Sunday, December 23, 2012

2013 and bye bye 2012

Well,, another year and season passes - lets hope the weather in 2013 is a bit better than that of 2012.
The spring was too dry, the summer too wet and overcast to have been called a good one.

Don't forget to plant out garlic cloves now, and inside plant onion seed in trays.

Seasons greetings to all of you and yours, I wish you a happy, peaceful and prosperous new year.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

55 gallon drums and a wind turbine - Heating a shed on the cheap

I don't know if I will actually go this far, but certainly for a workshop empty half the year, just to keep the damp out - heating seems to be a good idea.

I may experiment on Delaneys shed first, after all - if it goes kaboom he'll be on the other side of the wall, and I don't think he'd complain too much. I figure it will be bricked in anyway.

I can neither afford the cost or the time of having a commercial connection and set-up, and if things can be done in a renewable way I'm all in favour of it.
If the idea works, then it is a once off cost, essentially, as long as there is wind, there is power - therefore heat - and in Connemara where trees grow sideways that's a good investment.
The picture above caught my eye, rather than an expensive (and very steal-able) copper cylinder, I will most likely try to find and convert a 55 Gallon drum as above. 

Elements etc. for 12/24 volt systems are reasonably cheap and available - whereas inverters seem very expensive.
24 volt pumps are cheap and easily available, as they are used a lot in cars and boats.

The idea of using a wind turbine is feasible as it will supply 12 or 24 volt power directly. 
Pumps etc. still need further exploration, a natural convection system would be better - less moving parts would mean less maintenance. 

Turbines at 300 watt and 12 or 24 volt are costing about €200 and getting cheaper, that would be the single biggest expense, heating elements are about €30so all in all its not a bad idea, but it will need a bit more research - still back of the envelope stuff, but if anyone is interested in helping out or developing the idea just drop me a line.

All feedback, ideas and suggestions are welcome - please do take the time to comment

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Shed Plans

Well, while Im away I have been thinking a bit about a shed - well, two in fact.
The things one does with boredom and an empty packet of cornflakes in foreign climes!!

One in the future is to be a garden shed - brew house, I just need more space.
The other is for Delaney and his latest girlfriend.
So, stuck out in the middle of the Mediterranean, with nothing more than a box of kosher cornflakes, I came up with a cunning and devious design.

The idea is two have a two part shed, one for food and one for shelter so he can come and go as he pleases.
It will also collect rain water so he has a simple source of fresh water at all times.
An open entrance will be protected by a shelter wall, and also face North East, away from the prevailing winds.
 I hope the bugger appreciates the trouble I go to for him.

I am looking as well at underfloor heating systems, the idea being to use a small wind turbine to heat water that is piped through the floor plate, but that is still being researched.

Anyway, its a plan - and anything I learn from it I may be able to apply to another project.
Certainly the independent water, heat and perhaps even power ideas can have other applications elsewhere for others.

Now to try and get it done as cheaply as possible!!

Any advice on wind turbine to water heater most welcome

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Sabbatical - ish

So - there is a time when I need to concentrate on work folks. I'm currently back at work and will be for some time - someone has to work to pay for Delaneys new digs!

I do have a few unfinished or unpublished recipes and when I have time I will try to post them here.

But there are loads of previous posts, and this time of year there are still crops you can put in that grow over the winter or will be ready for next spring.

This is also the time to save seed, make preserves, pickles and make some sauerkraut or equivalent.
Try to store and preserve your harvest, its a shame to waste good food - in particular if you have grown it yourself.

Remember, if you are not growing food, turn the garden over some time between November and January - this allows the frost to break up the ground for you, helps kill off pests and aerated the soil.

One thing I am looking at exploring next year is home brew - the idea being to use my own barley, oats and other veg - so anyone with a bit of skill here is more than welcome to get in contact with me.

Sad thing is things are very tough in Ireland at the moment, with little leadership, vision, imagination or direction - but that really does underline the importance of self sufficiency, self reliance and appreciating what we have.
Growing and foraging food really is enormously rewarding, I started the garden in part to help take my mind off problems, and it has given so much back - and the blog is a way of sharing that -
So thanks to all readers and visitors so far, especially those who have taken the time to comment - next year we will be making booze, so I'm really looking forward to that  - keep on digging.


