion), leek, celery, fennel and 1 clove of garlic until they are soft (about 5 mins or so) and then add the ground spices, chilli flakes & paprika and stir.
4.Add the tomato puree and cook it out to avoid bitterness for a couple of mins.
5.Add the dash of white wine and allow to bubble up, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze.
6.Add the tin of tomatoes and stock or water and simmer for 10 mins
7.Gently place the fish into the stew and simmer for 5-8mins
8.In the meantime, make your crostini and aioli.
9.Place one clove of garlic into a small cup or bowl and add a good glug of olive oil
10.Brush this lightly onto the slices of bread on both sides and place on a hot griddle pan or under a hot grill
11.To make the aioli, place the mayo in a bowl and add the remainder of the garlic, lemon zest, salt and lemon juice. Taste for seasoning
12.Check the fish is cooked through by taking one piece out of the stew and cutting on a board
13.Serve the stew with a dollop of aioli on each portion and the crostini on the side. Garnish with the fennel fronds or some parsley.

Provence est parti

 

And so for my last blog from Provence(sniff, sniff)…I am reminiscing about some of the highlights from this year’s trip to Provence which started with a meal out in on the first night in an auberge called La Bastide Bleue just at the base of the perched village of Seguret. What a perfect way to start the trip…it had the prettiest courtyard, with a canopy of trees and fairylights. The restaurant was like the essence of Provence- a menu that was written on a blackboard with only three or four choices of main course based on what was available and good at the market that day, bijou tablecloths, pretty blue shutters and the sound of the cicadas. The meal was a typical taste of the terroir- I had a local goats cheese tart followed by a duck leg confit and finished off with chocolate fondant. Good, honest homemade food.

I can’t wait to go back to Provence next year and smell the lavender, visit the markets, eat the produce straight off the trees and drink the local wines. If you are interested in experiencing all this, go to www.atableprovence.com

Chicken & Fennel Casserole

 

I am in Cumbria this week staying with my mother-in-law and taking the opportunity to sample some of the lovely fresh produce around here. Unfortunately, the weather has been a bit miserable; raining and windy with some thunder storms so I fancied something hot and comforting for dinner the other evening. This is a lovely dish which makes use of summer fennel and is great served with simple rice. Have a go and make double the recipe to freeze so that you have a handy meal if ime is not on your side.

Chicken & Fennel Casserole

(Serves 6)

Ingredients:

Good pinch of saffron strands
Vegetable oil for frying
4 chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
3 rashers of streaky bacon, chopped
2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
2 garlic gloves, finely chopped
1 bulb fennel, sliced
Large handful of green beans, trimmed
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed (mortar + pestle)
200ml dry white wine
300ml chicken stock, hot
3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked
2 bay leaves

To Finish:

Roux (melt some butter, add the same quantity of flour and cook for 3-4 mins)
2 tablespoon crème fraiche
2 tablespoon chopped parsley, to serve

Method:

Preheat oven to 180*C, Fan 160*c or gas mark 4

1.Put the saffron into a bowl, cover with 1 tablespoon of hot water and leave to soak.
2.Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large flameproof casserole.
3.Fry the chicken in batches over a high heat until lightly browned (a minute or two), adding another tablespoon of oil with each batch.
4.Remove to a bowl and set aside.
5.Add another tablespoon of oil and add the bacon and fry for a few minutes until crispy, remove and set aside with the chicken.
6.Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan, turn heat to medium.
7.Add the onions, garlic and crushed fennel seeds, thyme and bay leaves and fry for 5 minutes until lightly browned.
8.Add the wine and let it bubble for a few seconds to deglaze the pan, then add the stock and saffron water.
9.Return the chicken and onions to the casserole, cover and bring to a simmer.
10.Place in the preheated oven for 20 mins.
11.Stir in the fennel slices and green beans and return to the oven for another 10-15 mins
12.Lift the vegetables and chicken out of the liquid and put aside
13. Bring the cooking liquor back to a simmer and whisk in the roux, a little at a time (you might not need to use it all), until the sauce has thickened.
14. Simmer for a further 2-3 minutes. Stir in the crème fraiche and herbs.
15.Adjust the seasoning. Pour the sauce back over the chicken and serve.

