When it was announced that the theme forNovember's Irish Foodie Cookalong was to be Winter Warmers, this was the first dish to spring to mind. It's rich, unctuous and full of flavour, perfect for a cold winter's day.
I was first introduced to this dish by my dad who had received the recipe from a business acquaintance. I was a little unsure of it at first due to the fact that it really is made from a cow's tail, which is understandably a little off putting. However, the first taste of the stew changed my mind, it was gorgeous!
The best this about this dish is that once you've done the prep work, you just pop the pot into the oven or on a low heated hob and leave it cook. I wouldn't recommend it for those of squeamish disposition though as the spine bones might freak them out a little!
As with all stews the first thing to do here is to prepare your vegetables. Peel and dice the carrots and baby turnips.
The pearl onions are a little more difficult than normal onions to peel but persevere as they are delicious. If you can't get pearl onions substitute in 3 diced shallots. Roughly chop 2 of the cloves of garlic. Put all your veg to one side in easy reaching distance.
Put a little oil into the bottom of your stew pot and when hot, add in the bacon lardons. Cook until golden brown then remove to bowl or dish that you have standing by.
Now add all the vegetables into the pot and allow to cook and soften for 5 minutes. Remove from the pot and put to one side with the bacon.
Finally place the pieces of oxtail into the pot and brown all over. You'll probably have to do this in batches. Once all the pieces are brown, leave to one side with vegetables and bacon.
With a high heat under the pot, add in the chicken stock and deglaze the pan by using the hot liquid and a spatula or wooden spoon to unstick and dissolve the delicious bits at the bottom of the pot.
Add the pale ale to the pot and add the meat back in, being careful not to splash too much. Finally put the vegetables and bacon lardons back into the pot.
Add in your bouquet garni, season with salt and pepper to taste and bring to the boil.
Put the pot into the oven or put on a low heat on the hob for 3 hours. If you are leaving it on a gas hob to cook, I would advise that you use a diffuser to prevent burning at the bottom of the pot as well as the occasional stir.
While the stew is cooking, chop up the mushrooms and crush the remaining 2 cloves of garlic.
Heat a little butter in a frying pan. Add the mushrooms and the garlic.
Cook the mushrooms until golden brown. After the stew has cooked for 3 hours, add the mushrooms and cook for a further 15 - 20 mins.
Serve the finished stew with creamy mashed potato or hunks of crusty bread.
As those of you who follow my Twitter feed will know, I have been working on a very special cake for a very special occasion for the last month or so.
On Monday my friend Robert married his sweetheart, Claire in Belfast City Hall. As the wedding was organised in quite a short lengh of time and on a budget, I offered to make their wedding cake for them. They graciously accepted my offer, even though it would be my first ever wedding cake.
It consisted of four layers, the 12 and 8 inch layers were made of madiera and the 10 and 6 inch layers were fruit cake. I made the fruit cake 2 weeks in advance and the madiera on the Friday before the wedding. I iced the whole thing using ready to roll fondant and marzipan on the Sunday.
This is the cake during a practise stack up on Sunday afternoon. My mum helped by making the bows and sewing them onto the ribbon on the cake.
As you can see from this picture, on the day I sealed up the joins between the layers using royal icing to create a smoother looking cake.
All in all I think I did a pretty good job for my first time making such a large cake and for my first time using fondant icing. The couple were happy with the cake and I got a lot of compliments on how well both types of layer tasted.
I'm so glad that Claire and Robert allowed me to be part of their day and I'd like to wish them the best of luck and happiness in their future together.
This is the second of the dishes that I made for the Autumn Fruits Cookalong on 1st October. Apple tarts are one of my favourite desserts and to my mind, the best tart of all is the French apple tart or Tarte Aux Pommes, with it's beautiful concerntric circles of apples, that I've still not mastered, as you'll see in the pictures.
This recipe is from Raymond Blanc, but he claims that it is "Maman Blanc's" recipe. Either way, it's a delicious way to end an autumn meal.
The first step to this recipe is to make the pastry. This is a richer version than my own short crust recipe as it has egg added to it. However, the method is almost the same.
Measure the flour into a bowl, add the butter in small squares.
