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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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Fruit n' Nut Pork and Greens - Chuleta de Cerdo y Acelgas con Pasas y Pinones

This meal is just a way of dolling up simple pork chops with a side of simple sautéed spring greens
The meal itself is a nice variation on the Northern European theme of pork and brassica like our bacon and cabbage or Dutch Rookwurst and borecole.
The greens are the main part of the meal, based on a Catalan dish called Acelgas con Pasas y Pinones.
Normally its made using chard and other greens sweetened with raisins and crunch added from nuts.
It’s a seasonal meal for me as I used the pine nuts left over from the nettle pesto and tidied up the leaves on my Tipperary Turnips and winter cabbage’s. I use a real mix, a medley of greens.

This meal serves 3-4.

The Pork could not be simpler. Its flavours are based on sage and onion stuffing.
You will need:
2 pork chops cut into cubes about 2cm
2 good sized apples, cored and cut into good sized chunks
About half an onion, roughly chopped
About one and a half teacups course breadcrumbs (about 2 slices of well done toast through the blender)
Teaspoon dried sage
Teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 180 deg. C
Retain half a teacup of  breadcrumbs
Place all the other ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
Oil a dish with Donegal rapeseed oil
Chuck ingredients into the cooking dish, pour over the remaining breadcrumbs
Put in the middle of oven for 45 minutes/1hour until nice and golden.

I always throw a few spuds in the top of oven to bake or to roast depending on how I feel at the same time as the pork, saves energy and washing up

For the Acelgas con Pasas y Pinones you will need:
12oz-1lb of Garden Greens like chard, cabbage, turnip or beetroot tops. Later in the year I would use kale
These are cut chiffonade (see note)
4 tablespoons raisins 
3 tablespoons pine nuts  
2 tablespoons Donegal Rapeseed oil 
About half an onion (whats left from the pork dish really)
2 garlic cloves, crushed or finely minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Cut the greens chiffonade.
In a medium pot, bring a pint of water to a boil. Add greens, stir to submerge, and boil gently, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring several times to make sure the greens are cooking evenly.

After 10 minutes, drain greens in a colander (press on them once or twice with the back of a spoon to remove extra water) and set aside.
Soak raisins in a small amount of the hot water and set aside.

I generally take a break at this point, let the greens drain until you relax, maybe get a baked dessert ready etc. and wait while the pork cooks off

About 10 minutes from when you expect the pork to be done, continue with the recipe.

Heat a large dry heavy pan and toast pine nuts over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until light brown. Do not walk away while they are cooking or they might scorch. Remove nuts from pan and set aside.

Heat the Donegal Rapeseed oil in same pan and sauté the onion for 3-5 minutes, or until soft and just beginning to color. During the last minute of this cooking time, add garlic and oregano, so as not to scorch the garlic.

When onion-garlic mixture is done, add drained greens to the pan and stir to combine. Drain raisins and add them, cooking on medium and stirring a minute or two to evaporate any extra water that has accumulated.
Stir in pine nuts and serve with the pork and potato’s, and as the pine nuts came from the nettle pesto, why not use a little of that to garnish the spuds.
Traditionally of course the meal is cooked using olive oil, and Catalan olives are fantastic - but this is local, regular farm food. They use olive oil simply because it is available, so I really feel we should try cooking with our own rapeseed oil to reduce food miles and support our own farmers.
It is for that reason as well that I source most of my shop bought meat from McGeoughs Butchers in Oughterard or Seamus Mannion in Clifden.
As always, please feel free to leave a comment, I love the feedback 

*Note - Chiffonade:
This is a technique in which leafy greens are cut into long, thin strips. 
This is generally accomplished by stacking leaves, rolling them tightly (a technique I am sure many readers are familiar with) then cutting across the rolled leaves with a sharp knife, producing fine ribbons.

"Chiffon" is French for "rag". To chiffonade simply means to turn into rag-like strips, as seen in the pictures.


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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Monday, May 16, 2011

Irish Nettle Pesto with rapeseed oil

Well, here's another recipe using what are regarded by most as weeds.
Pesto can be made from really anything. We’ve all seen pestos with basil and tomato of course, but they also use other herbs.
The Italians make this nettle pesto in springtime called  pesto d’urtica.
They also make a nettle pasta - Strettine - a springtime favorite in Emilia Romagna, but that's for another day.
There are a lot of recipes for it, but mine was certainly inspired by Hank Shaw from

I have not used Irish rapeseed oil before but it is now being produced in Donegal by the Donegal Rapeseed oil company, and it worked great. I think its great that we are now producing a viable alternative for olive oil and really hope they do well. A list of outlets stocking the product can be seen here.
Donegal Rapeseed Oil is also very healthy. It only has 6% saturated fat content where most olive oils have 14% and sunflower oil 10%.
100g fresh nettle leaves, washed in cold water
As with nettle soup avoid picking nettles on the roadside as these may have been sprayed with herbicides. 
Dont forget to retain the nettle stems for the garden.
2 garlic cloves, core removed, finely chopped, or wild garlic if you have it.

