Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Veggies, oca roast

Well, for dinner later today I lifted this years Oca from the tyre pile, and it was a very good yield, good sized tubers which will be roasted later today with the turkey.
 I'll try to get moe pics up later. Quite tired, it was a long trip home.
Also out of the ground today were carrots and parsnips.
Obviously the brussel sprouts were picked today, not a great haul having been neglected - but the plant tops also make a nice addition to the xmass greens, with some hardy kales to bulk it out.

Spuds are Mr Littles Yetholm Gypsys - the colours on the skin make them wonderful for baking.

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Friday, December 9, 2011

Bee's buzz out for Freedom - the Greatest escape

Any regular readers of the blog will have probably stumbled on my post about the "Singing masons, building roofs of gold"  (thank you Mr Shakespear)- Bee's !
These wonderous creatures are vital in a healthy environment, polinating our crops and keeping our crops producing. I literally love to hear them in the gardemn, when the hedge starts to buzz, spring is starting.

I also wrote, briefly, about colony colapse syndrome. Part of the colony colapse syndrome in the States has been linked to the haulage of bees from state to state, changing latitudes and extending their season as well as moving them from one unfamiliar place to another.
Bee's know their locality, they navigate to find food, and when they find somewhere good, they perform their famous dance to give others directions.
For them to be moves hundreds, if not thousands, of miles in a season must disorientate them.
As well as that there is the daner of desese, bee's from one region may carry pathogens to another area where the local bee's have no immunity, look what happened to our spiecies with the common cold and small pox in the Americas!
I'm not even considering the effect that GM crops may have on the bees, or plants that they cross pollinate!

This October a truck hauling millions of bees overturned in southern Utah and authorities were consulting with the Utah Department of Agriculture to determine how to capture or eliminate them !! There were in the region of 25,000,000 bees!!!

What a shower of bastards? Why Eliminate them? Utah has aggressive winters with deep snows.
This seems like a huge waste of money.
I thought it was a joke when they said they were going to try and capture them or kill them. I say, "Fly onto Freedom bees, pollinate any plant you want"!
A tractor-trailer was carrying an estimated 25 million bees when it overturned on the Interstate.
The driver of the semi and a passenger were transported to a local hospital due to injuries caused by the bees, cuts from the crash and 6 - 12 stings each.
In all fairness, if some idiot put me on the back of a truck in my house and then crashed hundreds of miles away, I would not be the happiest puppy in the world. If some pillock overturned a truck I was riding in, I'd be seriously considering injuring them, too!
Another truck in Idaho also crashed this year, the worry was the 'river of honey' would attract bears, the bee's were blamed for this - I dont see how - they never asked to be stuck by the million on the back of a truck and be jack-knifed on the highway?

Anyway, I hope some of them make it and survive in the wild, not to be trucked across a continent.
In their localised state, they have a season to collect pollemn etc. and to rest. Being trucked means they have an artificially long working season.

On a lighter note, I would tell the bees though, they need to improve certain aspects of their species society.
Drones deserve better treatment.
The fact they do no work and have only one thing on their minds is a trait not uncommon in males of other species across the board. Killing them before winter sets in is a little harsh.
Workers need better conditions - bees, unionise, declare a republic for the worker masses.
As for the political bee statement, please bear in mind I have been on Malaria medication since the 15th of last month

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Normal Service will be resumed

Well, have moved from West Galway to West Africa. Will be based in Conakry, Guinea for quite a while, obviously blogging about the garden while being 6000km south of the actual garden ain't going to work - but will see what i can do

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

New Winter Veg - Growing Endive Witloof chicons in Ireland

Having lived in Holland, there is an influence from Belgian cuisine there. A very useful, easy to care for veg that tastes delicious grown there is chicory, or endive.
The plants greens when sliced finely and mixed through mashed potato while still raw is pretty much their version of champ and give a lovely fresh bite to otherwise plain mash.
It also gives a very nice, slightly bitter garnish to contrast with sweeter veg like carrots or parsnips, and gives a great dash of colour to winter lentils or stews.

Another recipe for use with forced chicons can be seen here for later in the year.

Winter Puy lentils with Endive & nasturtium greens and marigold & nasturtium petals
Chicory is probably best known in Ireland as a coffee substitute or blend, roots are roasted and blended with coffee.