Using the tips of your fingers, rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs.
Add the water and the egg to the mixture.
Work together with your hands gently until the mixture has just come together into a dough.
Tip the dough out onto a well floured surface and knead with the palm of your hand for about 30 secs until the dough feels smooth. Flatten the dough out to about 1 cm thickness.
Place the pastry between two sheets of cling film and put it into the fridge for 30 mins.
While the pastry is chilling, grease your tart tin thoroughly. As I've mentioned before I like to use old butter wrappers for this as it's a good way to use up the left over butter.
After 30 mins, remove the pastry from the fridge and roll it out between the two sheets of cling flim until it's big enough to fill the tart tin.
Remove the top layer of cling film and carefully lift the pastry into the tart tin so that the remaining cling film is facing upwards. Remove the second sheet of cling film but keep it to one side.
Tuck the pastry into the edges of the tin and fill up and gaps with any overhanging pastry. Trim off any remaining pastry.
Prick all over the bottom of the pastry case with a fork, this prevents air pockets forming underneath and pushing up the pastry during baking. Cover over with the sheet of cling film that you retained and put back into the fridge for another 20 mins.
While the pastry is chilling, preheat the oven to 220°C and prepare your apples.
First peel the apples, then quarter and core them. Finally cut them into thin slices. Put the apples to one side till you need them.
Make the filling for the tart just before the casing is ready to come out of the fridge. Put 15g of the sugar, butter, lemon juice into a pot and gently heat.
When the sugar has completely melted, remove the pot from the heat and stir in the brandy (or calvados). Set to one side.
Remove the pastry case from the fridge and arrange the apple slices in concentric circles, starting from the outside and working your way in.
Pour the brandy the mixture over the apples and brush evenly across the top. Put the tart into the oven for 10 mins.
After 10 mins reduce the temperature of the oven down to 200°C and bake for a further 20 mins.
While the tart is baking, make up the filling for the final stage of the tart. First, put the remaining 50g of sugar, eggs and cream into a bowl. Whisk together until well combined. Put to one side until the tart comes out of the oven.
After the 20 mins the pastry should have turned a pale gold colour and the apples should be caramelised. Remove the tart from the oven. Sprinkle the tart with a tablespoon of the sugar and pour over the egg and cream mixture.
Put the tart back into the oven for 10 - 15 mins until the filling has just set and the top has turned a golden brown colour.
Leave the tart to stand for hour to cool. Serve with a little cream.
This is the first of my Autumn Fruits Cookalong recipes. Venison is not a cheap meat but it is lean and delicious. As it is such a lean meat I decided to wrap the meat in streaky bacon so that it wouldn't dry out while roasting. The blackberry sauce paired so well with the meat, I'm sorry that I never tried it before, but I will definitely be keeping this recipe up my sleeve for future autumn feasts.
To make the blackberry sauce I slightly modified this recipe from Gordon Ramsay. The venison preparation has been handed down from my Danish grandfather, who is something of an expert on the preparation of game, having been shooting and eating it for most of his life.
Apologies in advance for some of the pictures, both myself and my mum (who took some of the pictures) were suffering from serious shaky hands. I've taken the best possible version of each shot and hopefully you can make out what's going on.
This recipe starts out the night before you want to serve the dish. This is to prepare the venison so that it is both tender and not so gamey in taste. This step is not essential but if you do it you will end up with a very flavoursome piece of meat that's not overpoweringly gamey.
I used a whole saddle of venison for this recipe and had it cut in two by the butcher so that it would fit into my roasting tin better.
The first thing to do in this recipe, the night before you cook it, is to put the venison into a deep dish or basin and pour in the buttermilk until all the meat is covered. Leave in a cool place overnight, away from any animals you may have in the house. One litre of buttermilk was enough for the amount of venison I was using to be covered, but if you were using more meat you would probably need additional buttermilk.
Fast forward to the evening you intend to cook the venison. First things first, preheat the oven to 200°C. Now to the venison, the buttermilk will look a little bloody but that's normal. Remove the meat and throw away the buttermilk.
