Cauliflower and Potato Salad

Good Irish cauliflower should be readily available at this time of year. This is a simple and cheap way to make a meal from two main ingredients, cauliflower and potatoes.

You will need

A full head of cauliflower, broken  into florets

8 – 10 floury potatoes, kerrs pinks work well for us

1 medium red onion

A little butter

Honey mustard dressing made using oil, one egg yolk, wholegrain mustard, good honey, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Use the mayonnaise method here and play around with the proportions to suit your taste. I mix one egg yolk with a tablespoon of mustard, a tablespoon of honey, the juice of half a lemon, and salt to taste. I then slowly pour the oil on top of this mixture, making sure I continue to whisk all the time so that the dressing does not split. I use 3 measures of sunflower oil to 1 of olive. All olive oil is kind of overwhelming.

Now boil your potatoes in the skin. Remove when ready and set aside wrapped in a tea towel. In a pot of heavily salted water cook your cauliflower florets. As they are cooking chop some butter into a wide bowl, pour on some dressing and add your diced onion. Chop your potatoes with the skin on and throw in on top. Mix with your hands so that all potatoes are coated but not broken. When cauliflower is ready drain, pat dry and mix with potato. Taste, season, eat.

New Years Eve Beef Stew

Tastes good when just made, better the next evening, even better the second evening, and knock you on your ass good on the third. If you can wait until the third evening fair play to you.

Get a big heavy casserole dish like a le creuset. Just get one. You’ll have it forever.

First things first on this dish. Crack 2 bottles of full bodied red wine and get out a glass. Preferably chianti. Light red wine will not work for this dish. Open and taste both. Keep one for yourself. It’s a long day of cooking and waiting with this dish.

Here is what you are going to need.

4 lbs beef shin, off the bone and cut into 3 x 1 1/2 in chunks

4 -6 oz good dry cured bacon in the piece with rind removed cut into thumb sized pieces

about 20 – 30 pearl onions peeled and left whole

6 – 10 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole

1 carrot diced

1 stick of celery diced

1 onion diced

Good strong beef stock (or homemade chicken stock with a stock cube thrown in)

1 tin organic tomatoes

Tomato paste

Seasoned flour for dusting

Right here goes

Place your bacon in the casserole and heat gently to render the fat. Once the bacon is crisped but not burned remove the pieces and set to one side leaving the fat in the pan. Add your diced carrot, diced onion, and diced celery. Season. Cook gently until soft. Remove to one side and wipe the casserole dish clean.

Increase the heat under the casserole. Roll your beef pieces in the seasoned flour. Add oil to the casserole and when it smokes add your beef a few pieces at a time, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Brown the beef pieces and set to one side when ready. Take care not to let the casserole burn. Add half a bottle of wine to deglaze the pan. Make sure you scrape the bottom of the casserole dish to get all the flavour into the wine.

Back into the casserole put your diced onion, diced carrot, and diced celery, along with your beef pieces and pieces of bacon. Add the remainder of the first bottle of wine, a good pint of beef stock, a bay leaf, and a tin of tomatoes. Simmer very gently or put in a low oven (140-150c) for at least 3 1/2 hours.

Here we reach an impass. Purists would brown off the pearl onions and garlic, deglaze the pan with some sauce from the casserole and add the whole lot into your beef dish. I like to remove the beef and bacon from the dish. Set them aside for a minute. With a hand blended give the sauce a whiz for a couple of seconds and dump back in the meat. Then fry off your your pearl onions and garlic, and add them to the dish for the last hours cooking. As usual with dishes on this blog, this does benefit from a squeeze of lemon juice to raise the flavour a touch. Taste and correct seasoning as required.

Finish with a big handfull of flatleaf parsley and serve with some good mashed potato. A1 Sharon.