Wining and Vining in Vacqueyras

 

This week, as I have mentioned, I have been staying on the beautiful vineyard of Le Clos de Caveau. Our gite is the most charming Provençal cottage. The kitchen has a lovely terrace off it, which has been lovely for sipping aperitifs and eating while the hens, cats and Flo the German Shepherd wander by. The terrace is surrounded by fig trees laden with fruit and olive trees and is protected from the mistral (a regional wind) which has been blowing keenly, giving some respite from the temperature. The sound of the cicadas gives a unique sense of Provence.

And so to the best part of staying on a vineyard- a wine tasting! I, it must be said, am no wine expert but do appreciate a bit of background information on what I am drinking. Le Clos de Caveau is an organic vineyard in the Vacqueyras appellation, (part of the Côtes du Rhône), nestled between the towns of Vacqueyras and Gigondas. To start with, I had a little tour of the caveau with some guidance on how the wine is made including some interesting nuggets such as the use of only second hand oak barrels from Château Lafite in Bordeaux, that all the grapes are handpicked and the fact that the maceration process is much longer than usual (don’t worry, I won’t get too technical!). This results in full-bodied, soft and smooth wine. To read about the individual wines I tasted, see below.

All the wines are made with a blend of Grenache and Syrah grapes, with slightly different levels of mix. The first I tasted was the 2009 Côtes du Rhône which is produced from vines that have been grown on the other side of a ridge that runs along the side of the vineyard. It is made from 80% Grenache, 20 % Syrah and is a lighter wine which is drinkable young, it has hints of strawberry and cherry on the nose and is good with fish and seafood, maybe mussels. It is well balanced and drinkable alone too.

The second wine I tasted was the Fruit Sauvage 2007 which comes from the valley pictured above. A 75% grenache, 25% syrah blend, this wine was brighter on the nose with a hint of raspberry. A little more tannic and more structured, it was a very nice wine that could be paired with meaty dishes.

The last wine I tasted was by far my personal favourite, the Carmin Brillant 2007, a 65% Grenache, 35% syrah blend. It immediately gave me a sense of the place the grapes had been grown in, with an earthy aroma. The vines these grapes were grown on are older which gives the sense of “terroir” (the French term for a unique sense of place), the minerality the the deeper roots of the older vines produce. The complexity of this wine gave me the most variety of flavours- a slight spicyness, a hint of coco. This would be lovely with meat dishes, chocolaty desserts and strong cheeses. It was also very good with the homemade fig ice cream we had the other night.

Feasting in France & Fennel Marinated Salmon

 

Last night, Paula (who is starting the food & wine trips in Provence) and I had a trial run of how our evenings will work when we take groups here. It was very interesting to have the opportunity to go to the fantastic market and to plan a meal around what was available to us. Provençal food tends to be light and made with local, seasonal produce with a Mediterranean influence. We were entertaining the family that own the vineyard we are staying on and some of their close friends. We stayed with local custom and had lots of dishes and accompaniments. We are truly lucky here as the tomatoes that are growing outside our door are so sweet and juicy that the addition of some fresh basil (also outside our door), garlic and olive oil (also made on the vineyard) make the most mouth-watering salad. So much so, that we have been eating it pretty much every day, mopping up the intensely flavoured juice with baguette! I wish we could have tomatoes like this back home…

We served a fennel marinated salmon with olives and rosemary breadsticks to start, so I have posted the recipe for the salmon below. We followed with a slow roasted shoulder of lamb with mint and lemon, cous cous with feta and herbs, the now famous tomato salad, and a garlicky yogurt sauce. Our guests very kindly brought a mesclun salad with mustard dressing. For dessert, Paula put our beautiful basil to work again in a strawberry, basil, mascarpone and Madeleine creation. Such a beautiful mix of flavours that went down very well with all. To finish, our guests had also brought a home made fig ice cream from the figs that are in abundance here. Served with Le Clos de Caveau Carmin Brilliant 2007, it was the perfect way to end a Provencal evening under the stars. I hope you enjoy the photos and have a go at the simple but delicate recipe! A demain…

 

Fennel Marinated Salmon

Serves 4

Ingredients:

400 grms salmon fillet, very finely sliced
100mls olive oil
2 limes, juiced
1 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons chopped fennel herb
1 shallot, finely chopped
½ a green pepper, very finely chopped
1 tablespoon pink peppercorns, crushed
Sea salt

Method:

1.Mix the lemon & lime juices with the olive oil
2.Add the chopped fennel, pink peppercorns and shallot
3.Spread mixture out on a platter
4.Place salmon slices on top
5.Sprinkle sea salt on top
6.Marinate for 15-30 mins

