Archive for May, 2009

Home-made Lemonade

As I write this, the whole of Ireland are roasting their pasty white bodies in the all too rare sunshine. We might as well take advantage of all this good weather, we know it’s not going to last! My neighbours would kick up a stink if I put a barbecue on my balcony, so I celebrated the arrival (and departure?) of summer by making some home-made lemonade. Needless to say, it’s vastly superior to any rubbish you’d buy in the shops.



  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 lemons
  • 2 limes
  • cold, filtered water
  • ice cubes
  • mint or basil leaves (optional)
  • assorted red berries (optional)


Dissolve the caster sugar in a jug with the juiced lemons and limes. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. This should take a minute or two. Add some torn mint or basil leaves, plenty of ice cubes and top up the jug with cold, filtered water (sparkling if you like). I also added some frozen summer berries, which dyed my lemonade a shocking pink colour. A bit more camp than the familiar “TK Red”, but not an E number to be found!


Panch Phoran Aloo

I made this dish today because I had a few spuds to use up. It’s excellent, just some cubed potatoes slow-fried with whole spices. The recipe is adapted slightly from Nigella Lawson’s “How to Eat”. The secret is to season well and make sure you fry the potatoes as slowly as possible so that they don’t break up.

Panch Phoran Aloo


  • 1kg potatoes (about 5 large potatoes)
  • 1 tbsp groundnut oil
  • 1 teaspoon of each of the following spices: cumin seeds, coriander seeds, black onion seeds, fenugreek seeds, turmeric
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely minced
  • salt & black pepper
  • fresh coriander
  • lemon juice (optional)

Panch Phoran Spices


  1. Cut the potatoes into 1cm cubes, you don’t need to be too exact. Heat the oil and stir-fry the potatoes over a very high heat for a minute or two.
  2. Cover and reduce the heat as low as possible. After about 20 minutes, add the garlic and spices to the potatoes along with some salt and black pepper. Stir gently to combine and cook for another 30 minutes.
  3. Check the potatoes are tender, leave for another 5 or 10 minutes if you think they need it. Add a big pinch of salt and some more freshly ground black pepper, then add the chopped fresh coriander. You could also add a squeeze of lemon juice at this stage. Stir gently and serve.

Serves 2.

Eating & Drinking in Cork

Cork's English Market

I’m just back from Cork, had a great weekend and naturally, eating and drinking was the focus of my visit there. I’ve been hearing about the English Market for years, saw Rick Stein heaping praise on it and including it in his “Food Heroes” series. All I can say is “wow”. If this market was in Dublin, I’d be in there every day, it really is something special.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t purchase any perishables as we were travelling back to Dublin on the Sunday when the market is closed, but we did treat ourselves to an excellent sausage sambo and some choccies from “The Chocolate Shop”. All delicious. We were tempted by the Farmgate Café upstairs but we weren’t really that hungry and there was a huge queue. Hence the sausage sambo.

Anyhoo, we picked two great Cork restaurants for dinner on the Friday and Saturday nights. Both do “French”. Both are at the upper end of Cork’s price range. But, one restaurant offered significantly better value and delivered one of the best meals we’ve had in the last year. Reviews to follow…

Review: Augustine’s
Review: Les Gourmandises

Shepherd’s Pie

All of us food bores know that real shepherd’s pie is made with minced lamb. If it’s made with beef, it’s cottage pie. According to the ever-reliable (!) Wikipedia, the term “cottage pie” has been around since 1791, where leftover beef would be used by the poor cottage-dwellers as a pie filling. “Shepherds pie” came along about a hundred years later, as a cheekily-named lamb equivalent.

Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd’s Pie is traditionally made with minced lamb left over from a roast. The pie in these pictures comprises not only the leftover lamb, but the leftover gravy too; this gives the pie a rich and deep flavour. I’d go so far as saying it’s worth roasting lamb joint just to make this pie!


  • 500g minced lamb, leftover if possible
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 3 sticks celery, chopped
  • 250ml beef stock, or leftover gravy topped up with water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • salt & pepper
  • 900g potatoes


  1. If you’re using leftover lamb, chop it finely rather than mincing it. This ensures there’s a bit of texture in the finished dish. Heat a little olive in a pan and brown the lamb and onion. Add the carrot and celery and fry for a minute more.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the potatoes) and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bring to the boil and simmer very gently for about 30 minutes.
  3. While the lamb filling cooks, pre-heat the oven to 200°C and prepare your spuds. Boil the potatoes until tender, then mash with a little milk and plenty of butter and seasoning. You could also add an egg yolk which will enrich the mash and give it a great golden colour while it browns.
  4. Transfer the lamb mixture to an oven-proof pie dish. Spread the mash on top and use a fork to make a rough surface. Bake in the oven for 30-45 minutes or until the pie is golden brown. Serve with some piccalilli or some buttered peas.

Shepherd's Pie #2


  • Roast Lamb – Add 2 minced garlic cloves, a teaspoon of finely chopped rosemary and a glass of red wine while you’re frying the lamb. Serve with minted peas on the side. All the flavours of a classic lamb roast in one dish.
  • Cottage Pie – Substitute the lamb for beef and add a small bottle of stout and reduce. Some finely chopped thyme would be a nice addition to this also.

Serves 4.



Crostini (“little crusts”) are really handy when you want something small to serve with drinks and they also make a great appetiser. Slice some baguette or foccaccia thinly and grill both sides on a cast-iron grill pan. (Toasting under a conventional grill gives great results but I like the charred edges you only get with the grill pan.) When slightly charred on both sides, rub the toasts with a peeled clove of raw garlic then brush lightly with extra-virgin olive oil. Leave to cool fully before serving or placing any toppings on the crostini.

I served the above crostini with some black olive paste and sun-dried tomatoes. Check out the following crostini topping suggestions, taken from Jamie Oliver’s “Italy“.

Spaghetti Aglio, Olio E Pepperoncino


As part of my continuing efforts to work my way through every one of Italian Foodie’s recipes (!), I had a go at the rather exotic sounding “Spaghetti Aglio, Olio E Pepperoncino“. This roughly translates as “Spaghetti with garlic, oil and chili“. The recipe is as simple as it sounds – just gently heat some good extra-virgin olive oil, lightly colour the sliced garlic, then add some finely-chopped red chili and fresh flat-leaf parsley. Add some good quality spaghetti to the sauce (as the Italians do) and serve with plenty of grated Parmesan cheese. Very tasty and makes a great change from “red sauce”. Check out Lorraine’s recipe here. Thanks once again Lorraine!

What is Kosher Salt?


I came across a recipe recently which called for “kosher salt”. I’ve seen it specified in American recipes many times before but never knew what it meant. Kosher salt is simply what Europeans would call “rock salt” or “coarse salt”. Think “Maldon”. The salt itself does not conform to Jewish food laws, but it is used to make meat “kosher”. Kosher law specifies that all blood must be removed from meat before eating and salt is used to draw out the blood. Because the salt is coarse-grained, it does not dissolve as readily and therefore stays on the meat longer. Kosher salt does not usually contain anti-caking agents or other additives.