Monday, September 27, 2010

Connemara Lambs Liver with wild Irish mushrooms a la mode Mygar

This is a liver dish, but please do not be put off by that. Many kids and even adults have an aversion to it, perhaps because of its texture, colour or presentation at the butchers - but it is the same stuff which the same people will pay a lot of money for in it's processed form - pate.

The other reason may well be that the only liver people in Ireland have had was an over cooked, dried out attempt at liver and onions.

Liver is probably one of the most economic and yet undervalued cuts.
It is filling, versatile and being packed with Iron it is particularly beneficial in the diet of teenage girls who may have some degree of anemia. But this is a way of serving it that most people enjoy.

In keeping with the previous post on onions, I had planned to do a staple - liver and onions - but this is just a little more exotic.

This recipe is basically Hungarian, with a few little alterations from myself, its tasty, filling, attractive and very economical. True to its eastern European origins its heavy on paprika and peppers.
To give it an Irish twist I used a little barley flour and some wild mushrooms - but this is entirely optional.

The wild mushrooms are in a way not only Irish but a nod to eastern Europe - Poland in particular.
This is the time of year that Polish friends of mine tend to become as maudlin as Russians.
With their continental climate, they normally have a long, dry September/October period.

What gets them down is the rain we get here - in particular at this time of year. They call this period of time the Golden Autumn - where it is virtually a national obsession to go into the forests and pick mushrooms.

Other European cultures have a strong interest and knowledge of wild mushrooms, we Irish have a fear of being poisoned - with some justification.
On mainland Europe children are taught how to identify and collect wild mushrooms at an early age.
But we are taught that if it is not a field mushroom then it should be avoided at all costs.

If you want to learn about mushroom hunting in Ireland then its worth contacting Bill O'Dea who has been holds annual mushroom hunts. He also organizes the occasional trip outside Ireland.
For details go to
If you don't know your mushrooms, then shop bought ones are a safe option.

Normally served with a veg risotto rice, I just went with some small herbed potato's.

This meal serves 2

300 gm Liver - chopped (lamb is the most subtle flavoured)
100 ml cream
1/2 small leek, finely sliced
1 Bell pepper, red, diced
3 heaped tablespoons flour
3 teaspoons Paprika
2 teaspoons barley flour
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Salt & Pepper to taste
150 gm Sliced Mushrooms
1/2 finely chopped red chili.

Allow 30 minutes for small spuds, so get them down in some salted water.

Take the flour, Paprika, salt and pepper. Put into a clean plastic bag and mix well.
Add the chopped liver and coat it well with the mix. This is the method I use for coating any meat or veg with seasoned flour.
Fry the leeks, garlic and chili gently in some butter until they are soft.
Add the coated liver and cook through. The smaller you cut the liver, the quicker this will be.

To me liver is cooked when the centre of a sample piece is dry and pink, it is important not to over cook it.

When the liver is cooked through add the sliced mushrooms and diced bell pepper, sweat them off until they have softened - about 50% cooked.

Then add the cream, which picks up a lovely colour from the paprika and reduce the heat.
Leave for about 5 - 10 minutes to reduce a little and the bell peppers are cooked.

All of the above takes about 20 - 25 minutes, so you are timing it for the potato's.
When they are done, just strain them - put them back in the pot with some butter, freshly chopped herbs and salt. I used Atika parsley, chives and a little dill leaf. Whirling them around in the still warm pot gives a nice even coating.

I plated this up with home made Blackberry Chutney, and it really sets off all the flavours of the meal.
The texture of the liver, for those who might find it a little different is well complimented by the mushrooms, so in a way this recipe is all you ever wanted to know about liver but were afraid to ask about.

I found the slight sweetness of Cabernet Sauvignon also complimented the meal.

I hope you enjoy this recipe - and please take the time to comment on any thoughts or suggestions.

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Ardmore Irish style Alsace Onion Tart

The Onion is one of the oldest crops we humans have raised. It's reckoned we, as a species, have cultivated Onions for 5 millennium. Along with leeks and garlic - members of the same family- they are amongst the oldest recorded crops. There are so many varieties that grow in so many climates it is impossible to write a full history, but they are an important and continuous part of our evolution.