50g (about 2 tablespoons) pine nuts, lightly toasted.
You can also use cashew, walnut or if you are lucky enough to grow them try hazelnuts.
60g grated hard cheese like Parmesan or even the heel off a good mature cheddar
150ml Donegal rapeseed oil (or substitute good quality extra virgin olive oil)
Salt and fresh ground pepper

Remember to wear kitchen gloves.
Blanch the nettle leaves in well salted boiling water for a minute or two, this removes the sting and the salt helps retain the colour.
Then plunge into iced water, again to retain texture and colour.
Drain and roughly chop, (you can keep the water as stock or for boiling pasta to go with this meal) remove as many stems as possible.
Once they are cool, put them in a colander to strain.

Next get a tea towel, and put the nettles in it. Wrap one end of the towel one way, then the other end of the towel the other and squeeze out as much moisture as you can.

Purists say pesto is best made with a mortar and pestle, after all the name comes from pestle, which means to pound. I just use a food processor.
First crush the pine nuts lightly with a knife
Core and roughly chop the garlic.
Add the salt, pepper, cheese and the nettles and commence blitzing.

Start adding the rapeseed oil.
How much you add depends on how you are using your pesto. If you are making a spread as I do then about 100ml. If you plan on using it for pasta sauce, then you will need more.

Either way, you add it in to the blender at a slow steady pour to incorporate it.
I used 100ml in the blender and retained 50ml to cover it in the jar at the end.
I tend to go for a dryer pesto - I figure if I use it in pasta, minestrone or gnocchi, I can just add a little oil in a bowl and thin it out a bit more.
Nettle Pesto is very easy to make, can be stored by freezing or waterbathing.
Pesto will keep for up to a month in well sealed jar in the fridge. 

It really is great simply put on soda bread, with a little cheese and some spicy radishes for a little extra kick.
The colour is vivid and fresh looking, with a mild and subtle flavour. Compared to even good quality basil pesto the flavour and colour of home made is far superior.
Well, thats another mostly free food - and soooo easy to make.
As always, please do take the time to comment, I love the feedback

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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Alcohol and the garden

Two of my favorite subjects, the garden and beer. Alcohol can be of real use in pest control.
If you have a problem with killing bugs with booze, remember, at least they die happy.
Well, first and foremost - beer traps for slugs. I have dealt with this in a past posting but a new simpler design is what I call the dolmen.
Simply sink an old jar or can into the bed until the rim is just clear of the soil.
Then place some stones around it to give some clearance and cover with a small slab of slate or stone.

Alcohol sprays are good as organic garden pest control, especially against aphids, whiteflies, and mealybugs. If you are using meths alcohol spray, use the 70%. Mix one litre of water with 300ml of alcohol.
Never spray your plants with undiluted alcohol.
Do a test, spray a few leaves first and check for damage.
Any injury to your plant should be apparent within a few days.

Then Fruit Flies - they have been known to like a tipple - real rot gut.
Fill up a saucer of some cheap white wine and add a little detergent to it. 
Leave it around for the flies to sip and die 
Finally, although debatable I find this method effective at times. Do you have a problem with cats and dogs? Plan this for when you expect them. Get a skinfull - I find cheap whisky best - then after it takes effect run around half naked, ranting, screaming abuse and chucking random items at the offending animals, works for a short period anyway and at least it gives the neighbours something to talk about- may attract men with white coats. 

While reading this post, why not check out one of the best bands ever to come out of Canada, kinda a theme song for me at times.


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Saturday, May 7, 2011

Super Simple Stinger Soup - Nettle, Wild Garlic and Sea Coriander Soup

Well, it's really getting seasonal now, as the dandelions die off, that's the pesto and syrup done.
The next plant to show itself is the common nettle, and it makes for a great soup, light enough for early summer but rich enough to create a really nice lunch or starter.
The nettle is generally regarded as a weed or a nuisance, but before you go in with poison or strimmers its a simple soup well worth trying.

Like the dandelion recipes, nettles are ideal for foraging, they are not poisonous and cannot be mistaken for other plants. 
The only thing to watch out for is I would not recommend picking from busy road sides as nettles may have been sprayed with chemicals by the council and general contamination by vehicle exhausts. 
Cooking nettle soup is not unlike collard greens in a way, which is another great dish this time of year.

Sea coriander is a plant I forage locally, I don't know what it is called properly. The stalk and little green berry heads taste of lime and coriander.
To replace this ingredient, simply use a tablespoon of chopped coriander leaf, just as good.
The other wild plant I like to use, when I can find it, is wild garlic or ramsons.  
It is worth noting that Ramsons when the plants are very young are very similar to Lilly of the valley, which is poisonous. If in doubt crush a leaf between your fingers and there should be a Chive / Garlicy aroma. The Ramsons are easy to spot when in bloom because of their distinctive star like white flowers.

There is also grated horseradish in the soup. You can of course use horseradish sauce, and if you feel like having a little fun with the soup, add more horseradish to give the soup extra heat and kick, it can quite worry people trying nettle soup for the first time, and there is no need to tell them that spicy kick is the radish, they will assume its the nettle.

