Saturday, November 3, 2012

We only have two weeks



There has been no glut of vegetables this year. Everything has crept in slowly, elusive and then fleeting, before dissipating into nothingness as though it was never there. I waited and waited for zucchini flowers which never arrived, for summer sprouting broccoli to serve with tart Boyne Valley blue cheese, for strawberries which stubbornly refused to ripen (ahem...and for blog posts that never got written). The optimism with which I planted our raised beds seems naive now, the planter boxes are a tangle of cucumber vines that did not yield any cucumbers for pickling and the fat green tomatoes will be resigned to chutney before they rot on the plant.

Suddenly though, everywhere I look there are figs: perched in boxes at Lilliput Stores, in crates at the Fruit and Veg Market in Smithfield, tucked into the cool walk-in in Mulligan's. Today I bought four... plump and ripe, perfect for baking til the juice is puce and sticky with soft goat's cheese and crunchy walnuts. They taste like Autumn, saying goodbye to Summer.  They are going to be served at the pub , for two weeks only. They aren't even going on the menu, just chalked on the board next to the coffee machine...fleeting and elusive.

Ingredients
Serves 4 as a starter or for lunch

fat figs
100 grams of blue cheese, goats cheese, or other soft & salty cheese (I used Boyne Valley Blue, a goats' blue from County Louth)
A handful of walnuts, toasted in a 180 oven for 4-6 minutes or over a medium heat on the hob for the same length of time
200 mL Apple Balsamic Vinegar (I used David Lllewelyn's from Rush) or 150 mL Regular Balsamic and 50mL Apple Juice
2 Tablespoons of Brown Sugar or 30mL honey
Sourdough Bread, for mopping up the juices

Equipment
Baking Tin
Knife
Tin Foil (optional)
Heavy bottomed saucepan

Instructions
Place the the balsamic vinegar and honey or sugar in a saucepan on the stove. Bring to the boil, ensure all sugar or honey is well dissolved and then reduce to low heat until reduced by half (be patient!). Remove from pan and cool. If it is too thick, return to heat and whisk in a tablespoon or two of apple juice. This will make more than you need for this recipe, but can be used in salads as a dressing, or as a glaze for pork.

With a sharp knife cut the figs through the centre from the top, stopping about three quarters of the way down (so that the two halves are still connected at the bottom). Do the same at right angles to the first cut, so there is now a cross cut in the top of each fig, but all 4 quarters are attached to the bottom.

Place each fig on a piece of tinfoil (optional: this will catch all the juices) or arrange on a baking tray.

Divide the blue cheese amongst the figs (you might want to use more cheese, but Boyne Valley Blue is very strong!), tucking the cheese into the cross of the fig and wrap each tin foil parcel tightly.

Place in a 180 degree oven for 10-12 minutes, until the fig is soft and the cheese is melted.

Serve the figs on top of a piece of toasted sourdough, scattered with the walnuts and drizzled in the balsamic vinegar.




Friday, September 16, 2011

Pumpkin, Autumn and the Advancing Chill.



The change in the seasons is starting to crunch underfoot. There is a nose-tingling chill winding along the Liffey in the early evening and the faint aroma of peat briquettes mingles with the malt from the Guinness factory. It is my favourite time of year. The melancholy of the shortening days hangs in the air and the darkness starts creeping into the mornings. Everything seems more poignant in September, wistful somehow.

I saw my first pumpkin at the market the other day. Not without a small sigh of sadness for the summer that might have been, I carted him home, a head full of delight at the thoughts of blue cheese, walnuts and rosemary. I am determined to make up for 'Summer 2011: Sodden and Frantic' with a September full of copper coloured beer, hand knitted mittens and lovely times with friends.

San Choi Autumn
If pumpkin is the King of the vegetables, then radicchio is the Queen. She is all frills and fronds, an elegant edition to the plate, carrying her lurid colour with grace. This recipe is inspired by San Choi Bao, the Asian lettuce cup dish, but uses the earthy Autumnal flavours of pumpkin and goats' cheese (blue cheese was too overwhelming).

Serves 2 as a main, 4 for starter.

350 grams thin steak
2 tablespoons of plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
clove of garlic finely minced or garlic infused oil (leave a bulb of peeled garlic in olive oil for a few days)
olive oil
pinch of salt and pepper
pine nuts, lightly toasted over a medium frying pan
100 grams soft goats cheese (I used Ardsallagh. Honestly, there are no words. )
200 grams butternut squash or pumpkin
apple balsamic vinegar (David Lleweyen's is perfect for this dish)

Cut the woody core from the bottom of the radicchio and peel back leaves carefully, and set aside.
Chop pumpkin (or butternut squash), into 2cm chunks, and toss in garlic infused olive oil, or the minced garlic and olive oil until coated.
Season and place in a 190 degree C oven for 30 minutes.
When the pumpkin is about finished, chop steak into 2cm wide, 5cm long strips and bash out with a meat mallet.
Place flour in bowl and season well.
Coat beef strips in flour.
Heat olive oil in heavy bottomed pan and grill strips on either side for about three minutes in total.
While letting the beef rest, drizzle the radicchio leaves with balsamic vinegar.
Assemble the pumpkin and goats cheese inside the radicchio leaves, this does not need to be precise. Top with the beef strips and pine nuts.

Roll up to eat, preferably with a malty Irish red ale while wearing a jaunty wooly hat.

Not going to win any beauty pageants.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Reeling in the chocolate.


Call off the skywriter. I was wrong about time off.

The last week shown in retrospect on Reeling in the ‘Neen (trademark pending) would be a frantic montage of menu trialling, working the bar in the pub, travelling to London for my day job, whiskey tasting, beer garden planning, thesis writing, moving house, interviewing staff and collapsing with exhaustion onto a dining room chair in our new house which for reasons known only to itself, or the lovely Mr 9BR who put it there, is balanced against the television unit, bereft of one leg.

I am tired. And I would like some chocolate. I have no more words.


