Sunday, November 28, 2010

Parsnip Risotto and Boxty

Well, if anything this is phase 3 chicken, using the stock made from the carcass as a base for a risotto with parsnips from the garden.
Its a way of stretching the budget, and creating less waste food. Filling and tasty, a good winter dish.
Already from the same 5Ib chicken there has been a roast, a gougere and also a parsnip soup that I will write up later.

Parsnip risotto served with boxty and a poached egg - dash of paprika for colour.

I served it with Boxty, which is an Irish dish very similar to Swiss Rosti  - it just adds texture and more colour to the meal.

The recipe is based on one I found at an excellent blog on Italian food - Lucullian Delights

A generous slice of butter
1 onion, peeled and chopped
150 g parsnip, diced
900ml chicken or vegetable stock
200g arborio or other risotto rice rice
150ml of white wine (optional)
1 sprig of fresh parsley, finely chopped - I used my Akita root parsley leaves
A handful of freshly grated Parmesan, plus more to serve
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

As an extra option you can use a good balsamic vinegar to drizzle.

Heat the butter in a heavy-based pan over a medium heat.
Add the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes, until translucent.
Add the parsnips and parsley, raise the heat a little and cook until almost tender, stir frequently to prevent sticking. Meanwhile, bring the stock to simmering point in a separate pan.

When the parsnip pieces are soft, add the rice and stir constantly for a couple of minutes.
Add the wine and continue to stir until it has been absorbed by the rice.

Then start to ladle hot stock into the risotto, waiting for each batch to be absorbed before adding the next. Keep stirring and adding stock till the rice is tender, with just the tiniest residual chalky 'bite' in the middle. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Stir in a handful of Parmesan and serve with plenty of freshly ground black pepper and more grated Parmesan on the table. Garnish with a little more parsley and serve

If the Risotto is from the North of Italy, Boxty is as Irish as it gets.
There are different versions, but this is the simplest.
2 Potato's, peeled, grated, rinsed and pressed dry.
1 Carrot - peeled and grated (optional)
1 egg, beaten
2 Tbls flour - I just used barley flour which was at hand, any plain flour will do
Salt and pepper to taste.

Simply mix the ingredients, shape into patties and fry until golden brown on each side.
The carrot just adds a little more colour.
The egg that I used was simply left over from one I used as a glaze

Salt is important for this dish, so season well
Thanks for visiting, and please take the time to comment

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Just some Garden Shots

Well, thats the winter beds more or less sorted.
Leeks, winter onion and winter cabbage transplanted into place. Bean seeds sowed to be ready for spring.
Kale doing OK - may chance a few more, and Garlic in between the beans as a catch crop.

Rhubarb crowns planted and the horseradish slip transplanted in the top of bed 4.
I think I will create two new beds next spring, and dedicate that one to things like blueberry, gooseberry and goji plants, kind of a fruit and herb patch for the future - its very rocky anyway so not a great idea for root veg.

Just some photos of what was done fairly quickly
Overview of some beds
Beans, leeks, caulis, some winter onions
beetroot leaves/swiss chard ready for the kitchen
Chicken wire is to try to keep the kittens out

Mostly winter and spring cabbages
Massive, beautiful rhubarb crown - one of a pair from next door.
The original plant came down from Meath in the 1920's and has survived in Connemara
Really excited about these, but will need to wait 3 years
Lots of compost dug in, and bark mulch to protect.

Winter lettuce, Kales and earthed up Oca plants

Theres a horseradish transplant under the glass -
Also protected from weeds by bark mulch

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Galway Gougere

Gougere is a specialty of the Burgundy region. Traditionally, gougere's are made with gruyere, the well known swiss cheese with the holes - but other cheeses are sometimes used.

With recent cheese give-aways** in Ireland, perhaps I should start concentrating on recipes of this nature!!
This recipe is a real recession buster - This recipe is a great way to use up left over chicken, and makes a change from the normal chicken leek or mushroom pie. With Christmas coming, I think it is also a way of using up turkey next month.
Its a lovely warm velvety oven dish for the winter, and with the oven on the go you may as well take advantage of that to roast or bake veg to accompany the meal.

