Saturday, October 31, 2015

Vegetarian Pumpkin Lasagna

Thanks for reading, hope you find the recipe of use.
Please do take the time to leave comments, suggestions etc.

A great one for Halloween pumpkin flesh, but butternut squash is good as well.
Bursting with autumn flavour and colour. Based on a recipe from the Evening Echo, but from scratch.

I made this totally from scratch - but you can always buy the lasagna leafs and passata.

Pasta, and particular lasagna is very easy, without machines etc.
I made it before, just click on this text for the link.

This is a very simple meal to make. Very straight forward, without the white sauce.
Passata is easy to store if you want to make a batch, just can or jar it as you would jam so lets kick off with that.

You will need a blender, even a simple hand blender will do.
Then, in terms of ingredients (this is for about half a litre BTW)
About 7 Fully ripened medium to large tomatoes, halved. 
1 Large, finely chopped red onion, white is fine, but add extra puree. 
Olive oil to fry.
3 or 4 Peeled and chopped cloves of garlic. 
1 tbls Finely chopped basil, or basil pesto is really good. 
3 or 4 Sundried tomatos. 
1 good Desert sp Tomato puree. 
1 tsp Course ground black pepper. 
Salt to taste.

Place the tomatoes, garlic, basil and black pepper into a blender and liquidize.

Fry the onion until soft.

Pour the blender contents into your large pan and bring to the boil.

Blitz the tomato puree and sundried tomatos into a paste, mix through and then simmer for about 15 minutes.

Now the lasagna. 
You will need:
Pumpkin flesh, about a cereal bowls worth, skinned, seeded and cut into about 1"/2.5cm cubes.
Olive oil
1 big onion, chopped.
2 crushed garlic
About 150 -200 grms spinach, frozen or fresh.
about 250 grms cream cheese, any type will do but a herby type is really nice,
Alternatively Cno Ban from On the Pigs back in the English Market in Cork.
Lasagna sheets, 2 or 3 big ones if home made.
The pasatta.
Some cheese, cheddar is fine, to top off.

Pine nuts are a nice addition with the pumpkin mix as an option.

Pre-heat the oven to 190 C, throw the pumpkin pieces in with the olive oil and toss, season.
Cook in the oven for about 15 minutes, until soft but not mushy.
Ideally you can do this while the pasatta is simmering away.

Meantime, sautee the onions and garlic 'till they are soft.
Throw in the spinich in the last 5 minutes.

Remove the pumpkin pieces from the oven and add in with the onion and spinach and take off the heat. 

Leave the oven ticking over.

Mix them up - try not to break the pumpkin bits.

Pasatta should be ready by now.

Pour in a base layer of pasatta to your lasagna dish - I just used a non-stick loaf tin.

Top that off with some of the pumpkin bits and then dot with the soft cheese.
Throw on your lasagna sheets, then repeat the process.
After two layers, I cap it out, then sprinkle the cheddar on top and bake for another 25 minutes, or until the top is brown and bubbling.

Sorry about the photography, but it really is a warming winter winner.

Thanks for reading, hope you find the recipe of use.
Please do take the time to leave comments, suggestions etc.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Simons Spiced Tea Cake - A twist on Halloween Irish Barm Brack

Thanks for reading, hope you find the recipe of use.
Please do take the time to leave comments, suggestions etc.

Halloween, All Souls night is a very Irish tradition. Barmbrack is a tea flavored cake with dried fruits that is seasonal this time of year.

The word Barmbrack probably comes from bairĂ­n breac - speckled loaf - the same etymology as Welsh bara brith.

In Connemara it is quite usual to see dried fruit and treacle added to soda bread to give sweetness and flavour.

This is a more east of Ireland version, but with gusto and without yeast which some recipes have, this is far simpler, and great for kids as the recipe gives easy results.

Traditionally simple black Irish tea (which is mostly Ceylonese) is used, I use Lapsang Souchong to give a deep smokey flavour and fantastic aroma.
If Whiskey is used, then the smokeyness really adds to it.