My favorite version of endive is the forced winter Chicon. The technique for growing chicon, or blanched endives was apparently accidentally discovered in the 1850s in Belgium when according to one story a few pots with roots were left down a coal mine and grew the famous white chicon.
Another story says that in 1830 Jan Lammers returned from the Belgian War of Independence to his farm near Brussels, where he had stored chicory roots in his cellar while he was away, intending to dry and roast them and use as a coffee substitute.
But his chicory roots, resting for months in the dark, damp environment, had achieved a different result. They had sprouted small white leaves. Curious, he tried the leaves and found them to be tender, moist, and crunchy, with a pleasant, slightly bitter taste. Thus, a new vegetable was discovered — winter endive, or chicon.

Already this year I have had at least three cuts of greens from the plants, and now its time to force them for the witloof, a Belgian variety for which I found the seeds for Witloof from highly recommended Irish based company - And they were not all that easy to source.

The main thing that is required is the total lack of light when forcing, otherwise the winter endive will go green and be bitter.

I grew the greens as a catch crop, like spinach or radish, between slower growing plants like leek, parsnip or cabbage.
After the last harvest I lifted the roots. It is said that they should be grown indoors, but with the mild climate we have on the west coast and a bit of insulation they can grow outdoors here.
After harvesting the last green leaves the roots are lifted and replanted in a way that light can be excluded. If you only have a few and decide to use only flowerpots, then the drainage holes must be blocked to stop light getting in.
The roots are lifted as gently as possible and re-planted using a dibber or a deep stick, then dropped gently into the hole.
 Next thing is, with a clean, sharp knife, the last remaining green chutes are trimmed to the nub, right down to the base. Don't throw them away - use them to garnish any meal.

After that the roots are watered with a general fertilizer, or in my case, a nettle and seaweed tea. Smells not so good but it feeds, and in my opinion, puts off parasites as well.
Add to that a dose of organic slug pellets from the Irish Seed Savers Association. The great advantage of course is that being covered and protected from direct rain means that the pellets only need the one application for the season.
At this point I start covering them with old pots. With winter coming it also makes a good, accidental storage space and with the system I use adds extra protection against light ingress.

Next thing I do personally, because of the weather here, is over lay a fish box. This helps to further exclude light and will give the chicons extra winter protection against frost, snow, storms and ice.
After that to totally exclude light and also to offer a layer of insulation, I use an old blanket. This has its edges pushed into the earth to secure it over the winter, and is weighted down as an extra measure. It also has the added advantage of being a warm perch for Vladimir the cat.
Chicons are a great veg, they can be used in salad or wrapped in ham and served with a cheese sauce. I love the fact that from one seed I get three crops, and with a bit of research I am beginning to wonder how many years I can keep getting winter and summer veg from this versatile and easy to care for plant?

I hope you found this posting of use, and please do take the time to comment or leave feedback - I really appreciate it

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Laver Bread with black pudding

Laver Bread is a traditional Welsh dish, made up of rolled oats and seaweed collected from the shore.
This is a variation on standard laver bread which I find a little bit strong.
This recipe uses cooked, almost caramelised onion to give a milder, sweeter flavour than the original.
Traditionally cooked in bacon fat, I work in black pudding to give it a more Irish flavour - and it works really, really well. I also feel that because of its oatyness and spices, a good black pudding cut through the dough is a very appropriate way of introducing people to edible seaweed.

Main thing you need is a seriously heavy frying pan or even heavy based pot like my latest favorite thing, a dutch oven - the key to success is slow but heavy heat.

The meal is based on a recipe in a great book I recently purchased, Dr. Prannie Rhatigan's Irish Seaweed Kitchen. I find it one of the most exciting cookbooks I have seen in years.

This cookbook I think is an absolute must for anyone living near the shore with an interest in food or self sufficiency. It is full of great recipies, but also advice and clear pictures and drawings of what we can collect around our shores, and the sheer abundance of food.

Advice is given on collection, storage and nutrition, as well as the history of seaweed - or perhaps more properly - sea vegetables in both Irish and international cuisine. We are all familiar with the use the Japanese make of sea weed in Sushi and Miso, but there is a hell of a lot more to it than that.

Coming from Connemara I have always been familiar with using carrageen and crathnach (duileasc) as food but not things like sea spagetti and kelps.

Laver bread is made from Sleabhac - the same seaweed used to make Nori sheets used as wraps in Japanese Sushi rolls.

At the moment my camera is broken, so I will need to update this posting later.

