Archive for March, 2009

Clonakilty Black Pudding & Mash

This is a great store cupboard dish. Excellent for a lazy supper, it would also make a cool starter if you’re entertaining. Make a sauce by heating 1 tbsp clear honey and adding 1 tbsp of grain mustard. Season with a little salt & pepper. Make some well-seasoned mash or champ and top with a couple of pieces of fried Clonakilty black pudding. Drizzle a little sauce over the dish.

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Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Dublin

Excuse the rubbish photos! I found these shots from a fantastic birthday lunch my wife and I had in “Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud” last year. RPG (unfortunate initials!) is mecca for many Irish foodies. It is Ireland’s only Michelin 2-star restaurant and is located in Dublin’s swanky Merrion Hotel.

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Myself and The Wife arrived at the Merrion and were ushered into RPG’s lounge. We ordered a couple of glasses of white wine while we looked over the lunch menu. We were personally welcomed to the restaurant by front-of-house manager Stephane Robin which was a great start to the meal. A lot of people imagine RPG is incredibly stuffy, but it’s actually very friendly and relaxed.

After squinting at the blurred photo I took of the menu, I recall we started with “Roast Quail with Apple Polenta & Verjus” and “Terrine of Foie Gras & Smoked Eel, Salad of Vegetables, Soy & Maple Dressing“. Both dishes were excellent, but I seem to remember the flavour of the smoked eel overpowered the more delicate flavour of the foie gras.

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Mains were a resounding success; I had “Fillet of Venison with Roast Salsify, Spinach & Morel Jus” and The Wife was happy with her “Fillet of Atlantic Cod cooked ‘A la plancha’ with petits pois à la Française“. Desserts (pictured) were “Roast Pineapple, Mint Sabayon & Pineapple Sorbet” and “Chocolate & Coconut Tian with Coconut Sorbet“; both delicious, but the tian made me think “Michelin star Bounty” …

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Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud

21 Upper Merrion Street, Dublin 2.

Arbutus, London

Recently I was clearing some of the pictures on my mobile phone and came across this (blurred) photo of the Arbutus lunch menu I took last March. It left me feeling nostalgic and not a little hungry.

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I regret not getting any photos of our lunch now. I started the meal with “Braised pigs head with potato puree & caramelized onions“, followed by “Saddle of rabbit with shoulder cottage pie & roast onions“. The pigs head was served as a warm terrine, very tasty but with an unusual texture. The rabbit dish was delicious; I loved the quirky ‘cottage pie’ made from the darker shoulder meat. Herself ordered the “Salad of fresh sheeps ricotta, roast squash & hazelnuts” followed by “Caillettes of pork with carrots & potato puree“. The ‘Caillettes’ are described on the menu as ‘old fashioned meatballs’; tasty and very substantial. The ricotta salad was also delicious with some interesting textures. We finished the meal with a zingy lemon tart for me, and a nougat ice-cream for her. Very impressive.

I’ll get photos next time!

Verdict: 9/10

Arbutus on Urbanspoon

Arbutus [website]
63-64 Frith Street, London W1D 3JW

When the moon hits your eye …

Pizza is big business in Ireland. Domino’s, Four Star, Pizza Hut, Little Caesar’s. It’s an oft-quoted fact that the Tallaght branch of Domino’s is their busiest outlet in the world. All too easy to believe. While I’m partial to the odd takeaway, I’m really getting into making my own.

It is time-consuming but all I can tell you is that when you taste the results you’ll realise that your own home-made pizza is a million miles from takeaway. It’s great to have control over the ingredients as takeaway pizza is loaded with sugar and salt. You can also get creative with some good quality toppings: salamis, proscuitto, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, rocket …

If you’re planning a pizza cookoff, take a trip to Lidl or Aldi. They have some excellent pizza toppings at great prices: mozzarella, parmesan, salamis, chorizo etc. The photo below contains products all bought from Lidl.

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Contrary to popular belief, you don’t actually need any specialised pizza-making equipment, such as pizza stones. Certainly you can obtain a crisper crust using such gadgets, but can achieve great results with a simple pre-heated baking sheet.

If, like me, you tend to over-research these things you’ll find there there’s a raging debate between pizza lovers about whether the tomato sauce on a pizza should be cooked or not. Myself, I’m firmly in the cooked camp. This is because I like a rich, piquant, fully-flavoured sauce. Don’t listen to the gastronerds.

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Happy cooking.

Homemade Pizza Recipe

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Everyone loves pizza. For my money, it’s the best hangover food. It’s made using a regular yeast bread dough. This recipe yields enough dough for two large pizzas, or three smaller ones. I like to split the dough into three balls as I can vary my toppings more, but you can please yourself.

Toppings are only limited by your imagination. If you’re short on inspiration, have a look at Darina’s suggestions in the excellent Ballymaloe Cookery Course.

Ingredients

  • 340g strong white flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp (heaped)  sugar
  • 5g dried yeast (I use McDougall’s)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 210 ml tepid water

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Method

  1. Mix the dry ingredients. Sieve together the flour, salt, sugar and dried yeast into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add your wet ingredients. Rub in the olive oil and add the tepid water. Ensure the water is not too hot.
  3. Mix to a loose dough (add a little extra water or flour if necessary) and turn out onto a clean work surface, lightly dusted with flour. Cover the dough with the bowl and leave to rest for 5 minutes.
  4. Now, time for a workout. Knead the dough for at least 10 minutes until the dough is smooth. Use a food processor with a dough hook, if you have one.
  5. Clean your mixing bowl with hot water, then lightly brush the bowl with olive oil. Place the dough in the bowl and cover with cling film. Place the bowl in your airing cupboard or beside a radiator. Prove the dough for about 1.5 to 2 hours. The dough should have doubled in size.
  6. Pre-heat your oven to 250C. Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and “knock back”. This means kneading the dough for a minute to knock some of the air out of it. Split the dough into 2 or 3 balls.
  7. Roll or stretch each ball into a pizza shape and place onto a pre-heated baking sheet. Lightly coat with tomato sauce and add your toppings. Cook each pizza for 12-15 minutes.

Serve with cold beer, and a sloppy, self-satisfied grin … 🙂

Butternut Squash & Coconut Soup

Butternut Squash & Coconut Soup

Any dish that contains chillis and coconut milk is good enough for me. This recipe uses butternut squash as it’s base, enhanced by Thai spices and coconut milk. Spicy and absolutely delicious. I like to add some chopped green beans and peas to add some body to the soup, but you can leave these out if you wish.

I like to serve this with a blob of créme fraiche and some toasted pumpkin seeds.

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
  • 2 medium size butternut squash, about 1kg in total, cubed
  • 1 tbsp Thai curry paste
  • piece of ginger, minced
  • 750 ml chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • nam pla (fish sauce)
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 lime
  • green beans,  finely chopped
  • fresh coriander

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Method

  1. Gently fry the onion and celery until tender and lightly coloured.
  2. Add the curry paste and fry to release it’s flavour; then add the butternut squash and minced ginger. Turn well to coat the squash with the spice mixture.
  3. Add the chicken stock, sugar and fish sauce, then bring to the boil. Simmer for about 15 minutes until the squash is tender.
  4. Pureé the soup using a stick blender then add the can of coconut milk and the green beans if you’re using them. Bring gently back to a simmer then season with salt, pepper and juice from half of the lime. Adjust the seasoning, it may need more lime juice.
  5. Add a good handful of chopped, fresh coriander and serve.

Serves 4.