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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Shortlisted for Grafton Media Irish Blog Awards!!

I am delighted to let readers know that Irish Kitchen Garden - A Connemara Croft - has been shortlisted for the Grafton Media Irish Blog Awards 2012 in two categories!!

blog awards ireland

The two categories are The Best Food/Drink blog sponsored by Glenisk and Best Lifestyle.

Getting on the shortlist alone is something that really delights me, quite chuffed really.
Being selected with some superb blogs, pro, semi-pro and amatuers (like myself) most of them very talented (unlike me)

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Beetroot and Blackberry salad

This time of year in Connemara, the hedgerow briars come forward with a luscious crop of blackberries - but blackcurrants work equally well.

We see fig, orange and pomegranate based salads on TV but our own homegrown earthy sweet of beetroot and the zesty sweetness of foraged fruit sing of late summer and early autumn.

It is a great seasonal treat, and you really don't have to forage all that many - its only 200 grams, about a tea mug full.

As an unusual but the delicious combo I would go so far as to call it an almost exotic dish from a small garden plot.

and yet the food miles are minimal for most home gardeners as most of us have a few beets and an onion somewhere in the beet patch.

Great as an appetizer but really, really, really good with cold roast duck, pork or game.
Also, if you freeze a few blackberries now and store some beets, its great with cold turkey just after Christmas.
Iphone pic - slight variation using strawberries and loganberry-applevinegar

1 bunch baby beetroot.
About 200 grams of blackberries or blackcurrants.
Half a small red onion, diced or very finely sliced.
Tablespoon honey - local if you can find it (or caster sugar if you like)
Beet leaves, Bay leaf or mint to garnish

Lightly scrub the beets, remove the leaves - they can be used as a garnish
Boil the beets in lightly salted water

Rinse your blackberries
Melt the honey down in about a tablespoon of water
Gently warm the blackberries in the warmed honey-water until they start to release their colour and soften.

Don't stir the pan, just shake it to avoid crushing the fruit.

Add a little more water by the tablespoon if required, you are looking to create a very light syrup.

When the beets are cooked, drain them and slip the skins off as soon as they are cool enough to handle.

Slice into the beets into rings and arrange on a shallow plat.
Sprinkle over the onions and season to taste.

Spoon over the fruits with a slotted spoon and reduce the syrup a little further.

Pour over the syrup and leave the  dish to cool

Serve with cold game or pork, and maybe use the beet leaves as a garnish.
And as I said before, it makes a great post Christmas accompaniment to turkey or ham

Comments are, as always, most welcome - photos will follow, but it may take a while, left camera with pics at home without downloading them - if someone wants to send some in please feel free to do so.

These pictures were taken in Holland, a slight variation on the original. I used strawberries - and instead of water, I used a lovely Swedish vinegar - lingonberry and apple cider vinegar - available at Ikea - but it does demonstrate the colours you can expect. There are other fruit vinegars more available in Ireland. Experiment with what fruit you can grow or forage.


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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Beetroot Timbales with a cool yogurt dressing

This is a great two for one - Beetroot is a great veg which, like turnip, can be harvested for leaves and the root.
The notion that beetroot takes hours to cook is an exaggeration.
Small summer beets need about 20 minutes.
Large late season beets take correspondingly longer, but only 10 -15 minutes.
Simply by dicing them and fast boiling in a little salty water cooks them in no time at all - yes they will bleed, but after 15 minutes they will be as tender and beetrooty as you wish, with all the colour and flavour.

Combining beetroot with fennel and lemon in this dish gives great contrast and taste.
It's a great, cool, fresh 
The use of Carragheen or Agar-Agar with veg stock makes this suitable for vegetarians but you can if you wish of course use meat stock and gelatin - but I prefer the freshness of the veg stock and seaweed combo.

This is served normally served with a little sour cream - but I find a simple sweet spinach raita to balance the earthy sweetness of the beetroot - or a standard cucumber, chive, mint and yogurt raita, the classic Indian condiment.

for the timbale:
175g cooked beetroot (retain the leaves)
1/2 Tsp or more of Fennel seeds
1 tsp of squeezed lemon
250ml stock*
Good sprig carragheen.

* When I say veg stock, do use the cooking liquid of the beetroot as a base and make up a simple stock.