Its what I'd call 2nd or 3rd phase chicken, first you have the roast, then you strip the carcass for this or a pie - then you have the carcass for stock, soup and not forgetting some of the other croft residents - cat food.

Essentially it is a rich, flavoured crust made from Choux pastry, used either for savory wraps or open pies.
Very easy to make, especially with the assistance of a blender on slow speed.
With this recipe, as always, I have incorporated Irish flavours and aspects to it like cheddar, and in this case the use of buttermilk does add a lot to the final dish.

If you use this recipe, or adjust it to suit your own tastes, please take the time to leave comments and thoughts here, I do appreciate the time and effort

I used Cuinneog buttermilk and butter. For me it is supporting a small family company from our next door county, and as I have said before - I always try to support small Irish companies.
More importantly, for me, the flavour and the product are simply far superior to other mass produced brands on the market - fermented longer than usual and free from preservatives etc.

The main flavours to the filling of this dish are lemon and French tarragon.

I grew tarragon in the garden herb patch, and it is an underused herb in Ireland.
French tarragon is grown from root divisions, just like horseradish - whereas Russian tarragon is apparently grown from seed
Tarragon is easy to grow in any sunny spot well drained spot. It can be grown with other plants in a flower bed or border, given a little room to itself as it is not a great competitor.
For the Choux Pastry:
300ml - ½ Pint Cuinneog buttermilk
(traditionally the French use water, but the buttermilk makes it a richer pastry)
175 gm - 6 oz plain flour
100 gm  - 4 oz Cuinneog butter or margarine
50 gm - 2 oz Finely grated cheese
(I used cheddar, but gruyere is the traditional type)
4 eggs, lightly beaten
Pinch of salt.

For the filling:
225 gm cooked chicken, diced
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh Tarragon (or 2 tsp dried)
1 tsp mustard - or ½ tsp mustard powder
1 pint white sauce* - easy to make yourself yourself

1 tsp paprika to garnish


Place the buttermilk in a pan with the butter and heat gently until the butter melts,.
Bring to the boil.
Remove from the heat, add the flour and salt.
Beat in the flour quickly to produce a smooth paste which comes away from the sides of the pan to form a smooth ball as shown in photo above.
Set aside to cool slightly.

Personally, I remove it from the pot to the blender and then use the pot to make the filling - saves on washing up.

The following can be done by hand, but I just use a blender on slow speed.
Gradually beat in the eggs to give a smooth glossy finish.
Fold in the grated cheese.

This mixture is spooned or piped around the side of a greased ovenproof dish, an oval dish is easiest.

Make up the white sauce*
Add tarragon, mustard, lemon and chicken, stir in
Simmer on a low heat for 5 minutes (while piping/spooning in pastry to dish)
Pour into the centre of the dish.
Bake in the oven for 40 minutes
Sprinkle with paprika - serve hot.
The Gougere is shown here served with baked garden veg, Very simple and energy saving recipe.
I just sliced some parsnip and carrot - roughly chopped an onion, two cloves of garlic crushed and herbs (root parsley, thyme, fair whack of salt and some pepper)
Chuck them in a shallow oven dish with some olive oil, cover with tinfoil and put into the oven when you start to preheat it for the gougere, the cooking time for the entire meal takes about 50 minutes that way.

*White Sauce
Ingredients to make white sauce
50 gm/2 oz Cuinneog butter or margarine
50 gm/2 oz plain flour
600ml/1 pint milk

Melt butter on a low heat in a pan
Add flour and blend in with butter
Add milk, whisk.
**I cook in part to relax, and I do try to keep politics and recreation apart.
However, with recent developments and the great cheese give-away in Ireland following cuts in social welfare and the public services, an ITF / EU intervention we were told was not happening or going to happen. That was until we saw talks were taking place on BBC, Al Jazeera, CNN, Sky news et al.

Then RTE mentioned talks a day later, and despite denials it looks as if a massive bailout will go ahead, one for the banks that is that will cost us, and the next two generations.
Further cuts due on December 7th there may be more cheese payouts to the general public in lieu of money and services, so I figured it was time to use cheese in something.