Its very simple.
You will need -
300ml / 1/2 pint lukewarm tea - I highly recommend Lapsang Souchong, but you can use plain black tea. Just make sure its STRONG-Stewed and black.
225g / 8oz Flour
2 heaped teaspoons of baking powder
375g packet of Fruit Mix (or make your own, currants, sultanas, candied peel)
80g Sugar - I use dark brown Muscovado, but any will do.
125g / 4oz Caster Sugar
1 Egg (beaten)
1 teaspoon Mixed Spice* - I use my own blend that is given below
Pinch smoked paprika if you have it (optional)
50ml - good dash of Whiskey (optional, but a good addition)

You can add some chopped nuts if you like (walnuts and/or hazelnuts are seasonal and good)
Even a good sprinkle of rolled oats gives nice texture and flavour - it really is a catch all.a
A lot of people add glazed cherries, but I don't really like them or feel that they are traditional, these cakes were made by working class small farmers after all. Flour, egg, sugar, tea and a drop of whiskey would have been staples, with the dried fruit and mixed spice to give seasonal variation.
 Soak the fruit, nuts, rolled oats and sugar with the mixed spice and smoked paprika for at least an hour - overnight is best.

Now blend the flour and baking powder.
Make a well and break in the egg and mix
Mix in the tea soaked ingredients.
Add a good bit of the liquid from the soaked ingredients and mix it through.
You may not need all the liquid, though you are looking for a wet dough.

Pour the mixture into a buttered or non-stick loaf tin, 1.5 or 2L capacity is about right.

Bake in a preheated oven 170°C/325°F/Gas 3 for approx. one hour or until risen and firm to the touch.
Its actually better if its left for two days wrapped in baking paper

Fantastic smeared in butter, and a nice cup of tea


*Simons Mixed Spice
This is my own blend. Its a bit more fragrant than commercial types,
the cardamom takes an edge off the very sweet taste, makes it more savoury.
But you can adjust it as you wish, and commercial types are perfectly OK for this, but I would recommend the cardamom as an addition.

1 tsp ground mace.
1 tsp ground allspice or pimento corns.
1 tsp ground cinnamon.
1 tsp ground nutmeg.
1 tsp cloves (or ground)
1 tsp ground coriander or 1.5 coriander seed.
1 tsp ground Ginger
1/2 tsp Paprika
8 Green cardamon pods

Grind down and mix in a coffee grinder, put in airtight jar - label, store.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Curried Watermelon

This is an easy to do and complex in flavour watermelon curry from Rajasthan.
The flavour is earthy due to the cumin and coriander, with a hint of heat from the chilli - but once you bite into the melon chunks there is this great burst of sweetness and juiciness - a great combo and a real surprise.

The colour is spectacular, I wish the photos reflected it.

Above, served with a Goan Pork curry with a simple lentil dahl.

This is a great dish, in particular a great, unusual and interesting side for big BBQ's.
It only takes about 20 minutes to do.

Inspired again by the great Camellia Panjabi whose inspiring and definitive  book  '50 great curries of India' introduces accessible Indian food in all its glorious regional variety. 

What also surprised me was how easy it is to reheat - and if done gently the watermelon will retain its bite and form without turning into mush. Harder than you think!

Pretty straight forward - this will easily yield 8 large portions
You will need
1/4 of a water melon
1&1/2 teaspoons of chilli powder
Pinch Turmeric powder
1/2 Teaspoon of Coriander powder
Crushed and pureed Garlic - good Teaspoon.

Teaspoon of Cumin seeds
Ghee, Coconut oil or oil (I used coconut for this - made it vegan)
2 - 3 teaspoons lime juice

De-seed the melon as best as you can
Chop up the flesh of the watermelon into good sized chunks - about 4cm/1.5 inch chunks.

Take about a cup of the chunks and blend them  to a liquid with the chilli, turmeric, garlic and salt to taste.