I found this recipe for pavlova years ago in Australian Gourmet Traveller. It is just the right side of burnt caramel flavoured. It holds up very well to most fruits you can throw at it, but especially loves banana, especially with sea salt caramel sauce.

Given that I can locate only one half of most of my pairs of shoes and the location of over half my cutlery remains a mystery to me, I have gone with a more simple rosewater cream and chocolate accompaniment. Very ‘Turkish Delight’ but sadly without the lurid fuchsia wrapper.



Brown Sugar Pavlova, rosewater cream, hazelnuts, dark chocolate sauce, rosewater truffles
Inspired by Australian Gourmet Traveller March 2009

Makes 4-5 individual sized pavlovas

Brown Sugar Pavlova
4 egg whites
150gm caster sugar
70gm brown sugar
10gm cornflour
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (I use this because it is what I always use, but white vinegar would work!)

Topping
400ml thickened cream
Tablespoon of rosewater
Tablespoon of icing sugar
Hazelnuts, chopped.

Sauce
100 grams of chocolate
100 mL cream

Preheat oven to 150c. Whisk egg whites and a pinch of salt until soft peaks form, then add sugar gradually and whisk until firm peaks form and mixture is thick and glossy.

Add brown sugar, whisk until glossy. Fold in cornflour, vinegar.

Spoon meringue onto an 10cm diameter mounds on a baking paper-lined tray and bake for 45 minutes. Turn off oven and cool completely to cool pavlova. I leave mine in the oven overnight. It makes them go lovely and crackled, like the surface of the moon.

Sauce
Heat chocolate and 100mL cream together in a pan and whisk to combine, do not let boil. This should take a few minutes only.

Topping
Whisk cream and rosewater together until thick and glossy.

Spoon cream over cooled pavlovas and top with chopped hazelnuts and chocolate sauce.

Truffles
For each 6 truffles you will need

60g good quality dark chocolate
45 ml cream
1 teaspoon of butter
1 teaspoon of rosewater
Cocoa powder for dusting

Chop chocolate into small pieces and placed into a medium bowl.
Heat the cream and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to the boil and then immediately pour over the chocolate.
Whisk until smooth and add rose water.
Place bowl in fridge until firm.
With teaspoons, roll balls of the mixture, this gets messy, I like mine to be very misformed, but you could use a melon baller if you prefer.
Roll each truffle in the cocoa and place on a lined baking sheet or plate.
Cover and place in fridge until firm.
 
Enjoy propped against three cushions of the couch with a lampshade sticking in your elbow.
 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Learning about whisk(e)y and
the humane culling of agressive rhubarb.

 
I am sure I am not alone in my hatred of being bad at things. I steadfastly refuse to play pool under any circumstances because my grasp of geometry (and for that matter the difference between left and right) is so poor a game of pool quickly descends into something resembling a tabletop bought of boules, I absolutely hate netball for similar reasons (and due to the hideous attire) and I am nervous of writing about whiskey for fear of not doing it justice.

My friend Michael knows whisk(e)y, he is passionate about it and loves it the way no man should love spirit decaying a barrel. He recently berated me for trying to introduce a one word descriptor system for whiskies in the pub. You would think I suggested mixing his 33 year old Glendronach with Coca Cola. It is kind of wonderful listening to him talk about it, he gets excited, dragging bottles off the shelf to demonstrate the controversial effects of the use of caramel and the mechanics of chill filtering. His enthusiasm for whisk(e)y is infectious. I have been quietly learning about things such as phenol parts per million, the effect of different barrel ‘finishes’ on whiskey, and what causes the waft of band-aids in certain bottlings. I have taken to using words like dram, 'maturation' and have an alarming new-found affinity for tweed (though eschewing the obligatory blazer with leather elbow patches.) It fascinates me that newly bottled whiskey on the bar shelf has been in cask longer than I have been alive, that these whiskies have been quietly maturing throughout history, that the people who made the spirit may no longer be around to see the results of their hard work. On that morose note...  

The demise of whiskey production in Ireland is a different story to that of beer production, but no less poignant. Over the last year I have heard the story many times, but few tell it as entertainingly as John Cashman, the loftily titled 'Global Brand Ambassador' for Cooley Distillery. I was fortunate recently to attend a number of tastings conducted by John, the least of which was a decadent late afternoon lunch last Friday in the Schoolhouse in Ballsbridge.



The menu was a five course affair, each course matched with a whiskey from Cooley's stable. The impressive meal included seared Dublin Bay prawns flamed in Greenore 8 year old; Carlingford oyster with a Connemara Jelly and a sensational Black Angus Chateaubriand served with an unctous Tyrconnell Port Finish jus. Each course was thoughtfully matched with a Cooley whiskey.


Whiskey and food have a natural affinity with one another, but it is important to ensure the strong spirit does not overwhelm the food pairing. Some obvious and delicious pairings are:  
  • Smoked salmon with peated whiskey (such as Connemara or an Islay whiskey like Bowmore);
  • hard cheeses and a wine barrel finished whiskey (such as Ben Riach Barolo finish) or an Irish Single Malt (Tyrconnell being my current favourite); and
  • Fruit cake or dried fruit based pudding and Sherry finished whisk(e)y (such as the tripled distilled Scotch Auchentoshan or Bushmills Malt 16).

For dessert at the Schoolhouse last week, chef Olivier Quenet concocted an amazing Tyrconnell Madeira finished whiskey mousse, which married cream and honey perfectly with the sticky sweetness of the whiskey. He sandwiched this in a raspberry mille feuille. The tartness of the berries contrasted with the delicate and fragrant vanilla top notes and the jammy sweetness of the whiskey (I did warn you!) which also works well with the tartness of a rhubarb fool I made yesterday.

We have rhubarb growing in the corner next to our back fence, which makes frequent attempts to subsume the rest of the garden, so expect to see a lot of rhubarb recipes in the next few weeks as I attempt to curtail its campaign on the neighbouring blackberries.  



Rhubarb, Orange and Pistachio Fool
Makes 4.