As with the foot note on sugar in a previous posting in August, sometimes its only after you write about something that the full truth comes out, as it did recently with Tainaiste Mary Caughlan and the debacle she oversaw that was the sale of our sugar industry.

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Connemara Lamb with a Lebanese theme

Lebanese Lamb casserole
with sesame lemon cous-cous and parsnip fennel puree

This recipe is based on Lebanese cuisine so the combination of herbs and spices makes this casserole spicy but not hot. To make it hot, add 1/2 tsp of Harissa paste or some chili's.
It's a great way to prepare the cheaper, tougher but more flavoursome cuts of lamb like shoulder.
Its a deliciously warming, spicy one-pot dish that's easy to prepare - great winter food.

Lebanese cuisine has a lot of fruits, vegetables and seafood.
When they use red meat it is usually lamb on the coast and goat meat in the mountain's.
It also includes lots of garlic and olive oil, often seasoned by lemon juice, butter and cream are rarely used.

Lebanese food concentrates on herbs and spices more than sauces, but the combinations they use are fantastic.

You can use stock cubes for this meal, but I don't see the point in this when you are trimming the chops anyway. The home made stock can be used for more than one meal, so as a gardener and cook you get great value for money and delicious winter soups.


400g lamb shoulder chops, boned and trimmed - the bones and trimmings are retained.
2 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large onion, sliced
1 leek, sliced
2 tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tbsp oregano,
400g skinned, de-seeded chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
500ml lamb stock
black pepper



Take the bones and trimmed off fat, add to a pot with a little olive oil and brown them.
Add the leek offcuts, tomato peels and seeds, coat them in the rendered fat and add 1 litre of water, bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes - strain off 500ml for the casserole.

When this is done, retain the bones etc. add a 1.5 litres and leave the stockpot on the stove if you have one - it creates a lovely base for soups, lamb stock is particularly good with lentil, pumpkin and parsnip soups.
A stock pot is a great idea, just add any veg trimmings you have - for example, I did this dish with squash, so I added the seeds to the stock. On another I used parsnip and fennel, trimmings were added.

A handy idea if you have space is to freeze stock in lunch boxes or old ice cream containers for use in the future.

Toss the lamb in a mix flour and spices (ground coriander, turmeric & cayenne) just like with the Hungarian style liver

Fry the lamb gently for 2-3 minutes or until brown. Add the garlic, onion, oregano and leek 
Cook for about 5 minutes, or until soft.
Place in the casserole dish. Add remaining ingredients. Season with salt and pepper.
Cover and place in a preheated oven 170°C for 2 hours or until tender.
Or, alternatively, cook very gently on the hob in a heavy based pot on the lowest heat for 2 hours or until tender.
As an oven dish, it can be served with baked potato's to save on energy, but I really like it with rice or cous cous.

Served with corriander rice and squash

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Connemara Carrot Conserve's - Carrot Jam and Carrot Marmalade

Oranges are not the only fruit - nor are fruit in the way we look at things. In an EU Jam Directive, written in the 80s and updated in 2001, it describes the parameters required for a product to be labelled as jam or marmalade.

There is the phrase "for the purposes of this directive, tomatoes, the edible part of rhubarb stalks, carrots, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, melons and water melons are considered to be fruit".
This was introduced to pacify the Portuguese.

In Portugal, a delicious jam is made from carrots! There is also a version in India, this recipe is sort of a hybrid. The result is delicious, fresh and crisp - it makes a real change from the norm.

The recipe for carrot marmalade is furtehr down the page

There is also a precedent from Victorian times, from Mrs Beeton's famous book on Household Management.
One assumes that in Victorian times real apricot jam would have been expensive, so this would have been a substitute for families of a more modest income.
The book written by Mrs Isabella Mary Beeton (née Mayson) (12 March 1836 – 6 February 1865) is regarded as the first modern cookbook, it a format that was a precursor to what we have now.