For the Raita:
200ml / 7fl oz. Glenisk natural yogurt
About 15 small spinach leaves
12-15 raisins - roughly chopped
Pinch of Paprika, cumin, salt and pepper.

Cut the spinach into fine strips
Blanch in boiling water
Drain and whisk into the yogurt
Add the raisins, seasonings and spices and mix in well
Serve chilled.

Bruise the fennel seeds with a mortar and pestle or the back of a spoon to release their full aroma and steep in the stock.
Add the carragheen and bring slowly to the boil
Reduce and simmer with the lid on for about 10 minutes stirring now and again.

Strain off the liquid and season with a little salt and a good belt of pepper.
Add the lemon juice to taste.
You now have a liquid gel, so be fairly quick.
Bear in mind the earthy sweetness and lemon sharpness are muted by chilling.

Ideally you will need 4 small ramekins or wide mouth glass' to prep this.
You could also use a muffin tray or something similar.
Pour in a little of the liquid gel to cover the base of each mold.
Peel and dice the cooked beetroot if you have not done so already.
Divide the diced beetroot between the molds, mixing in the rest of the liquid gel as you do.

Chill for about 2 hours or until the gel is set.

Loosen the beetroot timbales by dipping their molds into hot water and turn out carefully.

Place onto serving plates, and put a little raita on the plate, or use a bowl with a serving spoon to share  - I have always felt it really adds to the enjoyment of any meal to share.

Arrange a little salad around the edge of the plate - peppery watercress or slices of buttery avocado are my favorites but best of all are the leaves of the beetroot around the edge of the plate.

Comments are, as always, most welcome


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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Blessington baked beans

This is how baked beans really, the original American style.
On occasion, a tin of baked beans is alright, but it cannot be confused with the real McCoy - those are just a facsimile of this American classic.

It is very adaptable, chilli can spice it up - chorizo or other dried spicy sausage can be worked in - but this is just a simple, straight forward variant that is great with a dash of Tabasco after serving.

You are using a very economical cut of meat, a few bits and pieces from the cupboard and a jar of beans - hopefully ones you've grown and dried yourself. Most people grow beans as a part of crop rotation in their kitchen gardens.
A dutch oven or heavy casserole pot are ideal for making this dish - it would have been cooked out of a chuck wagon or over a camp fire back in the day.
Potatoes have become the Irish staple in a meal, but the cultivation of beans and the curing of pork predate the spuds introduction to Ireland, so this is really looking back in a way.

There was a poem the - Chisholm Trail - from a Time life book about cowboys that I loved as a kid from which I've always remembered a few lines, about bacon and beans.

I'm up in the momin' afore daylight
And afore I sleep the moon shines bright. 

No chaps and no slicker, and it's pouring down rain,
And I swear, by God, that I'll never night-herd again. 
Oh, it's bacon and beans most every day
I'd as soon be a-eatin' prairie hay. 

I went to the boss to draw my roll,
He had it figured out I was nine dollars in the hole.

I'll sell my horse and I'll sell my saddle;
You can go to hell with your longhhorn cattle.

This recipe is based on one best known as Boston Baked Beans - but this is a time reduced version I threw together in Blessington - easily feeds 4 hungry hearty lads.
The Boston classic uses belly of pork - I went for a mild cure bacon.
If you are using bacon don't add salt,more than enough will come off the meat and infuse into the beans.

The meal is salt and sweet - you could almost call it an American style cassoulet -beans and pork from an oven

450 grams dried white haricot beans, dried.
1.7 litres water
Cannellini and other dried white beans are also excellent in this.
Teaspoon Mustard powder 
2 tablespoons honey or treackle
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons tomato puree
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 large onions, peeled and sliced
1 bay leaf
teaspoon ground Allspice
Lump of mild cure Irish bacon - like McGeoughs Coburger ham - pork belly is also great.

Pour the water into a heavy based saucepan - oven suitable if you have one.
Add the beans and bring to the boil for about 5 minutes
Remove the heat to a simmer and stir in the bay leaf, honey, tomato puree, mustard powder, garlic and onions
Put the bacon or ham into the pot and ensure it is near the bottom - covered with the beans.
Leave at a steady simmer for 45 minutes or until beans are fairly soft and bursting from their skin

After 45 minutes to an hour the liquid should be well reduced.