Equipment
Heavy bottomed saucepan
Whisk

4 stems of rhubarb (about 400grams) chopped into 1 inch chunks

170 grams of caster sugar
Zest of one unwaxed orange, grated

250mL cream
2 Tablespoons of honey
30mL Tyrconnell Madeira Finish Whiskey (or another unpeated whiskey)

2 tablespoons of pistachios
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Combine rhubarb, caster sugar and grated zest into a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat for 20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally until reduced to a puree. Add extra sugar if required. Leave aside to cool.

In the meantime place pistachios on a baking tray lined with baking paper and sprinkle brown sugar over the top. Place in 190 degree oven for 10 minutes or until caramelized. Remove from oven and crush.

Whip cream together with honey until thick and then fold in whiskey.

Alternate layers of rhubarb and whiskey cream in a glass, top with crushed caramelized pistachios.

Would be perfect served with shortbread biscuits and a glass of whiskey.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Suddenly it was Spring

As the clocks of Europe collectively sprung forward last night, fourteen days after those in the America had done the same, in some kind of cross-global conspiracy to subvert the scheduling of my inter-continental conference calls, it was 1 a.m., a mere sixty-one seconds after being 11.59 p.m., and suddenly it was Spring, and six months since I had written here.

And like every Saturday I found myself falling into the familiar cadence of pint pouring, glass washing, Milky Mint eating, coffee grinding and skirmishes with the bottle bins. Unlike recent Saturdays though, leaving the pub I didn’t have to wear mittens, the breeze was warm, and it felt like this time last year, March 2010 B.P. (Before Pub).



The plum blossom in my back garden early evening.
 Spring. Where Autumn is my favourite, a portrait in sepia, with its rust toned vegetables and elegant creeping twilight, Spring is slowly growing on me, its soft tangle of ice cream, swingy skirts and the colours of Mr Kipling's French Fancies.

In three days time the pub will be nine months old, and life is starting to calm down, we have a routine, processes, nine staff and time off (those last two words should be read as though they are sky-written by a SNJ-2  using Corvus oil), time off I plan to spend accompanied by Angostura Bitters and homemade cordials in the sun. I am easing back in. To life, to my masters, to cooking, to here .

I will be back later in the week, I have wild garlic, smokey whiskey, farmhouse butter, an amazing dinner I had at the SchoolhouseInishfood to wax lyrical about and time off. Cue skywriter.

In the meantime, I will be drinking cordial and bitters.

Orange and Mint Spritzers

There are so many options for flavouring homemade cordial. I plan to make a lemon and lemongrass version for mixing with gin. It probably goes without saying that the cordials would be lovely as part of a mixed drink, but are perfect on their own with soda water. Angostura bitters is truly a marvel. Its bitterness tastes like sunshine to me, likely born of summers drinking Lemon Lime and Bitters back home. Its pink hue is perfect for Spring.

Cordial Ingredients
400g caster sugar
2L boiling water
Two un-waxed oranges, chopped into rounds
Handful of mint leaves

Angostura Bitters (available at the Celtic Whiskey Shop or the Drink Store)

Soda Water, chilled (I put in the freezer)

Equipment
Large Pot
Mason Jar or large sealable jug


Waiting patiently, a little wonky.

To make the cordial.
Dissolve the sugar into the boiling water in a large pot.
Bring back to the boil.
Place oranges in water and reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes.
Remove from boil and allow to cool for 10 minutes or so.
Remove oranges from syrup with a slotted spoon and place with mint leaves in clean mason jar.
Pour warm cordial over the top, seal and leave in a cool (but not cold) place.
After about a week take out the oranges and mint or it will become over-extracted. (I plan to use the oranges in a cake)
Use within a month (though the sugar will likely ensure it stays fresh longer)


To make the spritzer
Coat a glass with a few drops of Angostura bitters, and top one part cordial to six or eight parts soda water and top with a mint sprig.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ghoulish cupcakes and learning patience.

Things are different now. I thought that I had enough time to do everything…to cook, to write, to be a lawyer, to publish academic works, to be a third of the fledgling enterprise that is L. Mulligan.Grocer., to mince around sourcing seasonal produce to keep in my stylishly hued larder, cycle with Mr 9BR, wearing knitwear worthy of a Sinn Fein Ard Fheis, in a hand holding scene reminiscent of a Pashley ad.


Unsurprisingly, that is not the case. My masters thesis is being penned on a laptop balanced precariously on top of the third mock-up of our beer and whiskey tasting menu (a menu that keeps changing before I have a chance to print it), I take late night conference calls perched out the back of the pub, waiting for the chefs to finish dinner service and I occasionally turn my kitchen oven on, only to check it is actually still connected to the gas mains. The other day I had to throw out a whole rotted tub of fresh ricotta I brought back from Italy, ricotta I was going to turn into a take on San Choi Bao with butternut squash and radicchio. It nearly broke my heart.

In the midst of the disorder recently came the realization that while there is nothing I am willing to give up, I am not really sure how to sustain everything. A natural sort of order of priority has emerged with sadly, this blog coming last most of the time. I am struggling against it, trying not to be so absent, but it isn’t working. Having a new business is all consuming, I wish someone had told me that, though I am not sure I would have listened. I need to give myself permission to be absent from this blog, to not feel a twinge of jealousy when my fellow bloggers post seasonal recipes that I would have loved to have made up. I am not letting blogging go, understand, just asking patience, from myself more than anything.

Yesterday though, I baked. I baked from a book that I have used from the time I could stand upright at the stove, during the day when there was enough light to photograph and on a Saturday when there was time to write out the recipe. It reaffirmed my resolve that I am not willing to give up this site. Even sporadic posting feels better than none at all. These are my amazing spook-obsessed friend Lucy’s favourite cupcakes, which I made to celebrate her first headline performance, on Hallowe’en, which given her predilection for all things gruesome, should be her feast day. They are simple to make, and likely sugary enough to provide sustenance ‘til I manage to drag myself back here.

‘til then. ‘Neen.