To serve, sprinkle green pepper and fennel on top

Pottering In Provence

 

I am what feels like a long way from An Grianan this week, with my friend Paula who is starting new and exciting food and wine trips in Provence. I am here to help her get it set up whilst also enjoying the added benefit of staying on a beautiful vineyard! We are based not far from the town of Orange in a gite on the organic vineyard of Le Clos de Caveau in Vacqueyras. The view from the grounds of the house is stunning- as far as the eye can see there are vineyards and gently undulating hills as far as Les Alpilles. Last night, we enjoyed an aperitif sitting under an olive tree, watching the sun go down over this incredible vista- ahh, heaven!

Yesterday was a busy day, starting with an early morning trip to the fantastic market of Vaison-la-Romaine. We hit the road early and enjoyed our breakfast in a typical French café, people watching whilst sipping on rich coffee and nibbling on freshly baked croissants and bread. Once fuelled, we hit the stalls with gusto, heading straight for the main food area. The market winds around the narrow streets of Vaison-la-Romaine with lots of interesting (and some not so interesting!) goods for sale. We bought some sumac, a spice that I will use to rub onto lamb or chicken kebabs and maybe add to hummus from a fantastic stall pictured above. We then bought some truffle (we haven’t decided what to make with it yet!) and some beautifully salty black olives cured with Herbes de Provence- Yummy with those aperitifs under the tree!

Having bought some beautiful tomatoes and fresh fruit, we hit the fabulous linen and quilt stalls where I indulged my love of table runners and quilted throws :0) Enjoy the pictures of the market, I will be back with more tomorrow.

To find out more about our food and wine trips in Provence, go to:

www.atableprovence.com

The Tasty Tart in Termonfeckin & Tarte Tatin

The Tasty Tart in Termonfeckin

The Tasty Tart in Termonfeckin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to my new blog! I am learning as I am going with all this blogging stuff so if you have any comments or questions, please leave them :0)

Last week I spent the week giving cookery lessons at the headquarters of the ICA (Irish Countrywomen’s Association) at An Grianan in Termonfeckin, where I live. I want to say a big “thank you” to the first group of ladies who were so welcoming to me that I had a great weekend with lots of fun! An Grianan is a period house set in beautiful grounds where lots of members of the ICA and non-members come to learn about different things such as cookery, sewing, painting, photography gardening and lots more. Some of the group, lots of which were from Cork had been coming for as long as 50 years! The group told me that the “craic is mighty in the Bar” at night and that they have made lifelong friends there. I think it really is a lovely place to come and learn some new skills as well as having fun with friends and going for nice walks on the beach. By Monday, I had a new group- the ME trust, lots of whom have also been coming to An Grianan for years. I was feeling a bit more at home in the kitchen at this stage and we had a lovely relaxed and friendly atmosphere in the classes. So, here are a few photos and a recipe from the class for you to enjoy and once again, thanks to all who were with me on my first week at An Grianan!

Apple Tarte Tatin

Ingredients:

50g butter
100g caster sugar
8 eating apples
500g block puff pastry, defrosted

Method:

1.Preheat the oven to 200°C, gas mark 7.
2.Heat a frying pan over a moderate heat and add the butter.
3.When the butter has melted, add the sugar and cook for about 5 minutes or until it turns into a golden caramel.
4.Core the apples and slice.
5.Cover the outside of a quiche tin with tin foil
6.Place the apples neatly onto a quiche baking tin (with removable base) and cover with the caramel. Leave to cool.
Roll out the pastry and cut it into a circle – make sure it is large enough to comfortably cover your tin. If it isn’t, you will need to roll out the pastry to fit.
7.Put the pastry on top of the apples and tuck the sides in around the apples.
8.Make a small hole with the tip of a knife in the top of the pastry so that any steam can escape.
Put the tin into the oven and cook for about 25-30 minutes or until golden and puffed up.
9.Remove from the oven and leave to stand for about 5 minutes.
10.Put a large plate over the top and invert the whole lot to turn out – be careful, as the caramel will be molten and very hot.
11.Serve immediately with your homemade custard

Fitting the pastry:

Make sure you tuck the pastry down the sides of the tin, using a spoon or knife to lift the apples and tuck the pastry under. This will ensure the pastry ‘hugs’ the fruit as it cooks, keeping the tart nice and compact.