You will need:
1 Onion
1 good rasher of bacon
2 tsp Donegal Rapesseed oil
About 4 oz Sleabhac/Laver/Nori seaweed or 3 Nori sheet wraps re-hydrated
About 2 oz/ 1/2 a cup rolled oats

A great optional extra is 1 slice good black pudding like McGeough's of Oughterard

Take the bacon - if using pudding add this now - and fry in the rapeseed oil until crispy, remove and break up as small as possible.
Put in the finely sliced onion with a slow, steady heat and cook off until soft.

In the meantime, re-hydrate nori sheets, or if using fresh sleabhac boil until soft.
Then mix the oats, bacon, seaweed and soft onions together.
Make into cakes, fry until crispy and serve.

Fantastic with a dash of  Worcestershire sauce

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Winter Plantings

Really the last chance of the year to get winter greens and over winter plants in the ground.

This is the time to plant rhubarb plants, or split up old crowns.
This is also the best time to plant apple and other fruit trees

This year I am very impressed by the Johnstown range, for veg sets and in terms of delivery etc. find them far better than Mr Middletons.

This is the time to plant rhubarb plants, or split up old crowns.

This is also the best time to plant apple and other fruit trees. This is new to me, and Connemara is a challenging environment.
But after research, the best range seems to be English's Fruit Nurseries' here in Ireland.

Buy garlic for planting in October or early November.
I often get asked how many one should plant, I figure, average house one bulb per week so say 50 cloves.

Onions and Leeks - Autumn onion sets can be planted now for fully ripe onions in June, Radar are particularly good.
Now is also a good time to grow leeks - plant well apart so you can intercrop with faster growing winter greens Tatsoi/Pakchoi now.

Brassica's - Greens like Pakchoi and Tatsoi can be planted to give fresh greens to winter stir fries, great with loads of chilli, garlic and ginger - nice fresh flavours in winter without the food miles.

Certain turnips, swedes and radish will also grow slow and be ready early spring.

Legumes For crop rotation some legumes are also good. I like to buy from seedaholics but there are other fine seed houses in Ireland.
Broad beans like Aquadulce, Aquadulce Claudia and Imperial Green Longpod towards the end of the month.
Peas Round seeded peas can be grown from October/November sowings. An organic variety is the Douce Provence. Other varieties include Feltham First, Meteor or Pilot (probably the hardiest of all varieties).

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Pollack poached in milk and fennel.

Fennel is a great Italian staple, cooked on its own its wonderful. If you visit an Italian market you're likely to see them in carefully stacked pyramids of fennel, fronds trimmed and the blemished outer layer removed.
 But the great thing about it is that it is delicate, and can be used to enhance a meal without overpowering it, and can be used raw or cooked.
I just got home from Naples to a very overgrown garden, but not all the fennel had bolted.
All homegrown and sustainable
I love fennel when added to pinzimonio (raw vegetables), and in winter salads. The best examples of this that use the sweetness of Fennel against sharper flavours come from southern Italy, like in Sicily where it is served with blood orange and olives, or Finocchi del Sud - a warmed fennel salad with anchovies, olives and nutmeg.

Fennel is great in mixed salads, with other vegetables including celery or tomatoes, cheeses, or finely chopped walnuts. 
As a general rule, the Italians do not use vinegar in fennel salads.
The leafy fronds are a nice addition to any salad and as a veg itself, braised, it has a unique and delicious flavour.

A neighbour of mine, Con, very kindly dropped off a few pollack fillets, pin boned and cleaned caught the day before. He has always done this, but in keeping the garden it's nice that I can finally return his generosity with homegrown veg. I really do have too much, particularly when one has a glut.

We had a very pleasant young French couple, Thomas and Estelle, visiting, so it was a real pleasure to be able to cook a meal like this using all local produce.It's quite a small world - I met Thomas and Estelle at the Pony show, they had no real plans of where to stay so they camped on the croft. 
The meal was put together with available produce, and the fact I have just got back from the Italian Maritime Academy has my cooking brain on one track, so thats where the meal came from.

But as it turned out later, Thomas has worked with Catherine Fulvio - Ireland's leading expert in Italian cuisine - hows that for serendipity!!!!
Whitefish poached with milk and fennel
This dish is very simple, using Irish dairy produce to enrich an Italian style flavour. 
Using milk to cook fish is not something I found in Italy, but in more Northern countries it's quite common.
The poaching in milk process enriches the fish, and gives it a more creamy texture.
Fish poached in milk is actually quite a regular Scottish way of preparing whitefish like haddock, whiting, pollack and on occasion even herring. The Scottish will also cook smoked fish like haddock or kippers in milk. 
In Nordic cuisine, the Finns soak salted or sometimes even fresh herring in milk before cooking.