Place the vension onto a plate and wipe off the excess buttermilk with a sheet of kitchen roll. This is quite important as you don't want the flavour of the buttermilk to interfere with the taste of the meat. It doesn't have to be perfect, but you do want to remove as much as possible. Leave the meat to one side while you prepare the bacon to wrap it in.
Lay half the bacon out in your roasting tray side by side, slightly overlapping. Then place one piece of the venison on top and wrap the end of the bacon across the top, ensuring that the venison is completely covered.
Move the completed piece of venison to one side of the roasting tray and repeat the above steps for the other half of the venison.
Season the top of the venison bacon rolls with a little black pepper and place in the oven for 25 - 30 mins. At which point the bacon should be just crispy and the meat inside a little pink in the centre.
While the venison is cooking it's time to put together the blackberry sauce.
Put 275g of the blackberries into a saucepan with the red wine and the chicken stock. I had a consulation with my dad about the type of wine to use in the sauce. He thought that it would be best to use a fruity wine, so in the end we picked a Côtes du Rhône, which worked extremely well.
Bring to the boil and leave for 10 mins until the blackberries have gotten soft.
Set up a sieve over a bowl or jug and work the blackberries through it, until you're left with pulp and pips. Scrape the underside of the sieve into the jug and the pour the contents back into the pot.
Add the honey and the redcurrant jelly and bring back to the boil. Then let simmer until reduced by half.
At this point the venison should be ready to come out of the oven. Place it on a carving board and let it rest while your finish the sauce.
Put the butter and 2 tablespoons of the juices from the bacon and venison into the sauce. Whisk the butter into the sauce until it has completely melted in.
The sauce should now be smooth and silky. Add the remaining blackberries into the sauce, let them cook a little. Taste the sauce and season with a little salt and pepper.
Slice the venison and serve with mashed potatoes and vegetables of your choice. Spoon the sauce over the meat and potato. That's it, a delicious autumnal dinner.
On the 1st of October, the Irish Foodies Cookalong was once again in full swing. Previously featuring pizza, cookies, seafood and vegetarian (which I missed as I was taken out to dinner that evening) cooking, this month the challenge was the seasonally appropriate, Autumn Fruits or TwootyFruity as it was hash tagged on Twitter. The judge for this month's Cookalong is David Llewellyn from Llewellyn's Irish Orchard Produce.
To me the first thing that sprang to mind with autumn fruits was blackberries and apples, but I wanted to do something a little different than a crumble with the two combined, delicious and all as they are.
So I thought about what else could be considered autumnal and my mind strayed to thoughts of wild game. The next part was easy as I had recently seen venison in my local butchers, so I decided on a roasted saddle (or loin) of venison with a blackberry sauce for my main course.
But I also wanted to make a dessert, and I had a pile of apples generously given to me by a colleague at work. When thinking about apple desserts the one image that always pops into my head is that of the artfully layered apple of the French apple tart or Tarte aux Pommes. This then would be my dessert for the evening.
Both dishes went down extremely well with my family and a family friend who happened to be over that evening. The recipes will be posted here later in the week so you too can wow friends and family with some autumnal dishes.
At the end of August, not long before I headed off on holiday, the lovely people at Gill & MacMillan sent me a copy of Catherine Fulvio's new cookbook, Catherine's Italian Kitchen to review. I managed to have a good read through it and try a couple of the recipes out before I headed off and I have to say that there are some excellent recipes contained in its pages.
Catherine runs the Ballyknocken Cookery School and Ballyknocken House. This book covers the recipes that were featured in Catherine's television programme of the same name that aired last year.
First, let me start with the layout of the book, it's a nice portable size, which is useful for me as I am always carting cook books back and forth between my flat and my parents' house. The table of contents is nicely laid out with subdivisions within the main sections, further helping you to find the recipe that you want. There is also an index at the back so that you can do a quick search by ingrediant to find a particular recipe. I find this particularly useful as some of my mum's older cook books don't have this and it can make it difficult to find the recipe you're looking for.
The front of the book has some useful notes on ingredients and a useful shorthand of marking recipes with E or F, to show whether it is easy or can be frozen. A set of conversion tables completes the information at the beginning of the book.
Each recipe includes a note from Catherine on the history of the dish, whether personal or general as well as a suggestion for a modification to the dish or a tip to help the dish be the best it can. I find these things particularly interesting, as I like the insight into why a chef or cook has chosen a particular recipe for their book.