Simple cupcakes made ghoulish.
½ pound butter, softened
½ pound sugar
4 eggs
½ pound self raising flour, sifted

Food colouring, preferably paste colour, though scant liquid would work also
Bun cases
12 bun baking tin (or 18 if a smallish size)

Line the baking tin with the bun cases.
Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, a tablespoon of the sifted flour with each beating after each addition.
Fold in the rest of the flour with a knife.
Divide into as many bowls as you have colours, each with their own teaspoon.
Alternate teaspoons of each colour into the bun cases until all used.
Bake at 180 C for 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Leave to cool.

Top with Nigella’s black icing and optional pumpkin made from died ready-to-roll icing and a clove.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Tomatoes and the art of doing nothing.

After such a long silence here, I am not sure how to preface my return, or whether to slink back in, whistling nonchalantly, as if I never left. I am going to beg indulgence, and go with the latter. It has been an insane couple of months and I do not know how to sum up eloquently what I have been doing since I last wrote here about sea salt ice-cream and shedding opaque tights. Ironically, this week seems an opportune time to re-don them. 

I am writing this on a terrace in Varenna, on Lake Como. It is exceedingly beautiful, Tolkien-esque in its sheer valleys and mist covered waters and I imagine, for those minded toward such things, very relaxing. There is a persistent chill in the air and I am watching ferries stream back and forth across the treacle surface of the water. Two days ago, sitting in this very spot, head buzzing with thoughts of overdue space law papers, outstanding conditions subsequent on aircraft sales and missing tasting notes from the drink menu at Mulligans, I read the Spanish word ‘reposar’ for the first time. It was written in a Spanish cookbook and it means ‘to rest’. It is such a pleasant feeling word to say: rep-o—sarrrrr, almost onomatopoeic in nature. It refers to the resting that grains of rice in paella must do once cooked, relax a little after the intense and steady heat, to allow them to absorb the flavours of the paella, carry the dish forward. Reposar. A lesson I could do with learning. I seem to lack the talent for what the Italians refer to as bel far niante, the art of doing nothing.




The last number of days have seen steady improvement in my practice of bel far niante and I can now proudly boast: a collection of sea-glass; 22 extra freckles on my left shoulder; having eaten laverello (lake fish) to near extinction; a revived appreciation for bruschetta, especially when eaten lake side while sluicing tomato juice from my chin; a scraped knee born of over-exuberant walking after too much local vini rossi; having read two cookbooks followed by two novels; and perhaps most boast-worthy of all, a new recipe for simple gnocchi al pomodoro below.

I am returning to Dublin tomorrow, with a plan to be a more consistent blogger, to stop neglecting this site when all else is frantic and a head full of autumn recipes and stories.

But for now there are tomatoes to eat.

Gnocchi al pomodoro

Serves two.

Olive oil
Two cloves of garlic, minced
One can of whole roma tomatoes in juice
Two sprigs of rosemary
Two sprigs of oregano
Three sage leaves
200mL red wine (preferably left over from the night before)
Salt to taste

Gnocchi (either store bought or fresh)

Cheese to serve

Glug a decent amount of olive oil into the bottom of a pot, about a table spoon.
Add garlic and cook over medium heat until translucent.
Add tomotoes straight from the can, being careful of the splashback.
Break tomatoes up slightly with a wooden spoon and add the wine, a pinch of salt and the herbs.
Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until thick and salsa-like in consistency.
Add salt to taste.
Meanwhile boil the gnocchi in salted water until they rise to the top of the pot and drain.
Add to the sauce and stir through.

Serve in warmed bowls, sprinkled with cheese (Mr 9 Bean Row cuts tiny chunks of parmesan rather than grating which is perfect!) and liberally poured wine.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Salty ice-cream, sunshine and
three strip Technicolour.

I have mentioned before that since moving to Ireland, I am more aware than ever of the seasons, the changing shift of the weather and its impact on the food we eat, the lifestyle we lead and of course the prevailing quota of petulance amongst Dubliners, amid which I include myself. When the sun is shining, I really believe there is nowhere on Earth like Dublin. It is like living in a movie filmed in three-strip Technicolor: bare legs emerge from months of opaque tight wearing, the evenings stretch into a fantasy of beer gardens, lemony chicken charred on the BBQ served with hoppy pale ales and birds stop only short of cheerfully flitting in through open windows to assist with bed making, floor sweeping and general household upkeep.

For the first 20 or so years of my life, I passed little heed of the weather, simply because in Perth it was generally warm and sunny, interrupted occasionally by a milder day where pots of soup, stews and casseroles were made, only to be consigned to the back of the freezer for later consumption and invariably discarded once the warm weather returned and the precious freezer real estate was required for such essentials as frozen glasses and popsicles. Now living in Dublin, I have a new-found gratitude for clear blue skies. We have been blessed with the summer so far this year and while there have been a number of deluges drizzly days this past week, they serve only to highlight how great an Irish Summer is when it actually performs properly. No light without darkness and all that. On a more indulgent note, the colder weather has also given me an excuse to gorge myself on our new slow-roasted pork belly at Mulligans and get one last wear out of my unsightly but ‘just-the-right-side-of-ironic-for-2010’ chartreuse coloured tights.

My summer so far has been characterised by three things, all of which have made my heart exceedingly happy: the first is the seemingly never ending ritual of upholstering, sourcing suppliers and refurbishing L. Mulligan Grocer, (regrettably absent of avian assistance, cheerful or otherwise). The process is slow, meandering and personal, we have so many aspirations for the place, so many plans we are trying to get to, some which seem frustratingly just out of reach at the moment but the process, while painstaking is a lovely journey. I need to learn patience, which was never my virtue.

The second is the quiet, creeping revolution that is happening beneath Ireland’s recession-weary surface. More people than ever are getting involved in projects, events, collaborations that are creative, quirky and passion-driven: Beoir, Chaos Thaoghaire, Doctor Sketchy’s, The Anti-room, Streetfeast, Imen’s locavore dinners and Sedition Industries to name a few. Despite the gloom, the never-ending dour predictions Henny Penny-like that the sky shall fall, there is an overt energy, an attitude that things can be better, different. There is room now for people to do things they love, and that excite them. I am proud of what is happening, proud to be part of it.