You will need:
Filleted and pin boned pollack - enough for each person. Another sustainable white fish like whiting is also good.
1 fennel bulb - trimmed and finely sliced
2 small shallots
knob of cuinneog butter
enough milk to barely cover fish
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 180 deg centigrade

Grease the dish with a little butter
Arrange the fish fillets in a single layer
Sprinkle over the finely chopped fennel and shallot
Add salt and pepper
Pour over milk until the fish is barely covered

Cook for 20-25 minutes at 180

When the fish is done, the liquid can be strained off to make the base of a parsley sauce.
I tried to use sorrel instead, but it is tricky because the milk can curdle a little, so I would advise sticking to a parsley sauce only. It was my first time using sorrel, so there is more I need to learn about it.
Spuds, peas, carrots and local fish - a little confused perhaps, but still good.
Served with new potato's (different varieties, Orla, Nicola, Kerr pink and Mr.Littles) and a quick Moroccan carrot mix.
The potato's were buttered and garnished with samphire and salsola, pretty much everything on the plate came from within 5 miles.
The samphire really adds to the meal, that nice crispy, salty bite makes it more than just a decoration.

The poaching process takes about 20 minutes, so timing wise, get the potato's and other veg down first.

In hindsight however, I think in future when doing this, I would cook the fish and potato's - but rather than have cooked carrots, I'd go for a carrot and fennel salad with a lemon based dressing as the veg.

Thanks for reading and please take the time to comment

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Clifden Pony Show 2011

Got home to Connemara just in time for one of the best days of the year. The weather was fantastic and there was a great turn out this year.
For us here in Connemara, show day is a great time to catch up with people, even though you need to be careful where you step for horse manure and political candidates - equally hazardous on occasion.
Being such a widespread community its nice to be able to see so many old acquaintances who one might not have seen in a while. It's the end of the summer so everyone is more relaxed, its a great time of year.
My cousin Morgan with his entry, Morgans Pride the second.
It draws people from all over the world - and the horses are the major part of it, for the breeders and the association it is the major annual event.
The horses are the reason the show exists, and the amount of work that goes into preparing the ponies for show is immense. I got to the show early as one relative had an entry and did well, and with all the work that goes into it some year I hope he will win the overall prize.
The serious business of judging

But for me there is another highlight, the competition for crafts, home grown produce and home cooking and preserves.
The crafts section is really for kids, and in such a show with all the grown up horse trading.
Its great that this less serious but I feel equally important part of the show is there to include all ages and interests in our community.
Home grown foods prize table
I was very disappointed not to be able to enter this year as I could not find an application form online for the baking, preserves and homegrown section, and hope this can be arranged for next year.
No offence to the winner, but I really think my Tipperary Turnips could have won a red ribbon - I could have been a contender, the turnip king of Connemara.
3 table turnips, looked like Milan Purple Tops
I spoke with the chief steward and she will look into it. If the application form for 2012 goes online or is emailed to me I will make it available here by download or by link.

The home crafts section had been in decline for a few years, and there has been talk of moving out of the showground to make way for more commercial ventures - but this year with I think 80 entries, it's on the up again.
It has always been a great favorite of mine, my Grandmother who was great at knitting and crochet would meet friends and relatives there like Mrs Gibbons (who generally won) - it was a part of growing up.

To lose this part of the show would be a real loss to the ethos, the fun of the show. And of course kids would have less interest and involvement.
The show is one of the major social community events of the year, it is vital in my opinion to maintain and even expand the home crafts and produce competition - after all, not everyone owns or has an interest in horses.

In attendance was Mr. John O'Hara, President of the Irish Shows Association and a neighbour of our county in Co. Mayo who quite rightly said that to have variety in a show that is so focused is a great thing.
5 veg basket winner
There were several entries for the 5 veg selection, and this would probably be the hardest to win. There was a wide range of veg. Cabbage and beets featured in most. Great cauliflowers were there as well - and a few fennel. With the advent of pollytunnels it is obviously now easier to produce very good examples of what I would call borderlines crops like cauli's and fennel, those plants that have a tendency to bolt outdoors.
Potato winner - could have had a chance at this
I felt the potato section was a bit disappointing this year, one would like to see more notes on variety presented etc. and I think my Mr.Littles would have been an unusual and eye catching entry.
Unless I am corrected, I think I am the only person on this Island that grows them. I opened up the ridge a few days ago and the results look really promising.
Roosters, Orla, Records and Nicola also did well. Because of the late planting, the Kerr pinks still remain to be seen.