Now heat the oil in a wok or pan, when its hot chuck in the cumin seeds and sizzle them for about 20 seconds. It gives the oil the earthy flavour.
Add the blended watermelon and spice mix - bring to a simmer and leave sit for about 5 minutes.
Then reduce heat, add the watermelon chunks, spooning over or tossing the chunks gently in the juice.

Add the lime juice about 2 minutes from the end.

Serve and enjoy.

Please feel free to comment or leave feedback - I really appreciate the effort.

Just for fun - how to open a coconut, first take (more about that later)
Thanks to Brian for the camera work

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

John Dory with Lime and Ginger sauce.

John Dory is a sustainable fish, generally a bycatch in the fishing industry.
It is in demand, a really nice meaty fish, so a bit on the expensive side, but sooo worth it.

Apart from John Dory, other good fish are pollock, hake, bream - any meaty white fish.
Also Sea Bass, Bream and Dover Sole are really good alternatives. 

This takes about 20 - 30 minutes for a really lovely late summer light dinner.

Please feel free to comment - I really appreciate the time and effort when people do.

This recipe is really influenced by Tony Singh - born and raised in Leith (with as strong a Leith accent as I've ever heard on TV)  You may have seen him, as I did.

He is among Scotland's leading contemporary chiefs, and coming from Leith really knows fish.
Having watched him on TV, he did make me think, he is quite inspiring - as a chef he takes traditional Scottish food, and re-invents it. 
In a way, this is a meal that is a tribute to his energy and ideas.

I love his demeanor and the way he approaches food. His original version uses Dover Sole. It seems to me to be a sort of Parsee style Buerre Noissette, mine is more like an Indian Hollandaise - if anything, more Indian than the original.

I served this dish with new potatoes and asparagus.

Again, fish sourced from Ballycotton Seafoods in the English Market, Cork. 
So, John Dory - best have it filleted at the fish shop if not given to or caught by you.
Keep the head and bones for great fish stock.
Sustainable Irish Fish - John Dory
John Dory Fillets
4 tbsp Gram flour (you can use plain flour)
½-1 tsp Chili powder  
½ tsp Ground green cardamom pods
Salt and Pepper
1 John Dory, made into two fillets
Donegal rapeseed oil to fry

Parsley to garnish 
140g/5oz unsalted butter
50g/2oz chopped fresh root ginger
4 tbsp Lime Juice
2 tbsp finely chopped coriander
Pinch Corriander
(Optional) 1 Egg yolk

Serve with:
New potatoes
Asparagus (or spinach, broccoli - your favorite green veg)

Take enough new potatoes for two (or more) people, I picked small waxy baby spuds.
These take about 20 minutes.

Now, mix the flour, chili powder, cardamom and salt and pepper, dust the fish in it.

Start to make the sauce.
Melt the butter over a medium heat, let it bubble until it turns nut brown in colour.
Reduce the heat to low and ass ginger, coriander and warm through - but don't overheat to avoid the butter separating.

Remove from heat.

Add a pinch of cayenne pepper.
As an option whisk in the egg yolk to give a richer, creamier sauce. 
Leave aside.

With about 10 minutes to go, throw the asparagus spears into the boiling potatos, use a basket if you have one.

Get a pan with the oil good and hot.
Put the dusted fish fillets skin side down into the pan, fry for 5 minutes either side - a really nice crisp crust develops.

Plate up fish, potatoes and asparagus - pour over sauce - serve, lap up the praise.
Really quick, really nice

Please feel free to comment - I really appreciate the time and effort when people do.

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Friday, August 14, 2015

Turkish style Red Gurnard in a creamy lemon and mushroom sauce

Red Gurnard - a meaty, economic, tasty and sustainable fish, Scale 3 on the Marine Conservation Societies (MCS) list (*See note at end of article)

This type of fish, bony, bottom dwelling, is not usual on the menu - but they are great.
Very common in North African and Middle Eastern cuisine, this recipe is inspired by Turkish and Lebanese food. Good recipe for the more expensive red snapper as well.