Thirdly, ‘Summer 2010: ‘neen’s Best Summer Ever’ has been fueled mostly by Murphy’s ice-cream, now that two shops have opened in Dublin. I defy anyone to taste their sea-salt icecream without a wistful sigh of happiness. It is the taste of nostalgia, a holiday, the sea side, of melting soft-serve washed away by the ocean. The shops are lovely spaces: bright, airy and distinctively Irish. Since they opened three weeks ago I have treated their Temple Bar store as a regular asylum stopover on my thrice daily trips between my office and the pub, most of the time for a ‘sample’ of their sea-salt ice-cream, the small spoonful being just enough to sate my longing. Thinking about this, tomorrow I am going in to the shop to pay for an ice-cream in lieu of all the samples patiently doled out by the lovely Murphers and Murphettes. It threatens to dethrone chocolate chip mint, which cameos in the Eels song 'Spunky' as my all time winning ice-cream flavour. Some time ago the eponymous Kieran Murphy, who boils down Dingle sea water himself to make the heavenly ice-cream was kind enough to twit me advice as I struggled to make ice-cream without a machine. The result is below, delicately minty, stippled with dark chocolate and capable of inciting wistful sighs of its own.


Chocolate Chip Mint Ice-cream
Inspired by Kieran Murphy and Darina Allen.

4 large egg yolks
½ cup caster sugar
1 cup of water
½ cup of mint leaves
750 mL (3 cups) cream

Equipment
Heavy bottomed saucepan
Metal spoon
Thermometer
Hand whisk
Large bowl for preparation
Large, freezer proof bowl for freezing

Slightly bruise the mint leaves. 
Leave to steep in the cream overnight in the fridge. 
Beat the egg yolks until light and fluffy. (I use the whites for bulking out omelettes). Combine the sugar with the water in a the saucepan.
Stir over heat until the sugar is completely dissolved, then remove the spoon and boil the syrup until it reaches 223–235°F: it will look thick and syrupy, and when a metal spoon is dipped in, the last drops of syrup will form thin threads.
Pour this boiling syrup in a steady stream onto the egg yolks, beating all the time by hand. 
Continue to beat the mixture until it becomes a thick, creamy white mousse.
Fold the softly whipped cream into the mousse, using no more than 40 or so strokes to combine then pour into a bowl, cover, and freeze.
Freeze for two hours, and then gently stir through the chocolate. Return to freezer to set.

This is best served when removed from the freezer 20 minutes or so before serving.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

We may fail, but we must sail.

(Title Borrowed from Trevor at the Twisted Pepper via Colin from 3FE)


For those of you who follow my incessant twittering, you will know that the tumbleweed-ey nature of 9 Bean Row of late is because I am involved in a new venture, a ‘eating and drinking emporium’ in Stoneybatter, called L. Mulligan. Grocer. although for the time being we are mostly a drinking emporium, with pickled onions, wasabi peas and the imminent arrival of pork pies being offered to sustain the beer drinking masses. I am so lucky to have two business partners who are also determined in their ambition to create a place that is local, which honours Irish food and Irish drink and which is willing to take risks to do slightly odd-ball things.

The last number of weeks getting the pub ready have been a frenzied, helter-skelter tangle of upholstery fabric, ceiling emulsion and floor varnish. We have each agonised over the minutiae of the d├ęcor, wanting to restore the dilapidated pub to the grand old dame it once was. We have eaten almost every meal off the back of the wallpaper cutting table and spent hours talking about what it is we wished to create, all the while sanding, scrubbing and disposing of vintage soft drinks (apparently 2003 was a great year for Fanta). The pub was not in great shape when we got to it, underneath the layers of grime the walls were a lurid red, the upholstery was torn and unsightly, and the floors had taken on a lustre of grey where the dirt that had been walked into the floorboards.

So many quotes we received from tradesmen were insanely expensive (seemingly the pub refurb industry is immune from the recession) that we decided we could do a lot of it ourselves. Upholstering tacks were bought, books were consulted, a belt sander was hired and our tireless obliging friends were co-opted in to help. There were times of pure frustration, of despair and where we all questioned our sanity, at 1am sanding bar stools and pulling staples out of the cushions with a butter knife, but for the most part, getting the pub ready to open was a period of joy. Every person who set foot inside Mulligan’s before it was open must have looked around at the squalor, widened their eyes and wondered how it was ever going to be ready, but despite this, put their reservations aside, picked up a paintbrush and cheerfully got on with it. We are all eternally indebted to these people, their contribution was more than the sum of their physical toil, it was the energy they brought to the place, and their belief in us, that we would open, we would sail, that brought us to the point we are at. Most of all, for myself I am glad I was there, I am glad I gave it everything, I am glad I have developed fledgling upholstery skills, that Michael could now have a second career as a floor varnisher, that Colin has newly acquired carpentry experience and that Mark, (my amazingly good-natured brother in law without who the pub would not have opened) is now Dublin 7's resident expert on hanging wallpaper, because it wouldn’t have felt ours not to (plus if it all goes wrong, we will at least have a fighting chance of ‘gettin’ the start’).

One of our productive helpers, the eponymous L. Mulligan. (Larry)

There are a great many things not done, works in progress, snags that I can see lurking from the corner of my eye, but these will be fixed with time, the important thing is that we are open. And we are. On Thursday 1 July, at 4.22-ish, having spent the first official 22 minutes of opening rushing around wiping counters and sweeping floors, while people waited patiently outside we opened the doors to the public. I had remarked over and over that it would be odd having other people present in the pub, people who aren’t there because we are paying them to remove the unsightly pool table or poker machines or friends who had generously donated their time to work for nothing, but it wasn’t like that at all. The energy of that first evening was amazing, it was hopeful and forgiving, people were excited for us, and about the pub. There was a lovely mix of people who lived locally, beer and whiskey aficionados and people we knew who had come down to support us. For all of us, I think the memory of Thursday evening will sustain us through the coming weeks, as we wrangle the back half of the pub into some semblance of order, sort out proper processes and continue to interview chefs. Personally I am going to try and write more here and on our Mulligan’s blog, I miss it, I have so many lovely recipes from when I was in Australia four weeks ago, and inspired by Taste of Dublin three weeks ago, but for now, I have wasabi peas to order and pork pies to source, so I leave you with a pickled onion recipe.