There was a great selection of onions at the show this year, all perfectly presented and tops tied off French style with twine - that's probably the trickiest entry to win in Clifden.
Jams and preserves
Then there is the jams and preserves section, this years winner was blackcurrant. There is also a section for home made marmalade, and I feel the Mrs Beetons carrot marmalade would be a nice entry for next year - and I'm posting it here so if someone beats me with one of my own recipes I can point it out ;-)
Sponge contest winners
There is also a section for home cooked sweets, cakes, apple pie, soda bread and sponges. I would not even attempt to compete against the matriarchs of Connemara when it comes to soda bread, but maybe next year I might give some of the others a go.
One thing that was a bit of a downer on the day was chickens. I have always liked chickens, and there were some for sale. But being away so much it is pointless to even consider them, even though there was poultry for sale on the day. I loitered so much looking at them I started to worry I might be told to move on by the Gardai!!
My neighbour, whose chickens get all the kitchen scraps in return for eggs, generally wins a rosette for her eggs. I wonder if it is possible to rent chickens?

Anyway, it was a great day out and if ever readers get a chance to visit, you should really try to make it down to this part of the world on this special day.
Range of jam sponge cake
Thanks for taking the time to read the blog and please feel free to comment, I appreciate the feedback - and its reassuring to know that someone reads this blog on occasion.

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Simons Super Simple Cider Mackerel

A great dish, very simple and very very good with new potatos boiled in seawater.
Im sure regular readers here know I tend to look to Northern Europe for inspiration for a lot of my dishes, but really it is to Normandy we Irish should look.

I am uploading this while at work - on a ship - so you will have to wait for some better photos folks - sorry, some even upload sideways from here!

Why we never developed a better cuisine culture in Ireland I will never know, probably has something to do with a landless peasant class, and a virtual fuedal system lasting so long, but that is too big a divergence.

I feel that Normandy, with its climate, mixed Celtic and Norman heritage and its food produce is a great place for us to look at, with dairy, seafoodmeat and fruit more like our own than the rest of France.

This dish could not be simpler, with sustainable fish and home grown veg and fruit.
This really is one of my favorite meals.
Use a good medium-dry cider to make a fairly sharp sauce. 
This will contrast well with the rich definite flavour of the mackerel.

There's nothing fancy about this dish, the only advice I'd give is to try and find a good real cider if you can.
English and Welsh readers are spoiled for choice when it comes to organic ciders, especially in the west country, make really good but astoundingly potent ciders they call scrumpy.

I have not tried it yet but there is an artisan cider producer in Ireland I can find based out of Dublin.
Fruit and Vine who produce, among other things, Double L cider, are available from several outlets that you can find online at their website, I'm looking forward to trying their cider and especially the Balsamic Cider Vinegar when I get home.

Also, a big thanks to the beer revolu, a regular poster at who also suggested Stonewell cider from Cork.

I really think it is important to support and promote our own artisan producers, so I'd give them a shot over the big corporations like Magners/Bulmers whose cider need to be mass produced to the same consistency, thats fine for some-like MacDonalds, and has its place, but I like to have variation and choice as well.

  • Fresh whole mackerel, cleaned and filleted as you like (one each)
  • Enough dry cider to come half way up the fish (about 1 or 2 wine glasses)
  • 1 large Bramley Apple,diced
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • White Pepper 
  • tsp whole grain mustard
Preheat the oven to moderate hot 180 C - gas 4
Gut, clean and fillet fish.
Wipe the mackerel with a bit of kitchen paper.
Put it in an overnproof dish with the onion, cider, mustard and a little pepper.
Peel, core and chop the apples into smallish chunks.
Push some of them into the middle of the mackerel and place the rest round.
Spoon the cider over them and the fish.
Cover the dish and put in the oven or 15 mins.
Remove the cover and cook for another 15 mins.
Lift the fish out onto a warm plate and pop in the (now switched off) oven leaving the door ajar.
Pour the juices into a small pan with some of the apples.
Cook fairly quickly, mashing up the soft apples, to make a sauce.
Put the remaining apples round the fish and pour the sauce over.
Serve with potatoes and some nice garden green - spinach or chard is great with this.