I like my fish on the bone - but you can use fillets if you prefer.

The fish is not in great demand in Ireland, I picked these beauties up from Cork cities English Market - Ballycotton seafoods - along with the samphire, for €3.50, with rice can easily feed 4 or a greedy dinner for two.

This meal itself is great with rice, giving it almost a risotto effect.
The rice will cook in about the same time as it takes to cook the fish and veg.

The sauce, with egg, lemon and cream is kind of a Mediterranean hollandaise  - rich and velvety.

You will need a pan or heavy based pot with a lid or plate that can cover the pan.

Good knob of butter
Fish - 2 or 4 red gurnard fish/fillets, or red snapper - meaty white fish.
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
115 grm button mushrooms (about 9)
1 tomato - skinned, de-seeded and peeled
1 tablespoon - good squeeze - tomato puree
1 egg yolk
4 tablespoons cream
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Parsley to garnish                                                .

Melt the butter in a large frying pan.
Cook the onion for 2 - 3 minutes until softened or translucent but not browned.
Add Garlic and cook for another minute, then chuck in your mushrooms, tomato and tomato puree and season to taste.
Cook down for about 5 minutes.

Put the fish fillets on top of the veg and pour over the water.

Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to medium/low, cover the pan and leave simmer gently for 10 minutes.

There is a trick to this dish.
While waiting for the fish to cook, whisk up the egg yolk and lemon to emulsify- go easy on the lemon juice, you can add more later to taste, After whisking the egg and lemon add the cream and whisk in.

When cooked, remove the fish and keep warm.

Stir the egg/lemon/cream mixture into the veggies and blend, constantly stirring.
Taste the sauce, add pepper and salt to season as wanted, add more lemon juice to taste if you overdo the lemon, a pinch of sugar will bring it back.

Pour sauce over fish and serve.

I served the fish on a sushi rice with tomato and samphire mini salad on the side.
Also very good just with salad.

I hope you enjoy this recipe - please take the time to comment, I really appreciate the time and effort.

Pollock in wine
Paprika Pollack Almondine with Sephardic style spuds
Fennel poached Pollock
Easy Pea-sy Orangy Mackerel
Super Simple Cider Mackerel
Super Simple Herring 

* MCS scale 3 - eat but not too often.
Red gurnard is a fast growing fish and matures early at a large size. Avoid eating immature fish (less than 25 cm) and fresh (not previously frozen) fish caught during the spawning season (summer).

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Thursday, August 6, 2015

Scotch Eggs with a Connemara Coat

A quirky way of doing scotch eggs - great for a snack or a starter.
The dish is quicker and easier than the recipe suggests - just always take care when deep frying.
Enjoy, and please take the time to comment.

I am growing tired of TV foodie personalities who simply copy others without giving any credit and promote themselves as a brand.
Along with classic old recipes, I prefer to watch and read original cooks with real innovation who adapt or improve classics like Andy Bates or the Hairy Bikers - or chefs who make complex food more accessible, like Manuika Gowardhan 

Scotch eggs are actually an English invention, but seemed to have originated from India.
Nargisi Kofta, an egg dish from Hyderabad seems to be the source of this much maligned dish.

Because of poor, mass produced versions in Britain, Scotch eggs developed a poor reputation, but with a bit of care and attention they can be the star of the show.

I find chicken eggs quite big for this recipe, and using quail eggs better - although a little bit finicky to shell, it produces a cuter , smaller version - it is easier to cook (larger eggs take a bit more cooking as they have a thicker coat you run the risk of burning the coating) 
As well as that using quail eggs also stretches the coating mix further.

This is influenced by Bates, but using buttermilk and smoked black pudding to give it an Irish character and flavor. 

The Centre
12 Quails Eggs - boiled and peeled
250 Grams of your favorite sausage, skinned and out of their skins
100 Grams black or white pudding - I used McGeoughs smoked black.
Good pinch of mace
Good pinch of nutmeg
1/4 Teaspoon of Anchovie Paste
1 teaspoon of Mustard

The Coating
4 tablespoons buttermilk
3 tablespoons flour
1 beaten hens egg
Breadcrumbs to coat - I used Panko crumbs.