Pickled onions
This is the cold method, in which the onions take longer to mature, but I think is more mellow and flavoursome than the warm method, and retains the crispiness of the onion.

Equipment
Large Saucepan
Large dinner plate, or similar that fits just inside the saucepan
2 large kilner jars or similar
One kilo of pickling onions (silverskins are great) or shallots
150 grams of salt
100 grams sugar
1 litre of water
1 litre vinegar
½ teaspoon of each coriander seeds, mustard seeds, pink peppercorns and chilli flakes

1. Make a brine by boiling salt and sugar in the water, until all has dissolved. Leave to completely cool before using.
2. Peel the onions (I do this by removing the dry outer skin and then blanching the onions in hot water for a few seconds and then rubbing the skins off).
3. Soak in the brine overnight, using a weight to keep the onions bobbing happily below the surface of the brine. A plate slightly  smaller than the bowl works well for this. Rinse well.
4. Boil the vinegar and spices together in a pan for 10 minutes.
5. Leave to cool completely.
6. Pack onions into clean, sterilized jars and cover with cold spiced vinegar.
7. Cover and label with contents and date.
8. Leave for two months before using.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Orange(e)tte(e)s: Common heritage(e) of all mankind.

A speck of brown sugar has lodged itself behind the ‘e’ key of my keyboard. Try as I might, I have been unable to lure it out, it seems to have nestled in snugly, likely only to emerge some point in the future having irritated itself into bivalve like pearlescence. The upshot of this intrusion is that in my indignant insistence on typing an ‘e’, I have taken to inadvertently typing any words containing the letter with a double ‘e’, or even on occasion a triple ‘e’, imparting a Flemish characteristic to my writing. I think these errant vowels are my laptop’s way of easing itself back into life post-‘long trip home’ through Flanders last month, more of an accent the computer has affected than a series of typographical errors. It reminds me of the first time Mr 9BR and I played Scrabble, in Antwerp, on a Dutch set, the extra vowels resulting in blatant cheating and a couple of dubious triple word scores that Tolkien would be proud of. I offer my computer’s newly acquired speech affectation as an excuse for a lack of posting, though truthfully the scarcity has more to do with my ongoing affair with assignments on ‘sovereignty in space’ and ‘the convention on the peaceful use of the moon and other celestial bodies’. I was back in Leiden again last week, studying, working, drinking the occasional nut brown beer and sleeping very little, though fortunately avoided the scourge of the ash a second time.




On my recent cross-continental retreat from Flanders, in between veraciously reading space law treaties while waiting in queue at ticket desks, I managed to visit my favourite chocolateir. I love the location as much as the shop itself- just off a cobbled street in Brussels in a galleried walkway arced by lustred art-deco windows which dapple the light across diplomats and tourists enjoying gaufre and coffee in the sun. I cut a not altogether graceful figure, hauling my bag up three flights of stairs at the train station and gymnastically dodging postcard sellers, caricature artists and a hoard of Spanish tourists led by a disgruntled looking guide propelling aloft a lurid orange flag. Limbs flaying wildly, I descended on the bewildered looking shop assistant, hastily purchased four chocolates before sprinting back to the train station in a feat which may have modestly broken the land speed record.



I discovered the store on my first ever visit to Belgium, when overwhelmed with the choice of chocolates: row after row of perfectly formed truffles and brightly hued bon bons, tiny liqueur infused replicas of the Manekin Pis and elegant discs of plain chocolate, I decided instead to taste the same chocolate at each shop. The vague intention was to find the best of the variety. The subject of the side by side tasting was a cerisette, the chocolate with the whole cherry and kirsch inside, one of the single greatest sources of joy in my life to this day. Sometimes in the middle of a meeting about the leasing of an aircraft, or a lecture on space insurance I drift into a reverie of wistful sighs and longing glances just thinking of cherry brandy spilling out of a dark chocolate shell. I decided on my recent visit though to branch out to the orangette, a tangy rind of candied orange peel enveloped in dark chocolate. The perfect orangette has just the right amount of tartness balanced by a levelling sweetness, beautifully translucent beneath a dense coating of bitter dark chocolate. I ate them on a train, one by one, their marmalade sweetness soothing my harried state and I forgot for a moment where I was, the cursed ash and the thirty hour trip ahead.



These really are so easy to make, but require patience as the boiling in sugar syrup, and drying on a rack takes some time.



4 oranges (or lemons) unwaxed (this is very important)
1 cup of caster sugar
3.5 cups of water

150g dark chocolate

Equipment
Rack
Greasproof tray or baking paper
Holy spoon
Tongs
Sharp knife
Saucepan
Heatproof bowl or double boiler



Instructions
Scrub the oranges.
Using a sharp knife, cut each orange in half and remove the pulp. Some people juice the oranges first, but as I used the rest of the orange in an orange and chocolate cake, I did not do this. I like to leave quite a bit of pith on mine, but this is a matter of preference. If you do not leave much in the way of pith on the peel, you might reduce the number of blanchings required to one slightly longer boil.
Cut the peel into slivers, about 1cm thick each.
In plenty of boiling water, blanch the peels three times for about ten minutes, changing the water each time.
Drain and in a saucepan combine the water and sugar, bringing to the boil.
Add peels and allow to continue to simmer over medium heat until the peels are translucent. This took me about 45 minutes, but may vary.
Using a holy spoon and tongs, remove each sliver of peel from the sugar syrup and place on a rack over baking paper (to catch any drips). You could drain the liquid prior to this step, but I was keen to use the left over syrup to make a boozy cordial.
Leave peels to dry. This took two days in my case, but again may vary.
Once dry, temper some chocolate and dip the end of each orangette into the chocolate to coat. Leave to set on a greaseproof tray. Eat or store in a airtight jar.