I've tried out a few of the recipes on my friends and family, all of which have gone down incredibly well. Below are pictures of some of the dishes I made; rosemary focaccia, lemon granita and apple cake with olive oil.
However, the dish that went down the best was her slow roasted pork belly.
All in all I found the book to be very informative (the section on making your own pasta is particularly inspiring). There were a lot of interesting recipes, especially in the meat and fish sections, that I would never have thought of in regard to Italian cuisine, as the first things that spring to mind is pizza and pasta. The instructions were clear, concise and easy to follow. I would recommend this book to people looking for an Italian cook book that covers the basics but also has some more unusual dishes too.
If you want to see more by Catherine, her new series Catherine's Roman Holiday is currently airing on RTÉ One, Friday at 8.30pm. Gill and Macmillan also have a 20% discount off the book on their website.
Way back at the end of July, Damien Mulley, announced on Twitter that Roma wanted to send out bags of their new Pasta and Pizza Flour to interested food bloggers. Of course I immediately sent off an email to their representative, Adam, who sent me out, not only the flour, but also a bag of penne in a handy tin.
I finally got a chance to try out the new flour just before I went on holidays. I used it to make a loaf of focaccia and a calzone pizza.
This was my first time ever using the Farina Tipo "00" flour, so I was very interested to see how it would differ from the strong flour that I would usually use for bread and pizza. When I first handled the flour in my mixing bowl, it did seem to feel silkier than strong flour, so of course I took out my stong flour and had a touch test. I wasn't imagining things, it did feel softer and a little less grainy.
Once my two sets of doughs had come together, it was time to knead them. This I did for 10 mins each. The resulting dough was a lot springier than that which I had made previously, whether this was down to the flour or just my kneading technique on the day I couldn't say.
The main difference that I noticed overall between this flour and normal strong flour was in the consistency of the cooked focaccia loaf and the crispness of the pizza base.
Despite me undercooking it, the dough for my calzone was still light and fairly crisp. I can only imagine that if I had managed to hold my hunger in check for 5 more mins it would have been even better.
The focaccia was delicious. The crumb was much lighter than that of my normal bread efforts and it was nice and soft to eat.
All in all I would probably try the Roma flour again, possibly this time to make pasta, though first I have to get a pasta machine. If you are interested in trying out the flour yourself, it can be found in Dunnes Stores and Superquinn. They are also hoping that it will be available in Tesco in the not too distant future.
On Wednesday I was invited to the launch of Cully & Sully's latest project; Chef Factor. This is their amazing competition which could win you a place on the Ballymaloe Cookery School 12 week certificate course, including accommodation and a set of chef's knives.
As part of the launch, we were treated to a cooking demonstration by Ivan Whelan, Cully & Sully's chef who creates most of their dishes. He cooked a delicious meal of lamb t-bones (or loin chops) and saffron, cardamon, and pink peppercorn cous cous, served with white turnips and rainbow chard and a Bernaise sauce. While he cooked Cully tried to write down the recipe to share with us later.
While we were eating, we were shown a couple of videos, that explain how the competition works. You create your signature dish and take a picture of you and it, making sure that the words Cully & Sully are somewhere in the shot. Then you upload it to the Chef Factor website and write a paragraph about why you should win and another paragraph about your signature dish. There will then be a public vote, of which the top 2 entries will go to the final with a third person, hand picked by Cully and Scully.
The 3 finalists will then compete in a cook-off judged by, amoungst others, Darina and Rachel Allen. This video explains it a little better than I can.
I spent the rest of the evening chatting with Cully, Sully, Ivan and the other food bloggers and planning what dish I should cook for the competition.
Hopefully when this appears I will be on an aeroplane whizzing towards Denmark to spend the weekend with my family. As I am off galivanting I will leave you with the treat of another competition. This time the lovely people from Robert Roberts have a hamper of their award winning tea and coffee to give away.
At the Great Taste Awards, products are blind tasted by a panel of judges. In order to win 1 star, 8 judges have to agree upon its merits and to gain 2 stars, at least 20 judges have to agree. So you can understand that Robert Roberts are pretty happy about their products collectively gaining 12 stars.