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Friday, July 8, 2011

Radish Carpaccio salad with anchovy dressing and a steak sarnie

Radish is a very easy to grow crop. I find it most useful as a marker crop for slow growing plants like leek or parsnip.
Quite often radish is thrown into a salad almost as an afterthought. This simple recipe shows off the radishes finer qualities, and that peppery flavour is an ideal accompaniment to beef steak.
Essentially it is a carpaccio of radish

Carpaccio traditionally is meat or fish sliced very thinly and sometimes pounded, but I like to use the term for veg served like this. For the very daring, the beef could also be served raw, very thinly sliced and with a mustard dressing - but I just fancied a warmed salad.

To add to that I use an anchovy and Parmesan based dressing to add a salty tang to the meal.
The recipe itself was influenced by a kohlrabi recipe by Hugh Fernley Whittingstall.
This is a real surf and turf meal, using beef and fish - Anchovy are a member of the herring family and found in the ocean in coastal areas in large shoals all around the world. They are very strong tasting, but more salty than fishy in taste. For a variation on this recipe, capers would be a good alternative.

At the moment I am back at work, sitting in Inebolu port, Northern Turkey, but had enough sense to bring away some photos of meals etc. with me to update the blog now and again.

My radish were quite small, but my mate Damiens were huge, about the size of a small carrot.
I have two types of radish at the moment, a red French Breakfast 3 type that is available in nearly all seed outlets, and a yellow french type called Jaune d'Or Ovale.

Many people don't like large radish, or find them too hot. For this recipe I like that peppery kick, and the large size makes for better presentation.
For 4 people you will need about 4 large or, of the more usual size that you get in the shops, about 16.

Enough radishes for people to be fed - 1 large of 4 small per person
50 grammes Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons of Donegal Rapeseed oil.
Tablespoon chopped chives
1 clove garlic, finely minced
4-6 sustainable anchovy fillets, cut into small pieces
For the Anchovy HFW recommends

Small steak, 1 for every two people
Onion stem cuttings, sliced
tomato - 1 per person, cut in half
French bread stick or turkish flat white bread, sliced
Mustard, whole grain

Wash the radish. Using a veg peeler, slice into thin slivers as long as possible into a bowl.
Make a dressing using the garlic, oil, lemon juice, anchovy and grated Parmesan.
Pour the dressing over the radish and mix well.

Plate up and sprinkle over some chopped chives and a few shavings of Parmesan.
I cooked the beef quickly with some onion greens from the garden, using onion stalks that have gone to flower with some tomato's to add bulk and sweetness.
This was simply cut into strips, places on a slice of crusty white bread with a little mayonnaise and wholegrain mustard and plated with the salad. It is a good way to stretch steak, and I do think we Irish tend to overdo red meat consumption.
The salad takes about 5 minutes to prepare, the steak about 10. The meal has great flavours that compliment each other and I love the texture of the radish, that crispy water chestnut like bite.
With that you have the onion and salt tang, the rich chewy beef, sweet warm tomato and the peppery radish kick.
I hope you like the recipe, and as always please feel free to comment - I really like to hear feedback.

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Fatai- panni, sweet potato cake

This is a lovely, rich, moist cake that is very economical and easy to do. Like the Sephardic orange cake, it is flour free so good for those with gluten issues.
Basic elements
The look and texture reminds me a little bit of Frangepani, the Italian almond and pear cake.
The Gaelic word in Connemara for Potato's is Fatai (faah-tee) as opposed to thge more common pratai used in Munster and Ulster Irish, hence the name I gave this recipe - fatai-panne. It could easily have been called Henry Hill Cake (from the movie Goodfellas, Half Mick, Half Guinea)

Its an unusual pudding, based on a Minorcan recipe. You don't need the rhubarb in this one but I feel the tartness and flavour really adds to the overall dish, and rhubarb to me is the taste of an Irish spring, far more so than strawberries.
The gang from Garrai Glas really liked this cake.

500g of floury potato's
120g Sugar
3 eggs, separated with whites stiffly beaten
Zest of 1 lemon
Knob of Cuinneog Butter
200g Rhubarb

If you want a lighter texture you can always add a teaspoon of baking powder.

Boil the spuds in their skins until done, then cool slightly, peel and mash or pass through a processor or food mill.
Preheat the oven to 180 deg C or Gas Mark 4
In a large bowl, work the egg yolks, sugar and lemon zest into the potato, then slowly add the stiff egg whites and sliced rhubarb.
Pour the mixture into a buttered baking dish; I use a fairly shallow one for this recipe.
Then bake for 35-40 minutes or until a cocktail stick can be inserted in the middle of the cake and come out clean.