Matching beer:
Hoegaarden Forbidden Fruit

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Long Way Home and Delicious Pork



In a feat that made the Odyssey look a summer day trip to the countryside, I am finally home. My  whinging commentary on the arduous journey was documented for posterity on Twitter via Amsterdam, Brussels, Lille, London, Cardiff, Fishguard and Rosslare. It was an adventure of highs and lows, of disgruntled Dutch rail security guards, won over by my fledgling attempts to speak Dutch and my knowledge of the boutique breweries of Holland, of a trans-Flanders train journey characterised by the intermittent presence of a six year old fellow passenger’s elbow jutting into my ear, and a solitary moment of fury (culminating in a tantrum-like kicking off of my grey patent ballet flat) at not being able to get to Calais despite being at the departure point in excess of forty-five minutes in advance of the train and with the means and will to buy a ticket.

There are far worse places to be stranded than Amsterdam, and I consoled myself with €3 plates of Oude Amsterdammer cheese and cheap Lentebock beers, quaffed in between charting online ever more inventive routes back to Dublin. The journey itself was a once in a lifetime seething awkward stagger in the general direction of home, along with thousands of other bewildered travellers, all heaving their luggage dejectedly through the connections, as if they were not quite sure what they were doing or even what country they were in. I invented little games to amuse myself on the way, including collecting smoked sausages from each city for Mr 9BR, and buying a disposable camera and periodically photographing a small rubber duck that I bought while on an emergency sock/delicate garment/mint tea run, engaged in the various joys of navigating the seven trains, a bus and a ferry-boat back to Dublin. All in all it was not as horrific as I anticipated, there was a great sense of camaraderie amongst the stranded and for the most part, except for one horrendous incident where my laptop converter gave up the ghost, and Dutch rail forbade the purchase of international train tickets in person, it was bearable.

The duck with its various boarding passes. 

I sustained myself through the unexpected journey with a combination of mint tea, prewashed lettuce leaves and goat cheese, making little ham roll ups to eat while crammed into the various transfers with a seat pitch designed for a midget. These along with charming tweets and text messages of encouragement helped get me back to my lovely kitchen, where I was itching to cook and made a slightly more sophisticated version.

I made this, thinking that it would serve as a main, with vegetables on the side, and perhaps potatoes for Mr 9BR, but when done, I found that it lent itself to being served terrine-like, on a bed of leaves, and with a sweet relish. I bought the ham from Fallon and Byrne - their charcuterie counter sells the tail end of various hams, salamis and sausages for the decent price of €10 a kilo, and they will even slice it to order. I got four massive half centimetre thick slices of serrano for €1.39, which were perfect for my grown-up ham roll up recipe.




Ingredients

500 grams pork fillet
100 grams feta or goat’s cheese
50 grams of mixed leaves/herbs such as rocket, spinach, basil and mizuna
Four slices of pancetta or Serrano ham
Two small cloves of garlic, minced
Half teaspoon of powdered tumeric
Salt and Pepper
Relish to serve

Equipment

Meat tenderiser, or a rolling pin
Large chopping board
Cling film
String

Serves 8 as a starter, 3-4 as a main

Directions

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
Trim all fat from the pork fillet. This step is very important, as when it is rolled up, any fat will make it very sinewy.
Place pork in the centre of chopping board and top with a sheet of cling film.
With the meat tenderiser or rolling pin, bash the fillet out so that it is flattened to two centimetres thickness.
Remove cling film and season with salt and pepper.
Crumble feta or goat cheese along the entire length of the fillet and then sprinkle leaves on top of the cheese.
Pressing down firmly, roll the pork fillet along the short side, like a Swiss roll using the cling film if needed to keep everything firm and compact.  
Rub the outside of the rolled pork with the turmeric and then layer with the ham in order to encase the pork entirely. Tie up with string to keep everything pressed together firmly while cooking.
Roast covered with foil in the oven for 40 minutes.
Serve sliced on mixed leaves and relish on the side.



Monday, April 19, 2010

A Smoke and a Pancake


I write this from exile, canal side in Amsterdam, displaced by the ‘Great Ash’, trapped on the continent by what I have been told is a plume of filthy smoke hovering over Europe, to the peril of all aircraft engines, though I see no evidence of it in the cornflower blue skies above Holland other than the notable absence of planes. I have now had five flights cancelled on me; all ferries are sold out for the coming days; and the Eurostar is crammed to its Frankish gills. Seemingly the best chance I have of fleeing the Netherlands, failing a balloon rescue Wizard of Oz style, is via Cherbourg, a seventeen hour ferry crossing to Dublin departing Tuesday evening at the earliest. I wouldn’t be surprised to be required to meet a dubious gent in a trilby hat in the cloak of night and exchange a secret password simply to get across the Flemish border. ‘The dimpled ostrich flies by night’. Notwithstanding my otherwise subjugated status as a refugee, all is well, I have to date refrained from reciting maudlin poems of the ‘old country’ and weeping into my gin, though there is time yet.

I have been remiss in posting much lately and volcano eruptions aside the scarcity is due to the imposition of some hideously overdue college papers, and travelling an inordinate amount for work. To add insult to injury, I am slinking back to posting without so much as a recipe to share, though it is with no small amount of irony that I am instead posting about smoked fish. The instructions below are less of a recipe more of a preparation method, but the result is so perfect, so unctuous that once a morsel of the fragrantly smoked salmon passes your lips, all with be forgiven. I promise too to later this week post the recipe for the tiny Swedish pancakes that I made to accompany the fish which is meticulously detailed in a notebook back in the ‘old country’ (sniffle): a tangle of egg beating, sour cream folding and hours of resting time. In the meantime, there is a great version here, but leave out the sugar.