Pasta with Tuna, Red Onions, and Olive Oil

This is a pretty ballsy, deceptively simple dish that my cousin used to make when I was a kid. I got back in to making it in the last few years. It relies heavily on the quality of ingredients you use. If you john west tuna, roma pasta, and bargain oil it will taste terrible. If you use good pasta, high end canned tuna, and really good oil you are laughing. Have a read of the note at the bottom before you start!

What do you need

2 red onions, sliced into half rings, not diced

2 cloves of garlic, sliced thin

2 – 3 cans of tuna preserved in oil. the Spanish do some pretty mean preserved tuna which you should be able to find in good food shops. At the very least use Ortiz canned tuna

A half glass of white wine

Good quality olive oil

Sea Salt

So here goes….

Bring your pasta water to the boil. Try to use as little water as is necessary and salt it heavily. Open your cans of tuna. Pour a little of the tuna oil into a saute pan. Add your onions and fry over a medium heat, stirring continuously until softened.

Add your pasta to the now boiling water. Add your tuna to the onions and garlic. Increase heat and add half glass of white wine. It should bubble up and begin to boil off quickly. Before it boils off totally add you now just under al dente pasta with a couple of spoonfulls of pasta water. Keep the dish over the heat for two minutes until the pasta cooked to al dente. At this stage most of the liquid should be absorbed and the dish should be more dry than wet. Give it a big pour of your good oil and fork the pasta to get some air at it.

Finish with some parmesan cheese and serve.

I have to write a note on this dish. It sounds simple and is simple. But it takes practice to get the timing right. The whole point of the dish is the flavour given to the pasta by the mixture of gluten, tuna oil and a touch of white wine. If you over cook the pasta before you add it to the tuna and onions it will be not absorb flavours well. If you take the pasta out to soon, if it is too al dente, there will not be enough liquid in the sauce to cook the pasta through and crucially, the glutens in the pasta will not be released into the pasta water you use. Instead of having a slightly dry dish coated with an emulsion of white wine, tuna oil, and pasta gluten, you will have an undercooked wet and oil dish.

But then you finish the dish with olive oil so what does it matter?? The pasta if cooked correctly will look slightly creamy, like a drier carbonara due to the emulsified white wine, tuna oil, and gluten. Adding the good olive oil and parmesan at the end gives another layer of flavour to the dish and the acidity of the fruit in good oil help to lift the dish slightly. Simple things take the most practice!

Sausage and Sage Ragu

The proportions of this ragu can vary depending upon your own taste. It’s a great dish and gets better if your negligent and it caramelizes a little. Gets even better if you ignore it altogether and leave it to rest overnight. Proper order.

You will need

2 Tins of Organic Tomatoes – get the best ones you can or else the dish will be watery and fairly tasteless

A little tomato paste

10 free range pork sausages

About 2 oz of smoked pork belly, skinned and cut into 1 cm cubes (can be left out if you can’t find it)

1 celery stalk finely diced

1 carrot finely diced

1 onion finely diced

Strong Mustard

Milk

Sage leaves

Lots of good ground pepper, a little parmesan, and a squeeze of lemon juice

In a wide saute pan sweat the celery, carrots, and onion in a little oil. Keep the heat low. Season well.

Skin the sausages and break the meat into the now softened celery, carrot, and onion. Break down the meat until it is spread evenly across the pan and resembles mince. As the meat cooks allow it to catch on the pan slightly and scrape up the caramelization that has formed. This caramelization will develop the flavor of the dish. The more the better but you must be careful not to let the meat burn. This is the tricky bit and it’s the basic difference between a great ragu and a mediocre dish made from sausage and tomato!

As you continue the process of caramelization, scraping up the brown bits and mixing them through keep an eye on time. After about 45 mins – 1 hour of over a low heat add a little more oil and increase the heat significantly. As the meats starts to sizzle loudly pour in your milk so that the meat is just covered. Stir well and reduce the  milk until there is about 2 tablespoons left at the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and add about 1 tablespoon of mustard. Stir well.