If desired sprinkle sliced almonds over the cake about 10 minutes before cooking is finished.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Super Simple Sephardic Orange Cake

I think, apart from shortbread, this may have been the first cake I ever baked. I first saw the recipe in the UK's Times back in 2005 by

Maeve was a great gardener, far better than I, with flowers and fruit trees in particular. I would send her tulip bulbs every year from Holland when I was living or working there.
Something that makes me both happy and sad is that on her last trip home from Hospital a few bulbs from two years ago decided to put on a show for her, and her favorites - a deep dark purple type - were in full flower, and this posting is dedicated to the fond memory of a woman who meant a great deal to a great many people.
I think she would have loved Seville where the streets are lined with beautiful pruned orange trees.
The Spanish don't really like this type of orange, Seville oranges are thick-skinned and bitter; good for marmalade-making.
The other orange, the navel, is the one eaten, sliced into salads of onions and olives or pressed into juice.
But they do use the Seville orange to make this flourless cake, suitable for those with issues with gluten.
This is one of two flourless cakes I bake, the other - Fataipanni, I will write up soon.

The cakes origins are in the Sephardic tradition. These were the Jewish diaspora in Iberia before their expulsion in the late 15th century.

This light and delicious half cake-half sponge is very easy to do and can be prepped in two simple ways.
I kind of plan to enter in in the Clifden Pony Show this year so wish me luck.

3 medium oranges
6 eggs, separated
200g sugar
200g ground almonds
1tsp baking powder

 Place the clean, whole and unpeeled fruit in water to cover, and bring to the boil. Simmer for 1½ hours or until soft, adding more water when necessary.
Drain the oranges, cut into quarters, discard any major pips, and whiz the rest, including peel, in the food-processor, then cool.
Heat the oven to 180C/Gas 4.
Beat the egg yolks and sugar together in a large bowl until pale.
Beat in the oranges, almonds, and baking powder.
Beat the egg whites until softly peaky and fold gently into the mixture.

Pour into a 23cm /9" spring form cake tin and bake for an hour, until firm to the touch (cover with a loose sheet of foil if over-browning). Cool in the tin and dust with icing sugar to serve.

In this case I did the cake mix in two tins and filled with lime flavoured whipped cream, served with my own homegrown strawberries

Sometimes, as I did in this case, I divide the mixture into two tins and bake for about 35 minutes- that way with a whipped cream filling the cake can be served up more as a sponge cake.

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Monday, May 30, 2011

Eggs Errislannan - Connemara style Benedict eggs

For anyone who keeps chickens and has a run on eggs, this is a great brunch or Sunday Breakfast.
A few years back I was working in Australia, where I was introduced to Eggs Benedict. A variation that is common in Australia is more properly known as Eggs Montreal or Eggs Royale which substitutes smoked salmon for the ham in the classic dish.
After that I toured New Zealand, and ordered Eggs Royale in the So Hotel in Christchurch, near Tuam street and on Cashel street!
I think my favorite hotel in the world, with a great story behind it and fantastic staff.
It has gone into receivership, but has new management and has been renamed the All Seasons hotel.
I really hope they kept the same ethos and staff.
They served their Eggs Royale with a small fillet of smoked salmon cut thickly rather than the usual slices, and I loved it.

While in Malta once I had Sardines that were served with Maltese sauce, a variation on Hollandaise that uses blood orange in place of lemon and duck egg yolk in place of chickens.
Funny thing is, although I had the sauce in Malta - its actually a French Recipe! I guess it's like having french fries instead of fritte in France.

Smoked fish and eggs are a classic combination - salmon and scrambled eggs, kedgeree in Scotland with smoked herring, eggs and rice - there are many examples.
I can't wait until the perennial bed comes up next year so I can use asparagus spears with the mackerel and garnish with samphire - Nevin watch out!!

With that inspiration, I came up with this brunch, with the usual Irish twist - as the mackerel came from Ballyconeeley I'm calling this one Eggs Errislannan
Smoking fish has long been a way of preserving, and here in Connemara we have some of the cleanest water in the world.
We also have a multi award winning smokery in Ballyconeeley, the Connemara Smoke House, producing great salmon, gravlax and mackerel. This is really top end Irish produce, and I cannot recommend it enough.
Mackerel is a great fish which has featured on this blog before and will no doubt again. Its also a sustainable species, and the way Irish fishermen shoot for it commercially is quite specific and environmentally sound. In Connemara, most mackerel is line caught. Smoked mackerel is tasty and filling, packed with Omega oils that are healthy etc etc - but for me the main factor is taste.