I made this while the solitary rack in my kitchen was otherwise engaged in the process of making candied orange peel, so I improvised with a sushi mat, string and some knot tying (and cussing) that would make a sailor weep with pride. I don’t really recommend the sushi mat method, though it worked there was a moment of pure panic when one piece of string caught fire, and I feared the entire contraption would incinerate. The idea, inspired by the method for tea-smoked duck, is to keep the fish away from the direct heat so that the smouldering tea, rice and sugar suffuse the flesh with the earthy aroma while also gently cooking it. You could also use a disposable tray for this, as the direct heat on the bottom of the roasting tray can leave unsightly scorch marks.

  


Ingredients

200 gram salmon fillet, skin off, room temperature
¼ cup white rice
¼ cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons of black tea (I used Guv’nor’s blend, which I was given when the Pashley was delivered, but any black tea would suit. It would be interesting to see the result of the more fragrant blends)
Crushed rock or sea salt

Equipment

Roasting tray
Tin foil
A rack with ‘legs’ that fits neatly into the roasting tray, or suspends over it

Serves two as a starter or one as a main along with some vegetables or salad.

Line the roasting tray entirely with foil.
Rub one side of the salmon fillet lightly with salt, about half a teaspoon.
At this point you could leave the salmon to for an hour or so, which will have the effect of creating a sort of ‘skin’ once smoked. It is up to you.
Mix sugar, rice and tea together and place in the bottom of the lined tray in an even layer.
Suspend rack over top of the sugar, rice and tea and place salmon in centre of rack, salted side up.
Cover the entire tray with tin foil, this make take several layers, making sure there are no gaps.
Fire up the BBQ or stove top and place on high direct heat for 7-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the salmon. My salmon was less than 5cm thick and I did 8 minutes.
Remove from heat using oven mitts and take to a well-aerated space for the next (fantastically fun) step.
Remove foil, letting smoke escape in a dramatic fashion and gently remove smoked salmon from the rack.
Either serve immediately or let cool and use as you would regular smoked salmon.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Black Pudding, Wontons and High Praise

They may not look it, but beneath their wontony exterior beats a gutsy Irish heart.

I adore having people over for dinner. I like the way my kitchen seems to be transformed by the presence of other people, how chatter and the sounds of countless bottles opening seem to fill the space, giving life to it, a happy buzz surrounding the process of cooking, the anticipation of sitting down to the table, getting to use my favourite serviettes which I don’t trust myself not to ruin any other time (I don’t seem to mind the idea of them getting ruined at something as joyous as an ‘occasion’, it seems like an honourable way for a serviette to leave this world) and how inevitably some cracked plate or dirty glass ends up on the table, but it doesn’t matter because even the ordinary, the doldrum seems to take on a new hue when the house is full of friends, restored somehow by the laughter of these people who have come to my house to let me feed them. Mostly though I love the planning, I like thinking of what people would like to eat, and how they will react when they eat it. I love making food for people that ‘matches’ them. I think about them a lot before they come over (in a non creepy feathery stroker kind of way of course).

Recently I had one of my all-time favourite reactions to something I made. My lovely brother in law was over for dinner, my eloquent financial wizard brother in law, more reserved than my other lovely brother in law, a science genius who dances as though his legs are disconnected from his torso. I decided to continue my recent fusion experiment, wrenching foods from where they are cosy and plonking them firmly into a style to which they are not accustomed. Sticking with an Asian/Irish theme, I took inspiration from one of my favourite cities in the world, Hong Kong. Hong Kong itself is a fusion of cultures, Chinese and colonial. Traditional dark wood panelled tea-rooms nestle alongside dim sum joints serving tasty morsels from stainless steel carts for breakfast next to which cram streetfood stands spruiking chicken feet stewed in black beans.

A great little place to eat in Hong Kong. Yes, that is a snout in the centre.

With thoughts of a traditional Hong Kong breakfast of dim sum, and a traditional Irish breakfast of black pudding I set to meld the two traditions together, mindful not to compromise the graceful simplicity of dim sum, nor the gutsiness of the black pudding. In my experience Irish men are not very receptive to having their breakfasts frou-froued (you should have seen the reaction at Chez 9 Bean Row when I tried to introduce salad leaves with breakfast) but figuring it was dinner, I thought I was pretty safe. Nevertheless, I decided to tread carefully, not make a big production out of the desecration of the revered breakfast meat. I needn’t have worried. Making dim sum is so methodical, so repetitive that it almost takes on a meditive quality. I was quickly snapped out of my reverie by the realisation that all of the twenty wontons I had made were eaten within seconds of being slapped out onto the serving plate, without even a chance to make it to the table and I had two enthusiastic Irish men jostling to get closer to the pot, waiting for the little parcels to rise to the top of the water, to be fished out by my favourite of kitchen implements, the holey spoon. They were practically devoured direct from the pot, with much chop smacking and craning of necks to see if there were any more lurking at the bottom of the murky water waiting to glide to the top of the water, and be snatched up and greedily eaten. I didn’t get a single one, high praise indeed.



I made some for my breakfast the next day and before Mr 9BR could catch me served with a nice bowl of mixed leaves. There are all sorts of fancy folds you can learn if you have a search online, but I quite like the triangular shape of these ones.

Ingredients

25 Wonton Wrappers (you can buy these frozen from Oriental stores)
100 grams of black pudding, broken into small pieces
A piece of ginger about a third of the size of your thumb, minced
Half a small onion, minced
Two garlic cloves, minced
Tablespoon soy sauce
Half a teaspoon ground white pepper
1 L Stock or water to cook
Soy sauce and wasabi (optional) to serve

Serves 4 (or two if you are Mr 9BR and his brother)



Combine black pudding, ginger, onion, soy sauce, garlic and pepper in stir well to combine.
Lay wonton wrappers out on a clean surface.
Assemble wontons by placing a 3-4cm ball of filling in the corner of each wonton skin.
Fold into a triangle by brushing each edge lightly with water and then pressing edges together.
Close the edges firmly to get the air out.
Bring stock, or water to the boil.
Add a few wontons to the pot and let simmer gently for 2-3 minutes or until they rise to the top of the pot.
Fish out with a slotted spoon and continue until all are cooked. Serve immediately with a drop of wasabi dissolved in soy sauce on the side.

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