The book contained 900 recipes, because of this the book is also known as Mrs Beeton's Cookbook.
Most of the recipes were illustrated with coloured engravings, and it was the first book to show recipes in a format that is still used today.
I was a guide to running a Victorian household, with advice not only on cooking but also fashion, animal husbandry, poisons(!!!!), the management of servants, science, religion, and industrialism.
 No doubt, a few copies of this book would have been sold in Ireland, particularly with a growing middle class in places like Belfast, Dublin and Cork.

The recipe I give here is based on Mrs Beeton's Carrot jam to imitate Apricot Preserve - but altered to add flavour and help setting. As a fan of Indian and SE Asian cuisine, I had to add my own twist to it.

The carrots I used for this were Jaune Obtuse de Doubs, I sourced the seeds for this heritage French variety from
They are a yellow carrot, and so were perfect for this recipe. They are very sweet naturally and grew well in the garden this year, great to add to salads as well.
This recipe is an ideal way to use up smaller or mis-shapen carrots.
The weights here will fill about three and a half standard jam jars.


900 gm Carrots, sliced
100 gm Cooking apple, grated
900 gm Sugar
Zest of one lemon
Juice of two lemons
5 Tsp ground Almond
1 Tsp Tumeric (for added colour)
1/2 Tsp Vanilla Extract
Seeds of 5 Cardamom pods, crushed
You can of course add the flavours you like as well, things like star anise, ginger, cinnamon or nutmeg are recommended.

Put sliced carrots into a pot with boiling water, around 300 ml to ensure they don't burn.
With a grater, remove the zest from one lemon and squeeze out the juice.
Squeeze the second lemon.
Peel and grate the apple.
Mix the ground almond, grated apple, lemon zest, cardamon pods and lemon juice.
When the carrots are softened a bit after about 10 minutes add the apple/almond/lemon mix and tumeric to the syrup and stir through.
Keep stirring until the apple has broken down.

At this point there should be enough liquid to cover the bottom third of the ingredients.
Add the sugar and dissolve. Keep stirring until carrots are soft.

After about 10 minutes its time to blend the mix. This is where we have a real advantage over the Victorians as the carrots can be blended down to almost a puree, giving a real apricot jam imitation.

This is a little different from normal jam making. This is because the carrots float.
Strain off the ingredients, retaining the liquid syrup.
Return the syrup to the cooking pot and keep on low temperature.

Add the solids to the blender and give it about 3 minutes until finely blended.
At this point I added the 1/2 Tsp Vanilla Extract

Return the blended solids to the pot and reduce over a low heat, remember to stir frequently to stop anything burning.

Do the cold plate test as normal for jams and prepare to jar up in hot sterilised jars as per the preserves made easy posting. Fill the jars to just below the threads and waterbath to seal.

The biggest difference between my recipe and Mrs. Beeton's is that she advises, to extend the shelf life, that you allow the carrot jam to cool and add 3 Tsp of Brandy (I suppose any strong liquer would do) - but you need to do this at under 70 deg C to retain the alcohol. But other than flavour, the water bath treatment should take care of this anyway. The other divergence is the apple, that I added for the pectin content.

Fairly straight forward this, pretty much as above with a few minor changes. The big difference is grating the carrot to give a marmalade like texture and the use of Demerera sugar to make it a bit darker.

900 gm red carrot (I used Lisse de Mieux, also from realseeds)
100 gm tart apple
Zest and Juice of two Oranges
Zest and juice of one Lemon (try a couple of lime if you like)
200 ml water
500 gm white sugar
400 gm Demerera Sugar.

Grate the carrots and apple. The grating is done for texture and appearance
Zest and juice oranges and lemon
Blend all above ingredients, put into a large heavy bottomed pot and soften the carrot.
When the carrot is softened, take about 1/3rd of the grated carrot and put through food blender/processor.
Return processed carrot to pot and add all sugar.
Cook until reduced to setpoint and jar as per previous posting on preserves.
Yields 3.5 regular jam jars, tastes delicious.

Thanks for reading and please do take the time to leave a comment.