My take on Eggs Benedict is simple boxty, smoked mackerel with a poached egg and Maltese sauce.

The Maltese Sauce is the hardest part of the meal to make, but the great thing about it is that you can make it in advance and re-heat. The Tarragon is not in the classic sauce, but I feel it really does add a lot more to the meal.
80ml freshly squeezed orange juice
1 Tsp orange zest
1 duck egg yolk (you can keep the white or chuck in the boxty mix if you like)
230 grams Cuinneog butter (using Cuinneog really adds to the flavour)
1 Tsp dried Tarragon
Good pinch of Cayenne

Melt the butter at a low temperature and keep warm in a bowl. Keep about 2 tsp in reserve for the boxty.

In a small saucepan, combine the orange juice and orange zest, and place over medium-high heat.
Bring the saucepan to a boil and reduce by 2/3, about 3 minutes.
Remove from the heat and strain into a bain marie bowl.
I would like to point out this was my Grandmothers bowl - been in the family since at least the 1920's
Add the duck egg yolk, Cayenne and Tarragon - whisk.

Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and continue to whisk until the egg starts to thicken, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove the bowl from the heat, and slowly drizzle a little of the butter into the egg mixture.
Whisk constantly to incorporate.
Return the bowl to the heat, whisk again, and when the egg starts to thicken again, continue to add more of the butter to the egg.
Remove from the heat periodically to cool the bowl, and return it once it cools slightly.
Continue in this on-the-heat, off-the-heat fashion until all of the clarified butter is incorporated.
The moment the butter is incorporated remove the bowl from the saucepan, transfer the sauce into a cool sauce boat, and season with the salt and pepper.

As a base for the meal I used buttermilk Boxty, I did try buttermilk whey chapatti, but this gives more depth and richness.
250g, peeled, grated, squeezed
250g cold mashed potato
100ml Cuinneog buttermilk-  another great product from the Mayo dairy
200g plain flour
1 heaped tsp baking powder
1-2 tbsp melted cuinneog butter
salt and freshly ground black pepper

If prepping from scratch, you can also add the duck egg white.

Wrap the grated potato in a clean tea towel and wring well to get rid of any excess liquid.
Add the grated potato to a mixing bowl with the cold mashed potato and mix until well combined.

Add the flour and baking powder to the potato mixture and mix until well combined.
Stir in the melted butter and season, to taste, with salt and black pepper.

Add the buttermilk, a little at a time, to the potato mixture, beating after each addition until the buttermilk has been fullyworked into the mixture. When all of the buttermilk has been added to the potato mixture it should resemble a thick, heavy batter. If the mixture is too sticky, add more milk as necessary. Set aside.

Heat some oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium to high heat.

Around this time its a good time to start poaching the eggs.

Add spoonfuls of the boxty batter to the pan, leaving enough space around each spoonful for the mixture to spread. Fry the boxties on a medium to high heat for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until the boxties are golden-brown and the grated potato is cooked through. Remove the boxties from the pan using a slotted spoon, set aside to drain on kitchen paper and keep warm.

The fillets from the Connemara Smoke House have a beautiful and natural colour, particularly on the skin - but dont be tempted to leave it on, its best to remove it.
Place the smoked Connemara mackerel fillet, skin side up, on the warm boxty base. Remove skin and any excess bones.
For a brunch serve with some lightly dressed sliced tomatos - I just use salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice - or a micro salad.What works especially well is radishes - but I ate all mine yesterday :-(

Place the poached egg on top of the mackerel carefully. Spoon over the warmed Maltese Sauce and garnish with fresh kitchen garden herbs - serve and bask in the glory.
Thing is, although the meal is quality, filling and delicious, once you've cracked making the Maltese sauce, its very easy to prepare everything in advance for a quick cook and reheat.

As always, I'd advise messing around with the recipe - try smoked salmon from the smoke house - and if you are visiting the region they do tours of the smoke house. The tours run seasonally in June, July and August on Wednesdays at 3PM - thats one day a week so booking is advisable, but a visit is very much worthwhile.
Its great to see traditional, artisan food production.

As always, I hope you enjoyed the recipe - and as always, feedback and comments on variations etc are welcome.

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