First, boil the eggs. With quail eggs to prepare, bring a pot of water to the boil.
Plunge in the eggs. 
To soft boil, 2 1/2  minutes, hard boil 4 minutes.
Remove from the water when cooked to desire and put into cold water, under a tap, and leave for 5 minutes. This stops a dark ring forming around the yoke which looks unpleasant. 

In the meantime, prepare the coating.
Mix and season the spices, seasoning, sausage meat, mustard, paste and black pudding well.
On a layer of foil prepare as a patty - keeping your hands wet helps to stop stickyness.
I found spreading a little buttermilk on the foil helped it stop sticking.
Put an egg on the patty and gently scoop up a little bit with the egg and form the mixture as a coat around the egg to make a little parcel - again, keeping your hands a little wet helps a lot, and it is easier than it sounds.

In four small bowls separately and in order put the:
buttermilk -
flour -
beaten egg -
panko crumbs

Dip each parcel into the bowls in the above order shaking off the excess after each dip.

Heat Donegal rapeseed oil to 180C in a heavy based pot. Test the oil by frying a cube of bread which should turn golden in a few seconds.

Deep fry the parcels in small batches (I suggest 4 at a time) so as not to reduce the heat of the oil.

Remove from oil when dark golden brown, and take care - overcooking will burn the coat quickly.

Drain on kitchen paper.

Serve warm or cold, keeps for 3 days in fridge.

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Pears and Stilton - Lockets Savoury

A great snack - but one word of advice, store stilton in an airtight container.
Stilton does freeze well for long term storage, but the smell can be overwhelming for the fridge.
I picked up the cheese at the highly recommended On the Pigs Back in Cork cities English Market.

Named for a famous London restaurant.
Very simple, all you need is bread, butter, a ripe pear and stilton cheese.
Watercress is a nice addition as well.

Peel and slice ripe pears thinly.
Lightly toast some good bread - sourdough is perfect - on both sides.
Butter the bread generously.

Happy meal
Preheat the grill, or heat the oven to 200C
Arrange the thinly sliced pears on the toast and top with Stilton
Grill or bake until cheese gently bubbling
Serve on hot plates, ideal with a small glass of port.

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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Devilish Kidneys with Star Anise Tomato

A classic meal, Devilled Kidneys, which has for some reason fallen out of fashion.
Traditionally served as a breakfast - this is a meal for later in the day, this meal was served with simple polenta, star anise tomato and warm cucumber to start using up a glut in the garden.

Colorful, tasty and ready in about 20 minutes.
The recipe for the kidneys and cucumber came from Gustav Templars great book

Firstly - clean the kidneys.
The video below is a quick guide. Normally there is also a meniscus on the outside of the kidney, this is easy to remove.
You may also have to remove the external fat from the outside, but butchers tend to do this in advance. (**See Note)

Devil-ling the kidneys is as easy as pie.
You will need:
Two tablespoons of Mustard Powder
Two tablespoons of Goodall's liquid Yorkshire Relish -
Worcestershire sauce ( Lea & Perrins ideally) is a good alternative.
Salt and Pepper, season to taste.
Parsley to garnish.

Mix and chuck in with the kidneys in a bowl, stir well to coat.

This can be done up to 24 hours in advance.

On a grill pan or on skewers, grill each side for five minutes when ready to serve.

Sprinkle with copious amounts of parsley, serve on toast for breakfast, or be inventive for lunch / dinner.
There is plenty of great sauce in the pan that you can pour over, cream can be added to it to make it a little richer and milder if you like.

As a very simple side veg with this - breakfast or lunch - star anise with tomato is a great combination.
Use cherry tomatoes or halved beef stake tomatoes.
Coat with olive or rapeseed oil, sprinkle with well crushed star anise and sea salt.
Bake low and slow for best results.
**In Ireland one can easily get kidney with the external fat intact, it is not so common in the UK.
Kidney simply grilled or BBQ'd in its own fat is another great dish, but in the UK you might even have to order it online by post.