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Irish Beetroot and Blackpudding soup - Irish Borsch / Irish Borscht

Hot, red and delicious darlinki - from Russia with love, or black pudding and soured cream in this case

Beetroot is a very versatile vegetable, it keeps well in the ground over winter and I've had a good crop.
As I have said here before, there are other options rather than just to boil or pickle in malt vinegar.
In addition to Moroccan style pickles and Kosambir this is another Eastern European staple, beetroot soup - Borsch or Borscht.
It is a Russian staple, usually done with dumplings. Having been to Russia on several occasions let me assure you that they really know about hearty food to deal with cold weather.
Because all the veg and herbs used in this came from my own garden, I am tremendously proud of it.

In addition to the beets I added some red cabbage, another northern European staple that is said to be a cancer-preventing vegetable, as are other brassicas.

If you want just a pure beetroot soup, simply drop the cabbage and make up the weight with more beetroot, squash or because of the deep red colour, it might be cool as well for kids around Halloween, maybe replacing the with some pumpkin flesh, that needs to be used up - call it vampire soup or something equally ghoulish.

This soup is an excellent way to get more vegetable into your diet, and a way of using beets in a really rewarding way. Its also very easy to reheat or freeze when cooled.
I served with home made soda bread, but if you can find good rye bread, use that instead, the sour dough rye really sets off the sweetness of the beets.
For garnish I used a soured and Herby cream.

Using the black pudding is really optional, and it may be better being incorporated in dumplings or as a part of a garnish, but otherwise think of it as a stock cube - and it does add to the depth of this particular borscht and give it a bit of Irish zing.

Its up to you but I do tend to experiment a lot while cooking, and this one does work.

For herby soured cream its easy peezy lemon squeezy:
300 ml cream
juice of half a lemon
fresh chopped herbs
Bang them in a blender, whizz till clotted.
I just had some on hand from a turnip and lemon soup.

1.5 lts water
(What is ideal for this is reserved cooking water from bacon and cabbage, frankfurters or hotdogs)
600 grms Fresh beetroot, peeled and diced. Mine were Bolthardy
200 grms Fresh red cabbage - finely shredded. Mine was Rodeo, but can easily be replaced by other veg.
100 grms Carrot (1 large carrot) peeled and diced. More Lisse de Mieux
100 grms Onion (1 large onion) Peeled, chopped roughly. A good old Ailsa Craig type
100 grms fatty bacon and pork mix or ham bone
4 cloves Garlic peeled and crushed
1 tsp pepper
3 tsp sea salt
Bay leaf
Knob of good butter
Tbls olive oil

The above is the basic, and you will get a very nice soup out of it. But to adjust it to my own taste, and to give it a bit of an Irish twist I altered it a little.

1 tsp caraway seeds (I just like this flavour with cabbage)
100 grm root parsley, Atika, that I grew in the garden. Very typical of eastern European cuisine, Czech in particular and it adds tremendous depth and flavour.
100 grm black pudding - this is a very Irish optional extra, and may be better used to float a small fried piece on top in presentation or work it into dumplings.

Bloody Hell!! Next time I chip beetroot they may end up in the chip pan!!
Get the veg washed, chopped and ready to go and prep meats.
Dry roast the caraway seed in the pan
Add butter and olive oil, get it to a good high temperature
Chuck in your pork/ham mix, carrots, cabbage, onion and garlic.
Sweat them off for 5 minutes. Render as much fat out of the pork as possible.
Season with salt and pepper, keep them sweating for a further 5 minutes.
Add 1 litre water and the bay leaf - don't forget, reserve 500ml of water.
Bring to a rolling boil for 10 minutes
Then add chipped or cubed beetroot, and optional black pudding and Atika.
Bring back to the boil for 5 minutes
Add the remaining 500 ml of water, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Remove the bay leaf.
Using a strainer or slotted spoon transfer the solids to a blender - whizz until liquefied and return to liquid.
Let it sit on a low heat for 5-10 minutes and serve.

Garnish with herby soured cream, chives and parsley. To add to the dish, as I said dumplings based on black pudding would give it an Irish twist - or to be more traditional, try black rye bread croutons, that sour flavour really sets off how sweet the beetroot is naturally, but its bloody hard to find rye bread out here in the west.

Please take the time to comment, I really enjoy the feedback.

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