Lift the meat out of the pot and cut slashes into the rind. 
Smear on the brown sugar, the wetness of the rind should make it melt a fair bit - smear it well.
Sprinkle over the allspice at this stage.

Return the meat to the pot or oven dish buried into the beans but with the rind just clear of the liquid.
There should be enough liquid to just cover the beans - top up with a little water if needed.

Transfer the covered pot or oven dish to a pre-heated oven  on a moderate heat, about 120 degrees centigrade for 50 minutes.
Uncover the pot after 50 minutes and leave the dish in the oven for around another 20.

Serve very hot with a good larger, hotsauce and some crusty bread - and enjoy.

Beans and cured pork were staples in the wild west - as shown in a notorious scene in Blazing Saddles, a movie made in the worst possible taste - and one of my favorites. 

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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Connemara Kulfi or Qulfi Cill Dara, Indian classic with an Irish twist

This is possibly the easiest cold desert in the world. Kulfi, or Qulfi, is kind of Indian Ice cream but without the need for an ice cream maker.  It's very popular on the subcontinent - this is just an Irish twist on it using home grown fruits, local honey and two great Irish ingredients, Carolans Irish Cream and Glenisk yogurt
Sorry 'bout the photo - using an iphone
A really tasty, dense texture, it has tones of a toffee flavour because of the evaporated milk and the cardamom gives it a surprising depth  - a nice contrast.
The recipe itself was inspired by and developed from Camillia Panjabi's 50 Great curries of India which is a great book that deals with the various different cuisine styles right across the sub continent, not just concentrating on food from Punjab - most familiar to us - as most books do.
Her explanations of regional, caste and religious aspects are clear and precise, and it goes a long way towards developing our understanding of such a fascinating and vast food culture.

With the recent good weather its a great time to consider alternatives to ice cream like sorbets or a little more exotic like this kulfi. In India popular flavors include pistachio, mango, vanilla, and rosewater.
At this time of year, foraging for fruits like blackberry or strawberry is both fun and rewarding, so if you have spent a few hours going through hedgerows then this is a great reward for all your efforts.

As for the alcohol content, that evaporates in the heating process, so you can safely let kids enjoy this. 

Its not churned like our ice cream so you don't need a special machine to make it, just a freezer and a tin
Because of its density, kulfi takes a longer time to melt than Western ice-cream. It can be set in molds or glasses with a stick like ice lollies etc. or just set in a small tin as I do.
One great advantage is though it keeps in the freezer like ice cream, unlike an ice cream, it's no problem to re-freeze.

Traditionally Kulfi was made by reducing milk over a long period requiring constant stirring, but using condensed or evaporated milk, or in my recipe, Carolans Irish Cream make a far easier and quicker alternative.

There are many recipes online for kulfi, some use various combos of condensed, evaporated or powdered milk as well - but this one is as always set to be as simple and straight forward as possible.

The second time I made this, the first was about three weeks ago using blackberries but recently I was staying with friends 300 yards into Kildare over the border from Wicklow - and they have the most wonderful wild strawberries which I added to the mold - so that's where the Qulfi Cill Dara name comes from, I used blackberries in the last one I made so I would call it Connemara Kulfi - but that's for another day.

450ml  Evaporated milk*
450ml Carolans Irish Cream
3 Cardamom pods
3 big tablespoons Glenisk whole milk organic yogurt **
4 tablespoons honey or sugar, I prefer using honey
Seasonal sweet soft fruit, like wild strawberry, blackberry, currants or raspberry

Optional: A few strands of Saffron - or half a teaspoon of turmeric powder for colour

*the Carolans and Evaporated milk are interchangeable, you can use more or less of both.
**  You can use double cream, but I have found the yogurt gives a better texture, and you can of course use a flavored yogurt like vanilla if you like, the Glenisk vanilla yogurt has real vanilla seeds in it as opposed to essence.

Add the honey and cardamom pods to the Carolans and evaporated milk in a heavy based saucepan.
Cook over a low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring and scraping the sides and bottom of the saucepan.

After ten minutes remove from the heat and strain through a fine sieve to remove the cardamom pods, seeds and saffron strands if you are using them.