Dump in your chopped tomatoes and stir well and place back on heat. Bring dish to a simmer and add the smoked pork belly. Allow at least 1 1/2 hours cooking time so that the pork belly has the chance to cook through and the flavours can develop. Mix through some chopped sage. Taste and adjust your seasoning with a little parmesan and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Serve mixed though (not on top of!!!!) some just cooked tagliatelle with plenty of cracked black pepper

Barbeque Chicken

This got the thumbs up from the Yanks when I was in Michigan last September. It’s pretty damn delish alright!

2 whole free range chickens jointed. Save carcasses for stock. You should have 4 wings, 4 breasts, 4 thighs, and 4 drumsticks

For barbeque sauce mix the following ingredients together.

Chopped Tomatoes

Red Wine Vinegar

Sugar

Worcestershire Sauce

Red Onion

Garlic Salt

Fennel Pollen

Smoked Paprika

A pinch of cayenne

This is just a rough ingredient list for good  barbeque sauce. Once you know the basics you can stray a bit but some mix of these is sure to make a few people happy.

Place wings in a zip lock bag cover with some sauce and seal. Repeat for thighs and drumsticks. Refrigerate overnight.

Salt the skin of the breasts and place in the fridge overnight. Rinse and place in zip lock back the next day.

The next day before cooking, fill a beer cooler with hot water. Get the grill going and put the zip lock bags containing the thighs and drumsticks into the beer cooler. About half an hour later throw in the wings and breasts. When the thighs and drumsticks have been in for 45 minutes remove from warm water bath, unlock bags, brush off and reserve marinade, and place meat on the grill. Baste every few minutes and do not let burn. When almost cooked, about 15 minutes, remove wings and breasts. Cook wings in the same manner as the other joints. Place breasts skin side down and allow skin to crisp. Flip and give skin a light coating of marinade. Remove all meat when cooked and serve with copious amounts of beer.

Roast Pork Belly with Apricots and Fennel

This is a great dish to plonk in the middle of a table full of boozey mates with a big bowl of mash.

You will need

A full pork belly (5 lb), skin left on and scored by your butcher

Sea salt

1/4 pt Cider Vinegar, 1/4 pint cider, 1/2 pint water

Good strong homemade chicken stock

Sugar

Water

Dried Apricots

A fennel bulb

Salt the scored skin of the pork belly and let sit in the fridge for at least six hours. Rinse under running water, pat dry and place on a board. Massage about 5 oz of brown sugar into the pork belly.

Roughly chop the dried apricots. Set aside.

Core the fennel bulb and finely slice. A mandolin works best here as you want the fennel to be about 2 mm thick at most. Add to apricots and put the lot into a roasting tin. Place the pork belly on top of the fennel and apricots, and pour cider vinegar, cider and water across the scored skin. If roasting tin is the correct size it should just fit the pork belly and about 1 – 1 1/2 pints the vinegar, cider, water mix. Cover with clingfilm and leave to macerate in the fridge overnight.

In the morning remove the pork belly and place it skin side down on a board. Drain the apricots and fennel and place them on the flesh of the belly. Reserve about a cup of the marinating liquid. Roll the belly along the line of the scores. Tie with some butchers string. Place on a rack in a roasting tin and cook in a medium to low oven (about 150 – 160 c) for 3-4 hours or until the meat is tender. Remember to baste the meat throughout the cooking process. When cooked remove from oven and set aside, uncovered, to allow the meat rest.

In the roasting tin, remove the fat reserving all the dark meat juices. Place over a high heat and add some chicken stock. Taste and add marinating liquid accordingly. The sauce should taste savoury and slightly sweet. It should not taste bitter.

Once meat has rested pour any juice that has leaked into the gravy. Carve along the crackling and serve with a big bowl of mash and plenty of gravy.

Makes really good sandwiches the next day. Serve with some mayo and relish on crusty bread.