Do note if doing a search for fresh kidneys online can produce some unplanned results.
If offered kidneys from anything other than an animal, quickly switch off your computer, disconnect and consider leaving the country.

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Sunday, July 5, 2015

A Hearty meal - simple stuffed lambs heart

Heart is a cut of meat which is under-used, normally very economic to buy and very, very tasty.
I sincerely believe in using every viable part of an animal, there is too much food waste.
This dish is very easy to prepare.

If you eat liver or kidney then you will be able to eat hearts, but they are not as strong-tasting.

If you are a little squeamish, or even if it is the first time - ask your butcher to remove the vascular bundle at the top of the heart (i.e. the aorta, superior vena cava etc.)  
It is important to maintain the integrity of the hearts two cavities for the stuffing.

Also, ask your butcher for butchers twine.
This meal will require a stove top and the oven

1 heart per person with gristle, veins and excess fat removed.
Bread crumbs
1 large onion finely diced
Sage leaves.
Knob of butter.
Salt and Pepper to season.
Bacon to wrap

Parsley to garnish

Red Wine
Flour or cornflour

Preheat oven to 140 deg. centigrade

Using a heavy based pot or casserole dish with a lid gently fry the onions until softened.
Add the finely chopped sage and thyme until wilted and flavour blended in
Season with salt and pepper.
Add the breadcrumbs and stir in until well mixed.
Remove from pan and set aside.

Rinse the heart cavity.
Stuff with the mixture
As an option you can wrap some bacon around the heart.

Secure the top of the heart and bacon using butchers twine.
You can also use bamboo skewers

Heat some more butter in the pot or casserole dish.
Braise the heart until lightly browned.

Cover the pot or casserole dish and transfer to the oven for 90 minutes.
In the oven cooking time you can prepare any side dish you wish.

I served with apple braised home made sauerkraut/zuurkool (or buy Kapusta Czerwona - available in most polish food shops) and new potatoes.

After 90 minutes remove the hearts from the oven.
Remove the string and leave the meat to rest.

In the meantime, using some red wine deglaze the pan
Use plain or cornflour to thicken the liquid - it makes a lovely gravy or jus - but this does need to be kept warm and served quickly to stop it becoming lumpy.

Slice the heart and serve up - garnish with some parsley

 Its a bit different and really worth a try - it is delicious - enjoy and please leave a comment.

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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Irish country style buttermilk, bran and blackberry muffins

A fiber and fruit filled breakfast treat based on a recipe by .
It takes its inspiration from traditional soda bread, and uses soda, buttermilk and blackberries (fresh or frozen) in its composition.

If you want it fresh in the morning you can leave the mixture overnight in the fridge.
For me its a handy thing to make when baking bread or pies anyway - so you don't waste energy.
The batch is sufficient for 11 or 12 muffins

You will need:
75 grms (1 cup) wheat bran
250 ml (1 cup) buttermilk - yogurt can be used as a substitute or a mix.
80ml (1/3 cup) rapeseed oil or other vegetable oil. Unsweetened applesauce can also be used
1 egg
95 grms (2/3 cup) brown sugar
125 ml (1 cup) self raising flour
teaspoon baking soda
teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt
About a 100 grms (1/2 cup) blackberries (you can also use other seasonal fruits or raisins)
You can add some vanilla extract if you like
Preheat oven to 190 degrees C (375 F)

Grease muffin cups or line with paper muffin liners. 
Mix together wheat bran and buttermilk; let stand for 10 minutes. 

Beat together oil, egg, sugar (and vanilla if wanted) and add to buttermilk/bran mixture. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Stir flour mixture into buttermilk mixture, until just blended. Fold in any desired fruits and spoon batter into prepared muffin tins. 

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. 
Try not to overcook - 15 minuted should do it in a fan assisted oven.

Cool and enjoy!

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