I would hazard that 99.9% of people who have a kitchen garden will grow some member of the Onion family.
It is a cornerstone in crop rotation and when grown from set is very easy to cultivate.
There are varieties that are quick growing for the summer, others that can survive winter and give us early crops

Onions were a staple in ancient Egypt, they were also worshiped and used in burial ceremonies, many have been found in tombs.

Onions are mentioned as being eaten by the Israelites in Exodus: "We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic."
In the sixth century B.C., the Indian medical treatise Charaka - Sanhita celebrates the onion as medicine - a diuretic, good for digestion, the heart, the eyes and the joints.

Dioscorides, a Greek physician in first century A.D. also noted several medicinal uses of onions.
The Roman gourmet Apicius, credited with writing one of the first cookbooks had many references to onions.
Pliny the Elder wrote of Pompeii's onions. Excavators of the city found where bulbs about which he had written left behind telltale cavities in the ground where Pliny had seen them in the gardens, in the town where he was another victim of Vesuvius.

The basis of most foods we eat is the onion, Asian, Indian and European cuisines all rely heavily on them to provide the foundation of so many familiar dish's. They are the first ingredient prepped in so many curries, stir fries and stews.

But we often don't look at the onion as the centre of a recipe in itself.
Onions are treated, quite poorly in my opinion, simply as the first thing into the pot to take on and spread the spices and herbs to the rest of the meal, its own identity getting overwhelmed and lost itself in the process.

So, to perhaps do my little bit to right that wrong I am planning a couple of recipes that concentrate on the noble vegetable.

France is famous for its onion growing, and the use of onions in its cuisine. Perhaps the region of Lyon is most noted for the use of onions, but my favorite onion dish comes from Alsace.
It's simple, delicious, served hot or cold, as a snack or a starter and it's a family favorite.
To give it a little bit of a Connemara twist in the pastry I use buttermilk to bind, but water is also fine.

The onions I grew this year was a mixture of Ailsa Craig and Bedfordshire Champion from seed and Red Baron and Stuttgarter from set.
Leeks were Musselburgh, Lyon and an old Dutch type Albinstar from seed.
If there is one thing I learnt is that you plant the leek out as a winter veg because they are very slow growing, and unless you are really into heritage varieties like myself, onion sets are a lot harder than sets.
I hung the onions up to dry french style, braided up by the fireplace.

For the pastry
125g  plain flour
pinch of salt
75g  Cuinneog butter, cubed
30-45ml/2-3 tbsp buttermilk. Cuinneog also make this product.

For the filling
450g onions, halved lengthwise and very thinly sliced crosswise.
You can substitute some leeks for the onion
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
250ml cream
1 whole egg plus the yoke of an egg
1/4 teaspoon ground or grated nutmeg

Sift the flour and salt into a bowl and stir in most of the butter.
Using your fingertips, rub in the butter until it resembles fine crumbs.
Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons buttermilk, then stir with a knife until it clumps together – add a little more buttermilk if it's dry.

Bring the mixture together to a rough ball. Tip out onto a lightly floured surface and knead very briefly until you have a smooth, firm dough – do not overwork as you'll end up with tough pastry!

Wrap in cling film and pop in the fridge for 30 minutes – this relaxes the gluten in the flour and stops it shrinking during cooking

While the shortcrust pastry is chilling, put some butter on a frying pan and melt at a low heat.
Add thinly sliced onions and saute until soft and translucent.
Meanwhile put the cream, egg, salt and nutmeg into a bowl and beat with a fork until blended.
Also start to preheat oven to 190°c at this time.
Take out the pastry and roll it out to the size of your lightly greased baking dish. Again I used Cuinneog butter to do this
Carefully line the pastry in the tin so the crust is just a little proud of the edge, just slightly higher.
When the onion is ready, put it into the baking dish.
Then pour over the cream mix until it comes up just to below the onion
Put into the preheated oven for 35 - 40 minutes, until the top is browned.
Serve with a nice, crisp green salad or I would recommend a warm goats cheese salad. A lot of recipes call for bacon in the tart, but to me that is a different dish, more from the Lorraine side.
It is a simple meal to prepare as I said, and its very economical as well. Lovely served with a Muscadet.
I hope you enjoy it, and please take the time to leave a comment.

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