Rhubarb, Vanilla, Ginger, White Chocolate

A bit of wow factor in this dessert that comes together to be way more than the sum of it’s parts. Basically it’s a shortcrust pastry tart with some class of a cheesecake filling but when done right it is seriously impressive.

You will need the following

For the Filling:

6 of the freshest, free range eggs you can find (technically they ain’t going to be cooked so make sure you trust the eggs you buy)

1 large bar of white chocolate

1 good quality vanilla pod

4 oz sugar

6 oz water

For the Base:

It works best if you make your own shortcrust but if you have to be lazy I guess you could use shop bought stuff.

6 oz plain flour

4 oz butter

3 oz castor sugar

2 egg yolks

juice from about an inch of fresh ginger that you have crushed and squeezed

For the Rhubarb:

6 large stalks of rhubarb

Stock syrup made with equal measures of water and sugar boiled until sugar dissolves (if you want to you can add the remains of the squeezed ginger to the syrup while cooking but remember to remove before use)

Utensils

Circular loose based tart tin (bout 9 – 10 in)

Allow a good long afternoon to make this dish as there is quite a lot of resting time.

Sieve the flour and sugar into a wide bowl. Chop lumps of chilled butter into the bowl. Rub the flour, sugar, and butter together until they resemble bread crumbs. Add ginger juice and one egg yolk. Draw mixture into a ball. If it is a still dry add a little more egg yolk. Once pastry comes together in a ball place it on the counter and roll it under the palm of your hand. It should stick to neither the counter or your hand but should hold its shape and appear shiny. Cover tightly with cling film and refrigerate.

Now we move onto the filling. Bring sugar and water to the boil in a pan with half a vanilla pod. Meanwhile beat 6 egg yolks in a magimix until they are pale and thicken. When sugar and water have reached the thread stage, remove vanilla pod and add the mixture to the egg yolks slowly continuing to beat egg yolks as you go. When all the sugar is added increase speed of magimix and meat sugar, water, and egg yolks until they have puffed up and look mouse like. About 15 minutes on high speed is good.

Meanwhile melt the white chocolate over a pan of simmering water. When melted, remove from the heat and add some of the mouse mixture to the white chocolate. Stir it in well. Now add the white chocolate mixture slowly to the remaining mouse, folding it in thoroughly. This mixture follows the same method as custard based ice cream but should be a bit thicker due to the number of egg yolks and quantity of white chocolate.

Place mixture in a wide bowl and refrigerate. Check every half and hour, folding gently to make sure chocolate does not fall to the bottom.

Now we bake the pastry. Roll out pastry until about 1/4 in thick. Butter the tart tin and line with rolled pastry and put aside any unused pastry to freeze for another day. Place circle of baking paper above pastry and fill with baking beans. The baking beans will act as a weight on top of the pastry ensuring an even cook. Place into a preheated oven (180 c) and bake for 20 minutes, give or take a few minutes.

Remove from over, allow to cool slightly, remove baking paper and baking beans and allow cool fully.

Now we make the rhubarb.

In a shallow pan lay 3 in pieces of rhubarb flat and cover with stock syrup. Poach until cooked. Remove, place in magimix. Blitz until smooth adding cooking liquid to thin. The finished rhubarb should coat the back of a spoon and taste a little bit too bitter to eat by itself. As usual a squeeze of lemon works a treat if you’ve overdone it with the sugar.

Line the base of you cooked tart tin with a thin layer of rhubarb sauce. Reserve the rest in a squeezy bottle. Place tart in fridge for about 45 mins. Remove and spoon white chocolate mixture into the tart until full. Refrigerate for up to 3 hours. Cut with a warm knife and serve with rhubarb sauce.

There are a few ways to make this up. Get creative and add gelatin to the rhubarb sauce. Line the tart base with alternate layers of rhubarb and white chocolate allowing about 1 hour per layer setting time. Serve with a mix of orange zest and soft brown sugar. Badass