Leave aside until it has cooled a bit, about hand temperature is fine, then stir in the Yogurt and fruits if you are using them.

Pour into a mold or tin and chuck it into the freezer for 4 or 5 hours, overnight is fine.

To remove from the mold or glass, dip the container into warm water and press out the kulfi. I serve in slices with a sprig of mint

 - hope you enjoy it, photos coming soon.

As always I really appreciate it when people take the time to comment, or suggest alternative variations.

Just to add, it is possible to make your own evaporated milk - I have not done so, yet, but Imen from the great website has done so - as well as her own condensed milk.
According to her - and I would believe it - the 'flavour is far superior to any version of the same in a tin with a supermarket shelf life of six months or more.' and I would believe her - must try it sometime.
This is her way of doing so 
Farm Fresh Homemade Evaporated Milk
2 litres whole milk from your farm or local dairy (from the store is fine as well)
In a heavy-bottomed pot, bring the milk to a boil over medium heat.
Reduce the heat to low and simmer very gently for about two hours until the volume is reduced by 60%. The milk should be barely simmering and never bubbling at any point. Stir every 15 minutes or so to keep the milk from burning on the bottom.
Remove the pot from heat and let the milk cool. The milk will thicken further after it has cooled.
Will keep in refrigerator for 2 weeks or more.

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

2012 Grafton Media Irish Blog Awards

To my delight and surprise the blog has been nominated in three catagories for the 2012 Irish Blog Awards which are sponsored by Grafton Media.
This little hobby of mine started a few years back for a few reasons, and its very rewarding to recieve this news.
Whatever happens with these awards I know from emails and comments that my efforts have in a small way have helped others, and thats the main reason I keep it going - however eratically.

I started my garden to do something productive, to reduce my food miles and as a sort of therapy after a serious assault.
The physical work and thought process do help to overcome trauma, and the reward of a good crop is something to look forward to rather than the stress of the past.

A major theme in the blog is the use of home grown, foraged, locally sourced or Irish produce where possible. This includes adapting recipes from other cuisines and their modification, quite often their improvement, in using native products.

For that reason its really brilliant that the sponsors of the food and drink award are an Irish Organic dairy company -  Glenisk - who are celebrating 25 years.
Wierdly I used their whole milk organic yogurt in a very recent recipe that I still need to post !!

A lot of old cookbooks have been browsed over for hours in doing this - I set out to do was to develop my cooking skills, but also to maintain simplicity - I did not want to have to use special equipment in anything I prepare.

blog awards ireland
It has at times been frustrating, particularly this summer with the lack of good weather and the tremendous abundance of weed growth that has been so bad its even been written about in UK papers!So at least its not just me :-)

The next series of dates are
8th Sept – Short list published
29th Sept - Finalist list published
13th October – Awards ceremony

So, lets wait and see whats next

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Blight and Weather Warnings

Blight Warning:
Issued at 06:00 on 1-Aug-2012
Weather conditions conducive to the spread of potato blight will occur at times for the rest of the week in Munster, Ulster and Connacht. Opportunities for spraying will be limited.

Weather Warning
Southerly winds will reach force 6 today (2nd) on coasts from Roche's Point to Slyne Head to Erris Head.

From 2100 Thursday 2/8/2012 until 2100 Friday 3/8/2012
Heavy, thundery rain showers expected overnight and through tomorrow resulting in accumulations of between 30 and 50mm.
Highest totals most likely in the southwest, with parts of the west and south also at risk.

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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Frog in the Bog! - Bangers, beans and mash

So its harvest time in Ireland and most recipes I produce should be a celebration of new potato's etc. but with the miserable summer we have had and the low yields I felt this might be quite apt.

This is a really nice traditional English dish based on one by Marie Rayner - but more about that later.
Toad in the Hole is normally served with mashed spud's and onion gravy.
This is my Irish take on it - Frog in the Bog, or Loscann sa bPortach .

I wanted to do something a little different from the normal mashed spuds. Besides, new potato's are not really suited to mashing.
Colcannon, a mixture of milk, mashed potato and shredded cabbage is about as traditional as Irish food gets.
I have noticed on some UK foodie shows that crushed root veg are becoming very fashionable, so the mash I came up with is sort of a new amalgam.