For stock in this recipe I would recommend Connemara Lamb, although you can use veg or chicken if you wish. 
Its a simple stock to make, details can be seen on the Lebanese Lamb posting.

Connemara lamb is in season since Easter, it is delicious, widely available and this is a great meal to stretch a few Euro, by using bones in the stock from leg and cutlets that normally might be discarded. 
I source most of my meat from McGeough's in Oughterard, west of Galway. At this stage it's automatic that the Easter leg and Christmas turkey, duck or goose are boxed up and ready even before I walk into the shop.
Our family no longer even places an order, its just done. In actual fact, I think the only reason I would call in relation to an order would be to cancel in case no one's home!
Connemara lamb one of only four recognised, protected, designated Irish foods in the EU.
This very important designation is an assurance of quality, traceability and origin.
It allows artisan producers to compete with corporate producers, the system is wide spread on the continent.
The UK for example has dozens of recognised food and beverages.

Here it is an utter disgrace that it is left up to private individuals and small companies to gain recognition for some of our unique foods despite our very well paid civil servants in the department of agriculture and semi-states like bord bia. 
Essentially, because of the failure of the civil service to do more work in this area, foods like Clonakilty Black Pudding and Irish Cream can be made and marketed by anyone, anywhere.

Connemara Lamb is a native breed, the Connemara Blackfaced Horned. It matures at a slower rate, the  result is a lamb of specialised taste, quality and flavour from a diet of natural herbs, heathers and grasses unique to Connemara.
This gives a lean carcass, rose red in colour, solid deep texture with a light cover of fat and that produces a natural succulent flavour with a very pronounced aroma.
For more details see
Anyway - on with the food.

So obviously, the first thing you need to do is collect younger nettles, but they don't need to be that small.
Do this re-using an old plastic shopping bag and a pair of good rubber gloves.
Then strip the nettle stalks of their leaves. The used stalks can be set aside and used as a fertilizer for the kitchen garden plot.
I had about 300 gms of nettle leaves for this soup, but the more you get in the better really.
After that, its a very straight forward and simple soup.
1 Litre Connemara Hill lamb stock (or substitute vegetable or chicken stock)
300 gm or more nettle leaves
Knob of Cuinneog Butter
Salt and pepper to season.
2 tablespoon's of wild garlic leaf green is you can find it 
- or substitute 1 clove garlic, crushed or garlic chives - .
1 Onion, finely diced
1 Tblsn Sea Coriander berries 
or substitute with finely chopped coriander with a pinch of lime zest
1 Tspn Horseradish, finely grated (more if you want extra sting in your nettle soup)

Put the butter into a heavy based pan and heat up.
Add onion, garlic, horseradish, and if desired bacon, to the pan.
Cook until onion softened and translucent.
Next add the nettle leaves and sea coriander berries to the pan.
Keep stirring the nettles and reduce them as you would with spinach.
Try and give them all a coating with the oils from the bottom of the pot.
Next add your stock and bring to the boil, reduce and allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes.
Then blitz with a food processor, return to pan and allow to simmer for another 10 minutes
I would normally serve with some creme fraiche, but did not have any so I just used a small round of goats cheese on top and some soda bread on the side.
 It really does not get simpler than that for a very handy little recipe.
The recipe re-heats well so can be made well in advance, it's also good for freezing.

As always if you find the recipe of use or have any comments, please do leave some feedback - I really appreciate the time and effort you take to do so


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Thursday, May 5, 2011

First preserve of 2011 - Dandelime Jam

A lot of people spend a lot of time killing dandelions on their lawn, fair enough - thats their business, but I would suggest you let them flower first, then collect before they can run to seed and make use of them, you can always spray with poison afterwards.
This is free and unusual food, all you buy is sugar and lime - maybe some pectin.

This recipe is based on a traditional French jam made with lemon, I use lime as I prefer the zing they have.
There are two varients I make, a jam and a syrup.

200 gm (2 teacups) Dandelion petal heads - the green leaf and stem bits removed as they are bitter
1 Litre boiling water
zest of 1 lime
juice of 1 lime
300ml (3 teacups) sugar
1 tsp Pectin (this is already added in jam making sugar)

Place two cups of dandelion heads into a mixing bowl and add the zest of the lime.
Pour two cups of boiling water over.
Leave overnight to infuse.
You can add a few apple peels to help the setting process
After soaking pour the mixture through a sieve to separate all the leaves.

Add the lime juice and bring the mixture to the boil.
Add the sugar and pectin and boil rapidly for 10 minutes, then start checking while it reduces for set point.
This will take some time, but you can always try a little carrageen seaweed to thicken it up - you will need to sieve it out at the end though.

After it reaches the desired consistancy, pour the mixture into warm sterile jars and waterbath.
These processes are explained in an earlier posting that you can read here.

Always date and label.
Once opened, consume within one month.
There is another option, by not adding pectin, you can simply reduce the liquid by about 30% and create a lovely syrup for puddings, toast etc. It is delicious.

Again, as always thanks for reading and please feel free to make any comments or suggestions.


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