What have you got to do in order to get your hot little hands on this basket of goodies, that includes products such as their Campbells tea and their range of coffees? Leave a comment below stating the strangest place you have ever had a cup of tea or coffee. Oddest place, as chosen by my independent adjudicator will be notified as the winner.
Deadline is 10pm Wednesday 18th August.
Please note that we will use your email address to contact the winner and by posting in the comments section you are agreeing to this.
UPDATE (19/08/10): After much deliberation and discussion, the winner of the Robert Roberts Hamper is Siobhany! Congratulations, you'll be getting an email from me to your inbox very soon.
This is the recipe for the tart I made as the starter for the #twishparty evening last Friday.
I was originally inspired to make this recipe after having a taste of the mini quiches Mags from Goatsbridge Trout had on her stand at the Bloom Festival. Hers contained smoked trout, leeks and Knockdinna Cheese. They were little bites of heaven. So when I had some of her smoked trout sitting in the fridge along with some leeks and the end of a piece of aged gouda, I knew I had to give it a go. The resulting tart was delicious!
When I heard Mags was judging the seafood cookalong I knew I had to have another go at the tart to serve as a starter. Unfortunately, I was foiled in my plan to influence the judge by not being able to get any smoked trout from my nearest supplier, Donnybrook Fair. Instead I decided to go with the hot smoked salmon from The Burren Smokehouse as it has a similar texture to that of the trout.
The resulting tart was just as delicious as the original and was described by my friend Shelly, who was helping out with the cooking and eating, as a "foodgasm". Hopefully, you'll think so too.
Preheat the oven to 170°C.
Make the pastry as described in this recipe. Alternatively you can use a sheet of ready made short crust pastry.
While the pastry is chilling in the fridge, clean the leeks and cut up into 1cm pieces. Melt a little butter in the frying pan and add the leeks. Cook over a low heat until they have become soft and silky.
Leave the leeks to one side to cool, while your prepare the pastry case. Grease the tart tin well and remove the pastry from the fridge, and place on a well floured board or worktop.
Roll out the pastry so that it will cover the whole tart dish with a bit of overhang. Carefully roll the pastry up onto a well floured rolling pin and gently unroll over the dish.
Gently push the pastry down into the dish and ensure that all parts are covered. Prick the base and sides all over with a fork. This will ensure that any trapped air will escape during the baking.
Cut out a sheet of baking parchment, large enough to cover the tart dish. Place over the pastry and fill the centre of the dish with clay baking beans, or you can use dried rice, lentils or marrowfat peas. These help to keep the pastry case from bubbling up while you blind bake it. Blind baking will prevent the pastry from becoming soggy when we add the filling, and beacuse the filling has a shorter cooking time than that of the pastry. Put the pastry case into the oven and bake for 15 - 20 mins.
While the pastry case is baking, prepare the rest of the ingredients for the filling. Grate the cheese and put to one side. Break the salmon into pieces, I found this easier to do by hand rather than with a knife.
Break the eggs into a bowl, add the cream and beat well.
Season with salt and pepper. Add thyme (if using) and beat again.
At this point the pastry case should be about ready to come out of the oven. It should be a very pale golden colour. Remove the parchment paper and baking beans. Add the leeks to the pastry case and spread evenly over the base.
Nice it's time to start layering in the other ingredients.
Spread half the hot smoked salmon over the leeks then sprinkle over half the gouda.
Next, layer on the remaining salmon. Reserve a handful of the cheese, then spread the remainder over the top of the other fillings.
Carefully pour in the egg and cream mixture. Pat down any floating filling ingredients so that they become coated with the egg mixture.
Sprinkle your reserved handful of cheese over the top of the tart. Next, carefully cut off the excess pastry from the edge of the tart. Try not to take too much off, or you might spring a leak!
Take a moment to admire your handiwork, before transferring the tart into the oven for 30 mins.
After 30 mins the filling of the tart should be firm to the touch and have turned a golden brown colour. If it still seems either a little runny or pale, return to the oven and check at 5 min intervals. Allow the tart to cool a little. Enjoy a slice on it's own or served with a salad.