When the English cook toad in the hole, they tend to use herbed sausage like Cumberland, and if you wish to use them or other herbed bangers that's great.
I just went for my favorite prize winning pork banger from McGeoughs in Oughterard as I use herbs in the buttermilk batter.
I don't know if this would work with vegetarian sausages, if anyone does try please let me know how it went. 
Don't be afraid to play around with this, try turnips, suede's, carrots, parsnips and other root veg you might be growing or that are in season. 

Enough for two people-
Half a celeriac
Half a gourd pumpkin
Half a small head of white or green cabbage, very finely shredded - Blomendaalse Gele or greyhound are ideal.
Good bunch of chives and parsley, finely chopped.
150ml Fresh milk
Knob of a good quality butter like Cuinneog
Salt and White pepper to taste

Take your parsley, chives, milk and butter and place in a small saucepan (retain some herbs to garnish)

Bring to a rolling boil, remove from the heat and set aside to infuse.

Peel and dice to about 2" cubes the celeriac and gourd pumpkin.
Place the celeriac in salted boiling water for around 10 minutes, then add the pumpkin.
Cook for another 10 minutes or so until the roots are softening.
Place the finely shredded cabbage in a metal sieve or steamer over the roots for about 5 minutes or until cooked - don't overcook.
Strain the veg well and press excess liquid out of the cabbage - these veg retain more water than spuds and you don't want a soggy mash.

Mix all the veg together and mash with a knob of butter, adding the herbed milk until you get the desired texture.
Season with salt and white pepper to taste
You can do this while the root veg are cooking. Toad in the Hole is basically herbed sausage cooked in a Yorkshire pudding. I have gone about this in another way, giving the batter a lot more flavour and depth.

I don't at all mind when other bloggers use my recipes or varients on them, but it is unfair when people simply copy and paste without accreditiation. The basic batter recipe this Irish twist developed from is from a great blog - The English Kitchen -run by Canadian Marie Rayner now living in England.

As I have said before, I try to buy as much local produce and support local producers as much as possible, the closer the better.
One of the reasons I started my garden was concern over food miles, and starting the blog was to look at Irish food in a different way - adapting home produce to expand a cuisine repertoire.
McGeoughs in Oughterard, Galway are without doubt one of the best Butchers in the country.
Their puddings and sausages would give any Clonakilty produce a run for its money.
McGeoughs now offer delivery accross the island with their online shop.

So, on with the food.
For the batter you will need:
2 large Eggs
4 oz (125g) Plain Flour
1/2 a teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 Pint (150ml) Cuinneog Buttermilk and a 1/4 Pint (150ml) Cold Water mixed
Salt & Pepper
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional - but this underused seed is great with pork)
2 or 3 teaspoons of very finely chopped rosemary, sage and thyme.
Just a note on chopping herbs, one of the best investments I ever made was a demi-luna, shown above, from Joyces craft shop in Recess, on the road to Clifden from Galway.

As many good quality link sausage as you are going to use, the quantity above is enough for about 6, I just used 3.

Pre-heat the oven to 200C/420F.
Slip the cuinneog butter into a deep sided baking dish or tin with the sausages and place just this in the oven.
Allow the sausages to brown on all sides, just give the baking tin the odd shake Do not prick the skins.

While the bangers are browning off make up your batter.

Crack the eggs into a  mixing bowl and beat well. Add the chopped herbs, caraway seed and the buttermilk - water mixture, whisking it all together really well.

Sift the the flour and baking powder into the bowl and season with a sprinkling of salt & pepper.
Whisk the batter - what you want is a stiff but smooth batter with no lumps.

Once the sausages are browned you can add the batter and herb mix.
You want the cooking dish or tin quite hot with the fat and butter sizzling.
Quickly arrange the Sausages, parallel to each other.
Then pour in the batter mix while the oil is still sizzling.
Place back into the oven and bake for around half an hour until the batter is puffed up, golden brown and crispy.

Serve cut into squares with the root colcannon or mashed potato with a gravy of your own choosing.
I did a wine and onion gravy and served with broad beans from the garden.

The gravy was very simple, just 2 medium onions very finely sliced and a clove of garlic, sweated off with a knob of butter and some salt. Once they started to caramelise I added about 100ml red wine and 400 ml water with 3 teaspoons of Bisto gravy granules and left simmering while everything else was being prepped or cooked.

The beans were shelled, I don't bother peeling them. They went into a small pot with about 200 ml of boiling water and a good knob of cuinneog butter for 5 minutes, strained off, another little bit of butter and herbs, tossed and served on the side.

This meal only takes about 45 minutes, handy and very economical.

If you like it or find it of use, please take the time to comment - I really appreciate the feedback received.

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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Winter Veg - start planning now

Well, its not been the best growing season, a dry spring and a very wet summer - but in the garden hope and growth spring eternal.

Most of us will be lifting crops in the coming 8 - 12 weeks, and its time to start planning the winter crops.

Having worked a kitchen garden you deserve to be able to take fresh, home grown food from the garden all year round.
That brings us onto the topic of winter veg.

Cabbage is named for its cropping season - not for its planting season.
Spring cabbages are usually sown in July and August being planted out in September and October to overwinter and be harvested from late February through to the beginning of June. In windy areas, earth up around the stem and compress the soil with your foot to ensure the plants are stable and don't suffer root rock.
They tend to be conical in shape and quite loose leaved, often referred to as spring greens or collards.

Heritage types I would reccommend are Baccalan de Rennes and Precoce de Louviers

If you sow now spring cabbage should be ready for transplantation to their final spot from Mid-September to the end of October.

They will be about six weeks old, between 2 ½ -3 inches (6-8cm high), and with about 6 leaves. It is recommended you water the ground deeply around the young plants the day before you intend to move them, as this will prevent transplant shock.

Lift out the young cabbage plants from their seedbed with a trowel or hand-fork retaining as much soil around the roots as possible. Pop each transplant into a 4-inch deep hole, each one approx 12-14 inches apart. Allowing 12 inches (30cm) between each of the plant rows.

The 4-inch deep holes will often swallow the plant up to its first leaves, but in the windy Irish climate it will give them deeper roots and they are less susceptible to being leggy or wind damaged.

Transplanting the cabbages encourages formation of a solid head, heart, and establish a sturdy root system. If seedlings are left to grow where the seed is sown, the cabbage heads can be of poor density.
The transplanting process toughens them up, which will help see them through the winter for fresh, early season greens in February, March and April - after harvest obviously, the spring planting season begins.

Another worthwhile crop is Wiener Runder Kohlschwarzer, the German winter cooking radish.
This over winter veg that stands well in the ground can be used like turnip or swede in soups and stews.

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Carna cake - Caraway and Sugar Kelp

Uploaded from 58 degrees North and 1 degree East - aint technology great!!
A lovely recipe based on one in Dr. Prannie Rhattigans great book The Irish Seaweed Kitchen
It is a very simple cake, using dried seaweed.
If you don't collect your own seaweed I would recommend an Irish companies products - Spanish Point Sea Veg - you can buy it online.

This recipe is kind of a Madeira cake, and the combination of sugar kelp and caraway works very well.

Dr. Rhattigan uses vanilla extract, I use a bit of lemon zest, other than that the recipe is the same.

Again, it introduces seaweed into your diet, which is full of minerals, vitamins and iodine.
The only thing you need to do with the dried seaweed is soak it in warm water before chopping.
The sea veg used is sugar kelp or kombu kelp.

2 heaped teaspoons, kelp - finely chopped (sugar kelp or kombu kelp soaked in warm water till soft)
225 grams butter - I always try to use Cuinneog butter
115 grams castor sugar
4 large eggs
340 grams plain flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
Zest of half a lemon

Pre-heat the oven to 180 deg C - 350 deg F or gas mark 4

Grease the sides of a 9 inch tin with a little butter and line the base with grease proof paper.

Place the butter and sugar in a bowl and cream until light and fluffy

Add the eggs one at a time and beat in well.
If the mixture shows signs of curdling, add a little flour

Stir in the baking soda, sugar kelp, caraway seeds and lemon zest
Add the flour  and mix well.

If the mix is a bit dry you can add a tablespoon or two of milk.

Put the mixture into the tin and bake for 50 minutes
After 50 minutes check the cake with a wooden skewer, you put it through the centre of the cake - it should come out clean and dry. If it does not, give it another 10 minutes in the oven.

It is gorgeous to have with black tea and lemon

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